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Elbe Cycle Path: Hamburg to Dresden  The Natural Adventure Company 11

Elbe Cycle Path: Hamburg to Dresden in 13 Days

Overview

The Elbe is Germany’s second-largest river, featuring beautiful riverbank meadows, impressive vineyards, magnificent castles and charming historical towns. The Elbe Cycle Path is one of the longest in the country, with more than 800 km in Germany only. The majority of the routes is relatively flat, in good condition and well-asphalted, with numerous cultural attractions along the way. There is hardly any altitude gain, so it does not matter whether you cycle upstream or downstream. However, the prevailing winds from the west and the terrain make the journey upstream preferable. This 13-day tour will allow you to experience most of the Elbe Cycle Path at a moderate pace. It will take you from the harbour city of Hamburg through vast natural reserves, vineyards and the charming towns of Hitzacker, Lutherstadt Wittenberg and Meissen to historic Dresden.

We also offer an 8-day challenging version of this itinerary, appropriate only for the most experienced cyclists.

Highlights

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hamburg

This famous Hanseatic city offers a wealth of cultural attractions to light up your evening. Get in the mood for your cycling tour with a boat trip from the harbour, visit the old warehouse district or climb up Hamburg’s symbol, St Michael’s Church.

Day 2: Hamburg – Lauenburg | 55 km

After leaving Hamburg on the Elbe Cycle Path, you will cycle along the Elbe river banks and through Geeshacht. Here the Elbe is still very broad and winds its way through the flatland, dispersing into many smaller and larger tributaries. The shipping town of Lauenburg is your destination with beautiful restored half-timbered houses from the 16th-17th century.

Day 3: Lauenburg – Hitzacker | 55 km

Today’s cycle tour passes sleepy villages and the Elbe Floodplain UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with its largely untouched fluvial landscape. The final destination for the day is the health resort of Hitzacker. The town’s historic centre with numerous half-timbered houses is picturesquely situated on an island and invites you for a stroll.

Day 4: Hitzacker – Wittenberge | 78 km

On your fourth day, you will continue to ride through the quaint Elbe floodplains. Enjoy the tranquillity and wildlife along the way. You will also pass the former inner-German borderland. Soon after that, Wittenberge will appear on the horizon, well known for its many towers.

  • Cycling for the day: 78 km
  • Accommodation: Hotel Germania (Wittenberge) or similar

Day 5: Wittenberge – Havelberg | 38 km

After leaving Wittenberge, you will cycle on dykes along the banks of the Elbe to Havelberg. The route offers several sights, including storks in the village of Rühstädt and excellent views across river landscapes. In the afternoon, you will arrive in Havelberg – or “the Green Island and Cathedral City”, as its residents lovingly refer to it. This charming city at the Havel and Elbe confluence has a rich history as an episcopal seat. Visit the city’s impressive cathedral in the Romanesque and Gothic styles made of red brick.

Day 6: Havelberg – Tangermünde | 50 km

Your biking itinerary for the day will take you through small villages to Tangermünde. The town’s medieval centre invites you to discover the many red-brick and half-timbered buildings.

Day 7: Tangermünde – Magdeburg | 80 km

Today’s stage is defined by nature: enjoy the ride through the vast floodplains with its diverse wildlife. Shortly before reaching Magdeburg, stop at the imposing European water junction connecting the Elbe, the Elbe-Havel-Canal and the Midland Canal. In Magdeburg, do not miss to visit the cathedral and Hundertwasser building.

Day 8: Magdeburg – Dessau | 78 km

The cycle path will lead you through the Biosphere Reserve of the Mid-Elbe, one of the last undeveloped floodplains in Central Europe. The untouched nature is home to rare bird species. Dessau is your destination for the day. The Bauhaus buildings and the Masters’ houses from Kandinsky, Klee and Feininger all belong to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.

Day 9: Dessau – Lutherstadt Wittenberg | 37 km

The short cycling stage allows you to explore the world-famous Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 100-hectare park offers numerous attractions, including islands, canals, temples and statues. Today’s tour ends in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, the starting point of Martin Luther’s Reformation process 500 years ago. Take a walk through the intact historic centre and visit the various memorial sights dedicated to Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.

