The Elbe Sandstone Mountains (also called Saxon Switzerland) are one of Germany’s most beautiful regions, located just a few miles from Dresden and expanding into Czechia. They were named by two Swiss painters who were impressed by the similarity of the area to their own country’s landscapes. In the Romantic Era, many painters from Switzerland and England discovered this region with its beautiful wilderness.
On this itinerary, you will take in the best parts of Saxon Switzerland (in Germany) and Bohemian Switzerland (in Czechia). Part of the route follows the Malerweg (Painters Trail). You will pass by bizarre rock formations, walk through ancient woods and picturesque valleys alongside the winding Elbe River.
During your walking holiday, you will see famous sights such as the Bastei viewpoint and bridge near Rathen, the Königstein Fortress and the rock arch Pravčická Brána (the largest natural stone bridge in Europe), as well as lesser-known attractions such as Schrammsteine and Paffenstein with the Barbarine rock needle.
- Elbe Sandstones Mountains
- Bad Schandau
- The Bastei (Bastion) Bridge
- Königstein Fortress
- Pravčická Brána
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Day 1: Arrival Bad Schandau
Welcome to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. You travel individually to Dresden, and from there, you will easily reach by train Bad Schandau, a beautiful 14th-century spa town. If you arrive early, you can do a short hike on the Caspar David Friedrich Trail or do some sightseeing or relaxing in the local Toscana thermal bath.
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Bad Schandau (Forsthaus or similar)
Day 2: Bad Schandau – Hohnstein – Rathen | 18km
Walk uphill through the Saxon Switzerland National Park to the impressive ruins of the Hohnstein Castle, passing the Brand viewpoint, the Balcony of the Saxon Switzerland National Park. Before reaching the castle, you will ascend through the Wolfsschlucht gorge to the Hockstein. You will then arrive at Rathen with its natural theatre and the beautiful Amselsee lake (you can also take the local bus from Hohnstein to Rathen).
- Walking for the day: 18km, 5-6h, ↑678m ↓677m
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Rathen (Hotel Amselgrundschlösschen or similar)
Day 3: Rathen – Wehlen – Königstein/Rathen | 11km
Start the day by walking up to the famous Bastei Bridge and viewpoint. Here, you can enjoy a magnificent view over the Elbe River Valley and the Table Mountains of Saxon Switzerland. Continue your tour through the Höllengrund and Wehlener Grund to the picturesque town of Wehlen. Cross the Elbe River by ferry and soon reach the rock formation Rauenstein. Via staircases and ladders, climb to the top of the rock offering stunning views including the Bastei Rocks. Descend again to Rathen or walk further to Königstein with the famous Königstein Fortress (depending on hotel availability).
Day 4: Königstein/Rathen – Pfaffenstein – Gohrisch | 17km
Having spent the night in Rathen you ascend via Weißig to the famous fortress Königstein. After passing the village Königstein, you hike on pleasant forest paths to the Paffenstein with the famous rock pinnacle Barbarine. This over 42m high rock is the best-known freestanding rock in the German part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and is one of Saxon Switzerland National Park’s landmarks. At the top of the Pfaffenstein, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Lilienstein massif. Via Muselweg, you then reach the spa village of Gohrisch.
Day 5: Gohrisch circular walk | 11km
Experience a breathtaking hike from Gohrisch to Lilienstein. Lilienstein is a highly distinctive mountain in Saxon Switzerland and was once the site of a Bohemian castle. It is one of the few table mountains on the east of the Elbe River and constitutes the symbol of the Saxon Switzerland National Park.
- Walking for the day: 11km, 4h, ↑481m ↓481m
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Gohrisch (Parkhotel Margaretenhof or similar)
Day 6: Gohrisch – Papststein – Krippen/Bad Schandau | 10km
After a short warm up you walk slightly uphill crossing meadows and fields. Make your way to the top of the Table Mountains Gohrisch (448m) and Papststein (451m). From the top, wonderful views compensate for the effort. An old mill with gastronomic offers is worth a break before you continue towards Krippen. Overnight stay in Krippen or Bad Schandau.
- Walking for the day: 10km, 4h, ↑289m ↓447m
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Krippen (Hotel Erbgericht Krippen or similar) or Bad Schandau
Day 7: Bad Schandau/Krippen – Schrammsteine – Lichtenhain Waterfall – Bad Schandau | 14km
Today, take the walking path to the Schrammsteine cliffs. A part of the route includes very steep ascents on rocky trails and involves using metal stairways. You walk on forest paths along the Affensteig trail and then follow the Malerweg Trail (Painter’s Path) to the Lichtenhain waterfall. From here, you take the bus or the famous Kirnitzschtalbahn (historical tram – ticket not included) to Bad Schandau.
Day 8: Departure or Onward Travel
The tour ends after breakfast. Departure or extend your stay with more days in Bad Schandau or Dresden.
What to expect
Accommodation on this tour includes a mix of small, locally-owned hotels, B&Bs and traditional guesthouses. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria including their location, warm hospitality, fine local food or commitment to responsible tourism. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms. Twin rooms are not available at the hotels. Please note that due to limited availability, you may stay for 2 or 3 consecutive nights at the same place with train tickets included, which does not affect the walking itinerary.
Click to view default hotels
Upgraded deluxe accommodation in Bad Schandau (4 nights) – Hotel Elbresidenz Bad Schandau
*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 the 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.
Difficulty and terrain
This holiday is appropriate for walkers with a good fitness level; total walking is 80km, on average 5-6h per day. On Day 7, part of the route includes some short but steep ascents on rocky paths and involves the use of metal stairways (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 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 the beginning of April until the end of October, except between 2-19 May and 23-27 June. 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.
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Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Dresden.
By train or bus
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 Central Station) takes about 15-20 minutes to get to Dresden Neustadt/ Dresden Mitte and Dresden Central Station. The airport shuttle train leaves half-hourly at xx.17 and xx.47. Single Ticket: 4.10€ per person. You continue by train to Bad Schandau, or you can use the Omio planner above.
- Detailed road notes and maps (1 pack per room)
- 7 nights in 3-star hotels or guesthouses (only double rooms available)
- 7 breakfasts
- 7 dinners
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (1 piece up to 20kg per person)
- Phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, drinks and snacks
- Other public transport
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- If you’re travelling in a group, a supplement applies to group members who would like to have a room of their own
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Hiking with a dog is possible on request. Any additional costs are payable on the spot only
- Upgrade to deluxe accommodation, which includes 3 nights at a 5-star hotel in Bad Schandau – Elbresidenz Bad Schandau, entrance to Toscana Therme Bad Schandau
- Extra nights in Bad Schandau and Dresden