With an area of 974 sq. km (including the island Hiddensee) Rügen is Germany's largest island and has at present 69,500 inhabitants. The island is linked to the mainland by a bridge called Rügendamm (2.5 km).
The 80 million year old chalk massif of the island's bedrock rises to a height of 161 m at the Jasmund peninsula. Along with the hilly surface, the flat areas and the permanent change between land and water makes a landscape rich in contrasts (15% forest, 61% agricultural area).
The wide sandy beaches, the shady avenues of trees, and the many hiking paths, still existing on Rügen, or the experience of the chalk coast with the majestic Königsstuhl (117 m), the Flint Fields at the Narrow Heat - a geological phenomenon - the magic beauty of Southeast, to mention only a few details of Rügen's unique landscape panorama, which are worth protecting even in a European dimension. Special emphasis is placed upon the environment and nature conservation with 2 national parks, 1 biosphere preserve, 32 nature reserves and 3 nature conservation areas, the total protected area comprises 527 km².
Archaeological findings provide evidence of pre-historic settlement in the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. During the sixth century a blooming culture was created by the Slavs. In 1168 Rügen fell to the Danes and after the Thirty Years war under Swedish rule. In 1815 it became a part of Prussia partly as a property of Prince Malte of Putbus. This varied and colourful history explains the island's wealth of archaeological- and historical monuments.
At present appr. 23 000 people are regularly employed, most of them in the service sector including tourism, construction, trade, manufacturing or administration. Rügen's urban centre is Bergen auf Rügen, a town of 15 000 inhabitants. International ferry traffic terminals are located at Sassnitz and Mukran. The island's growing number of visitors reached 1 300 000 in 2002. Among the oldest and most traditional bathing resorts are Binz, Göhren, Sellin and Baabe. Prosperous small and medium-sized enterprises, an environmentally-friendly tourism as well as an effective service sector will continue to be the economic base. Agriculture and forestry have always existed on the island. The continuation of the traditional fishery located in Sassnitz and the exploitation of chalk resources shall be perpetuated and Rügen´s plans predict expanding the ferry port Mukran as gateway to the north. Rügen's major future target is to harmonise all spheres of life and in this sense to become a model region.