Saxon Switzerland, the Wehlnadel and Bastei rock
Saxon Switzerland, the Wehlnadel and Bastei rock ©Tourismusverband Sächsische Schweiz e.V. (Philipp Ziegler)

The Painters' Way - romantic hiking in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains

Set in the fairytale-like landscape of Saxon Switzerland, the Painters' Way is one of Germany's most beautiful hiking trails.

In the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the impressive sandstone rock faces and the vistas reaching as far as the Elbe and the table-top mountains are an enchanting and picturesque hiking sensation. Romantic painters such as Caspar David Friedrich were some of the first to discover that the Elbe Sandstone Mountains make an excellent gigantic backdrop. In the world-famous "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" oil painting, we see the back of a hiker with a walking stick, gazing across the bare rocks. Even Hollywood can find its motifs on the Painters' Way Trail. "The Chronicles of Narnia", "Cloud Atlas" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" were all filmed in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.

The Painters' Way is also a special trail as it has a number of physically demanding sections. To get to the viewing platform on the Schrammsteine rocks, you need to climb up iron ladders. On the Affensteine rocks, you need to climb through a hole in the rocks like a monkey. Traditional mountain inns in narrow valleys and on summits are always luring in hikers for a cold drink. Highlights include the Lichtenhain Waterfall and the Königstein Fortress (tours available). Pirna's Old Town and the spa town of Bad Schandau are also well worth a visit. Transport links to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains are excellent. You can take the S-Bahn train to Dresden. Ferries and paddle steamers then transport hikers to their stages on the Painters' Way Trail.

TIP: the Bastei rock formation and more

Manuel Andrack, editor, presenter, author and hiking blogger:
"If you only have a day to spare, you should hike from Stadt Wehlen to the spa town of Rathen. You can visit the world-famous Bastei rock formation and take the narrow path through the rocks of the Schwedenlöcher Gorge to get back to the Elbe."

At a glance: Painters' Way

Starts/ends: Pirna

Length: 112 km

Number of stages: 8

Altitude variation: lowest point 112 m, highest point 551 m

Terrain: 78% unmade, 16% asphalt, 6% other, e.g. farm tracks

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