Saxony's Zittau Mountains Nature Park is a scenic gem in the border triangle of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Here a cultivated landscape stretching back 1000 years has grown up alongside the meandering River Mandau.
The particular charm of this, Germany's smallest highland area, lies in its varied sandstone mountains, volcanic peaks and picturesque valleys, and the area's fantastical rock formations, such as the "Brooding Hen" (Brütende Henne) or the "Chalice Stone" (Kelchstein), fuel the imagination further. Exquisite plant life such as marsh marigolds, martagon lilies and carline thistles can also be found in the marshlands and alpine meadows, and visitors can even watch roe deer, badgers, eagle owls and peregrine falcons amongst the tranquil woodland and riverbank meadows from sunrise right through to sunset.
This restorative landscape is also intersected by hundreds of kilometres of award-winning hiking, cycling, ski and bridle paths and nature trails. Attractive destinations include the observation points at Mt. Lausche (793 metres high), Mt. Hochwald (749 metres high), Mt. Töpfer (582 metres high) and Mt. Breitenberg (510 metres high), as well as the Scharfenstein (Sharp Stone), the Großer Stone (Big Stone) or the Nonnenfelsen (Nun's Rock) for some awe-inspiring views. The visitor centre in the 600-year-old Niederkretscham building in the spa town of Waltersdorf offers an accessible exhibition, available in four languages, which tells visitors about the green space itself, its geology and the lives of the people who live there. The centre also provides recommendations for excursions to different attractions, such as the narrow-gauge railway, the Oybin monastery complex, the TRIXI Holiday Park and its high-ropes course and sculpture park, and for museum and theatre trips.
The folk architecture of the traditional rural houses or Umgebindehäuser, which date from the 17th and 19th centuries and define many of the region's towns, is unique in Europe.