Top 10 national parks in Germany


For centuries, the epic beauty of the German landscapes has inspired artists and writers to be lyrical and profound. The country’s national parks highlight some of its most incredible and diverse outdoor spaces.

105 nature parks, 15 biosphere reserves and 16 national parks protect these vast and diverse landscapes to varying degrees. Germany is a year-round outdoor playground – whatever your adrenaline fix is, you’ll find it here.

Here are the top national parks to visit on your trip to Germany.

The Berchtesgaden National Park is surrounded by six mountain ranges © Max Shen / Getty Images

Berchtesgaden National Park

Best for scenic views

Immersed deep in Austria and framed by six high-rise buildings, the Berchtesgaden National Park is a dreamy corner of Bavaria, steeped in myths and legends. Local tradition says that angels charged with spreading the wonders of the earth were frightened by God’s command to move and accidentally dropped them all here. These definitely included the Watzmann at 2713 m (8900 ft), Germany’s second highest mountain, and the pristine Königssee, perhaps Germany’s most photogenic body of water. The Berchtesgaden National Park was declared a biosphere reserve by Unesco in 1990. The place Berchtesgaden is the obvious starting point for hikes in the park.

Away from the hiking trails, the area has a somber aspect – the eagle’s nest on the mountain top was built for Hitler and is now an important destination for dark tourism, while the Obersalzberg documentation records the region’s Nazi past.

Lake Großer Abersee in autumn in the Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany
The quiet Bavarian Forest National Park sees only a few external visitors © Westend61 / Getty Images

Bavarian Forest National Park

Best for quiet walks

Together with the Bohemian Forest on the Czech side of the border, the Bavarian Forest forms the largest contiguous forest area in Europe. This inspiring landscape of peaceful hills and rounded, wooded peaks is criss-crossed by rare valleys and pristine forests and offers a habitat for many species that have long since disappeared from the rest of Central Europe. A large area is protected as a surprisingly wild and remote Bavarian Forest National Park. While it is incredibly good value for money, the region sees few international tourists and remains quite traditional.

A path through trees in the Black Forest National Park, Germany
Germany’s iconic Black Forest is a treat for hikers © Ronald Wittek / Getty Images

Black Forest National Park

Best for hiking

An outdoor wonderland of heather moors, glacial cirque lakes, deep valleys, mountains and almost untouched coniferous forest – the Black Forest National Park is the Black Forest from its wildest and most untamed side. In this 100 square kilometer nature reserve in the northern Black Forest, hidden between Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt and centered on the Black Forest motorway, the Murgtal and the Mummelsee, nature is left to its own devices. There are just as many hiking and biking trails as there are adventure trails geared towards children.

Bastei bridge at dawn, with fog fills the Elbe valley in Saxon Switzerland, Germany
Saxon Switzerland is a must for hikers and climbers © Jonathan Stokes / Lonely Planet

Saxon Switzerland National Park

Best for climbing

Saxon Switzerland encompasses a unique and impressive landscape. This is a wonderfully rugged land where nature has carved porous rock into bizarre pillars, shattered cliffs, table mountains and deep valleys. The Elbe flows through dense forest, past villages and mighty hilltop castles. No wonder that this fabulous beauty was a great success with romantic artists of the 19th century, including the painter Caspar David Friedrich. Around a third of the area became Saxony’s only national park in 1990, the Saxon Switzerland National Park. You can tick off the highlights of the area on a long day trip from Dresden, but to really experience the magic of Saxon Switzerland, stay overnight and enjoy some lovely walks. In addition to hiking, this is one of the leading climbing destinations in Germany with over 15,000 routes. Cyclists can follow the beautiful Elbe cycle path.

Chalk cliffs of the Jasmund National Park, Germany
In the Jasmund National Park, dramatic chalk cliffs plunge into the sea © dugdax / Shutterstock

Jasmund National Park

Best for coastal adventures

The rough beauty of the Jasmund National Park, Germany’s smallest, first became known nationwide through the romanticized paintings by Caspar David Friedrich in the early 19th century. His favorite place was the Stubbenkammer, an area on the northern edge of the park where jagged white chalk cliffs plunge into the jade-colored sea – one of the most dramatic corners of the Baltic coast. Otherwise, the 30 square kilometer park is dominated by pretty beech forests.

