The National Park is located in eastern Germany, about 30 kilometers from Dresden (the capital of Saxony). More than 700 hills are available for climbing and 400 km² of marked trails for those who love hiking. The total area of the park is 93 km² and it borders the Bohemian Switzerland National Park in the Czech Republic.
There is no official entrance to the park, just follow the marked paths that lead to the main viewpoints or access paths to the cliffs. Make sure you have comfortable clothes and shoes suitable for hiking, because there are quite steep paths through the forest with rough or rocky terrain, which will give you a few headaches.
Don’t forget water and something to eat in case you plan to venture out, climb to the top of the cliffs and spend as much time as possible in the park. To reach the top you need around 45 minutes to an hour.
The eroded rock formations date back to the Cretaceous period , being the only place in Central Europe that forms a fascinating relief, the result of 100 million years of “work” by wind and water: deeply carved valleys, meadows full of wild flowers, shaded gorges or extensive forests. The landscape is complemented by diverse flora (ferns, mosses, lichens) and fauna (eagles, owls, black storks, otters).
Entrance to the park is free and there are no opening or closing times, being open to visitors all year round. You can reach the foothills of the mountains by car (from Dresden, on the A17, in the direction of Prague) and park in the village of Lohmen (the parking fee is around 3€/up to 3 hours or €6/day), but also by public transport (buses, trains), from Dresden or Berlin; if you arrive by plane, the nearest airport is Dresden, then take the S-Bahn S2 in the direction of Pirna to Rathen.
In the villages in the park area, there are numerous accommodation options, from small hotels to holiday homes. The surrounding restaurants serve both traditional and international cuisine at fairly low prices, or you can admire the scenery from the terraces or summer gardens full of brightly colored flowers.
Bastei is the most popular destination in Saxon Switzerland and the most famous rock formation, with the Bastei Bridge being the highlight of the National Park and an extremely photogenic spot. It is 76.5 meters long and was originally built of wood, and in the mid-1800s, it was replaced by a new stone bridge, still present today, which seems to have naturally merged with the surrounding terrain.
From the bridge you can enter Felsenburg Neurathen – one of the oldest fortifications in Germany, the first mentions of the castle dating from the second half of the 13th century. It was the largest rock-built castle in the region, and today only a few remnants of the fortress remain. Archaeological research has been carried out since 1906, and some parts of the complex were reconstructed between 1982 and 1984. To be able to visit the museum in the open air, you have to pay a fee of €3/person.
More details can be found on the park’s official website. It is very well organized and you can choose the route you want to follow (routes for families with children, for climbers, for cyclists, etc.), download maps or find other useful information (surrounding cities and what to visit, events , places to stay, restaurants, brochures).
On the Elbe river, 16 km from Bastei, is Königstein – a picturesque village, home to the fortress of the same name. Königstein Festung , also called “Saxony’s Bastille”, has witnessed over 800 years of history, being an impressive mix of Renaissance, late Gothic and Baroque architecture.
Behind the walls is the first garrison church in Saxony (1676), the largest wine barrel in the world, built on the orders of Augustus the Strong (it had a capacity of 249,838 liters) or the deepest water well in Saxony and the second deepest in Germany (152.5 meters), and a walk around the fortress gives you views of the national park.
The price of a ticket is 12€/person (30.05-31.10) or 10€/person (1.11-31.03). If you arrive by car, you can leave it in the specially arranged parking lot, 800 meters from the castle (parking fee: €5.5/up to 4 hours; €6.5/up to 5 hours; €7.5/all day).
(Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz – May 2020)