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Off the coast of South Jutland, Fanø, at least in our view, is the most beautiful of all North Sea islands -- and we've sailed to all of them. It is the one place in Denmark which we most prefer for some R&R. Perhaps you will join us in the fun, which is what Fanø is all about. Go here to enjoy the outdoors and nature, ducking into the man-made attractions only if it's a rainy day.

Consisting of a landmass of some 54 sq. km (21 sq. miles), with a population of 3,500, it is known for its white sandy beaches, which have made it a popular holiday resort in summer. Set against a backdrop of heath-covered dunes, the best beaches are in the northwest, mostly in and around the hamlets of Rindby Strand and Fanø Bad.

Nordby, where the ferry arrives, is a logical starting point for exploring the island of Fanø. Here you'll find heather-covered moors, windswept sand dunes, fir trees, wild deer, and bird sanctuaries. From Ribe, Fanø makes for a great day's excursion (or longer if there's time).

Sønderho, on the southern tip, and only 14km (8 2/3 miles) from Nordby, with its memorial to sailors drowned at sea, is our favorite spot -- somewhat desolate, but that's its charm.

It was a Dutchman who launched Denmark's first bathing resort at Nordby in 1851. It consisted of a raft on which some bathing huts had been set up. The bathers entered the huts, undressed, put on different clothes, pulled down an awning to the water's surface, and bathed under the awning. How modest of them.

Until 1741 Fanø belonged to the king, who, when he ran short of money, sold the island at auction. The islanders themselves purchased it, and the king then granted permission for residents to build ships, which led to its prosperity. From 1741 to 1900, some 1,000 sailing vessels were constructed here, with the islanders often manning them as well. Inhabitants built many beautiful houses on Fanø with monies earned, and some of these thatched Fanø homes stand today to greet visitors. There are some charmers in the northern settlement of Nordby, but more gems in the south at Sønderho.

Although Nordby and Sønderho are the principal settlements, beach lovers head for the seaside resort of Fanø Bad, which is also a popular camping area. From Fanø Bad the beach stretches almost 4km (2 1/2 miles) to the north. Bathing here is absolutely safe as a sandy bottom slopes gently into the North Sea, and there are no ocean holes and no dangerous currents.

Fanø adheres to old island traditions almost more than any other island in Denmark, with the exception of Ærø. As late as the 1960s some of the elderly women on Fanø still wore the "Fanø costume," the traditional dress, although today you'll see it only at special events and festivals. This dress originally consisted of five skirts, but today's costumes are likely to have only three. When the skirt was to be pleated, it was wet, laced up, and sent to the baker, who steamed it in a warm oven.