Why You Should Seek Out This UNESCO World Heritage Site
Nature, history and culture collide at Stevns Klint south of Copenhagen
Just an hour south of the city sits one of Denmark’s seven designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Stevns Klint is a natural area of white chalk and limestone cliffs that span sixteen kilometers along the eastern edge of Sjælland (or Zealand). Millions and millions and millions of years of the earth’s history are exposed here on this rocky swath of beach. It’s a geologist’s wet dream. I just think it’s really, really pretty. And a perfect place to pack in a picnic for a day out in Denmark.
Layers and layers of history here
What really knocked the socks off the rock jocks at Stevns Klint is buried in one of the four visible strata of the exposed cliff face. A special layer known as “fish clay;” this thin layer of sediment provides evidence of the asteroid scientists believe killed off all the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. It’s crazy to think that all that information has been pressed between the rock here for millennia but was only discovered as recently as 1978 by American geologist Walter Alvarez. Walter proved that the clay here contained particles from that impactful space rock, pun intended. That is some very old, very important clay. And also why Stevns Klint has earned a slot on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Ancient chalk and dinosaurs
Other cliff layers here hold keys to understanding what life would have been like in Northern Europe before and after the cataclysmic atmosphere corruption caused by asteroid debris plus violent volcanoes choking out the sun. Not good for the cold-blooded dinosaurs. Even those in the prehistoric seas. Here at Stevns Klint, you can get up close and personal with the white chalky base layer near the beach which would have been under water during the Cretaceous and full of nightmarish mega sharks and swimming reptiles like Mosasaurs. Remember the scene at the end of Jurassic World? That was a mosasaur. Fossils of the epic beasts linger in this chalky layer.
Give the cliff a touch and see how easily the chalk rubs off. And before you wipe it off, process that it is actually the sediment from billions and billions of ancient algae shells condensed at the bottom of the Cretaceous Sea. Cool – hunh? And while you might be tempted to scrape and scratch in the soft wall, please don’t. The walls are eroding well enough with normal weathering. Want to find a fossil yourself? No tools allowed, use only your hands on blocks that have already detached from the wall. No hacking or picking on the cliff face allowed.
Fish clay and limestone blocks
Next comes the fish clay. Look closely. It’s the smallest layer. Only 5-10 centimeters (2-4 inches) thick. It’s thin, but holds the most important information. Free telescopes at the top afford an easier way to find dark brownish-grey stratum that acts as a dividing line between the chalk below and the limestone above. You can easily see the chunky block like layer of limestone that juts out over the softer chalk. Don’t stand under any overhangs as limestone blocks do fall off and crash to the beach as the lower layers erode. Local quarries used to mine both the chalk and the limestone in the not so distant past. The old and new churches here in Højerup are built from this very limestone.
Step inside the Gamle Højerup Church
A medieval church sits atop the cliff built from limestone blocks between 1250 and 1300 CE. What you see today has been rebuilt and fortified as part of it fell down onto the beach in 1928. 15,000 square meters of cliff, including the church’s adjacent cemetery and part of the choir, went tumbling down, witnessed by local fisherman. Shockingly no one was hurt. And don’t you be nervous, authorities assure that the church is safe and secure. From here you can get broad sweeping views of cliffs and the beach.
Getting Down to the Beach
Steep stairs near the Gamle Højerup Church take you down to the beach. Use the handrails and take it slow. Follow paths to get to beach, but know that there is some scrambling across wet rocks to make it to there. Stay back from any overhangs as rocks can fall at any time. The rocky beach isn’t easy to walk on, sturdy shoes are definitely recommended.
Take the footpath to Stevns Lighthouse
Part of the Stevns Klint natural area includes 20 kilometers of trampled footpath that you are welcome to walk stretching from nearby Rødvig to the forest at Bøgeskov. We didn’t do the entire walk, but enjoyed the views and pastoral setting that took us to the Stevns Fyr, or lighthouse. Not open when we visited, you can go inside the Lighthouse during summer months until October 1. The foot path traverses private property and visitors are asked to stay on the route and respect local residents’ space. Despite this being Denmark, bicycles are not allowed on the path and dogs should be kept on leash at all times.
Lighthouse Opening Hours:
Summer to October 1
Monday, Wednesday and Fridays | 08.00 to 13.00
Tuesdays and Thursdays | 12.00 – 16.00
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays | 12.00 – 16.00
GOOD TO KNOW:
Stevns Klint UNESCO World Heritage Site
Højerup Bygade 39, 4660 Store Heddinge
1-hour + drive from Copenhagen, 2 hours by train and bus from central station.
Entrance to Stevns Klint and Gamle Højerup Church | FREE
from Easter until October 31
10.00 to 16.30 | 40 DKK
16.30 to 10.00 | 20 DKK
November 1 to Easter | 20 DKK all day
- Picnic tables available for public use all along the site.
- A large playground for littles of all ages near the parking lot.
- No bicycles allowed on footpath.
- Dogs allowed only on leash.
- Stay on the designated path and don’t use private stairs down to beach.
- Restaurant on site offering classic Danish lunch buffet.
