If the 300 highest peaks in Saxon Switzerland were piled on top of each other, they would tower 110 kilometres above the landscape. Now that sounds like lots of fun to climb! Especially as there are more than 17,000 climbing routes on over 1,100 freestanding sandstone crags, all awaiting conquerors and their admirers. It was the rugged beauty of the mountains that attracted artists to this landscape in the 18th century and inspired Caspar David Friedrich to create his immortal masterpieces. Climbers first discovered the recreational appeal of the sandstone peaks in 1890 and Saxon Switzerland became a climbers’ paradise. Hikers and other nature lovers soon followed.

Steam boats, the Elbe cycle path and the railway bring people from all over the world to Rathen, Wehlen and Bad Schandau to experience the unique natural landscape around the extraordinary rock formations. Families scramble up the Schrammstein rocks and scale the Lilienstein mountain. Children stare in wide-eyed wonder at Königstein fortress and the view of the looping Elbe river, deep in the valley below. Variety is the magic word here. Anyone looking for hustle and bustle can join the audience in the open air theatre among the rocks at Rathen to see Old Surehand ride into town or listen to Carmina Burana. The exhilarating beauty of the landscape is revealed in all its glory from the Bastei viewpoint, which is also accessible by wheelchair. And all the while, peace and solitude are only a narrow path away.

Need a breath of fresh air? www.saechsische-schweiz.de