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 trek, appropriate for experienced hikers.
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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.
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Pirna (Hotel Am Malerweg or similar) or in Dresden
Day 2: Wehlen – Hohnstein | 17 km
In the morning, you take the train to the starting point of your first walk (7 to 40 minutes). Not far from Wehlen, you have a picturesque view over the Elbe Sandstone Mountains from the most famous observation deck – the Bastei Bridge. You walk downhill into the Amselgrund valley and head for the second highlight of your hiking tour – the Hockstein rock.
- Walking for the day: 13 km, 5 hours ↑530 m ↓530 m
- Accommodation: hotel or guesthouse in Hohnstein
Day 3: Hohnstein – Altendorf/Kirnitzschtal | 15 km
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. Depending on the availability you may overnight in Bad Schandau as well.
Day 4: Altendorf/Kirnitzschtal – Schramm-Steine – Neumannmühle | 17 km
Walking on Gratweg trail through Schrammstein massif, you hike uphill to Schrammstein viewpoint. Passing Big and Small Dome, you reach the 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 or Bad Schandau where you spend the night.
Day 5: Neumannmühle – Schmilka/Krippen | 14 km
After taking the bus to Neumannmühle, you hike up to Zeughaus. Shortly after, you can experience the stunning Goldstein view and continue climbing up to the ‘Großer Winterberg’ mountain. After crossing the Elbe river in Schmilka, you take the train to Krippen.
- Walking for the day: 14 km, 6-7 hours ↑700 m ↓800 m
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Krippen (Hotel Erbgericht Krippen or similar)
Day 6: Schmilka – Gohrisch | 17 km
You take the train back to Schmilka. Enjoy today’s view of the Schrammstein massif located on the other side of the Elbe River. Before you reach Gohrisch, you climb up the mesa Papstein and mesa Gohrisch.
- Walking for the day: 17 km, 6-7 hours ↑750 m ↓550 m
- Accommodation: hotel or guesthouse in Gohrisch
Day 7: Gohrish – Königstein – Pirna/Dresden | 9 km
Today’s short hiking route on the Malerweg trail takes you along Pfaffenstein and cave Diebeskeller until you reach the Fortress of Königstein. So you have plenty of time remaining to explore why it has become famous as the “impregnable fortress”. Depending on availability, you will stay overnight in Dresden or Pirna (train tickets included).
- Walking for the day: 9 km, 4 hours ↑300 m ↓400 m
- Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Pirna (Hotel Am Malerweg or similar)
Day 8: Departure or Onward Travel
The tour ends after breakfast. Departure or extend your stay with more days in Pirna.
What to Expect
7 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 experienced mountain walkers with a good level of fitness and no fear of heights; total walking is 85 km, on average 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 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, except between 17-21 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 – 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 the stations 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)
- 7 nights in 3-star hotels and guesthouses (only double rooms available)
- 7 breakfasts
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (1 piece up to 20 kg per person)
- Train tickets on 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
- 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 and Dresden