About 40km south of Dresden, Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz, aka Elbsandsteingebirge or Elbe Sandstone Mountains) embraces a unique and evocative landscape. This is wonderfully rugged country where nature has chiselled porous rock into bizarre columns, battered cliffs, tabletop mountains and deep valleys. The Elbe courses through thick forest, past villages and mighty hilltop castles. No wonder such fabled beauty was a big hit with 19th-century Romantic artists, including the painter Caspar David Friedrich. In 1990, about a third of the area became Saxony’s only national park, Saxon Switzerland National Park (Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz).
You could tick off the area’s highlights on a long daytrip from Dresden, but to truly experience the magic of Saxon Switzerland, stay overnight and enjoy a couple of good walks. In addition to hiking, this is one of Germany's premier rock-climbing destinations, offering over 15,000 routes. Cyclists can follow the lovely Elberadweg.