Saxon Switzerland is one of the most iconic regions in Germany. Hiking here means walking around unique rock formations, climbing a countless number of stairs and vertical ladders, enjoying magnificent views over the Elbe River and taking breaks in peaceful towns. If you want to go big and see it all, you should definitely consider hiking Malerweg. It’s a 116 km long trail that takes you through the top attractions of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. All you need to know about hiking Malerweg in Germany is included in this blog post.
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED TO WALK MALERWEG?
Malerweg stretches over 116 km through the wild rock formations of Saxon Switzerland National Park. The hiking trail is officially divided into 8 stages, which means 8 days of walking with a total elevation gain of 3600 m. If you are a fit hiker, you can definitely plan it out over a shorter period of time, however, I wouldn’t recommend doing that. This region has heaps of hidden gems, so it’s well-worth taking it slow, and doing as many side trips as possible. Fun fact, I finished Malerweg with a total number of 175 km walked. How on Earth did that happen? Well… I didn’t want to miss out on any attractions and that made me walk some extra kilometres. My exact route can be found in a separate post, Malerweg in Germany: 8-day itinerary.
HOW DIFFICULT MALERWEG IS?
I do think that Malerweg is a perfect choice for hikers who strive to do their first multi-day hike. First of all, Saxon Switzerland is pretty civilised. With that being said, you will have an opportunity to buy some groceries every day. It may not always be a huge supermarket, but you can expect local shops, bakeries and huts on your way. What’s more, you will get mobile coverage and Internet most of the time. Second of all, you can always decide to finish the hike sooner in case of a real crisis. Public transport works well in this region, so you can easily commute between the towns and get back to the starting point. Lastly, a 116 km distance may seem overwhelming, but on average, it’s just 14,5 km a day with an elevation gain of 450 m.
WHERE DOES MALERWEG START AND END?
Malerweg’s starting point is in the village of Liebethal, and the end is in Pirna. Nevertheless, it’s allowed to walk the trail in both directions. I went ahead with the recommended direction, and I don’t regret my decision. The stages are planned from the easiest to the hardest, so if you prefer having a good warm-up before walking up some stairs and ladders, I would suggest doing the same. Are you driving to Liebethal? If yes, you can leave your car here, 50.9967925N, 13.9563060E. There is a free, secluded carpark, very close to the trailhead. Since the end of the track is not exactly where the start, you will have to catch a bus later on. It takes around 45 minutes to get from Pirna to Liebethal on public transport and the buses go quite often.
WHAT’S THE BEST SEASON TO HIKE MALERWEG?
There’s literally no better season to admire the beauty of Saxon Switzerland than autumn. You will get one of a kind landscape, a magical scenery with brightly coloured leaves, sometimes bathed in a warm, golden glow, and other times obscured by a thick blanket of mist. The only thing that can be annoying during this time of the year is a relatively short day. Important note! If you really want to hike Malerweg in autumn, make sure to finish it by the end of October or shortly after. Low season starts in Saxon Switzerland on the first days of November, and that means problems with re-stocking and booking accommodation on the track. Many guest houses, mountain huts, and restaurants shut down for winter, and open up again in April.
HOW TO PACK YOUR BAG FOR MALERWEG?
Here’s the universal rule that applies to all multi-day hikes. You have to take as little as possible with you to protect your back, and at the same time, pack everything you need to accomplish the hike. The most important decision to make before packing your bag for Malerweg, is the type of accommodation you are going to stay at. I chose hotels and guest houses, so that eliminated the need of packing the camping gear. I have to admit that my backpack was quite light. I walked with one bottle of water (1,5L) and the amount of food sufficient for at least two days. Important note! Don’t forget to bring cash on this hike. You will have to use it in mountain huts, local shops, bakeries. Here’s a short summary of things that ended up in my bag.
- One set of hiking clothes (sturdy shoes, hiking pants, long-sleeve, rainproof jacket, headband)
- One set of comfy clothes for the night (flip-flops, leggings, long-sleeve)
- Three pairs of socks and panties (washed every second day)
- Light sleeping-bag (one night in the mountain hut)
- Toiletries & first aid kit
- Documents & cash
WHERE TO STAY OVERNIGHT?
