Travel Guide: Exploring Saxon Switzerland, Germany

Saxon Switzerland is the German part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxony. I have often admired the beautiful Bastei Bridge on Pinterest and loved the idea of seeing them in reality. That’s why Chris and I were making plans to visit Saxon Switzerland for a hike. On a weekend in September we had the opportunity to finally do this trip and explore the great area for a day.


The Elbe Sandstone Mountains are a mountain range of about 700 square kilometers between the German Pirna and the Czech Decín. The Czech part is then no longer Saxon Switzerland, but Czech Switzerland.


Saxon Switzerland ofpenguinsandelephants of penguins & elephants Exploring Saxon Switzerland Pinterest

arrival and accommodation in saxon switzerland


We arrived at the Saxon Switzerland shortly before eight o'clock and had to pick up our room key in another nearby hotel. It is already dark, but the small place Schmilka, in which our hotel is located, is very pretty. We are only about one kilometer from the Czech border and this little village marches to the beats of a different drum: Although it is only just before nine, we do not get any more dinner - most restaurants here close between 9 and 10pm. The next day we find out that many bistros offer dinner from 5pm onwards already. In this rural region the day just ends much earlier than in Cologne.


Since we had a late lunch, it was ok for us and we made ourselves comfortable in our beautiful hotel room. The Hotel zur Mühle (mill hotel) is an organic hotel and houses a few rooms in the mill itself. In addition to the bakery there is also a café and an organic brewery. Those bed were like heaven and we slept like little babies - maybe also because their rooms are  eletrosmog reduced (no wifi, you know…). We had a window opened the whole night and listed to the lovely sound of the little brook. It was really fantastic!





Saxon Switzerland ofpenguinsandelephants of penguins & elephants Hotel zur Mühle hotel mill organic

sightseeing and hiking in saxon switzerland


The next morning we could enjoy a rich breakfast  and get ready for our hike. We were already checked out just before nine, because if the day ends early, you have to start early. We drove a few kilometers from Schmilka to Bad Schandau and parked in the public parking lot of the thermal baths. The little village of Schmilka unfortunately does not have much public transport. Neither the large ships stop here nor the railway is well connected. That's why we decided to start our tour in Bad Schandau, where we will get back to quite easily.


From the port below the church in Bad Schandau, we took the steamboat at 9:30 am to get to Wehlen and start our hike from there. This boat tour is offered only twice a day, so you should be punctual. The ride lasted slightly longer than an hour, is very scenic and offers many photo opportunities. Holding a cup of hot thea, we kept warm during the tour, as we had seats at the front on the deck.





Saxon Switzerland ofpenguinsandelephants of penguins & elephants steamboat tour Elbe


When we arrived in Wehlen, we startet our hike to the Bastei Bridge. The first part of the hike was the hardest, but if you 

have climbed a few heights and enter the forrest, the track will be much easier to walk. The track leads you along meadows and trees and after about an hours we arrive at the famous Bastei Bridge - the reason why I wanted to visit Saxon Switzerland.


While we were mostly alone during our hike and only met a few other hikers, it is terribly crowded here at the bridge. You can also come directly by car and park a few hundred meters in front of the attraction, which probably explains the human masses.






Saxon Switzerland ofpenguinsandelephants of penguins & elephants Bastei Bridge view


Although the bridge itself is the reason for our visit, I find the bizarre rock formations much more interesting. There are many viewing platforms from which one can admire the rocks, also the bridge can be photographed beautifully. We spend some time taking photos and enjoying the beauty of nature. After crossing the Bastei Bridge, we visited the mountain castle of Neurathen, which once stood high on the rock and was connected with many suspension bridges. Also from here the surrounding nature can be beautifully photographed.





Saxon Switzerland ofpenguinsandelephants of penguins & elephants Bastei Bridge view


Since Chris and I are particularly hungry after our hike, we decided to have a potato and a lentil soup at one of the many snack bistros of the Bastei. Unfortunately the food was way too pricey: we payed almost 20 euros for two simple soups in plastic dishes and two drinks. And also the toast and pretzel that came with the soup were very hard and by no means from the same day. If you plan on doing this hike, definitely bring a picnic and enjoy your own snacks.


After our short but restful break, we continued walking. Very close to the bridge of the Bastei, you’ll find the famous Schwedenlöcher (translates to Swedish hole). The path leads through gorges and fissures, which is just beautiful! I’d advise you to not walk up those Schwedenlöcher from Rathen to the bridge, because the whole path consists of unevenly high steps and steep paths. Rather take this path from the Bastei Bridge to Rathen, which is only walking the path downwards. Nature is simply beautiful down here. Unfortunately, quite a few people are on the track here and we rarely have the rock formations for ourselves.


Saxon Switzerland ofpenguinsandelephants of penguins & elephants Schwedenlöcher


After about twenty minutes, we arrive at a paved road where we walk along a river towards Rathen. Since we do not want to hike the same track twice, we decided to walk to the small resort town of Rathen. It is early afternoon and we took the ferry across the river to take the tram from there, which only take ten minutes to bring you back to Bad Schandau, where we parked our car.


We made a stop in the town of Königstein and would have liked to visit the Königstein castle. Both of us, however, are tired from hiking, which is why we asked the lady at the tourist information about the best way to the top of the castle. Unfortunately, we are advised to not visit the castle as this time of the day anymore. Similar to the restaurants, the castle closes very early and the friendly lady warns us that we would probably have too little time for the castle and also would need to walk back down again.


That’s why we decided to finish our hike and take the next train to Bad Schandau. After a short ferry trip to the right side of the Elbe, we got arrived. If you have time, you should definitely go for a dip in the thermal bath to relax after that exhausting day. And guess what, the thermal bath is open until 12am on weekends!!


Overall the hike and the landscape very wonderful and Chris and I loved them. We will definitely come back and enjoy a longer stay here. Perhaps we will even walk the painter's path through Saxon Switzerland, who knows ...


If you would like to read more about wonderful fall hikes all around the world, see 16 of the best Fall Hikes you can take around the world. Erin has talked to 16 travel bloggers from around the world, including me, to ask what their favorite fall destination is. Thank you Erin, for including my tip about Saxon Switzerland in Germany!

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What about you?

Did you think about visiting Saxon Switzerland yet? Have you been there? Tell me about your experience! Did you hike? Has anyone ever done the Painters Hike? I'd love to do this one in the future! Any tips about the area? Let me know!