Explore more of the area’s attractions
Kalklandet is the collective name for East Zealand’s museums all nearby in this area south of Copenhagen. Step inside Stevnsfort Cold War Museum and see what a nuclear bomb proof fortress would feel like and learn of Denmark’s strategic defenses on the opposite end of the Baltic as the former USSR. Or dive further into the geology and fossil records at the Geomuseum Faxe.
Overall – a delightful day out in Denmark. Cheers from here.
28 thoughts on “Day Out in Denmark | Explore the Historic White Cliffs at Stevns Klint”
Wow – I never knew that evidence of the dinosaur-killing asteroid lay in Denmark! You get all the best stories over there 🙂 This sounds like a fun day out, as well as an educational one. #FarawayFiles
I didn’t either actually! Not until we visited. What is crazy is that the scientists believe it was the Chicxulub asteroid that hit on the modern day Yucatan Peninsula – that is SO far away from Denmark. Amazing. Cheers from here.
So pretty. We never actually made it there when we lived in DK, but so many of my friends who were geologists (for various oil companies there I think) spent a LOT of time there! #farawayfiles
It’s quite lovely on a sunny day! Cheers from here.
This is such an interesting sounding place! I know my children would love to visit and learn about the geology. If the weather is good for our trip to Denmark next month, we might give this a try. #Farawayfiles
It is definitely a beautiful day out Annabel – there is also Møns Klint a bit further south with a museum – happy to help with other Danish tips or questions about your trip – message me!
Well this is a surprise!You have your own white cliffs! Loved your geology lesson today: a fascinating insight into a beautiful coastline.
Well compared to Dover – they will probably seem diminutive- but then again, so is Denmark! ??
This is really pretty, Erin, and fossils too – how exciting! We have the famous white cliffs of the Seven Sisters about an hour’s drive from us, but the water there isn’t that deep blue that you’ve got in your photographs. #FarawayFiles
The Baltic is a brilliant blue on this side of Denmark. Different from the North Atlantic along the west coast which probably looks more like what you see near Eastbourne and Dover? It’s been many years since I took the ferry from Dover and darn it – it was fogged in and we never saw the cliffs – so I can’t even compare! Cheers from here.
What unusual little cliffs, packed (literally) full of history. Those stairs look highly alarming to me. Such a cool discovery. #farawayfiles
They were alarming to me! I held on with two hands and went carefully down. Very beautiful though once down. Cheers from Denmark!
What a fascinating archaeological discovery. Thank goodness we don’t have to bump into the odd mosasaur anymore! #farawayflies
Ha! Right? Think the Danish winter bathers might be so intrepid if so! Cheers from here.
What a great discovery back in 1978. The archaeologists must have had a field day with all the fossilised remains in the layers of sediment. It is interesting that the church is built from limestone blocks that are used to date prehistoric events.
Right? Wonder how many fossils are in those walls!?
So interesting, science is amazing. I have kids who would find all of that pretty cool. Your array of photos remind me a lot of the area around Dover and her white cliffs… as others said above. But what struck me was the lighthouse (there is also one by Dover perched up on top of the cliffs) and the farmland that sits close by with the footpaths. Sister sites perhaps? I’m also intrigued with UNESCO designations, too. Thanks so much for sharing, my to-see-in-Denmark list continues. #FarawayFiles
It’s definitely smaller than Dover, but then again – so is Denmark! But don’t know if you can see evidence of the fateful asteroid there – do you know? Luckily here at Stevns Klint, the UNESCO World Heritage designation is a benefit to make this spot known to visitors unlike other sites where crowds and masses threaten to overrun a place. It’s pretty peaceful here and probably would have gone unnoticed to outsiders save for the special title. Or if you just love geology. Ha! Cheers from here.
We visited the chalk cliffs of Møn when we lived in Denmark, a bit further to the south I think. So pretty, I love how the sea becomes milky white, although that’s a sign of erosion,obviously, and maybe not such a good thing. I love a bit of geology – how fascinating to read about this fish layer of sediment! And how steep is that ladder!
Sooo steep! Møns Klint is also beautiful – much longer way down – but not as steep and no UNESCO ranking weirdly. It is beautiful over there too – when I visited you couldn’t get down to beach though! Cheers from here.
I’m not sure why but I’ve never thought about there being cliffs in Denmark! It was all softly sloping sandy beaches as far as I was concerned. Good to have my misconceptions corrected! #Farawayfiles
The west coast of Denmark has huge dunes and sandy cliffs – there is a famous lighthouse about to fall off them one of these years. Most of the beaches are lovely soft sloping and sandy. The white cliffs are only on the south eastern side of Zealand, the island where Copenhagen sits. Cheers from here!
What beautiful cliffs with so much geological information! Love the lighthouse and church too. There have been several buildings slipping down the cliff edges in Yorkshire, where I am originally from, too. #FarawayFiles
This is interesting, there’s no surprise that its UNESCO. I love the look of the churches too. #farawayfiles
And here the UNESCO designation does this site well, not sure it’d be on many travelers’ lists when coming to Denmark otherwise.
Reminded me of our own Jurassic Coast in the UK – looks like a cute place to visit! #FarawayFiles
Would it be okay to use one of your photos of Stevns Klint in a book we are publishing about Denmark if we add “photo: Erin +lastname”?
Kind regards, Sarah
Sarah – will you email me your request to discuss?