The Elbe is Germany’s second-largest river, featuring beautiful riverbank meadows, impressive vineyards, magnificent castles and charming historical towns. The River Elbe Cycle Path is one of the longest in the country, with more than 800km 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.
- The city of Hamburg
- Westhavelland Nature Park
- The historic town of Magdeburg
- The city of Dresden
Click to view map
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.
- Accommodation: Best Western Raphael Hotel Altona (Hamburg) or similar
Day 2: Hamburg – Lauenburg | 55km
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.
- Cycling for the day: 55km
- Accommodation: Hotel-Restaurant Zum Alten Schifferhaus (Lauenburg) or similar
Day 3: Lauenburg – Hitzacker | 55km
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.
- Cycling for the day: 55km
- Accommodation: Hotel Hafen Hitzacker (Café Dierks) (Hitzacker) or similar
Day 4: Hitzacker – Wittenberge | 78km
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: 78km
- Accommodation: Hotel Germania (Wittenberge) or similar
Day 5: Wittenberge – Havelberg | 38km
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.
- Cycling for the day: 38km
- Accommodation: Hotel & Restaurant Am Hafen (Havelberg) similar
Day 6: Havelberg – Tangermünde | 50km
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.
- Cycling for the day: 50km
- Accommodation: Schulzens Hotel & Brauerei (Tangermünde) or similar
Day 7: Tangermünde – Magdeburg | 80km
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.
- Cycling for the day: 80km
- Accommodation: Ratswaage Hotel Magdeburg (Magdeburg) or similar
Day 8: Magdeburg – Dessau | 78km
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.
- Cycling for the day: 78km
- Accommodation: Radisson Blu Fürst Leopold Hotel (Dessau) or similar
Day 9: Dessau – Lutherstadt Wittenberg | 37km
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.
- Cycling for the day: 37km
- Accommodation: Best Western Soibelmanns Lutherstadt Wittenberg or similar
Day 10: Lutherstadt Wittenberg – Torgau | 68km
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 37km / 35km).
- Cycling for the day: 68km
- Accommodation: Hotel Goldener Anker (Torgau) or similar
Day 11: Torgau – Strehla | 40km
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: 40km
- Accommodation: Hotel Ambiente (Strehla) or similar
Day 12: Strehla – Dresden | 66km
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”.
- Cycling for the day: 66km
- Accommodation: Park Inn By Radisson Hotel Dresden
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 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
- Best Western Raphael Hotel Altona (Hamburg)
- Hotel-Restaurant Zum Alten Schifferhaus (Lauenburg)
- Hotel Hafen Hitzacker (Café Dierks) (Hitzacker)
- Hotel Germania (Wittenberge)
- Hotel & Restaurant Am Hafen (Havelberg)
- Schulzens Hotel & Brauerei (Tangermünde)
- Ratswaage Hotel Magdeburg (Magdeburg)
- Radisson Blu Fürst Leopold Hotel (Dessau)
- Best Western Soibelmanns Lutherstadt Wittenberg
- Hotel Goldener Anker (Torgau)
- Hotel Ambiente (Strehla)
- Park Inn By Radisson Hotel Dresden
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.
Accommodation is on a bed & breakfast basis. Lunches are available along the way. You can have dinner at your hotel or nearby restaurants.
Difficulty and 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-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.
Click to view travel options and route planner
- By train: If you are flying to Hamburg there are regular S-Bahn trains to the city, journey time is about 25min. If flying to Berlin Brandenburg Airport, you can take the train to Hamburg; journey time is about 1h 45min – 2h 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 5h, depending on the departure. Train timetables can be checked on the DB website, or you can use the Omio planner above.
- 12 overnights with breakfast as detailed in the itinerary
- Luggage transfer when changing hotels (1 piece of luggage per person, max 20kg)
- Detailed route notes and maps (1 set per room)
- Phone assistance by our local office/representative
- 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 and supplements
- 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
- Bike rental – touring bikes and e-bikes
The bike rental fleet comprises almost 100 touring models from established German brands (BBF and Kalkhoff). There are available women’s models with step-through or low-crossbar frames and gents’ models with step-through or low-crossbar frames (from a height of 1.75m). The bike rental includes a waterproof Ortlieb pannier (10l), 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.