Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Self guided walking holiday in Saxon Switzerland
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Highlights

  • Exploring the unique and photogenic sandstone formations of ‘Sachsische Schweiz’
  • Walking up to the world-famous rocky viewpoint of the Bastei, formed over a million years ago by water erosion and standing 194m above the river Elbe
  • Crossing the Barenstein rock outcrops to the impressive fortress of Konigstein
  • Visiting the Pravicka brana, the largest natural rock arch in Europe!
  • Rewarding yourself with a glass of cool German beer or wine as you relax after a fantastic day’s walking

Saxon Switzerland, or the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, is one of the most captivating of parts of eastern Germany. Saxon Switzerland lies either side of the River Elbe south of Dresden and crosses into the Czech Republic; the contrast between riverscapes and dramatic rock outcrops makes for a unique countryside.

Much of the route follows the Malerweg or Painters Trail. Saxon Switzerland was much favoured by the artists of the German Romantic school, such as Caspar David Friedrich and this trail was very much inspired by walks popularised by these artists. This is one of four prime walking areas covered in the BBC TV series German Wanderlust featuring Julia Bradbury.

Here you will find river landscapes, fantastic weathered rock outcrops, flat-topped and offering superb views over unspoiled forests and across to castles and fortresses. This walking tour will introduce you to much of the finest countryside in this fascinating corner of Germany and the Czech Republic.

Over six walking days enjoy a classic loop trail from Bad Schandau, which is easily reached from Dresden or Prague (a great excuse to extend your stay!), with no more than 18km to walk each day. You’ll also enjoy occasional ferry crossings across the Elbe river between charming German towns and villages as part of your tour.

On Day 6 you’ll cross the border and venture into the Czech Republic, walking to the Pravcicka brana, the largest natural rock arch in Europe, before returning to Bad Schandau.

Your holiday includes 7 nights accommodation in 3 star hotels, pensions and guesthouses in rooms with private facilities, 7 breakfasts, luggage transfers, return rail travel from Krippen to Schona, 24/7 emergency support, maps, detailed route notes, and an information pack.

DAY 1: Arrive in Bad Schandau

Bad Schandau is perched right on the edge of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, in the Elbe sandstone mountains. Just 6km from the Czech border, the town dates back to the 14th century, and is home to many timber-framed houses and typically Germanic architecture.


Dresden, Prague or Berlin Airports are gateway hubs into this part of Germany, and are served by a variety of low cost and international airlines. Intercity trains are available from the cities’ main train stations to Bad Schandau.


The train station in Bad Schandau is a short ferry ride across the river from the town.


Overnight: Elb Hotel***, Bad Schandau


The Elb Hotel is well-located in the heart of Bad Schandau, offering a warm welcome to guests.


DAY 2: Hohnstein Castle and walk to Rathen

The walk starts with a steady climb up the side of the valley to Brand which offers breath-taking views over the dramatic landscape of Elbe sandstone hills.


Continue upwards to the imposing ruins of Hohnstein Castle. From here there is a more relaxing descent through idyllic valleys back to the Elbe river at Rathen.


If you prefer, you can take the bus from Hohnstein to Rathen (payable locally).


Overnight: Hotel Amselgrundschlossen, Rathen


Walk: 17km, ascent: 581m, descent: 574m, 5h30


DAY 3: Bastei viewpoint, walk to Konigstein

This morning, begin with a walk up to the world famous rocky viewpoint of the Bastei, then return to the river at Stadt Wehlen.


Take the ferry across the river, then walk via the Bärenstein rock outcrops to the impressive fortress town of Königstein, where you will overnight.


Overnight: Hotel-Restaurant Neue Schaenke***, Konigstein


If you fancy a break from walking, why not enjoy a game of mini golf or a massage at tonight’s hotel! The restaurant serves delicious and typically Saxon culinary creations, so it’s a great idea to relax with a beer or glass of wine and a dish of the region.


