The secret to Denmark’s happiness? Sand and surf

Travelers don’t usually associate Denmark with great beaches, but the Danes have a special connection to their 5,437 miles of coastline.

On the west coast of the Danish island Bornholm, the 49-foot-tall Krogeduren is a freestanding rock tower that attracts climbers.

In Denmark you’re never more than 30 miles from the sea. Aside from Jutland’s boundary with Germany, Denmark is entirely surrounded by water, with a total of 5,437 miles of coastline, or kystland.

“This made it perfect for the Viking society, in which sailing was the most important way to get around,” says Rikke Johansen, curator at the Viking Ship Museum, in Roskilde. “Land divided people; water connected them.”

Fishing was a necessity for survival long before Denmark, which is made up of 406 islands, became an agricultural nation, but today, Johansen says, water means leisure for most Danes: “We take it for granted; it’s a way of life. For many of us, looking out at water every day is key.” (These are the world’s happiest places.)

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