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Harz Mountains

What the Harz Mountains lack in alpine dramatics, they make up for in atmosphere and accessibility. Some of Germany's oldest, most endearing villages are tucked away in this broad region shared by three states: Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Gorgeous Goslar's crumbling city walls, medieval cobbled streets and teeny-tiny miners' houses complement Quedlinburg's crooked, couldn't-be-cuter, half-timbered architecture. Both towns' welcoming vibes beckon you to linger. But the region's robust all-rounder is shutterbug's-delight Wernigerode, where you can visit a dazzling Disney-esque castle and catch a steam train to the top of the Brocken, the highest peak (1142m) in the Harz.

Come winter, a web of hiking and biking trails transforms into a serious network of cross-country ski routes come winter, though downhill powder-hounds generally go elsewhere. Whatever the season, keep an eye out for witches – especially on Walpurgisnacht when anything goes as the masses ascend the they've done for centuries.