Walk: 14km, ascent: 600m, descent: 475m, 5h30


DAY 4: Barbarine rock needle, Pfaffenstein, walk to Gohrisch

Today starts with a walk through forest to the famous Barbarine rock needle. Then you walk to the top of the Pfaffenstein, from where you will enjoy fine views to the Lilienstein.


Your day ends at the pretty spa village of Gohrisch. Why not sit back and relax with ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ at one of the village’s little cafés—satisfied in the knowledge that you’ve earned a treat.


Overnight: Pension Villa IrenePark Hotel Margaretenhof ***or Waldparkhotel, Gohrisch. Please note that the Pension Villa Irene does not have twin rooms.


Walk: 7.5km, ascent: 405m, descent: 350m, 4-5hrs


DAY 5: Empire of Stones country, Gohrisch, Papstein summit

Your route lies through countryside known at the ‘Empire of Stones’. First climb to the summit of Gohrisch mountain, then continue the hike on to Papstein, where you’ll enjoy lofty views over forested hills and patchwork of fields and villages.


Continue to the villages of Cunnersdorf and Kleingiesshubel to end back at the river Elbe at the pretty town of Krippen.


Overnight: Hotel Erbgericht***, Krippen


Walk: 9km, ascent 300m,descent: 400m, 4-5hrs


DAY 6: Pravcicka Brana rock arch, Edmundova Souteska Gorge boat trip

Today you begin your adventure by taking a train and cross the border into the Czech Republic (don’t forget to bring your ID, although this is still in the Schengen area!).


Cross the river by ferry to Hřensko and walk to the Pravčická brána, the largest natural rock arch in Europe. Make sure you have your camera at the ready!


Descend to the photogenic valley of the tranquil Kamenice river, which flows between lush rock faces. Continue back to the valley of the Elbe at Hřensko and return to Krippen.


Overnight: Hotel Erbgericht***, Krippen


Walk: 15km, ascent/descent: 476m, 5hrs


DAY 7: Schramstein rocks, Kuhstall cave, Lichtenhainer waterfall

Cross the Elbe by ferry and walk to the Schramstein rocks. Please be aware that today’s walk involves a number of very steep rocky paths and sections where the route requires you to use iron steps in the rock.


On leaving the rocks you walk through fine woodland to the cave at Kuhstall. The cave is also know as the ‘cow stall’ cave and was the subject of paintings by the Romantic Artists.


Continue to the valley of the Kirnitzsch. From here you return to Bad Schandau, either along the path by the river, or using the historic Kirnitzsch valley trams.


Overnight: Elbhotel***, or Aparthotel am Schlossberg****, Bad Schandau


Walk: 12.5km, ascent: 431m, descent: 340m, 4-5hrs


DAY 8: Onward travel

Check-out of your accommodation and make your own way home.


Please get in touch with us if you would like to purchase train tickets for Deutsche Bahn in advance (at a supplement).


Additional Nights and Extensions

You can add additional nights at any point along the walk or at the start/end of your journey.

Accommodation

The accommodation on this walk is a combination of 3 star hotels and guesthouses. Some hotels do not have an official rating. All offer a warm welcome to walkers, traditional hospitality and an authentic experience. Please note that hotels in this region of Germany do not tend to have ‘true’ double or twin rooms; 2 x single mattresses, each with their own bedding, are usually found placed together on a double bed frame. The Pension Villa Irene in Goehrisch does not have twin rooms. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your requirements. Thank you.


Accommodation Location

During the high season, you might be booked into alternative accommodations which are not listed in the description. Any alternative accommodation will be of the same or better standard as those described.


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable. This holiday is available for solo walkers.


Availability

This trip is available from the beginning of April to end of October, to start on any day of the week.



Time of Year

Traditionally July/August has always been the most popular time of year because the theory goes that the weather is better. Although we believe any time between April and October offers a wonderful experience.  


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable. This holiday is available for solo walkers.


Grade & Terrain

This trip is graded Moderate. Daily distances increase on some days and the terrain may be rugged underfoot with some hills, perfect for those with a relatively good level of fitness. The most you'll walk in any one day is 17km.


