The former military exclusion zone of Hainich forest in western Thuringia has become a national park. It is Europe's largest unbroken area of mixed deciduous forest, dominated by the common beech.
Hainich National Park– the largest unbroken area of mixed deciduous forest in Europe – lies in Thuringia, in the eastern part of central Germany, between the spa resort of Bad Langensalza and Eisenach, home of Wartburg Castle.
The bio-diverse woodland habitat features an unusually high proportion of dead wood, ideal conditions for numerous organisms such as fungi, mosses, lichen and insects. On forest walks and guided tours visitors may well encounter rare animals such as wildcats, black storks and protected bat species, such as Bechstein's bat. The Wildcat Children's Forest is an attraction aimed specially at younger guests. A treetop trail, several hundred metres long, takes visitors across the 'roof' of the forest at a height of 44 metres.
Themed trails, for example in Brunstal, circular walks and ridge trails like the Rennsteig are great ways to explore the region's stunning landscapes. Historical towns with a rich heritage, such as the spa resort Bad Langensalza, Mühlhausen, which is associated with the reformer Thomas Müntzer, and Eisenach, linked to Martin Luther and home of Wartburg Castle, are not just of interest to the culturally-minded. The Rennsteig trail features attractions of cultural and historical significance, for example the 1000-year-old Mendicants' Oak and some ancient stone crosses.
Hainich National Park offers a perfect blend of nature, culture and leisure activities, with other attractions that include medieval houses and a town wall that you can walk along in Mühlhausen, a rose garden and the delightful Friederike Villa in Bad Langensalza, Anrode convent near Bickenriede and the monastery village of Volkenroda.