How to Explore Germany’s Natural Wonders
Three locals are adamant that Germany’s mountains, coastlines, and forests are an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Spoiler: they’re right.
Here’s a little-known fact: Germany is the perfect destination for adventurers with a drive to explore sustainably. With three natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 16 UNESCO biosphere reserves, 16 national parks, and 104 nature parks, Germany offers an immense array of natural beauty and opportunities to escape the mundane. From the mountains to the sea and the forest in between, we talked to three German outdoor enthusiasts—Rudolf Achtner, Tanja Rosenberger, and Sandra Wendt—to learn about their favorite outdoor spaces and how to travel more sustainably while visiting them.
Hike in the Mountains
Outside: What makes the Partnachklamm Gorge so special?
Rudolf Achtner, Gorge Warden in Partnachklamm Gorge: You won’t find more beautiful, wild, or varied nature anywhere else in Germany. Located in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a mountain town in southern Germany, the Partnachklamm Gorge is a must-see wonder. The gorge is especially beautiful during the early morning or in the evening when you can enjoy solitude. If you’re looking to experience the most dazzling light, visit at noon. Between half past eleven and half past one, direct sunlight reaches into the gorge and reflects off its many large and small waterfalls and illuminates the gorge in the most beautiful rainbow colors.
On sunny days, you feel like you’re in a small Grand Canyon. Once it has rained for a few days, you can see the wild, pure nature spring to life. On hot days, the tall cliffs provide shade. In the cold season, the frozen water creates bizarre formations, with large icicles that hang down from the rocks.
To get epic views of the surrounding mountains, hike through Partnachklamm Gorge to Eckbauer Mountain—a challenging but worthwhile seven-mile trek. The gorge is walkable at any time of the year and is perfect for visitors of all ages. After walking through the gorge, the way back to the trailhead via the Iron Bridge features an inimitable view into the deep gorge.
How can travelers plan a responsible and more sustainable visit to the Partnachklamm Gorge?
RA: Many visitors choose to travel by bike to Partnachklamm Gorge and take advantage of the bike racks we have here. If biking isn’t your style, you could also use public transportation—just take the local bus lines 1 or 2 from Garmisch-Partenkirchen main station to the ski stadium, and from there it’s a nice 25-minute walk to the gorge. For anyone who doesn’t want to walk from the ski stadium, there are horse-drawn carriages that travel back and forth to the entrance of the gorge.
Before arriving at the gorge, you should pick your route. Decide whether you want to trek beyond the gorge (after the gorge there are many hiking possibilities) or travel back through the gorge to return to the main entrance. The gorge does have operating hours that change seasonally.
Finally, we are always happy when hikers pack out everything they carry into the park so we can keep it clean and beautiful for all visitors.
Marvel at the Sea
Outside: Where is the best place to experience the sea in Germany?
Tanja Rosenberger, Seal Rescuer: The Wadden Sea and its inhabitants on the Schleswig-Holstein coast have a special place in my heart. I grew up in Hamburg, but I’ve always been drawn to the landscape and serenity of northern Germany. Since 1997, preserving seal habitat and ensuring a healthy seal population has not only been my job, but my passion. The Seal Sanctuary is a unique institution on the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea coast and was certified as an educational institution for sustainability in fall 2020.
Anyone who visits the Wadden Sea coastline will be in awe of the wind, expanse, cloud formations, and the way the mudflats shimmer in the light. I’ve traveled to many coasts around the world, and I’ve never seen anything quite like what we have here in Germany.
Wander in the Forest
Outside: What’s your favorite forested destination in Germany?
Sandra Wendt, Forest Ranger in Hainich National Park: The Hainich Mountain Range in Thuringia is the largest contiguous deciduous forest area in Germany, and my favorite. The southern part of the range was designated as a national park in 1997 and is the second smallest national park in Germany. Although it’s small in size, Hainich National Park has immense beauty and is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Here, nature is allowed to develop undisturbed—we humans are only silent observers.
The red beech, which characterizes Europe, is the dominant tree species, but there are more than 30 different types of trees in Hainich National Park. The variety of trees that make up the forest here creates a breathtaking blaze of color in the autumn, and due to the shell limestone as a substrate, there are countless spring flowers.
If you visit, the treetop path in the east of the national park offers a bird’s eye view of Hainich. There’s also a must-see exhibition in the adjacent national park center that explains the hidden world of roots and forest soil.
How can travelers plan a responsible and more sustainable visit to Hainich National Park?
SW: Hainich National Park is accessible by public transport. Visitors can travel by train to nearby cities, such as Eisenach, Bad Langensalza, and Mühlhausen. From the cities, there’s a bus system that shuttles hikers to select trailheads in the national park. It’s also possible to explore Hainich National Park by bike using the 15-mile bike path.
The 17 certified national park partners offer information, accommodations, and related catering. They’re characterized by regionality, and are known for their commitment to environmental awareness. They avoid the use of disposable packaging, prioritize using regional products, and align with the philosophy of the national park.
Whether you’re a mountain lover, beckoned to the sea, or a forest fanatic, Germany should be among the top destinations on your adventure bucket list. It’s the perfect time to start planning a sustainable visit to one of the many beautiful outdoor wonders that Germany has to offer.
The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) is the central organization for marketing Germany as a travel destination. We aim to communicate the beauty, diversity, romance, and vibrancy of the country to people of all ages in Germany and abroad.