Navigation, Route Notes & Maps 

You will be provided with detailed walking route notes and maps to make your way each day, and have telephone support and back-up of our local partner and UK office teams, should you require any assistance.


Baggage Transfers

Your bags will be transferred from your accommodation as per your itinerary and moved onto your next overnight accommodation. We ask that you limit your luggage to one bag of up to 20kg per person. 


Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity, emergency evacuation and hospital care. 


General Information

The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and trousers), sun hat and sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months, lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack. 


Getting to Saxon Switzerland

Bad Schandau is perched right on the edge of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, in the Elbe sandstone mountains. Just 6km from the Czech border, the town dates back to the 14th century, and is home to many timber-framed houses and typically Germanic architecture.


By Air

Dresden, Prague, or Berlin Airports are gateway hubs into this part of Germany, and are served by a variety of low cost and international airlines.


By Train

Intercity trains are available from the cities’ main train stations to Bad Schandau; Berlin (2h50, direct service), Prague (1h46, direct service) and a local service is available from Dresden (30-45 mins, direct service). The train station in Bad Schandau is a short ferry ride across the river from the town. We offer a booking service for tickets from German rail (Deutsche Bahn) in the UK before you leave. More information can be found at www.bahn.co.uk

Getting to Saxon Switzerland


Bad Schandau is perched right on the edge of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, in the Elbe sandstone mountains. Just 6km from the Czech border, the town dates back to the 14th century, and is home to many timber-framed houses and typically Germanic architecture.


By Air

Dresden, Prague, or Berlin Airports are gateway hubs into this part of Germany, and are served by a variety of low cost and international airlines.


By Train

Intercity trains are available from the cities’ main train stations to
Bad Schandau; Berlin (2h50, direct service), Prague (1h46, direct
service) and a local service is available from Dresden (30-45 mins,
direct service). The train station in Bad Schandau is a short ferry ride across the river from the town.


Included

  • Accommodation for 7 nights in 3 star hotels, pensions and guesthouses.
  • 7 breakfasts.
  • Daily luggage transport of 1 bag of up to 20kg per person as required.
  • Return rail tickets from Krippen to Schöna (Day 6).
  • Detailed route descriptions and pre-departure information pack.
  • Maps of the walks.
  • 24-hour assistance by telephone.

Excluded

  • Travel to and from Germany and start/end of the walk.
  • Lunches and dinners.
  • Drinks & snacks.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Ferry crossings (payable locally only).
  • Personal expenses such as drinks, telephone calls, extra transfers (such as by train or boat during the walk), tips, etc.
  • Any items not specifically mentioned in the program.

Extras

  • Single room supplement(s) if applicable.
  • Solo walker supplement if applicable.
  • Additional nights.

How far in advance do I need to book?

We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the region is very popular over the Summer months. However, we will always try our best to accommodate your plans. 

How fit do I need to be?

This trip is graded Easy-Moderate. Daily distances increase on some days and the terrain may be rugged underfoot with some hills but not too strenuous, perfect for those with a relatively good level of fitness. The most you'll walk in any one day is 17km.

How do the baggage transfers work?

Your bags will be transferred from your accommodation as per your itinerary and moved onto your next overnight accommodation. We ask that you limit your luggage to one bag of up to 20kg per person. 

What equipment do I need? 

Your detailed information pack will be sent to you after you book. This has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking/trekking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes and a day pack.

What is the best time of year?

Traditionally July/August has always been the most popular time of year because the theory goes that the weather is better. Although I believe any time between April and October offers a wonderful experience.

What happens if I can't walk a stage?

You can use public transport or local taxis to continue to your next overnight stop. 



 




Wonderful Trip!