I highly recommend booking accommodation in advance. If you are planning to do Malerweg in autumn, 2 weeks before the walk should be enough. However, if you are doing it in high season, especially during summer holidays, make sure to sort out the reservations much sooner. Saxon Switzerland has heaps of hotels, guest houses, mountain huts, and campsites, but it may be hard to get a place at a reasonable price if you happen to be late with bookings. Obviously, it’s best to search for accommodation directly on the track, but if that’s not the case anymore, 20 minutes away should be the maximum. The truth is, every extra kilometer after a long day of walking is a pain. Below you can find a list of places I truly enjoyed staying at.
Designhotel Laurichhof is a 4-star hotel with modern suites and unique interiors. In fact, each suite looks completely different. The hotel is located in Pirna, so it’s a great option to choose before and after the hike.
Bed & Breakfast Wehlen is a guest house offering neat rooms with breakfast included. This place is located in Stadt Wehlen, directly on the track, so no detour is required. Feel free to book it for the second stage.
Pension Jitřenka Hřensko is a guest house with fantastic rooms and delicious breakfast. This place is located in Czech Republic, 20 minutes away from the track, but I highly recommend choosing it for the fifth stage.
Laasenhof Resort is a holiday resort offering rooms with stunning views, including the very famous Bastei Bridge. This place is 20 minutes away from the track, and that makes it a good option for stage seven.
WHERE TO GET THE STAMPS FROM?
Did you know that finishing Malerweg gets you qualified to receive a reward? I kid you not! It’s a diploma proving your achievement and a badge. But to make things happen, you need to collect the stamps and secure a booklet first. Both the reward and the booklet are available at the Tourist Information Office in Pirna. The facility is open from Monday to Friday, between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm, and over the weekends, between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. It’s well-worth coming to Pirna the day before the hike to pick up the booklet, so that you can start walking the following day early in the morning. The booklet has a list of places with the stamps to collect, and if you are curious where I got mine from, check my full Malerweg itinerary.
WHAT’S WORTH SEEING ON MALERWEG?
Saxon Switzerland is best known for Bastei Bridge which remains the most visited site in the entire region. I can’t disagree. It’s a beautiful landmark, a fascinating rock formation, but it should not make you believe that there’s nothing else worth seeing. There are plenty of epic attractions in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, some of them lie directly on the track, others need some detouring. My full itinerary with highlights for each day can be found in a separate post. Malerweg is well-marked and if you stay on the main path, you won’t be using your map too often. If you want to wander around and see as much as humanly possible, make sure to have the map downloaded to your phone beforehand. I used mapy.cz app, and it worked on point.
CAN YOU WALK MALERWEG WITH A DOG?
I’ve got good news, and bad news for you. I will start with the good news first. It’s allowed to walk your dog in Saxon Switzerland National Park. However, doing the entire Malerweg with your pup may not be easy. Be mindful that there are heaps of stairs and ladders on many trail sections, which will most likely constitute a real challenge for you, and your dog. It’s reasonable to carry your furry companion on those sections or to consider taking a detour. The Malerweg’s official website (available in German and English) has this topic well-covered. You will find there useful tips about walking Malerweg with a dog, including what sections to skip, and how to do it. In addition to that, dogs should be kept on a leash in the national park at all times.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HIKE MALERWEG?
I spent 336€ on hiking Malerweg, and here’s a detailed breakdown. Accommodation was 170€. However, this is not the full price I would normally pay as I was fortunate enough to partner with a bunch of hotels mentioned before in exchange for some content. In addition, I shared my room with my hiking buddy, which also contributed to the lower cost. If I were you, I would definitely expect to pay more for accommodation, especially if you are planning to do Malerweg solo. Food was 106€. This is mostly groceries and a few dinners at restaurants. Fuel was 45€, and that’s for driving from Katowice (Poland) to Pirna and back. Lastly, I spent 15€ for entering Königstein Fortress. It’s a large hilltop fortification located on the track.
That’s all you need to know about hiking Malerweg in Germany. Are you planning to do it in summer or autumn? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
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