Germany hasn’t got the same reputation for beautiful landscapes and countryside that neighbouring Austria, Switzerland or even Belgium has but it is there.
From the Black Forest to the Alps you can find quiet walks with beautiful countryside and elsewhere in Germany areas with more cities and industry still remain beautiful, including routes along the Rhine.
What many of Germany’s long distance routes do well are to go around and stay away from larger towns and cities and take you through the quaint small towns and villages, past vineyards, castles and thick forests: even in industrial areas such as the North Rhine and Saarland.
Kaiser Way, Harz Mountains, Saxony
Not one of Germany’s very long paths but by no means short at 110km long it can be covered during a long weekends walking for those looking to push themselves or in a week for those keen to take things a little more easily and enjoy the scenery along the way.
The Harz mountains are the only real mountain range in Northern Germany and the path crosses these as it runs through the Harz national park. The footpath is in fact a historic trial however and as such it was originally formed to make crossing the mountains as easy as possible and has been used by many armies as a result.
The German section of the E1 trans European long Distance Path, Scleswig-Holstein to Baden Wurttemburg
The E1 crosses right through the heart of Europe and initially starts up in Norway going right down into Italy. The German part of the E1 begins at the border with Denmark in Schleswig Holstein and passes Hamburg, it then continues on into Saxony, through the Rhineland, Hesse and Baden Wurtemburg before continuing into Switzerland. As well as Hamburg along the way you can take in The Black Forest, Heidelburg and many other historic German towns. It is also fascinating to see the changes in style and culture as you pass through each state making this walk a great way to learn about Germany.
Rheinburgenweg Trail, Rhineland-Pfalz, Hesse
The Rhine Castle trail follows the east bank of the Rhine and is deigned to take in several dozen famous castles of the Rhine including Klopp castle with its medieval Keep, Lahneck Castle built in 1226 and an important defensive position since and Stahleck Castle which is in an archetypal Rhineland style and now a hostel making it a great place to stop for the night.
Going though the Bavarian Alps, and occasionally into Austria, this trail really takes in the best of the Bavarian Alps and some beautiful scenery. The Neuschwanstein castle of Ludwig the Second of Bavaria is a highlight, its fairytale style making it the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
The trail begins in Lindau and goes through the small towns of Bregenz and Fussen finishing in Berchtesgarden with its location by Germany’s third highest mountain mount Watzmann. The trail doesn’t come close to any large towns or cities though there is ample accommodation along the way.
German section of the E11 European Trail, via Osnabrück, Hamelin, Harz, Dessau, Potsdam
While the E1 cuts through Germany north to South the ER11 goes east to west across northern Germany and is one of only a few few trails to take in both the former East and West Germany.
The German part of the E11 is 996km long and starts at the Dutch border close to Toddenweg. Among the most interesting parts of the trail are those in Brandenburg which has few other paths, the route goes close to Berlin and right past Potsdam. Potsdam the residence of the Prussian royal family including Fredrick the Great is well worth stopping to take in and shows a slightly different side to Prussian history to that many are most aware of.
Black Forest Trail / Westweg, Baden-Wurtemburg
The Westweg (West way) is also known as the Black Forest Trail leading as it does through the fantastic Black Forest area of south west Germany in Baden Wurtemburg. The trail starts, or ends, at Basel: the city that straddles three nations, France, Switzerland and Germany and is also where many Swiss and French trails start.
The Black Forest in summer is ideal for camping and if you don’t mind the extra weight there are plenty of campsites as well, as you come out of the Black Forest the trail leads across moorland and into the Enz Valley finishing at Prorzheim.
Tiefwarensee Ice Age Trail, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
The Tiefwarensee is a lake, created many millennia ago by glaciers as were many of the other lakes in the Mecklenburg Lake District. The Trail is only 10 km long, making it ideal for families with younger children to walk in a day, it can also be ridden by bike. Along the way there are plenty of information boards about the lakes, how they formed and about other geological and natural features, if you have children learning about Ice Ages in geography at school this is incredibly useful and well worth the trip.
Rheinsteig, Northrhein Westfalen, Hesse Rhineland-Pfalz
Another trail along the Rhine but a slightly different route, and following the west bank of the Rhine; from the old West German capital of Bonn the trail passes through woodland and loops backwards and forwards away from and back to the river to take in the most beautiful and picturesque villages and castles. These include the Scloss Johanisberg surrounded by vineyards making fantastic Riesling and excellent late harvest wines including ice wines: guided tours of the vineyards are possible followed by tastings.
Eifelsteig, Eifel Mountains NordRhein-Westfallen, Rheinland-Pflaz
From Aachen to Trier high up in the Eiffel Mountains, which are part of the same range as the Ardennes in Belgium, this trail runs close to the Belgian border its entire way. The pine forests in this area are beautiful any time of year and snow is common here in winter, you will probably want to wait until summer for anything but a brief walk though.
The Saar Hunsrueck Steig, Saarland, Rhineland Pfalz
A total length of 180km this is another trail that is practical for most people to do in one go during a weeks walking holiday. The highest rated German Long distance trail according to Germany’s Association of hiking the beauty of the landscape alone is enough to secure this.
One thing that is especially popular is the change of terrain along the way including forests, woods, steep climbs, moors and farmland. Walkers also like the fact that rather than a straight route it meanders around to take in the best the small Saarland state has to offer including castles, bronze age sites, streams and beautiful views including of the Saar river itself.
It seems strange how so many parts of German culture can be ignored by the rest of the world including the food, architecture, millenniums of history and of course the wine and beautiful countryside: all of these though can be taken in and discovered by hiking through the country.