5

This trip was a lot of fun. My girlfriend, sister, and brother-in-law all went together for our summer vacation. For most of us, this was our second Mac Adventure so we knew generally what to expect. The views, nature and lovely towns along the border of Germany and Czech are a must see! Throughout the hike, you will stay in a variety of towns along the Elbe river in Germany with one day doing a hike in the Czech Rep. (loop hike). We started our trip in Prague for a few days before taking the train to Bad Schandau where you start you hike. We finished by taking the train the Munich. I recommend this trip to anyone who lover hiking and spectacular views. Be aware, this trip has a lot of steps going up and down the hills along the Elbe river. Each day will start with a lot of steps (100-800 steps!) as you ascend from the towns along the river up into the hills/cliffs and then descend back into the towns as you finish your hike for the day. The steps aren't hard but it is good to be prepared for that type of hiking! Overall, this was an amazing trip and I recommend it!!

Greg

United States

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Amazing scenery and stress-free travel

5

This is an amazing trip that I would recommend to anyone - regardless of their experience with global travel. The scenery is beautiful and varied - from hilltop views of the river to meadow and field vistas and, of course, picture-perfect town squares. The luggage transfers were stress-free and the accommodations were much nicer than the Holiday Inns and Best Westerns I'm used to staying at when I travel! Although the paper copy turn-by-turn directions were a little unclear on a couple occasions, in conjunction with the GPS on the app, navigation was not a problem. Each day included conveniently spaced out cafe stops for snacks and restroom breaks (Except the last day! 6 hours with no restroom stop makes for a long hike!) The only trouble with the paper turn-by-turn directions is that there is no distance or time indicated between directions. So, while walking, it is unclear if the next step occurs 50m from where you are or 2km from where you are. Quick tip - carry pocket change. If you aren't a customer, the restrooms require a fee for use.

Novice Self-Guided Hiker

North Carolina

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Incredible Adventure

5

We loved this very active hike in the hills of Saxon Switzerland. The hike is well waymarked for the most part and Macs interactive route guide can help when a route is in question, although we didn't find this out until the third day. (Our fault, not theirs). Although described as easy to moderate, some parts of every day were strenuous/difficult. Many stairs and steps but the views once you reach the top are worth the effort. The places we stayed were delightful and the breakfasts plentiful. No air conditioning though and one day reached 100 degrees F or 38 degrees C. Wish our hotel would have at least had a fan. One surprising item was that we reached a recommended place for lunch on Monday that was closed on Mondays, then the same thing happened on Tuesday. Had we been informed that these places were going to be closed we could have requested a packed lunch. Also, one day we reached our hotel at 2:15, only to find out that our hotel closed everyday from 2:00-5:00. Again, had we known that we could have planned accordingly. Otherwise our adventure was outstanding. The Bastei was incredible. We typically saw fewer than 10 others on the trail except on the day we went to the Bohemian Switzerland (Chechia). Lots of tourists, but beautiful, so I'm glad we went. We found the small towns welcomed us as Americans. Often the restaurants have an English menu if you ask for it. The bag transfer was very smooth. We only arrived ahead of our luggage one day, but it was no problem as we followed their advice to bring an extra set of clothing to change into. Overall, we loved this experience!

Wyayn

Minnesota, USA

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Wow...be prepared for an adventure and conquer your fears!

5

The walk was totally brilliant, accommodation very clean, excellent breakfasts ( and many let you take a sandwich for lunch). Loved the variety of accommodation. However, the daily route instructions have clearly not been tested as on most days some our party got lost (once requiring a taxi to get back). There are huge gaps in instructions, some turn offs which are unmarked are not mentioned so very easy to go wrong. To finish on a good note, days are planned well in terms of distance; days 1&2 are long, day 3 to recover before more longer days. Ferries / trains all worked well.

SchoolhouseSu

North of Scotland

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Exciting walking and well organised holiday

5

Fabulous walking which was challenging in places, however all achieveable and worth the effort. The Painters Way (Maelerweg trail) is rated as one of the top walking trains in the world and we can see why! Luggage transportation was seamless and all excellent accommodation except Schraegers Gasthaus (recommend Macs finds an alternative), they were not at accommodation when we arrived at correct check in time and room was small, cold and smelly. The walking was exceptional and map given was clear however we would have like a map that showed contour lines. As we did not speak German our walking would have been enhanced by some notes of what highlights we passed during the day. Every noticeboard was in German.

