The Elbe Sandstone Mountains (also called Saxon Switzerland) are one of Germany’s most beautiful regions, located just a few miles from Dresden. They were named by two Swiss painters who were impressed by the similarity of the area to their own country’s landscapes. You will see bizarre rock formations, walk through ancient woodland 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-kilometer long Painter’s Path (‘Malerweg’) was inaugurated, leading you in the footsteps of these romantic painters.
This moderate-grade short walking break covers the northern half of the Malerweg Trail, following the right bank of the Elbe from Pirna to Bad Schandau.
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Day 1: Arrival Pirna/Dresden
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 townhouses. The city is also located close to Dresden and can be reached conveniently by public transport from there. Depending on the availability, you may overnight in Dresden.
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Pirna (Hotel Am Malerweg or similar) or in Dresden
Day 2: Dresden/Pirna-Lieberthal – Wehlen/Rathen | 12-17 km
In the morning, you take the train and 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.
Day 3: Wehlen/Rathen – Hohnstein | 8-13 km
Descend into the Amselgrund and head for the second highlight of your walking tour – the Hockstein rock. From here, you have a wonderful view of Hohnstein with its castle. Through the Wolfsschlucht gorge, you walk down into the lovely Polenztal valley, and via the Schindergraben, you will reach Hohnstein.
- Walking for the day: 8 km, 3 hours ↑400 m ↓400 m (13 km, 5 hours if previous overnight in Wehlen)
- Accommodation: guesthouse in Hohnstein (Pension und Gaststätte Polenztal or similar)
Day 4: Hohnstein – Altendorf/Kirnitzschtal | 15 km
Today you will hike to the Brand viewpoint, which is also called the ‘Balcony of Saxon Switzerland’. Enjoy the phenomenal panoramic view and try the local delicacies served in the restaurant Brandsteinbaude. You will continue the tour by taking roughly 800 steps down into the Tiefen Grund gorge. Passing Waitzdorf, you will reach Altendorf or continue along the Panorama trail to the Kirnitzschtal valley. Depending on the availability, you may overnight in Bad Schndau as well.
Day 5: Altendorf/Kirnitzschtal – Neumannmühle | 17 km
One of the highlights today is the Schrammsteine massif, an elongated and heavily rugged rock formation offering stunning views. After passing the Schammtor gate, a steep ascent via steel ladders leads you to the Schrammstein viewpoint, and you will cross the Schrammstein massif along the Gratweg, a ridge path. Following the Affensteinweg trail, you will reach Lichtenhain Waterfall and then continue to the Kuhstall Cave, a natural rock arch. After a descent into the Kirnitzschtal valley, you will soon reach today’s destination, Neumannmühle. The local bus will take you through the Kirnitzschtal valley to your accommodation in Bad Schandau.
- Walking for the day: 17 km, 6-7 hours ↑700 m ↓700 m
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Bad Schandau (Hotel Albergo Toscana or similar)
Day 6: Departure or Onward Travel
The tour ends after breakfast. Departure or extend your stay with more days in Bad Schandau.
What to Expect
5 nights in 3-star hotels or comfortable guesthouses. All rooms have en-suite facilities. NB! Twin rooms are not available at the hotels! 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.
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*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 & terrain
This holiday is appropriate for walkers with a good level of fitness and no fear of heights, total walking is 60 km, on average 5-6 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 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 – 25°C. 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 main station / Pirna) takes about 15/17/20 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.
- Detailed road notes and maps (1 pack per room)
- 5 nights in 3-star hotels and guesthouses (only double rooms available)
- 5 breakfasts
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (1 piece up to 20 kg per person)
- Train tickets for the hiking days
- Phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Other public transport
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist tax and entrance fees (payable on the spot)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras & supplements
- Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
- 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)
- Extra nights in Pirna, Bad Schandau and Dresden