Germany is a country composed of sixteen federal states, diverse not only in their cultures, dialects and cuisines but also in the natural landscape that characterizes each of them. The perfect way to explore the fascinating nature of the different regions is undoubtedly visiting the country’s many national parks that preserve the natural surroundings and wildlife at their best. We have listed ten of the most beautiful national parks in Germany.
Situated in the far eastern corner of Germany, the Saxon Switzerland National Park covers more than 36,000 hectares of the Elbe Sandstone Massif, bizarre eroded rock formations dating back to the Cretaceous period. The park is characterized by a unique landscape of sandstone cliffs, deeply carved valleys, table mountains and gorges. Rock climbing is undoubtedly an excellent way to explore the park, but there are also other ways to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, such as a trip to the Bastei rocks which provide stunning panoramic views across the Elbe. It is also possible to hire a rowing boat or take a boat excursion to admire the scenery from the river.
Jasmund National Park is situated in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, in the far north-east of Germany. Its most spectacular feature is the Königsstuhl chalk cliffs, depicted and immortalized by the painter Caspar David Friedrich. A variety of walks, cycle routes, excursions and seminars are available to explore the region’s beautiful woodlands. The park rangers also run regular tours based on characters from myth and legend where visitors can learn about the Germanic goddess Hertha and the famous pirate Klaus Störtebecker, who, according to the legend, buried his treasure on the island.
The Lower Oder Valley National Park is Germany’s first riverside meadow national park. It covers 60 kilometres of meadowland on both the German and the Polish banks of the river Oder, offering visitors a very picturesque scenery. Due to its significance as a resting and wintering ground for many bird species, the national park attracts hordes of wildlife enthusiasts every year. The sight of more than 13,000 cranes descending to their migration roosts in the Oder Valley is an unforgettable experience. Apart from the stunning nature and wildlife, the national park offers visitors a wide range of other attractions, including the medieval tower of Stolpe Castle, the historical tobacco barns near Friedrichsthal, the castle near Zitzen, the medieval town fortifications and St. Stephen’s Church in Grats and the late-Gothic church in Criewen.
Müritz National Park is situated along the eastern shoreline of Lake Müritz. A 660-kilometre network of trails leads through an enchanting landscape characterized by ancient beech forests, mysterious marshes and huge expanses of water, including more than 130 lakes. It is also an important breeding ground for rare and endangered birds, making it ideal for nature lovers and ornithologists. There are a large number of cycle trails available as well as regularly conducted guided walks. Boats and canoes are also an excellent alternative way of exploring this lake park – canoeing trips that follow specific routes are organized daily. If you have time, the old town of Waren is also worth a visit.
Kellerwald-Edersee National Park is located right in the heart of Germany, on the southern shore of Lake Edersee. The park has more than 50 hills covered in thousands of beeches, interspersed with idyllic valley glades and crystal-clear streams. The region also offers rock and boulder fields left over from the last ice age, surrounded by large-leaved limes and oaks, some of which are almost a thousand years old, orchid-filled meadows and lands covered in cheddar pinks that all combine to create a gorgeous landscape of unspoiled nature. A wide range of guided tours, walks and cycle routes through the national park are available.
The Black Forest, one of the most famous areas in Germany, is a large forested mountain range in the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. The national park was established very recently, in January 2014, but can already be named among the best in Germany. The particular character of the park is created by mountain forests and heathlands, old protected forests, moors and glacial erosion cirques. The visitors can go hiking, cycling, enjoy winter sports or take one of the guided tours or informative presentations. There are adventure trails in the park where visitors can enjoy experiences themed around the wilderness of the northern Black Forest – feel the stealthy prowl of the lynx or the strength of a great storm.
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Bavaria, situated in the south-eastern corner of Germany, is home to the country’s first national park. The Bavarian Forest National Park was founded in 1970 and extended to its present size of 243 square kilometers in 1997. More than 300 kilometers of clearly marked footpaths, almost 200 kilometers of cycle routes and around 80 kilometers of cross-country ski trails offer visitors plenty of opportunities to explore this stunningly beautiful area of untouched wilderness. 95% of the park is covered by forest, the area also featuring some crystal-clear mountain streams that lead to Lake Rachelsee, the park’s only glacial lake. There are a number of themed trails available to explore as well as a wildlife enclosure near Neuschönau featuring the most common animal and bird species in the park.
Situated in the far north-east of Germany, The Western-Pomeranian Boddenlandschaft National Park is the largest nature reserve on the Baltic coast. It provides a wonderful landscape of cliffs and dunes, spits and lagoons, making it a perfect destination for anyone who loves beaches or woodland. A variety of guided and independent walks are available in the park which also include some great view points, such as Pramort and Hohe Düne. Other attractions of the region include the Ahrenshoop artists’ colony, the lighthouse and Natureum on Darsser Ort, the national park center on Hiddensee which is the largest island in the park and the Stralsund Museum.
Formerly a military exclusion zone, the Hainich forest in western Thuringia has become a national park. It is Europe’s largest unbroken area of mixed deciduous forest. During forest walks and guided tours organized for the visitors some rare animals can be witnessed, such as wildcats, black storks and protected bat species. The Wildcat Children’s Forest is an attraction aimed at younger guests: a several hundred meters long treetop trail takes visitors across the ‘roof’ of the forest at a height of 44 meters. Some other attractions of the park include medieval houses and a town wall that you can walk along in Mühlhausen, a rose garden and the Friederike Villa in Bad Langensalza, Anrode convent near Bickenriede and the monastery village of Volkenroda.
This national park boasts of a fascinating coastal landscape, something hard enough to find in a majorly inland country. The park surrounds a small group of islands on the North Sea coast and covers around 12,000 hectares of coastal mudflats. The three islands situated in the park are the green island of Neuwerk, the dune island of Scharhörn and the artificial bird island of Nigehörn which is closed to the public. In addition to the natural sights, the park also offers many cultural attractions. While the other two islands are uninhabited, Neuwerk has a small population of approximately 40 people and some interesting historical heritage including a fortified tower in the Elbe estuary, a relic from the days of the Hanseatic League. Visitor attractions provided by the park include guided excursions, horse-drawn carriage rides through the mudflats, cruises from Cuxhaven to Neuwerk and bird-watching tours.