Day 10: Lutherstadt Wittenberg – Torgau | 68 km

Your today’s bicycle tour along the Elbe Cycle Path continues through the Elbe floodplains to Torgau, a Renaissance town featuring Schloss Hartenfels and the Palace Church known as the first German Protestant church.

This stage can be divided with an overnight in Pretzsch (results in 37 km / 35 km).

Day 11: Torgau – Strehla | 40 km

Today your cycle tour will take you to Belgern first, the only place with a Roland statue in Saxony. “Roland” is a statue of a knight with a drawn sword, an emblem of a town’s freedom and city rights; it was usually erected on market squares or in front of town halls. Continuing the journey, you can enjoy the enchanting rural atmosphere of the Elbe town Strehla.

  • Cycling for the day: 40 km
  • Accommodation: Hotel Ambiente (Strehla) or similar

Day 12: Strehla – Dresden | 66 km

The final leg of your cycle tour will take you to the town of Riesa first – home to a famous German pasta manufacturer, and at its museum, you can gain insight into modern food production. You will also pass picturesque vineyards and the wine and porcelain city of Meissen with its castle Albrechtsburg. Finally, the cycle path leads you to Dresden. Take a walk through the historic old town and visit the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), the Zwinger Palace and the Semper Opera House. Enjoy the view from the Brühl’s Terrace – also known as “The Balcony of Europe”.

Day 13: Departure

The tour ends after breakfast. We recommend extending your stay in Dresden as the city has an abundance of attractions and landmarks to explore.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in nice 3-star and 4-star hotels in private standard en-suite rooms. 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.

Click to view default hotels

Hotels are subject to availability. In case a hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a property of equal standard. We will provide full accommodation details upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Accommodation is on a bed & breakfast basis. Lunches are available along the way. You can have dinner at your hotel or nearby restaurants.

Difficulty & terrain

This is a moderate to strenuous cycling tour (read more about difficulty grades). You follow relatively flat and well-asphalted paths through countryside and forests, which are excellently signposted. 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 local assistance phone number in case of need.

When to go

This trip is available from the beginning of April until the end of October. The departures from Hamburg are on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday. The departures from Dresden are daily. The best time for cycling is between June and mid-September when the weather is generally good. 

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options and route planner

By plane

Our recommended airports for this tour are Hamburg, Dresden or Berlin.

By train or bus
  • By train: If you are flying to Hamburg there are regular S-Bahn trains to the city, journey time is about 25 min. If flying to Berlin Brandenburg Airport, you can take the train to Hamburg; journey time is about 1 h 45 min – 2 hours depending on the train departure. If flying to Dresden, you can take a train to Hamburg with a change along the way in Berlin or Hannover; journey time is between 4 and 5 hours, depending on the departure. Train timetables can be checked on the DB website, or you can use the Omio planner above.

Inclusions

Included

  • 12 overnights with breakfast as detailed in the itinerary
  • Luggage transfer when changing hotels (1 piece of luggage per person, max 20 kg)
  • Detailed route notes and maps (1 set per room)
  • Phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Bike rental
  • Helmets – you have to bring your own as there is no possibility of renting any. In Germany, it is not obligatory to wear a helmet.
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on the spot)
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as included in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • Bike rental – touring bikes and e-bikes
  • Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
  • This holiday is not available for solo travellers
  • Extra nights along the way are available upon request
  • A split of day 10 with an overnight in Pretzsch
  • The tour can be arranged in the opposite direction as well – from Dresden to Hamburg with daily departures

Bikes

The bike rental fleet comprises almost 100 touring models from established German brands (BBF and Kalkhoff). There are available ladies’ models with step-through or low-crossbar frames and gents’ models with step-through or low-crossbar frames (from a height of 1.75 m). The bike rental includes a waterproof Ortlieb pannier (10 l), bicycle lock, map holder on handlebars (1 per room), and repair set (1 per room). Helmets are not included and cannot be rented. E-bikes are also available on request.

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