If you’re looking for a different take on places to visit in Germany, head off the beaten track and try one of these hidden countryside gems
When we think of places to visit in Germany, we’re drawn to the cultural-city favourites such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich, but it’s also hiding a much more rural scene too.
In fact, around a third of Germany’s total land area is woodland so why not immerse yourself in one of these holidays at the heart of nature?
Here are 6 places to visit in Germany off the beaten track
1. Saxon Switzerland National Park, Saxony
The Saxon Switzerland National Park is found in the German state of Saxony, south-east of Dresden. It is known to be the birthplace of free climbing, which came about because hooks or similar climbing aids are not allowed to be used on the fragile sandstone. The region’s own climbing rules and grades of difficulty make it all the more special for climbers who reach the top here.
It’s here where you’ll find the famous Bastei rocks that offer a spectacular view of the River Elbe. The river itself is also worth exploring by kayak, rowing boat or paddle wheel steamer. And you can marvel at the unusual eroded landscape of mountain range, Elbe Sandstone Massif, which will throw you back to the Cretaceous period — with its rock formations, deep valleys, table-top mountains and gorges. This area is also well known to be a habitat for rare animal species such as eagle owls, otters and dormice.
2. Schlei Estuary Nature Park, Schleswig-Holstein
For places to visit in Germany that offer the opportunity to relax and unwind, try the Schlei Estuary Nature Park in the northern part of Schleswig-Holstein. Idyllic villages, vast meadows, yellow rape fields and secluded swimming bays provide an ideal place for relaxation.
The ancient River Schlei is one of the most defining features of the region and of the town of Schleswig. It runs more than 40 kilometres inland from the Baltic Sea and is home to a diverse range of species due to its waters changing from salt water to brackish water. Expect to find an array of masts, sails, ropes and the occasional fur seal too – cute!
3. Berchtesgaden National Park, Bavaria
Rural places to visit in Germany don’t get much better than the Berchtesgaden National Park, encompassing Mount Watzmann, Lake Königssee, the ‘Sea of Rocks’ and the Hagen mountains. It is one of the oldest conservation areas in the Alps and truly an area of unspoilt nature.
You can take a four-day mountain trek that will take you on a tour of the Lake Königssee, Mount Watzmann and the ‘Sea of Rocks’. Ibex, marmots, eagles, mountain hare and Alpine salamander roam freely around this incredible landscape. Keen botanists will find flower varieties like dragon’s mouth, rock jasmine and dwarf alpenrose.
4. Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland
Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park is Germany’s newest national park, having opened in 2015. Slender beech trees, mysterious moors, graceful wildcats, rocky screes, colourful flower meadows and imposing boulder landscapes are all features of this stunning landscape.
The best way to explore the region is along the Saar-Hunsrück-Steig, a 410 km walking trail. If you walk along sections 9-12, you’ll visit the Celtic circular stone wall, pass through the fabulous beech-lined forests, then wander over the Dollberg hills and onto the moors surrounding Mount Erbeskopf. Plus, you’ll visit the ruins of Wildenburg Castle, where indigenous woodland animals, wildcats and wolves can be seen in a 10-hectare wildlife enclosure.
5. Black Forest National Park, Baden-Württemberg
The Black Forest National Park reaches higher than 1,000 metres above sea level in some places and is known for its bracing climate and precipitation. Spectacular views stretching into the distance, sprawling coniferous forests, deep cirque lakes and dark moorlands give the landscape its unmistakable character.
The northern Black Forest is at its most untamed and beautiful in the woodland nature reserves, some of which were established over a hundred years ago. Join one of the ranger tours on offer, the shortest is the route along the circular Lothar trail, which runs every weekend during peak season. There are also tours lasting several hours, including excursions to the Allerheiligen waterfalls, the Wild Lake or Mount Hornisgrinde.
6. Bliesgau UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Saarland
For places to visit in Germany that touch on its unique bio-diversity, try the south-eastern corner of Saarland. Here lies a mosaic of countryside made up of vast orchards, exquisite beech forests, swathes of orchids and beautiful riverside meadows. There are gently rolling hills that provide a habitat to little owls, red kites, lizard orchids and rattle plants too.
Walking trails, cycle tracks and bridle paths trace the history of Roman and Celtic settlements and St James’ Way also goes through the region. The district of Gersheim is known for its orchids, with around 30 of Germany’s 60 indigenous varieties growing in this relatively small area. Guided tours of the orchid meadows run from early May to early July.
Visit The German National Tourist Board for more information