Areo or Ærø is one of the destinations in Denmark that doesn't get a lot of attention but is a hidden gem that any traveller who is anxious to find something a little bit different should try and visit.
Before you head on your adventure, one word of warning (or perhaps a word to peek your interest). Aero is a summer destination for tourists and even for semi-residents themselves. During the months of September-May, most of the shops, restaurants and activities aren't open either at all or are open on a very limited schedule. That being said, I visited during one of this low-traffic month, and my experience was fantastic. There was something about visiting a seemingly uninhabited land decorated in antique Danish architecture that felt like you were an explorer, discovering something hidden from the ages and history books.
Ærø is a tiny island in the Danish Baltic Sea - only 30 km in length and 8km wide. But it being so small makes it the perfect place for travellers to visit and explore either on foot or by bike (as is very popular with the Danes).
The island is mainly populated by small farms and 14 different villages dot the hills and valleys. The largest village is Marstal with a whopping 2,340 inhabitants. After that, the largest is Ærøskøbing with 978 and Søby with 598!! This alone was reason enough for me to want to travel there. These bitsy villages have such an amazingly, tight knit atmosphere as everyone needs to work so close together for their little island to prosper. Getting to the island can be a little tricky but well worth the extra planning.
Svendborg is your best bet to start from to get to the island. It's the largest town with a Ferry over to the island whose train schedule compared is the most frequent. The walk from the train station to the Ferry platform is a short one, and there is an adorably quaint Bed and Breakfast beside it which offers incredible food and drink for you to enjoy if you find yourself waiting a few hours for the ferry. The ferry itself has some food options on it too if you find yourself rushing to meet the ship without having eaten. You buy your tickets aboard the boat, and be sure to buy your return ticket as it's cheaper to do it that way rather than pay each direction. If your trip takes you there in May, be prepared for an amazing site as you cross the sea. As you sail towards Aero, fields of gold begin appearing in the distance.
The golden colour is produced by the blossoming flowers in the fields and farmlands. Against the bright blue seas and the white flurry clouds, it's a colour spectrum, unlike anything I'd ever seen before. When you arrive from Svensborg, you'll dock in the town of Ærøskøbing.
Many small Inns and Bed & Breakfasts are located in Ærøskøbing, but we opted for another experience popular on the island: A guest house. We stayed at the Harmoni Guesthouse run by the sweetest couple Eckhard and Marijanne! It was the most adorable guest house I'd ever stayed in, and they were a joy to be guests of! I cannot express just how much we enjoyed this place and our wonderful hosts! When we arrived in Aero, our host was there to pick us up, (something many of the guest houses in the area offer) as there are no frequent buses or no cabs to get you to where you're going. So unless you plan on walking - be sure to make an appointment for a pick up with your host.
Our host was a lovely old man named Eckhard, who told us all about the history of the island as we drove up and down hills, throughout farmland towards our destination. Their guest house is steps from the sea, has to most incredible view of the gorgeous Baltic sea and even has it's own llama farm.
After settling down in your hotel or at your guest house a good way to explore the island quickly is by going on a bike ride. Every guest house will rent you out a bike (or even perhaps just lend it to you depending on the place) that you can ride all over the island. There are some areas more hilly than other, and when it gets windy, it's always a tough trip but well worth the effort. Taking a tour of the island by bike, you'll see, in a much more intimate way, the texture of the landscape, the smell of the wind and all the little details that pop out at you only by whizzing around of a two wheel joy-ride.
Bike maps can be found at the tourist office or just from your host. We stuck our map in our bike basket and just used that as a guide. The routes are easy enough to follow but be sure if you're there off season you don't get lost as it might be miles before you come across someone at home who can direct you back on track.
There are rarely too many cars on the road, so you have the whole road to yourself. Ride down to Ærøskøbing, the historic centre of the island and a so called 'Fairytale' town. Parts of this city date back to as far as the Middle ages and just a few years ago the town celebrated its 750-year jubilee. There you'll find the most picturesque little-painted houses and mid-century shops. Each of these houses could be hundreds of years old, but they have been faithfully taken care of and preserved to look just as they did hundreds of years ago.