Germany's 10 best hiking trails
There are around 200,000 kilometers of hiking trails in Germany. There's something for every hiker in DW's list of top 10 walks.
In the 18th century, places of natural beauty saw an unprecedented boom in tourism. Bizarre rock formations, like in Saxon Switzerland south of Dresden, were suddenly seen as wild and romantic. Since then, a trail called Malerweg (Painter's Way) has guided visitors through the rocky scenery. The path was restored in 2006 with help from historical guidebooks.
Wine on the Rhine
The narrow, yet picturesque Rhine River Valley combines nature, history and stunning views. The 320-kilometer Rheinsteig trail follows Germany's longest river between Bonn and Wiesbaden, leading walkers past palaces, castles, monuments, forests, and vineyards. The route can be challenging - there's even a via ferrata to help hikers traverse the steep banks of the Middle Rhine Valley.
The Lüneburg Heath in northern Germany transforms into a lilac wonderland when the heather blooms in late summer each year. The unique landscape is maintained thanks to a special local breed of moorland sheep (known as Heidschnucken) which graze there. They inspired the name of a popular 223-kilometer route connecting the north and south heathlands between Hamburg and Celle: Heidschnuckenweg.
The Allgäu Alps in southern Germany are a classic hiking destination. They include part of the E5 European long distance path - a 3,200-kilometer (1,988-mile) track from Brittany in France through Switzerland, Austria and Germany, and over the Alps to Verona in Italy. Since 1969, around 12 long-distance trails crossing through various countries have been set up as a sign of cooperation.
El Camino de Santiago
Many European pilgrimage routes dating back to the Middle Ages have led to the shrine of Apostle St. James in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The scallop shell is a symbol of these roads. In Germany, there are 30 paths to Santiago, as well as an ecumenical pilgrimage route. This trail follows the Via Regia - the oldest and longest road linking eastern and western Europe, from Görlitz to Vacha.
Some German trails have received a premium rating by the German Hiking Association, according to strict criteria. There are 25 of these paths in the Palatinate Forest in south-western Germany. The German-French Burgenweg, connecting the Palatinate and Alsace regions, is one of them.
The rugged, hilly landscape of the Harz region in northern Germany is popular among walkers. A trip up to the legendary Brocken, with its spectacular panoramic views, is a must. At 1,141 meters it's the highest peak in the Harz. Long before mass tourism came to the region, the poet Goethe made the ambitious climb to the top. Today the historical Brocken railway gives visitors an easier option.
Back in time
The Rennsteig is a historical ridge walk that extends 170 kilometers through the Thuringian Forest in central Germany, from Eisenach to Blackenstein. It was first mentioned in the 13th century, and was opened up to tourists in the 19th century. The road was only partly accessible during the Cold War when Germany was divided. The route was named a cultural monument in 1999.
The Iron Curtain divided Europe for almost 40 years, splitting Germany into East and West. It's now possible for hikers to follow the former 1,393-kilometer border that divided Germany. Littered with memorials, the remains of border fortifications, signposts, and watchtowers, the Green Belt is a monument in itself, and confronts hikers with a unique view of German history.
For just a few hours of low tide each day, the ocean off Germany's North Sea coast offers a glimpse into the otherwise hidden life ín the silt and mud. There aren't any paths here. Instead, mudflat guides show walkers how to make their way safely through the wet terrain. The Wadden Sea off Germany's North Sea coast was added UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2009.