Saxon Switzerland, Germany
A highlight of Elbe River cruise itineraries, Saxon, Switzerland is a mountainous region around the Elbe Valley that's home to a jaw-dropping national park. The area — once a big part of former East Germany’s dramatic landscape — is located southeast of Dresden. Ships stop at Bad Schandau, a spa town at the mouth of the Kirnitzsch Valley. From there, a bus ride takes passengers through the heavily wooded area, reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park in the United States.
What We Love
Climbing: The area is known for having more than 1,000 climbing cliffs (think rock-climbing walls on big ocean ships, but far, far better) and attracts local and international climbers alike. Cruise lines typically don’t provide shore excursions for this type of activity, but you can make your own arrangements or marvel at the daring adventurers from afar.
Best Known For
Saxon Switzerland National Park: The park is the main attraction here; unique rock formations and spectacular views are some of the interesting attractions of this region. Don't miss the stone-carved castles and caves that dot the landscape, including famed rock formation Bastei.
Königstein Fortress: You can reach this 13th century fortress on a plateau (once considered impenetrable) through a panoramic elevator. Once at the top, you can explore any of 50-plus buildings that served a variety of purposes over 750 years, from a monastery to a prison war camp. Highlights include a Baroque pavilion with a mechanical table (to avoid the presence of servants) and the surrounding views of the majestic Elbe Mountains.
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Who It's Best For
Nature Lovers: By far the highlight of the Elbe River, this area has everything from sandstone cliffs to gorges, forests, walking paths, and well-marked trails that weave their way through nearly every natural wonder present in the area.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Limited Time: The downside to all this natural wonder is determining what to do with the limited time available on a river cruise excursion. To cover more ground, visitors might choose a ride on the narrow-gauge railroad or paddlewheel steamer. Logistics can be tricky; be sure to check your ship’s schedule and ask for recommendations from your cruise director.
Chris Owen is a Florida-based travel writer and photographer.
Lisa Cheng is a New York-based writer for ShermansCruise who also writes for Travel + Leisure.