Overview for Trekking the Malerweg Trail in 8 Days
The Elbe Sandstone Mountains (also called Saxon Switzerland) are one of the most beautiful regions in Germany, located just a few miles from Dresden. They were named by two Swiss painters who were impressed by the similarity of the area to the landscapes of their own country. You will see bizarre rock formations, walk through ancient woods and picturesque valleys alongside the winding Elbe River. In the Romantic Era, many painters from Switzerland and England discovered this region with its beautiful wilderness.
The two Swiss painters Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, both of them teachers at the Dresden Academy of Arts, were among the first to discover the unique beauty of the stones, valleys and gorges in 1766. Together with their students, they spent a lot of time in this area. Soon many other artists followed their steps. The most famous painter from this group of nature-loving artists was the German Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840) with his masterpieces ‘View of the Elbe Valley’, ‘Rocky Gorge’ and ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’.
In 2006 the 115-kilometre long Painter’s Path (‘Malerweg’) was inaugurated, leading you in the footsteps of these romantic painters.
This is a moderate to strenuous trek, appropriate for experienced hikers. If you are considering more leisurely walks, we also offer easier hikes along the Malerweg Trail.
Itinerary for Trekking the Malerweg Trail in 8 DaysGo to top of page
Day 1: Arrival Pirna
Welcome to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains! You travel individually to the town of Pirna, which is known as the Gate to Saxon Switzerland. We recommend you to take a walk through the city’s historic centre with its medieval alleys and numerous artfully decorated town houses. The city is also located close to Dresden and can be reached conveniently by public transport from there.
Day 2: Pirna – Lieberthal – Rathen
In the morning, you take the local bus to the start of your first walking day right on the Malerweg trail. You will walk through three distinct wild and romantic areas. Passing the city of Wehlen – a peaceful town right by the Elbe River – you will reach today’s final destination, Rathen. But before that, you can enjoy the view from the most famous observation deck of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains: the Bastei Bridge..
Walking for the day: 17 km, 5-6 hours ↑170m ↓170m
Day 3: Rathen – Hohnstein – Altendorf/Kirnitzschtal
From the first highlight of today – the Hockstein rock – you have the perfect view onto your next milestone: the city of Hohnstein. Walking through the Polenztal valley you will reach the Brand viewpoint, offering spectacular views of the Elbe Mountains. You continue your hike taking the 800 steps down into Tiefen Grund valley. Passing Waitzdorf you reach Altendorf or continue along the Panorama trail, which leads you down to Kirnitzschtal valley.
Walking for the day: 22 km, 6-7 hours ↑530m ↓530m
Day 4: Altendorf/Kirnitzschtal – Schramm-Steine – Neumannmühle
Walking on Gratweg trail through Schrammstein massif, you hike uphill to Schrammstein viewpoint. Passing Big and Small Dome, you reach Affensteinweg trail which leads you directly to Lichtenhain Waterfall. After visiting the natural arch Kuhstall you walk back down to Kirnitzschtal valley in order to reach the monument of Neumannmühle. By local bus, you go back to Kirnitzschtal valley where you spend the night.
Walking for the day: 17 km, 6-7 hours ↑700m ↓700m
Day 5: Neumannmühle – Schmilka – Krippen
After taking the bus to Neumannmühle, you hike up to Zeughaus and climb up Großer Winterberg mountain. Then you descend to Schmilka, crossing the Elbe River (ferry-fees are not included), walk upstairs to Schoena and reach Reinhardtsdorf. Enjoy the stunning views of the Schrammstein massif located on the other side of the Elbe River while walking towards Krippen.
Walking for the day: 22 km, 7-8 hours ↑700m ↓800m
Day 6: Krippen – Gohrisch – Koenigstein
Before you reach Gohrisch, you climb up the mesa Papstein and mesa Gohrisch. Along Pfaffenstein and passing by cave Diebskeller you will follow the Malerweg trail until you reach the Fortress of Koenigstein. If there is still time left, you should not miss exploring the fortress.
