We could just say hiking and cycling are BIG in Saxony and Thuringia and leave it at that but, of course, we won’t. Instead, we have selected a few highlights for your choice, including some of Germany’s most popular routes and trails.
Saxony’s and Thuringia’s great outdoors offer ideal hiking terrain, mainly in Saxon Switzerland, the Vogtland, Ore Mountains, Upper Lusatia, the Zittau Mountains, Thuringian Forest and Thuringian Slate Mountains. Let’s go for a ramble:
The supremely picturesque “Malerweg” (Painters’ Trail), one of Germany’s most popular hiking routes, takes in the gorges and summits of Saxony Switzerland’s sandstone mountains. The trail’s name goes back to its historic roots as its natural beauty inspired artists such as 18th century painter Caspar David Friedrich who created one of his most famous works on a hike in this area. Or try the Vogtland Panorama Weg® trail, a spectacular route that has been awarded a special German quality seal for hiking routes. The Kammweg Trail of the Ore Mountains/Vogtland, the Heide-Biber-Tour in the Leipzig region, the circular trail Höhensteig Klingenthal, the Elsterperlenweg Trail, the Zeulenroda Talsperrenweg Trail and the Upper Lusatia Bergweg Trail also come with this quality seal. Find more information on Saxony hiking trails here!
Thuringia features one of the Germany’s most iconic and highly historic trail: The Rennsteig in the Thuringia is the country’s oldest hiking trail with a history going back about 1,000 years. For centuries, it had marked the frontiers of several German duchies and principalities and many surviving historical border stones attest to that. “Doing” the whole Rennsteig of about 105 miles from Eisenach in the west to the Thuringian Slate Mountains in the east will take a few days (luggage transfer can be organised), however, you can also pick individual, shorter stretches and still get the great combination of dense forest and gorgeous panoramic views.
In the Thuringian Slate Mountains, hikers will encounter dramatic scenery, with steep valleys, dark forests, glittering water reservoirs and mountain meadows with wild orchids. The Schwarza River Valley Panorama Trail is a popular option here, following the river valley to the small town of Rudolstadt with its imposing baroque Heidecksburg Castle. In Oberweißbach, the world’s steepest mountain railway is a tourist attraction. The Hohenwarte Water Reservoir Trail circles around one of Europe’s largest water reservoirs, affectionately called their “sea” by the locals. The gigantic reservoir system is surrounded by an almost fjord-like landscape with forest and plains, panoramic vistas, steep rock formations and dreamy villages. Find more information on Thuringia hiking trails here!
Germans love cycling which means that visitors can benefit from a standout network of well-appointed cycling routes. Here, we have picked a few here among the many options to be found in Saxony and Thuringia:
Let’s start with the Saxon stretch of the Elbe Cycle Route as one of Europe’s most attractive options for a cycling holiday. Like a “best of Saxony”, it takes in everything from the vineyards along the Elbe valley to the bizarre rock formations in Saxon Switzerland, not forgetting historic towns and cities such as Meissen, Radebeul, Dresden, Pirna or Bad Schandau. Cyclists after a challenge should consider the so-called “Kammtour” in the Ore Mountains/Vogtland nature park or the Musicians’ Cycle Route in the Vogtland’s instrument-making region around Klingenthal and Markneukirchen. For more leisurely rides, try some river routes such as along the Oder-Neiße, Spree, Elster or Mulde. Tip for mountain bikers: Saxony offers an array of options, including the “Stoneman Miriquidi” in the Ore Mountains, Germany’s first single trail park in Rabenberg as well as special mountain bike trails in the Ore Mountains, Vogtland and Zittau Mountains.
In Thuringia, we’d recommend the well-developed cycling paths taking you from the Eichsfeld region to Hainich National Park. Several long-distance routes intersect here, following the rivers Werra, Leine and Unstrut, providing some beautiful rides through quiet countryside and forests. On the Leine-Werra route, you can sample some local cuisine and the region’s famous air dried sausages at rustique Klausenhof tavern in Bornhagen. Continue on the Unstrut cycling via Mühlhausen to UNESCO-listed Hainich National Park. Tip: Try some local beers and the delicious Thuringian bratwurst at Mühlhausen’s Brauhaus restaurant!
If you like river routes, cycling along the Thuringian Saale river should tick your boxes. From north to south, it takes you from the fjord-like landscapes of the Thuringian Slate Mountains to the wine-growing areas of Thuringia’s north. On the way, there are castles, the lively university town of Jena and a picturesque ensemble of three palaces near Dornburg. Last but not least, in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, the Feininiger Route is a great option to combine cycling with art and design: The short tour (17 miles) takes in Bauhaus-related places in and around Weimar. Lionel Feininger had come to Weimar in the early 20th century to work at the Bauhaus School. Sights on the way are the villages and churches around Weimar painted by Feininger.