8 days

  Walk on the historic ‘Malerweg’ (Painters’ Way) through a unique and evocative landscape.

  Hike among dramatic, craggy mountains and sandstone rock needles amid an ocean of greenery.

  Stroll across the spectacular and much-photographed Bastei Bridge, standing 200 metres above the Elbe.

  Visit the impressive and imposing Königstein Fortress, the largest of its kind in Europe.

  Enjoy panoramic view over Saxon Switzerland from the Lilienstein table mountain.

Hiking in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains: The Painters’ Trail

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains offer a wonderful walking experience in an incredibly captivating corner of Germany. For centuries, this region has fascinated nature lovers and hikers. Around 1,200 kilometres of designated hiking trails lead through tranquil forests and mystical valleys, over lofty peaks and past complex rock formations to reveal breathtaking, panoramic views at every turn. Due to its scenic beauty, the region was also much favoured by the artists of the German Romantic school, such as Caspar David Friedrich, and much of this hiking route follows the famous Malerweg or Painters’ Trail.

“This is wonderfully rugged country where nature has chiselled porous rock into bizarre columns, battered cliffs, tabletop mountains and deep valleys. The Elbe courses through thick forest, past villages and mighty hilltop castles.”. Lonely Planet

Located in the Elbe valley, south-east of Dresden, the region is also known as Saxon Switzerland. This nickname was given by two Swiss painters of the 18th century, who felt the landscape was reminiscent of their homeland.

With its chalky sandstone cliffs, deeply carved valleys, jagged ridges and gorges, this fascinating landscape is completely unique in central Europe. During your hiking holiday you will see famous sights such as the Bastei Bridge near Rathen, the iconic Lilienstein table mountain and the Königstein Fortress, one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. But the tour will also take you to attractions lesser-known such as Schrammsteine and Paffenstein with the ‘Barbarine’ rock needle.

8 DAYS / 7 NIGHTS From €899 per person sharing*

*Discounts available for children under 13 sharing with 2 adults.
*A high season supplement of €51 pp. will apply during the summer months.
*A single supplement charge will apply for solo walkers


3* standard hotels with continental breakfast and dinner. Extra nights can also be booked at any of the hotels along the way.

It is also possible to upgrade to deluxe category: 3 x overnight stays in 5* Hotel Elberesidenz Bad Schandau. All other nights with spa and/or sauna. You will have access to the Toscana Therme Bad Schandau during those nights, as well at least one more hotel with spa and/or sauna. Total upgrade fee: €200 pp. (double occupancy) or €400 pp. (single occupancy).

Please note that twin rooms are not available on this route.

AVAILABILITY You can start on any day of the week, subject to availability, from April 1st to October 31st.
7 x overnights in selected 3* hotels & guesthouses
7 x breakfasts
7 x dinners
Luggage transportation from hotel to hotel while you walk
Detailed maps and route notes
Pre-departure information pack
GPS tracks
Telephone support
Flights & travel insurance
Drinks with evening meals
Local buses or trains unless mentioned above (most are free with guest cards that are available at the hotels)
Ferry crossings (payable locally only)
Local tourist taxes
Transport to first and from last accommodation
Any other items not mentioned in the program
Additional nights before, during or after the walk
Single room supplement
Upgrade to deluxe hotels
DIFFICULTY This hiking trip is graded moderate overall. A good basic fitness level is required, as well as surefootedness and no fear of heights. The terrain is rugged but not too strenuous, although there are some short steep ascents and some climbing on metal staircases and ladders attached to the rocks. The longest daily walk is 18 km.
WALKING WITH A DOG It is possible to book this hiking tour accompanied by your dog. We are happy to request dog-friendly accommodation for you (route may vary and surcharges of €10 – €15 per night will be payable directly to the hotels).

Please note: Additional costs for your dog (e.g. for public transport or in the accommodations) are not included in the tour price and have to be paid on site.


Day 1: Arrival in Bad Schandau

Your walking holiday begins and ends in the picturesque little spa town of Bad Schandau on the banks of the river Elbe. Bad Schandau is the gateway for active holidays in Saxon Switzerland and is easily reachable by direct train from Berlin, Dresden or Prague. After checking in to your hotel, you can take a pleasant stroll around the town’s medieval centre or along the banks of the Elbe, admiring the town’s stunning natural surroundings which you will explore over the next few days.

Overnight: Bad Schandau.


Day 2: From Bad Schandau to Rathen via Hohnstein Castle

Distance: 18 km | Ascent: 678 m | Descent: 677 m | Walking time: 6 hrs approx.

Your first walking day with a steady climb through the forest to reach the famous viewing point of the Brand, known as the “Balcony of the Saxon Switzerland National Park”.  From here you will enjoy a breathtaking view over the Elbe river valley and the dramatic landscape of the Elbe sandstone mountains. You then continue your hike to the impressive Hohnstein Castle, followed by an ascent through the Wolfsschlucht gorge to the Hockstein. The last part of today’s hiking tour takes you through idyllic ravines and forests, past the tranquil Amsel Lake to the spa town Rathen.

Overnight: Rathen.


Day 3: Circular hike via the Bastei Bridge

Distance: 11 km | Ascent: 474 m | Descent: 480 m | Walking time: 4 hrs approx.