By far the most famous steep coast of the Stubbenkammer is the Königsstuhl – at 117 m the highest point on Rügen. Fewer people make the hike a short distance east to the Victoria view, which offers the best view of the Königsstuhl itself. If you are feeling energetic, you can explore the area in a spectacular way by taking the 10 km long hike along the coast through the old Stubnitz forest from Sassnitz. The path also leads you past the beautiful chalk cliffs of the Wissower Klinken, another vantage point that was famous for being painted by Friedrich.

Mühlensee in Mueritz National Park, Germany
The Müritz National Park is often referred to as the land of a thousand lakes © André Leopold / Getty Images

Muritz National Park

Best for lakes

The Müritz National Park is an oasis in green and blue, a land of lakes and forests in the middle of an otherwise inexorable farming landscape halfway between Berlin and Rostock. The Müritz is commonly referred to as the land of a thousand lakes. This is an exaggeration, but there are well over 100 lakes and countless ponds, streams and rivers. Made up of moors and wetlands, this serene park is home to a wide variety of waterfowl, including ospreys, sea eagles, and cranes. The road between Neustrelitz and Waren in the west cuts through the heart of the park and offers many opportunities to stop off and admire the beech forests recognized by Unesco.

Old tree and roots at the Edersee in the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, Germany
Experience the flora and fauna of the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park up close © Ellen van Bodegom / Getty Images

Kellerwald-Edersee National Park

Best for viewing wildlife

The 57 km² Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, founded in 2004, includes one of the largest preserved red beech forests in Central Europe, the Kellerwald. There is also the Edersee, a reservoir that was created by the damming of the Eder and is now a popular recreational area. The Kellerwald-Edersee National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 together with the Hainich National Park in Thuringia and a collection of other parks or reserves with large beech forests. Animals such as red deer, lynx, honey buzzard, eagle, bat and fire salamander live wild in the park, while some can be seen in protective custody in the wildlife park in the Edertal.

Take e-bikes around the lake on a leisurely day tour, change the battery on the way or cycle on the bike paths through the forest. The lush landscapes of the park offer excellent hiking opportunities: the hiking trails include the Kellerwaldsteig and the Urwaldsteig-Edersee.

Mossy rocks in a river in the forest in the Harz National Park, Germany
The Harz National Park has a distinctive microclimate that allows various vegetation zones to flourish © Simon Zoltan / 500px

Harz National Park

The best for the diversity of the flora

With a land area of ​​more than 61,000 hectares, the Harz National Park is the first national park in Germany to occupy land in two federal states: Lower Saxony in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east. At 1142 m (3747 ft), the Brocken is the highest peak in the low mountain range. The park’s unique microclimate results in a number of different vegetation zones that offer visitors spectacular landscapes that are easy to enjoy while hiking, biking or cross-country skiing on the park’s extensive network of well-groomed trails.

Elevated bike path through a forest in the Hainich National Park, Germany
Cycle through the treetops in the Hainich National Park © Westend61 / Getty Images

Hainich National Park

Best for cycling

The Unesco World Heritage Hainich National Park protects Germany’s largest contiguous deciduous forest. There’s hiking and biking, of course, but the park’s main attraction is an elevated trail called the Treetop Walkway, which winds its way through the treetops a dizzying 44m above the forest floor. Enjoy wonderful views over the park and observe its flora and fauna from this unique perspective.

Hikers on a sandstone rock formation in the beech forest of the Eifel National Park, Germany
Sandstone rocks can be found in the beech forests of the Eifel National Park © Westend61 / Getty Images

Eifel National Park

Best for family-friendly hikes

Wildcats, beavers, kingfishers, bats and owls are just a few of the creatures you can see in the Eifel National Park, around 20 km east of the Belgian border. Established in 2004, it protects approximately 110 square kilometers (42 square miles) of beech forest, rivers and lakes and is full of fascinating plants and animals. In spring, a sea of ​​wild daffodils floods the valleys.


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