Saxon Switzerland, a unique mountain area in Eastern Germany

Lizet Wesselman - 14/03/2024

Saxon Switzerland, a unique mountain area in Eastern Germany

Lizet Wesselman - 14/03/2024

Basque Switzerland is a unique mountain region in Eastern Germany. Strangely enough, still relatively unknown. Read all about it here. Located in Eastern Germany, Saxon Switzerland is an impressive natural area known for its giant sandstone cliffs. Located on the German side of the border with the Czech Republic, this national park is a wonderful place for different types of hikers. From novice hikers to experienced climbers, there is something for everyone. With beautiful environments and more than enough stunning viewpoints overlooking the area. Here you can read more about the beautiful spots, hiking routes and how to reach Saxon Switzerland by public transport.

What is Saxon Switzerland exactly?

Saxon Switzerland is a region in eastern Germany, the region of Saxony. In the 18th century, 2 Swiss guest workers came to the region to hike, and found it very similar to their homeland. So it was affectionately renamed ‘the Switzerland of Saxony’. This beautiful area is a mix of forests and impressive sandstone rock formations, formed some 100 million years ago. The area spreads across the border with the Czech Republic, where you will find the ‘Bohemian Switzerland’ section, named after that region.

The highlights of Saxon Switzerland

Bastei and Bastei Bridge
The Bastei is one of the most iconic sights in Saxon Switzerland. Here you will find the largest collection of sandstone rocks, where you will find many routes to spend hours hiking. You’ll also find the famous Bastei Bridge (pictured), a stone bridge that runs through a collection of rocks. This is a popular photo hotspot and thus also very busy, but worth it. From here, you can do several hikes.

Königstein Fortress
One of the largest mountain fortresses in Europe, Königstein Fortress offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s military history. Located on a plateau, the fortress offers panoramic views of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. On the other side of the village you will find another such collection of sandstone mountains, ‘Pfaffenstein’(pictured). I myself chose to check that out and only saw the fortress from the viewpoint.

The Schwedenlöcher, also known as the ‘Swedish Caves’, is a spectacular gorge with narrow paths and steep steps that lead you through an enchanted rocky landscape. The place owes its name to the Thirty Years’ War, when locals hid from Swedish troops here.

Lesser known routes Saxon Switzerland

Uttewalder Grund
Uttewalder Grund is a picturesque gorge less known to tourists but all the more impressive. It is a peaceful and serene place with moss-covered rocks and babbling brooks. This hidden gem offers an ideal setting for a quiet walk and enjoying nature.

Wilde Hölle and Idagrotte
This challenging hiking trail takes you through the ‘Wilde Hölle’ (Wild Hell), a narrow gorge with steep rock walls, to the Idagrotte, a beautiful cave overlooking the Elbe. This lesser-known route offers an exciting and adventurous experience for the more experienced hiker.

How accessible is Saxon Switzerland?

Saxon Switzerland offers hiking trails for all levels, from easy walks to challenging treks. The trails are well-maintained and clearly marked, so families with children and experienced hikers alike can find what they are looking for here. The variety of routes ensures that you can always find a hike to suit your fitness and experience.

Sample routes Saxon Switzerland
Malerweg: This famous hiking trail, also called the ‘Painter’s Trail’, takes you past the most beautiful spots of Saxon Switzerland. The route is about 112 kilometres long and is divided into eight stages. So you can do several walks here.

Frienstein and Idagrotte: A challenging hike to the top of the Frienstein rock and the nearby Idagrotte. This route offers spectacular views and impressive caves, and is less crowded.

Kirnitzschtal tramway: A unique combination of hiking and a tram ride through the picturesque Kirnitzschtal valley. A cute little yellow tram winds through the valley past the beautiful rock formations. From there, you can take several walks through the forests and steep climbs up to the cliff tops. Here at the top you connect to the panoramic route. Here we stayed at a lovely campsite, which I’ll tell you more about later.

Schrammsteine: A walk along the impressive Schrammsteine formation, with challenging paths and breathtaking views of the surroundings.

Brand-Aussicht: A quiet and lesser-known route to the Brand-Aussicht, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the national park.

But you can hike everywhere. What I mainly do in this area is to set my google maps to satellite and see what the rock formations look like from the air. That way you’ll automatically see where you see interesting collections of rocks, and where you can go. So Bastei I definitely recommend and Pfaffenstein is also a nice easy hike. You just have to go up some narrow, steep steps, so not suitable for people who are afraid of heights.

How to reach Saxon Switzerland?

The area is so popular that there are endless tours to it. From a cheap €20 bus tour to Bastei & Königstein to a €400 private tour and just about everything in between. Departure points are mainly Dresden and Prague.

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Of course, you can also go there yourself. By car, you can park at the start of each walking route. You will also find charging stations at most places, if you come with an electric car. If you come to Saxon Switzerland by public transport, you can take the S-line from Dresden along the Elbe, where you can get off at several places. From Kurort Rathen, you can walk to Bastei in 30 minutes (including the ferry across the Elbe). From the station in Königstein, you can walk to Praffenstein or the fortress in about 45 minutes.

Between March and October, there are also buses that take you to all walking routes. Find all information on buses in Saxon Switzerland here.

Camping in Saxon Switzerland

What I can also recommend is camping or staying in a nature house in this area, from where you are directly in nature. I myself travelled with an electric campervan on my last visit and stayed at the fantastic sustainable campsite ‘Kleine Bergoase’, run by a friendly German couple. This is a small campsite with something like 8 spots and a couple of apartments. There’s also a cottage with kitchen and wood fire, making it lovely even in winter. And, possibly the best thing about the campsite: there is a sauna! Lovely for recovering after a long day of hiking.

We stayed here in February, nice and quiet and so wonderfully warm thanks to the wood fire and sauna. In the morning you wake up with a panoramic view and can start hiking straight away. In fact, that panoramic view is part of the panorama route.

Our stay at this campsite really completed our experience in Saxon Switzerland. Camping in nature is simply an experience in itself, and as far as I am concerned even better than sitting in a hotel. For other campsites in the region, I recommend the platform Campspace, a sustainable initiative for small-scale, sustainable campsites.