Saxon Switzerland National Park

Saxon Switzerland is located in eastern Germany and is about 30 km (19 miles) southeast of the capital of Saxony called Dresden. It’s the only park in Saxony and covers a spectacular landscape which is 93 km2; between Pirna and Czech border. There are various villages and towns that are part of this area and some of them include Königstein and Bad Schandau. There are 400 km2 of paths, steep treks, cycle routes and marked hiking-trails on the ground and more than 700 summits for rock climbers. This park is recognized for being a cradle of free climbing region and some of the things you should do include hiking and enjoying beauty of nature.

The national park’s natural beauty normally changes depending on the season and the best thing about it is that it doesn’t diminish. For example, some of the activities you can enjoy in the warmest months include rock climbing and water trips. Those of you who want to relax, be pampered or to be cured, there are nearby spas and resorts. The extraordinarily eroded rock formations in this region that date from the geologic period offers memorable experience for tourists.

Saxon Switzerland National Park Photo

This fascinating landscape has deeply curved valleys, gorges, Table Mountains, unique habitat and chalky sandstone cliffs. It is also possible for travelers to see rare species such as; otter, fat dormouse, eagle owl, mosses, lichens, ferns among others. The Sandstone Mountains create beautiful formations and bluffs that make hiking to be more interesting. The climb requires one to be in shape and you shouldn’t be afraid to climb narrow steps, ladders and in some cases you might find limited footholds in rocks. For those who are weak, old or afraid of heights, be prepared and don’t get close to the edges or railings but you can still trek up to the top lookout point. There are small restaurants in each town and several inns along hiking trails. There are also many caves as well as rock castles that are worth a visit.

Its striking environment allows one to relax during holidays or weekends with family or friends. During summer weekends, this place can get crowded along the river but in winter or late autumn you will nearly be alone with the guide. There are friendly and accommodating guide who will lead you through a few spots and help you out.

How to Get to Saxon Switzerland

The closest airport is in Dresden, which is about 30 km from this region. Other international airports can be found in Leipzig, Prague and Altenburg. Saxon Switzerland is highly linked to international, national and local rail and road network. You will find that regional trains normally link this National Park and Dresden after every 30 minutes during the day. Some of the towns it stops include Pirna, Stadt Wehlen, Kurort Rathen, Bad Schandau etc. You can use public transport or personal car to reach the famous Bastei Bridge. There are also stunning hiking trails from Stadt Wehlen to Bastei then to Kurort Rathen and much more. For tourists traveling with bikes, you will find great services such as “Rail and Bike” or “Happy Weekend Ticket” being offered. Below are some of the modes of transportation available in this national park:

  • By Train: Saxon Switzerland is best accessible from Dresden by a rail network that provides punctual services, high speed and convenient connection between local villages or towns. The train is good, comfortable and its direct line along a river called Elbe makes this to be faster. When taking the train, first, find train line S1 with direction “Bad Schandau”.
  • By Car: Finding roads out of Dresden might be a little tricky for those who are not used to the roads. Try following signs to Bad Schandau or Czech Republic. Start by taking A4 motorway to Dresden, leave at junction (Kreuz Dresden-West) and follow A17. You will find an exit marked Pirna and follow B172 which will later split into paths for Bad Schandau, Pirna, Koenigstein and Bad Gottleuba (B172) or Kurort Rathen, Stolpen, Neustadt, Hohnstein and Stadt Wehlen (B172 A). You may also find traffic jams during hot summer weekends.
  • By Boat: On reaching river Elbe, you will enjoy a relaxing trip with old beautiful paddle steam ships and other modern ones. This is an exciting experience as you will be floating in one of the oldest steamboats with other people or you will float alone in a canoe along the most renowned waterway. Riding a paddle steamer or a row boat allows you to enjoy wonderful water level view of towering heights and dramatic gorges.

Why Go There?

There are idea opportunities you can explore and experience in this beautiful natural landscape. You will admire a lot, find peace and recover actively. A 400 km long network of trekking trail will lead you to spectacular panoramic view and wonderful destinations. There is 50 km long bikeway that allows you to explore this region with a bicycle. There are 12, 623 hiking paths and 755 hiking summits which will be enjoyable for those who love adventures. Another best part is riding the 9 ancient paddle steamers on river Elbe. The historical steamer is the largest and the oldest paddle steamer in the whole world.

The highest mountain in Saxon Switzerland National Park is Winterberg, which is 556 m high and from here you will have a beautiful view of the surrounding environment. There are footpaths of old-fashioned rock castles, traces of medieval rock castles and old walls remains in Elbe Sandstone Mountains. In the midst of rocky landscape of this region you will find amazing fortress Königstein which is 247 m high. It’s a fully intact and one of the largest fortresses in Europe; it is also the last fortress in Germany. All this among other places are worth visiting.

How to Get Around the Park

Saxon Switzerland Park Photo

There are various travel options you can choose from once you have arrived in Saxon Switzerland. You will find extensive public transport network such as boat, bus and train. Along river Elbe you will find good bicycle that you can take through northern side if you will be going up. You can hire bikes and take them with you as you anywhere you wish to stroll.

Make sure you check the ticket you buy if you are taking a romantic boat tours since there are modern diesel boats as well as old paddle steamers. The boats are relaxing and typically serve the route between Saxon Switzerland and Dresden city. There are also shorter trips between six ports of call.