Walking for the day: 21 km, 7 hours ↑750m ↓550m
Day 7: Koenigstein – Pirna
Your last hiking stage on the Malerweg trail leads you up to Rauenstein massif. From here you can catch a sight of Bastei Bridge on the other side of the Elbe River. In the afternoon you will reach your final destination, Pirna.
Walking for the day: 17 km, 6-7 hours ↑300m ↓400m
Day 8: Departure or Onward Travel
Hotels for Trekking the Malerweg Trail in 8 DaysGo to top of page
7 nights in 3-star hotels or comfortable guesthouses. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.
*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included. When no restaurant location is available on route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your accommodation or restaurants in the village near your hotel.
Travel for Trekking the Malerweg Trail in 8 DaysGo to top of page
Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Dresden.
Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.
Transfers to/from Airports
You will arrive at Dresden airport. Take the modern airport shuttle train. The platform is situated in the basement of the terminal (signs will indicate the direction). The train S2 (direction: Dresden main station / Pirna) takes about 15/17/20 minutes to get to the stations Dresden Neustadt/ Dresden Mitte and Dresden main station. The airport shuttle train leaves half-hourly at xx.17 and xx.47. Single Ticket: 4.10 € per person.
Airport transfers by train are recommended for this trip, as they are less expensive and take less time than car or bus transfers.
All hotel to hotel luggage transfers on walking days are included (maximum one piece of 20 kg per person).
A comprehensive and reputable travel insurance policy is essential to your enjoyment and peace of mind while on an active holiday. It is highly recommended when booking with us that all group members have valid travel insurance which includes cover for all activities included in your trip. We have teamed up with to offer you adequate cover at a great value from a reputable insurer, and it takes only a few minutes to buy online.
- In bigger towns, you will have no problems finding English speaking service in hotels or restaurants. However, we suggest carrying a dictionary or a phrasebook with you. Please be aware that only a few restaurants offer multi-lingual menus.
- The currency in Germany is the Euro (€).
- 112 enables anyone to call emergency services from anywhere in the European Union.
- Up-to-date travel advice on Germany is available here. Detailed travel information and hints will be provided in your holiday information pack.
Trip Info for Trekking the Malerweg Trail in 8 DaysGo to top of page
Difficulty Grade: Moderate to Strenuous
This holiday is appropriate for experienced mountain walkers and requires a sound level of fitness, total walking is 115 km, on average 19 km (6-7 hours) per walking day (read more about difficulty grades).
The trails are very well maintained and waymarked. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to Go
This trip is available from April until October. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking.
The climate in the region is continental, cold and temperate. Depending on location and altitude, temperatures vary, but, in the June-September period, the daily averages are 15 – 25C. Spring and autumn are cooler with occasional rain. Expect the weather to change rapidly during the day.
What to Bring
We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing not more than 20 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.
- Good hiking boots
- Hiking socks
- Several t-shirts (cotton or preferably breathable/fast drying)
- Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
- Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
- Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside accommodation
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
- Hat/Baseball cap
- Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)
Included for Trekking the Malerweg Trail in 8 DaysGo to top of page
- Detailed road notes
- 7 nights in 3-star hotels or country inns with breakfast included
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days
- Local travel bus tickets on walking days
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office / representative
Single Room & Solo Traveller Supplements
Please click the CHECK AVAILABILITY button above to see the price of the holiday and the different options, extras and supplements for your desired dates.
Other Trip-Related Costs
- Entrance fees for attractions and museums
- Ferry and bus tickets not mentioned in the itinerary
- Flights and airport transfers
- Lunches and dinners on all days
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the program
- Extra night in Dresden
- Extra night in Pirna
- Extra night in Kirnitzschtal
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We thoroughly enjoyed the walk - the location and setting is stunning. The hotel in Rathen was exceptionally good.
There weren’t any stand out parts on the hike because it was all equally amazing. We particularly enjoyed how rural it was, there were very few people and everyone we met was really nice. Very quiet and relaxing place for a hike. Thanks for a great experience! Overall rating 9/10.
The area was beautiful and all the luggage transfers and such were great. The hike was well chosen and the distances were challenging but not too strenuous. The recommendations and side routes were all on point as well.