Happy Wanderers

Bristol

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Adventure around the Elbe

5

This walking adventure was well suited for our family of 5 including teens and adults. Lots of beautiful landscapes, viewpoints, cool forests and sandstone outcroppings. The hotels were well placed and reasonable. Breakfasts were great, and food was readily available for purchase, and at stopping points along the trail. Over all a great trip!

Mike

Provence

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Wonderful Wonderful Experience

5

What a wonderful experience, and the weather in mid- to late August was fantastic. Only had one torrential rainstorm, but a change of clothes easily accommodated a quick fix while hiking. Trail notes were outstanding, albeit cryptic in some locations (but that's part of the adventure). Accomplishing each day was fantastic! Note that Day 1 is quite intense with the hiking effort uphill and some trails were not clearly marked (or missing signs); however, every day afterwards was fantastically easy to follow. Definitely suggest going with your gut instinct on most interpretations of route notes, whilst absolutely following the Malerweg signage each day! I did not pass many hikers each day, which made for a peaceful experience. Be advised, most elderly German folk that you may run across do NOT speak English, and you do not run into many young people in the smaller villages you come across. Verizon reception and WiFi extremely limited in most areas as well. Overall, A++++ experience. Accommodations were fantastic. Irene's Inn was one of my favorite spots all around! Thank you!

John C

United States

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Enjoyed the scenery immensely

4

The tour was very well organized. The views were spectacular. The accomodations were upto standards. The only real problem which is of course, nobody's fault is that very little English is spoken and written anywhere on the trail. So if you don't speak German, get a really good internet package because you're gonna be using lots of Google maps/ translation apps along the way.

JW

Bangkok

true

The Saxon Bohemian Switzerland is a sight to behold

4

Accommodattion:. Some of the places we stayed were a little more wonderful than others but since some of the towns only have 500 to 800 people living there I am sure these guesthouses were the best that could be found. All the places were really clean and the breakfasts were excellent. Getting there: It was very easy to get to Bad Schandau Landscape: It was one of the most extraordinary and beautiful places in the world People: We saw no foreign tourists, many days we saw very few people and the people we did see were from the area. Place: Saxon Bohemian Switzerland is a very isolated part of Germany that seems to have had very little outside influences. Hiking: As a 66 year old fit woman, I was proud of how well I did. The hikes were challenging because of the climbing ... one day I counted 1000 stairs.... but the terrain was well groomed, the stairs, ladders and ramps all had heavy duty railings and what I got to see once I reached the top everyday was a wonder! Some people have said that day 1 and day 2 were the most challenging but that could only maybe be because of the distance. Each day had its challenges but I was never fearful and the challenges were worth taking! Finding your way: Like other tours the written instructions were lacking. But having said that, the map that we were given was excellent and the GPX files were the BEST. I would definitely encourage others to download the Mac Adventure App and then download the files. It made all the difference to our days to feel secure in the knowledge that we were rarely lost😜

L from BC

British Columbia Canada

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Fun but challenging

4

We enjoyed our walk very much however I don't think it should be rated as Easy to Moderate. There is a lot of up and down every day. The hotels were great and the scenery spectacular. I do have a bad fear of heights and tried to get a handle on that issue before signing up for the trip. I was lead to believe that there were alternate routes to avoid that problem on the 2 days that issue was identified. In the case of the Bastei that was true but the final day of hiking it is not an option but requires doing your own hike altogether. It would have been nice to have an option outlined for us instead of having to figure it out by trial and error. It worked out but it was frustrating. I tried calling the local agent in Dresden and she was no help in identifying an alternate option. So we came up with our own plan. At least the maps supplied to us were good and helped us make our own Plan B. All part of the adventure.

Rita

Seattle,WA

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Saxon & Bohemian Switzerland

4.7 28

100.0

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