A land of ancient forests, enchanting lakes and rolling vineyard-covered hills, it’s hardly surprising that hiking is one of Germany’s most popular national pastimes.
To discover the most naturally beautiful and varied trails, check out the 5 top destinations for hiking in Germany, according to global travellers.*
From Lohmen, hike up to the Bastei, a mysterious rock formation that looms over the Elbe River
Hiking near the village of Lohmen offers both quantity and quality; over 1,200km of trails weave through the Saxon Switzerland National Park, a place so evocatively beautiful that it stands out from the rest of Germany. Think elongated tablelands, volcanic cones and gorges, as well as one-million-year-old mystical columns of sandstone that stand tall amid deep green forest. The most famous of the park’s many surreal rock formations is the Bastei, a 194-metre-tall natural monolith that looms over the Elbe River. Take the ‘golden triangle’ hiking trail from Wehlen via Bastei to Kurort Rathen for a great round trip. Check out the views of the Elbe River and the national park from Berghotel Bastei.
Earn points for your hiking 'passport' on the Harzer Wandernadel, a hiking awards system based near Blankenburg
Head to Blankenburg for the 8,000km of hiking trails that encompass the Harzer Wandernadel; this hiking awards system is based within the Harz National Park and will provide outdoors enthusiasts with endless entertainment. Here, you’ll find an awards system where you can earn points at varying levels of challenge, with a hiking ‘passport’ and green stamps at checkpoints along the route to mark your progress. Not to mention mountains, rich wildlife, monasteries and other cultural treasures. Enjoy views of the town and Blankenburg castle while staying at Hotel Villa Viktoria Luise.
Enjoy far-reaching views of the German countryside from atop the Harz mountains
Ilsenburg is a town at the feet of the Harz mountains, visited by avid hikers keen to scale the highest peak, the Brocken. At 1,141 metres tall, this mountain provides views across the entire region; follow the trail to the summit and pass by the Witches Altar (Hexenalter) and Devil’s Pulpit (Teufelskanzel) – two enormous, cliff-like granite boulders. Or if you’re having a lazy day, there’s also a steam train that takes passengers to the top of the mountain. Check into the highly rated Pension Stellwerk.
Deep green forest punctuated by limestone rock formations in the Saxon Switzerland National Park
Located at the entrance to the Saxon Switzerland National Park, Sebnitz entices visitors keen to view the Bastei and its mysterious rock formations. But this humble town also boasts various other natural attractions, including the Lichtenhain Waterfall and the Kirnitzsch Valley. Follow the Malerweg (Painter’s Way) trail, one of the most famous routes in Europe, with 112km of paths that take eight days to walk but can easily be split up into segments, depending on your stamina. 5km from the Lichtenhain Waterfall, Pension Am Finkenberg provides hikers with a bountiful breakfast spread to prepare them for a day’s hiking.
Virginal forest, peaceful meadows and valleys with crystal-clear natural springs on the Rennsteig trail
Masserberg lies on the 700-year-old Rennsteig trail, the oldest hiking trail in Europe, running for 169km along a ridgeway through the uplands of the Thuringian Forest. Known for its historic sights and scenery, the trail is dotted with 1,300 boundary stones dating back to the 16th century, and takes hikers through virginal forest, peaceful meadows and valleys with crystal-clear natural springs. The route even has its own distinct greeting; tradition states that hikers on the trail must always greet each other with ‘gut runst!’ instead of hello or good morning (the word runst can’t be found on the dictionary, so the only place you’ll discover it is on this hiking trail). After hiking the Rennsteig, relax in the sauna at Hotel & Café Daheim.
**These destinations were the most highly rated for ‘hiking’ in Germany, according to people travelling with Booking.com.