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Tropical Islands: Berlin’s Surreal Beach Paradise on a Former Airfield

Tropical Islands provides the perfect winter escape from Berlin
Tropical Islands provides the perfect winter escape from Berlin | © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Once the site of a Nazi-era airfield and now home to sandy beaches, hot air balloons and flamingos, Tropical Islands is a rainforest oasis in the middle of the German countryside, just down the Autobahn from Berlin. Photographer Robert Rieger provides a glimpse into the charmingly kitsch resort.

Summer in the City explores what summer means to us around the world.

When planning a winter break in Berlin, you’d probably be surprised to find yourself outside an aircraft hangar armed with a beach towel. One of Berlin’s more curious day-trip options, Tropical Islands has made a name for itself as an escape for Berliners and sunseekers from across the Polish border. The fully self-contained resort resides in the third-largest building in the world by volume – an old zeppelin hangar on the former Luftwaffe Brand-Briesen Airfield – and hosts 600 species of plants in its rainforest ecosystem, along with a mangrove swamp, flamingos, peacocks, turtles and butterflies. Guests can sweat it out in a sauna housed in a miniature Angkor Wat, marvel at the Balinese Temple Gate (the largest outside of Bali) or attempt to count the mammoth Buddha statues that adorn the resort.

With a consistent air temperature of 26C (78F), this is a full-blown holiday destination – visitors staying more than a day can sleep under the “stars” in a tent on the beach or book a guest room, while some take a more DIY approach and camp outside the complex. Berlin-based photographer Robert Rieger travelled to Tropical Islands to capture the kitsch and sheer surreality of the resort, which now draws visitors from around the world.

Tropical Islands offers aquatic fun for all ages © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
You can ride in a free-floating balloon at Tropical Islands © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Enjoy the tropical rainforest with 600 species of plants © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
There are plenty of activities at Tropical Islands © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Tropical Islands is a family-friendly destination © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Relaxing in the Lagoon is also an option © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Tropical Islands has Germany’s tallest water-slide tower © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
No shoes needed © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Feel the sand beneath your toes © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Ride an inner tube © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
There are a number of water slides to choose from © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Relax at the ‘beach’ © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
Staying in a tent is one of the overnight options © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip
The self-contained resort is housed in the third-largest building in the world by volume © Robert Rieger / Culture Trip

Culture Trip’s Summer in the City explores what summer means to us around the world. Discover, among other delights, unlikely summer retreats, US state fairs, the great British seaside and how to re-create an Italian Job-style road trip.