Along its 180 kilometres the Rhön Cycle Route takes in the valleys of the Werra, Ulster, Brend and Franconian Saale rivers. The Rhön Biosphere Reserve, which received UNESCO recognition in 1991, is an incredible place to experience nature's rich canvas thanks to its austere beauty and sweeping views.
The Rhön Cycle Route has been awarded four-stars for quality by the German Cyclists' Federation (ADFC) and it's easy to see why. You begin your tour in Bad Salzungen, perhaps after a visit to the Celtic baths of this famous spa town. Following the Werra river you come to baroque Philippsthal Castle. After this, the route switches to the river Ulster, where you can see the legacies of potash mining – at Merkers visitor mine, and others like it, and in the shape of the white spoil heaps that are visible for miles around.
When Germany was still divided
The former border between East and West Germany ran straight through the Rhön hills and its traces are a constant presence on this route. Point Alpha in Geisa is a reminder of this period and the stone bridge across the Werra river between Vacha in Thuringia and Philippstal in Hessen was closed for several decades prior to reunification. At Hilders the route begins its climb towards the High Rhön, the most prominent part of the Rhön hill range and a place of fabulous views and unspoilt nature.
The Long Rhön: nature at its best
From here the trail follows the Long Rhön and crosses from Hessen to Bavaria. Nature conservation is a priority in this area and cyclists are among the prime beneficiaries, with beautiful flat uplands and picturesque moors giving way to endless broad valleys and rugged mountain pastures. As you pedal along you'll be caught by the inquisitive gaze of the Rhön sheep, a docile animal with a head as black as a raven and a white woolly coat. In the ancient woodland of the conservation area, nature has been left to its own devices for several decades. The region's pretty little medieval towns, meanwhile, have been beautifully preserved. After passing through the elegant spa resorts of Bad Neustadt and Bad Kissingen the tour reaches its conclusion in the oldest wine town in Franconia, Hammelburg. High time then for a glass of fine Franconian wine!
Terrain: Mainly paved or tarmac cycle paths or quiet side roads. Some short sections on gravel tracks or woodland trails.
Scenery: The UNESCO Rhön Biosphere Reserve offers a variety of experiences thanks to its hills, moorlands, forests, riverscapes and upland pastures.
4-star ADFC quality-certified cycle route