There is also an old-fashioned tram that goes through Kirnitzsch valley and it’s the only tram in the world permitted to enter a National Park. The route is a very romantic route since the tram takes travellers to and from waterfall (8 km long) at Lichtenhain to Bad Schandau. The tram stops 7 times between Lichtenhain and Bad Schandau; and every stop has many walking trails and along the stops you will find inns and pubs.

Where to Visit

With vibrant topography of dropping valleys and canyons, untamed forests and Table Mountains and the mighty river of Elbe, Saxon Switzerland is a wild adventure playground. There are various cycling paths and hiking trails that offer ample opportunities to venture in. Visiting Bastei Bridge, which offers breathtaking views along river Elbe; Pirna and Bad Schandau villages; Lichtenhain waterfall; and Königstein fortress. The activities you can do include rock climbing, riding the Kirnitzsch valley tram, cycling, walking, cruising the river Elbe and visiting various sites. Every angle of Saxon Switzerland National Park will be greeting you with stunning scenes of layered rock formations and natural stone bridges. Some of the places you should visit while there include:

1) Bastei Bridge

Bastei Bridge is a manmade bridge that’s about 76.5 m long and it connects the rock formations. One can reach this place in less than an hour from Dresden and it’s a popular daytrip tourist destination in the area. If you want to get there by public transport, take bus line 237 which will take you from Pirna to Bastei. Stadt Wehlen to Bastei or Königstein, Bad Schandau, Hohnstein and then finally to Bastei. Bastei Bridge is easily accessible by personal car via Lohmen; enter “01847” as the address if you’re using navigation system. Parking fees include; €3 if you’re parking up to 3 hours, €5.5 if you’re parking for more than 3 hours and €11 if you’re parking a bus.

This is a must visit tourist attraction site as it offers spectacular panoramic view over river Elbe, the mountains and the picturesque landscape of cliff. You will enjoy the air and uplifting feeling of being at the top of the world. No entry fee is required and the most interesting thing about it is there is opening or closing times. You can visit the Bastei rock formations any time you want to and you are required to pay a small fee when entering Felsenburg Neurathen, which is within the compound.

Travellers will enjoy scenic views from 194 m above the Elbe River and there is a Panorama Restaurant that serves both international and local foods. This 4 star hotel has a relaxing spa area and offers nicely decorated up-to-date rooms. There are numerous hiking paths around Bastei and the most recommended one is from Wehlen through Bastei to Kurort Rathen.

2) Königstein Fortress

This vital monument of European fortress architecture is attached on a sandstone mesa. Königstein Fortress has heights dotted with fortresses and castles which are fascinating to travellers. There are 3 drawbridges that can take you to rock massif at 245 meters altitude above Elbe River. It has walls that have a height of about 40 m. Königstein fortress was on one occasion a state prison during ancient times and was first used as a border fort. Some of the attractions in this place include elaborate bronze barrels, Baroque buildings, Late Gothic and Renaissance as well as 152.5 m deep well. Taking a 2.2 km walk around fortress walls offers marvelous view of a vast area of this National Park.

3) Baroque Garden Großsedlitz

Saxon Switzerland Photo

This garden was laid out in 1719 by Count Wackerbarth and 14 years later the landscape was designed as a symmetric park by architects Pöppelmann, Langelune and Knöffel. Some of the attractions in Baroque Garden Großsedlitz include ornate hedges, Orangeries, basins, fountains, sandstone sculptures, cascades, lawns and the little Friedrich Castle.

4) Fort Stolpen

It was built in 12th century and rises 35 m high basalt hilltop between Lausitz and Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Fort Stolpen is made of native basalt as well as sandstone and it was mainly used as prison in the medieval period. It is a famous museum that boasts exciting Royal stables, courtyards, Cosel’s Tower, torture chambers, weapons collection, 82 m deep well, granaries, the fort’s dungeons and “Seven Spire Tower”.

5) Kuckuckstein Castle

Kuckuckstein Castle rises 364 m above sea level from a rock in the Müglitz valley, Liebstadt. It’s construction began in 1450 and was later transformed and extended several times. Earlier on it was a family possession until 20th century. Some of the attractions that are worth seeing in Kuckuckstein Castle include the romantic courtyard, impressive Bergfried, court-room, Napoleon rooms, the hunting-room, the Middle-Ages paintings and the freemason's lodge.

6) Weesenstein Castle

Weesenstein Castle was built on a stony outcrop facing Mueglitz River valley at around 1200. At first, it served as a protection trade pass between Bohemia and Meissen. Later on, there was addition of a tower that was complete with a Renaissance entry. Some of the things that are worth seeing in this area include the new park, interior design, the chapel and the elaborate wallpaper from 18th and 19th centuries.

Other attractions that are worth visiting are Fort Hohnstein, Pirna-Zuschendorf Castle, Herbrig organs, St Marien Parish Church, Weesenstein Palace Chapel, St George Garrison Church and much more. Saxon Switzerland is well-known for having varied habitats such as rugged and rocky terrains, steep ravines, extensive forests, plateau mountaintops, moors and wildflower-filled meadows. If you look into the skies you will spot horned owls, black storks and peregrine falcons. Saxon Switzerland National Park is a beautiful place to visit with family and friends as there are various attraction sites and amazing environment one can enjoy. Make sure to pass through the information centers that serve the interest of the national park, various event program as well as interactive models, multivision and 3D presentations in English, Czech and German.