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Bundesamt für Naturschutz

The Isle of Vilm

The Isle of Vilm not only has a rich history. With its undisturbed forests, the island of 94 hectares is a small natural paradise just off the coast in the Baltic Sea.

The small Isle of Vilm lies off the south coast of Rügen in the Greifswald Bodden. It was formed during the last ice age some 6,000 years ago and covers an area of only 94 hectares.

The Isle of Vilm's great diversity of natural features is without parallel in the southern Baltic Sea. Nearly all types of coasts characterising the southern Baltic Sea are found here.

Plants and animals of the Isle of Vilm have thrived in an almost pristine wilderness; only very few places in Germany remain as untouched as Vilm. The island’s forests of ancient oak and magnificent beech trees are among the most impressive in northern Germany.

The presence of several species indicates that the forest has remained nearly undisturbed for a very long timeHericium coralloides, a highly endangered fungus growing on deadwood, two species of darkling beetle (Tenebrionidae) and clown beetles (Histeridae) occur on the island. The thick humus layer, rich in carbon, also results of the forest developing almost without human activities for centuries.

The forest of Vilm was saved from logging as early as 1812. Fürst Wilhelm Malte zu Putbus prevented Napoleonic troops from felling the trees and selling the wood. In 1936, the Isle of Vilm was set aside as a nature reserve; since 1990, it has been one of the core areas of the Southeast Rügen Biosphere Reserve.

From 1960 to 1990, the GDR maintained a holiday resort for the GDR council of ministers on the Isle of Vilm. The buildings that still exist today date from this period. Then, on 6 October 1990, the International Academy for Nature Conservation Isle of Vilm (INA) was inaugurated by the former Federal Minister for the Environment Klaus Töpfer.

Guided Excursions

From 1959 to 1990 the island was completely closed to public access. Today, from March to October, up to 60 people per day are allowed to visit the nature reserve Isle of Vilm with its rich natural and cultural heritage, on a guided excursion with the shipping company Lenz e.K.

Fahrgastreederei Lenz e.K.
+49 38301 61-896
+49 38301 61-874
Lauterbacher Chaussee 9A, 18581 Putbus


Vilm has and is a special place in the history of landscape painting. The tranquillity of the island and its "primeval forest" of mighty oak and beech trees, which attracted Christian hermits in the Middle Ages, has appealed to landscape painters since the rise of the Romantic movement. Over the past two centuries, over 330 artists have been drawn to the island. Among the most important artists spending time on the Isle of Vilm were Caspar David Friedrich, the Dresden doctor and landscape painter Carl Gustav Carus and the Weimar painter, Friedrich Preller the Elder, who was much admired and supported by Goethe.

Today, BfN still offers artists the opportunity to seek inspiration during stays on the island, as long as the regulations of the nature reserve are respected. Works by former and contemporary artists are also exhibited in the rooms of the Academy. We would like to draw special attention to the sculptures in the outdoor area and the exhibition "The Tree and Me" in the gallery in the generator house.

Art with utility value – sculptures by Hans Werner Kratzsch and Bernhard Misgajski

Please do sit on these seats. Placed near the entrance to the conference centre they are a welcome alternative to the indoor conference seating, and well used during breaks when the weather is fine. The benches were hewn from oak by the Rügen wood sculptor, Hans Werner Kratzsch (b. 1946). The slightly less comfortable steel and granite seat was made by Bernhard Misgajski (b. 1950), a steel and stone sculptor who works within sight of the Isle of Vilm.

The watermarks put one in mind of the masts of sailing ships. They act as vertical landmarks in the coastal landscape, inviting the eye to dwell on and relish the beautiful view.

Exhibition in the generator house – photography by Volkmar Herre

The permanent exhibition in the gallery in the former generator house, entitled DER BAUM UND ICH (The tree and I) consists of large format photographs by Volkmar Herre (b. 1943). The artist lives in Stralsund and has devoted himself to tree studies on the Isle of Vilm since 1994. The resulting body of work depicts ambiguous and richly symbolic images of growth and decay. In the language of natural forms, the photographer discovers the beauty of human form.

Some more recent additions are works made with a camera obscura, which explore the mystery of light and time.

Edition herre has published a catalogue, an album of photographs ("Venus") and an illustrated broadsheet on the exhibition, all of which can be obtained from our reception.


The exhibition and concerts are possible thanks to a cooperation between the Vilm-Verein (Verein zur Pflege des Natur- und Kulturerbes der Insel Vilm e.V., Association to Preserve the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Isle of Vilm) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. The association, founded in 1994, aims to explore and preserve the extraordinary natural and cultural heritage of the Isle of Vilm.

The association has collected information on more than 650 painters who were active on the three islands of Rügen, Hiddensee and Vilm in the 19th and 20th centuries. This information is available online: "Malerlexikon Rügen - Vilm-Hiddensee" (Encyclopaedia of painters, in German only).

The association also maintains an archive to preserves testimonies from the long history of the Isle of Vilm and makes them available to researchers and interested parties. A brochure on Vilm provides a foray into the exciting history of the island. The association also documents rare species and informs about exceptional sightings of animals.

Support the preservation of the incomparable heritage of the island of Vilm and enjoy exclusive benefits and information as a member of the association. If you are interested, please contact Oliver Thassler, chairman of the Vilm Association. His deputy is Sebastian Schmidt, while Jörg Stachowiak acts as treasurer.

weiterführender Inhalt

Jahrestagung 2023

Jahrestagung des Vilm-Vereins: Wald und Wasser

Internationale Naturschutzakademie Insel Vilm
Date, time
05.05.2023 (Fri) 11:00 
07.05.2023 (Sun) 19:00 
Der Wandel und Verlust unserer Wälder ist rasant und dramatisch.Neben historischen und klimatischen Ursachen, sind insbesondere aktuelle,... more


Oliver Thassler
Vorsitzender Vilm-Verein
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