Today’s walk starts with an ascent from the village of Rathen to the famous Bastei Bridge, a sandstone bridge carved through a stunning rock formation nearly 200m above the village. Starting early will enable you to enjoy this magical place in wonderful tranquillity. You then hike through the forests and gorges of the Höllengrund and Wehlener Grund to the picturesque riverside town of Wehlen. Here you will cross the Elbe by ferry and soon reach Rauenstein rock formation. Via staircases and ladders you will climb to the top of the rock, where you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Bastei Rocks and surrounding landscape. You then descend again to Rathen or continue to Königstein, depending on where you are staying tonight.

Overnight: Rathen/Königstein (depending on availability).


Day 4: From Rathen/Königstein to Gohrisch via Pfaffenstein

Distance: 17 km | Ascent: 703 m | Descent: 544 m | Walking time: 5½ hrs approx.

If you have spent the night in Rathen, you begin with an ascent via Weißig to the imposing and formidable Königstein fortress, which is the largest in Europe. From Königstein, you will follow easy and pleasant forest paths to the impressive Barbarine rock needle, one of the most famous landmarks of the Saxon Switzerland National Park. You then ascend to the top of the table mountain Pfaffenstein, with wonderful views in all directions. Today’s destination is the pretty spa town of Gohrisch, which your reach via the Musel path (Muselweg).

Overnight: Gohrisch.


Day 5: Circular hike from Gohrisch to Lilienstein

Distance: 11 km | Ascent: 481 m | Descent: 481 m | Walking time: 4 hrs approx.

Today’s route is a breathtaking hike from Gohrisch to Lilienstein. This distinctive mountain was once the site of a Bohemian castle. It is one of the few table mountains on the east of the river Elbe and is regarded as the symbol of the Saxon Switzerland National Park. The summit plateau offers a magnificent panorama of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.

Overnight: Gohrisch.


Day 6: From Gohrisch to Krippen via Papststein

Distance: 10 km | Ascent: 289 m | Descent: 447 m | Walking time: 4 hrs approx.

The first part of today’s walk takes you gently uphill, through fields and meadows, before climbing first the Gohrisch (448 metres) and then the Papststein (451 metres). From both rock formations you will have wonderful views over the Saxon Switzerland National Park. You can stop for a break at an old mill offering local gastronomic specialities. Passing the Kleinhennersdorfer Höhlen caves and continuing through the Liethen Valley, you will finally arrive in the riverside village of Krippen.

Overnight: Krippen/Bad Schandau (depending on availability).


Day 7: The Schrammsteine Cliffs and Lichtenhain Waterfall

Distance: 14 km | Ascent: 530 m | Descent: 457 m | Walking time: 4½ hrs approx.

If you have stayed in Krippen last night, you cross the Elbe by ferry (payable locally) this morning to begin your final hike. After a gentle walk on forest paths you will have an arduous ascent via steel ladders and staircases to the jagged rocks and ridge of the Schrammsteine. It is well worth the effort because a breathtaking view over the entire Elbe Sandstone Mountains awaits you.

Continuing via the Malerweg Trail (Painter’s Path), you will reach the Lichtenhain waterfall. From here you take the bus or the historic Kirnitzschtalbahn tram back to Bad Schandau (not included in tour price).

Overnight: Bad Schandau.


Day 8: Departure

Your walking holiday comes to an end after breakfast this morning, unless you have booked any additional services with us. We would be happy to arrange additional nights in the region or in Dresden. Please enquire at the time of booking.

*Walking distances may vary depending on accommodation available.

Travel to Bad Schandau

  The closest airports are DresdenPrague, and Berlin.
Bad Schandau is easily reachable by direct train from Dresden (30 mins), Prague (1 hr 45 mins) or Berlin (2 hrs 50 mins). Check Deutsche Bahn’s website for more information.

The train station in Bad Schandau is a short ferry ride across the river from the town.

If travelling by car, it is usually possible to park your car at the first hotel for the duration of your trip. Nevertheless in most cases it is not possible to reserve the parking space in advance. Please find contact information of your hotels in your travel documents to be able to inquire about a car parking options. Parking spaces are subject to fees in the majority of cases, with parking fees to be paid directly to the hotel.

Departure from Bad Schandau

From Bad Schandau you can get to any German destination via Dresden by train, should you have time to discover more of Germany. Check Deutsche Bahn’s website for more information.
Walking in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains
Begin in the picturesque spa town of Bad Schandau
Enjoying the spectacular views over Saxon Switzerland
Hohnstein Castle
Elbe river ferry, Rathen
Signposts for the Malerweg (Painters Way) and Bastei Bridge
View over the Elbe above Rathen
The famous Bastei Bridge
Crossing the Bastei bridge
The incredible sandstone landscape of Saxon Switzerland
Königstein Fortress
Barbarine Rock Needle
Forest path along the Malerweg
Steel ladder on the Schrammsteine
View between the rocks on the Schrammsteine
Hiking in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains
The jagged rock ridge of the Schrammsteine
Enjoying the view on the Schrammsteine
The jagged sandstone rocks of the Schrammsteine
Lichtenhainer Waterfall

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