Malerweg in Germany: Hiking in Saxon Switzerland

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Malerweg in Germany: Hiking in Saxon Switzerland
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Hidden in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxon Switzerland and the most beautiful hiking trail in Germany, as voted by hikers. Just by looking at the photos, you will immediately understand why. This special part of Germany could not be further away from Switzerland, yet it is called Saxon Switzerland or Saxon Switzerland in German. How is that? Read our extensive blog post about the Malerweg, get answers to all your questions, and find a suitable package for a walking holiday in Germany.

Forget the Rheinsteig, the Eifelsteig, the Rothaarsteig and the Moselsteig. Not far from Dresden, on the border with the Czech Republic and on the banks of the River Elbe, you will find one of the most beautiful examples of German nature. National Park Saxon Switzerland is home to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and this is where the Malerweg runs, a 112-kilometer hiking trail that can be walked in 8 stages. There are some tough stages, but you will be rewarded with beautiful views. The Malerweg is characterized by the chalk cliffs along the Elbe, along forest paths, and not forgetting the Bastei Bridge. The nature along the Malerweg inspired Germany's most successful artists and it will not leave you unmoved either. The Malerweg is dedicated to the most famous German artists. Follow in their footsteps and walk the entire Malerweg.

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains stretch on both sides of the Elbe River from the Saxon town of Pirna in the northwest to the Bohemian Decín in the southeast. The highest peak at 723m is Decinský Snezník on the Czech side. The mountain range connects the Ore Mountains in the west with the Lusatian Mountains of the Sudetes in the east.

Saxon Switzerland and the Zittau Mountains of the Lusatian range form the Saxon-Bohemian Cretaceous Sandstone Range. The eroded sandstone landscape of this region was formed from deposits accumulated at the bottom of the sea millions of years ago. Rough quartz sand, clay, and fine marl sank and were hardened layer by layer. This explains the unique landscape of Saxon Switzerland with its flattened peaks.

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains

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What and Where Is the Malerweg?

Malerweg is German for Painters' Path and it has everything to do with the fact that Saxon Switzerland was a favorite destination for many artists in the 19th century to find inspiration. The Malerweg is Germany's most beautiful hiking trail and that is because it simply has everything to offer. A varied hiking trail, a rich history highlighted along the way, and the most stunning views Germany has to offer. The landscape is not typically German. This is not the Black Forest, the Eifel, or the Alps. The Elbe Sandstone Mountains are unique and that is exactly why painters, writers, and poets were drawn to this part of Germany during the Romantic period.

The name Saxon Switzerland also originated in the 18th century. The two Swiss artists Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff studied at the art academy in Dresden in 1766. From their new home, they saw mountains to the east. According to them, it showed a strangely flattened panorama, with table mountains and no real pointed mountain peaks. The landscape reminded them of the Swiss Jura, and in letters, they wrote about the difference between their Switzerland and this particular "Saxon Switzerland".

National Park Saxon Switzerland

The National Park of Saxon Switzerland covers an area of almost 100 km² over the core areas of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. The national park was established on October 1st, 1990 by the former GDR. In the neighboring Czech Republic, the protected area continues as the Bohemian Switzerland National Park. Naturally, the national park lends itself perfectly to hiking, both for small excursions and long-distance hikes. The National Park of Saxon Switzerland has around 400 kilometers of marked trails, and it is not only the Malerweg that runs through the park. European Hiking Route E3, which runs from Santiago de Compostela to the Black Sea, also passes through Saxon Switzerland.

National Park Saxon Switzerland

Malerweg: Weather and Best Season

The Malerweg is one of the long-distance paths in Germany that can be walked all year round. Of course, there is a high season and it is no surprise that this is in the summer. Please note that places like the Bastei attract not only hikers but also a lot of other tourists. Between May and October, some of the hotspots along the Malerweg can be extremely busy. The most colorful seasons for the Malerweg are spring and autumn. Temperatures are mild but expect the occasional rain shower. In winter the Malerweg can also be hiked, however, in case of high snowfall the hiking paths may become inaccessible. Fortunately, this does not happen very often.

Malerweg: Map

The map below shows the Malerweg route. Further on in the blog post, you will find a detailed description of each stage.

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Malerweg: Day to Day Route

The entire Malerweg is divided into 8 stages. The first stage starts just outside Pirna, across the Elbe, in the village of Liebethal. The route can also be walked faster, but if you want to get the most out of your Malerweg hiking vacation, it is really recommended to do it in 8 stages. The daily distances are between 10 and 20 kilometers and there are no more than 500 altimeters each day. Of course, some stages are a little more challenging than others.


Arrival in Garni

Today you arrive in Garni. Since it was undoubtedly a long journey here, it is best to relax at the hotel today.

