World Heritage

The Wadden Sea is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. This means that the area is classified as particularly unique and of universal importance and inalienable for the whole world. Here you can experience dynamic landscape, diversity, opulence and world-class nature.

Mandø seen from the air - a world-class area. Photo: Lars Gejl

A Wadden Sea - a shared world heritage

The Wadden Sea is the world's largest continuous tidal area. It is made up of islands, tidal channels, rivers, sandbanks, mudflats and coasts that are constantly changing shape and sometimes even location. It harbours a great diversity of plant and animal life and is one of the world's most productive ecosystems. Twice a day, the Wadden Sea changes dramatically - from kilometres of mudflats teeming with life to sea surfaces rippled by waves.

The Wadden Sea stretches from Ho Bay near Esbjerg all the way down to the Dutch town of Den Helder. The three countries Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands share a common World Heritage Site. World Heritage status is the highest possible recognition that can be given to a natural area, and the designation puts the Wadden Sea in the same league as the pyramids in Giza or the Icefjord in Ilulissat.

World Heritage - what is it?

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee works to promote the protection and conservation of cultural and natural heritage considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. The Wadden Sea's designation recognises the area's outstanding universal value - that is, that the area is of value to the whole world. It also recognises the hard work that Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark have been doing together for more than 40 years to protect and manage the area's nature. UNESCO has strict criteria for when an area can be designated a World Heritage Site. The rationale for the designation of the Wadden Sea is that the Wadden Sea is of outstanding importance for the conservation of biodiversity on a global scale. The ecological and geological processes taking place in the Wadden Sea are predominantly natural and undisturbed. The area is complete and intact, and its protection and management must be ensured effectively. The Wadden Sea fulfils 3 of the 10 UNESCO criteria.

World Heritage Wadden Sea seen from satellite - The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark share the World Heritage. Photo: Wadden Sea Secretariat

5 good suggestions for where you can experience the world heritage

Strandskade birds flock in the Wadden Sea. Photo: Tandrup Naturfoto

This is how you are the best guest at the World Heritage Site

  • Be considerate of the fragile nature around you and stick to the many good paths and roads that show nature at its best
  • Respect that certain areas may be closed off during the bird breeding season
  • Remember that you are a guest in nature and avoid disturbing birds and other animals
  • Pick up any rubbish you find and take it with you - even if it's not yours
  • Realise that the wind and tides are the deciding factors at the Wadden Sea, and always check DMI before you go on a trip. 

Nature conservation across national borders

The three countries along the Wadden Sea, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, have been working together since 1982 to protect the Wadden Sea in the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation. Among other things, the countries co-operate on nature monitoring and protection, and the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation has resulted in the Wadden Sea now being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The German and Dutch parts of the Wadden Sea have been designated a World Heritage Site since 2009, while the Danish part joined in 2014.

The Wadden Sea is well protected by the EU's Natura 2000 regulations, RAMSAR area and is a nature and game reserve area that has a very high degree of protection.

Tønder marsh. Photo by Ulrik Pedersen.

Other Links

UNESCOs full list of World Heritage sites UNESCOs website 
Read more about the Wadden Sea World Heritage Wadden Sea World Heritage