The Rhine has been personified as a mythical god, Rhenus Pater (lovingly nicknamed "Father Rhine" by the Germans), for centuries. The river, castle ruins and rock formations have inspired generations of painters and poets to create romantic works.
The lyrics of one German song ask why it is so beautiful along the Rhine. The answer is in the landscape. The river, which carves its way through the Middle Rhine Valley in such spectacular fashion, is in a class of its own. Rocks (e.g. the Lorelei), castles (e.g. the Marksburg) and romantic towns (e.g. Kaub and Rüdesheim) complement the diverse ensemble from the natural world. So it is no surprise that the Upper Middle Rhine Valley was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2002. This is world heritage that you can enjoy in hiking boots.
The Rheinsteig Trail is one of the most popular tours in Germany. On the right bank of the Rhine, hikers can discover the myths behind the famous river between Wiesbaden and Bonn for themselves. This hike has everything an excellent route needs. It truly is a five-star experience of the great outdoors. Nevertheless, a hike along the Rheinsteig can be a physical challenge. Hikers need to cross a number of tributary valleys carved deep into the landscape. Many stages of the Rheinsteig Trail are at such towering heights that you would think you were in the Alps. But you can take the trail one stage at a time. The Rhine Valley has excellent train and river cruise connections, so you can easily find your way back to the start no matter where you decide to stop.
Almost every stage of the trail is exceptional, whether you are in the Rheingau region between Wiesbaden and Rüdesheim, in the narrow Middle Rhine Valley or the Seven Hills. Nevertheless, you should take time on this premium trail to stop and admire the view, see the cultural attractions along the route such as theNiederwald Monument or the Drosselgasse lane in and around Rüdesheim and have a glass of Rhine wine.
Manuel Andrack, editor, presenter, author and hiking blogger:
"I love sitting in the beer garden on the Drachenfels hill and admiring Father Rhine. It's almost as good as sitting and having a cold one in the beer garden at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in Koblenz, which boasts a sensational view of the Deutsches Eck (or "German Corner") where the Moselle flows into the Rhine."
At a glance: Rheinsteig
Length: 320 km
Number of stages: 23
Altitude variation: lowest point 51 m, highest point 356 m
Terrain: 45% unmade, 15% asphalt, 40% other, e.g. farm tracks
Certified quality hiking trail