Pirnscher Hof Hotel Garni (Garni)

Pirnscher Hof Hotel Garni (Garni)

Garni - Stadt Wehlen

Duration: 04:40 h
Distance: 17.5 km
Ascent: 200 m
Descent: 200 m

The hike starts at the entrance of the romantic Liebethaler Grund. You can also choose to hike this part, which will take you an extra 1.5 hours. The path follows the Wesenitz and passes the monumental Richard Wagner monument (designed by Richard Guhr, 1933) and the remains of the former Lochmühle. Then you pass the Uttewalder Grund with its famous rock gate. The path is now formed by rocks. You will pass the remains of one of the oldest castles in the region. The Malerweg runs along the Elbe to the end of this first day.

Ferienwohnung Langer (Stadt Wehlen - Plötzscha)

Ferienwohnung Langer (Stadt Wehlen - Plötzscha)

Stadt Wehlen - Hohnstein

Duration: 03:42 h
Distance: 12 km
Ascent: 460 m
Descent: 300 m
You start by ascending the Schwarzbergweg, where you reach the resting place called "Steinerner Tisch". The building of the same name was once built by Prince Augustus der Starke as a resting place for when he went hunting. The path leads you to one of the most famous sights of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains: the Bastei. This is one of the absolute attractions of the region and from here you have a fantastic view of the landscape. You descend via a staircase. Then you will pass the Rathen rock plateau with its spectacular natural scenery. Once in Hohnstein, the castle and the Kasper Museum in the tourist office are definitely worth a visit!

Burg Hohnstein (Hohnstein)

Burg Hohnstein (Hohnstein)

Hohnstein - Altendorf

Duration: 04:56 h
Distance: 16.8 km
Ascent: 430 m
Descent: 540 m
This hiking day starts on a forest path and passes the Brandaussicht. On this "Balcony of Saxon Switzerland", 170 meters above the Polenztal, you have a fantastic panoramic view. Then you descend more than 800 stair steps to the "den Tiefen Grund". In the last part of today, you can enjoy the view of the Schrammsteine.

Ostrauer Mühle (Altendorf)

Ostrauer Mühle (Altendorf)

Altendorf - Neumannmühle

Duration: 04:47 h
Distance: 16.2 km
Ascent: 450 m
Descent: 410 m
Today is a slightly longer hiking day. You will walk down through the Dorfbachklamm into the Kirnitzsch valley. The path then ascends into the Schrammsteine, an elongated, sharply divided rock group. The Jägersteig ascent leads you via iron ladders to the Schrammsteingratweg where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Schrammstein. You then pass Lichtenhainer Wasserfall and walk to the impressive Kuhstall rock cave.

Neumannmühle Berghütte & Wirtshaus (Neumannmühle)

Neumannmühle Berghütte & Wirtshaus (Neumannmühle)

Neumannmühle - Schmilka

Duration: 04:27 h
Distance: 13.6 km
Ascent: 510 m
Descent: 590 m
You start this day in the Kirnitzschtal. The trail leads you past the archaeological remains of a medieval rock castle. A natural, steep path then leads you to the Großer Pohlshorn. You walk through the old silver fir stables to the Zeughaus, an old arsenal. From here you start ascending, to the top of Großer Winterberg. This 556-meter high mountain was created by basaltic erosion through the plateau of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and is the second-highest mountain in Saxon Switzerland. The hiking day ends in Schmilka, where you can visit the Schmilka water mill. The mill was reconstructed in 2007 and is now fully functional again.

Haus Bergfriede (Schmilka)

Haus Bergfriede (Schmilka)

Schmilka - Kurort Gohrisch

Duration: 04:57 h
Distance: 17.5 km
Ascent: 410 m
Descent: 280 m
Today you start on the ferry to get to the S-Bahn stop Schmilka-Hirschmühle. From here you will walk through small villages until you reach Reinhardtsdorf, where you will find a beautiful village church decorated in a rustic baroque style. Then you ascend to Papststein. From here you descend again to another so-called table mountain: the Gohrisch.

Pension Edelweiß (Kurort Gohrisch)

Pension Edelweiß (Kurort Gohrisch)

Kurort Gohrisch - Weißig

Duration: 05:22 h
Distance: 17.5 km
Ascent: 540 m
Descent: 610 m
Today you hike to Pfaffendorf. Via the ravine path, you walk down to the Quirl. You will pass Königstein, a fascinating rock building. You will walk past the town church and to the foot of the fortress of Königstein. For a visit to the fortress, you should plan an extra 2 hours.

Hotel Bei Gretel, Wellness & Ayurveda (Weißig)

Hotel Bei Gretel, Wellness & Ayurveda (Weißig)

Weißig - Garni

Duration: 03:32 h
Distance: 12.9 km
Ascent: 180 m
Descent: 260 m
Today you hike along the ridge to Naundorf, where the Robert-Sterl-Haus is located, the most important art museum in Saxon Switzerland. The trail continues along the high banks of former stone quarries to the Königsnase. You follow the path until you reach the historic town center of Garni.

Pirnscher Hof Hotel Garni (Garni)

Pirnscher Hof Hotel Garni (Garni)


After breakfast, the program is over. We hope to see you again soon in Saxon Switzerland and wish you a pleasant journey back home!
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Malerweg: Accommodation

The Malerweg is one of the most popular long-distance hiking trails in Germany. This, in combination with the beauty of Saxon Switzerland and the attraction of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, ensures that you will find numerous accommodation options along the Malerweg. Be it a hotel, a guesthouse, a B&B, or a so-called Zimmer Frei. You will find it all along the Malerweg trail. The Gasthöfer, Pensions, and Hotels along the Malerweg are mostly family-run businesses, often accompanied by an in-house restaurant and bar, and play a central role in the community life of the village or town.

Wanderfreundlich am Malerweg

Numerous accommodation facilities along the Malerweg are certified with the title "Wanderfreundlich am Malerweg" (Hiker-friendly along the Malerweg). Besides that they are offering accommodation, they can also help you with packed lunches, and assistance with luggage transport.

The Malerweg packages from always include luggage transport, overnight stays, and breakfast.

A typical example of a Gasthof along the Malerweg:

Malerweg: Accommodation

How Do I Get to the Malerweg and Back?

The Malerweg is not just around the corner. On the contrary, the trail is located near the Czech border, in the far east of Germany, near Dresden. The starting and finishing point of the Malerweg is in the town of Pirna, directly on the Elbe.

Arriving by plane

You can book a flight to Dresden. From there you can take the bus or train to Pirna.

Arriving by car

You can drive via Osnabrück-Hannover-Magdeburg-Leipzig or via Dortmund-Kassel-Leipzig.

Arriving by train

You can take the train to Berlin. From Berlin, take the international IC to Decin Hl.n. and get off in Dresden. From here an S-Bahn runs directly to Pirna.

Arriving by bus

International bus companies such as Flixbus and Eurolines run from Utrecht to Dresden. From here, the S-Bahn is a stone's throw to Pirna. You can also board the bus in Belgium at several places.

By bus along the Malerweg

The Malerweg starts in Pirna-Liebethal, on the other side of the Elbe, just north of Pirna itself. This means that the Malerweg cannot be walked in a precise circle. Of course, you can walk to Liebethal, but most hikers just take the bus from the bus station to Liebethal. The bus goes every half hour and runs directly.

Along the rest of the Malerweg, buses also run regularly. The regular buses have been renamed Wanderbus by the local transport company (RVSOE) and so they are easily recognizable by hikers. In the season, from April to November, there are more buses than usual. It is very convenient.

Safety tips for the Malerweg

Although this is far from being a trek in the Himalayas, unexpected things can always happen and you might also find obstacles on the hiking trails along the way. The Malerweg is safe, the trails are quite straight forward and there is not an extreme difference in altitude. However, for your safety, every hike deserves a level of respect; respect for the terrain, the trails, wildlife and vegetation, local rules and regulations, and above all, your physical capabilities and safety. Therefore, for an unforgettable and safe hiking memory, please keep the following safety recommendations in mind:

  • Know your limits

    Always prepare each stage carefully to use your energy wisely, respect your physical and mental limitations, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. When ascending or descending, if applicable, always use the aids provided, such as handrails and ropes. Is this trek suitable for you? Well, familiarize yourself with the grading system and figure out if this trek matches your capabilities. If you still need professional advice you can always contact experts.

  • Stay on marked trails

    The most important thing is to never leave the marked paths. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B in the Malerweg. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you.

  • Fully equipped

    Make sure you have the necessary gear for the conditions you'll be facing, including appropriate clothing, footwear, and any necessary equipment for the terrain you'll be hiking on. Always wear clothing adapted to the weather of Malerweg and protect yourself from cold and wetness or heat and sun. Besides, make sure you carry enough food and water for the duration of your trek. On the way, you might (or might not) be able to buy snacks.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Malerweg.

  • Respect for nature

    Do not litter, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Packing List for the Malerweg

No matter where you go hiking or for how long, bringing the right equipment is of utmost importance. For your hike, the first thing you need is a good backpack. The size of it will depend on the number of days you will be trekking, the season and the clothes you take with you. If you have luggage transport, the comfort level of your daypack is most important. We have compiled a packing list with a few essential items of clothing you should bring and some extras you might find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

At, we not only book your accommodation and luggage transport, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your Malerweg, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

Where Can I Book the Malerweg?

At you can book the self-guided Malerweg and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations, organizing luggage transportation and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the Malerweg not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:


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