Powder-white snow bursts and crackles under the soles of your shoes, a descending sun burns on the horizon and a hilly, winter landscape stretches out in front of you. Welcome to the Sauerland! Slopes like white velvet, spectacular views, miles of hiking and biking trails and underground caves await you this winter in this beautiful German region. Today I will take you on a winter tour of the Sauerland and show you what makes this German destination so special.
Region in the Federal States of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hessen
Reachable from Cologne and Dusseldorf Airports
Largest area for winter sports north of The Alps
The Sauerland is a famous region for hiking
Where is The Sauerland?
First things first: where is the Sauerland? The Sauerland stretches across the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse and has no less than 2711 mountains that protrude higher than 400 metres above the landscape. On and between those mountains you will find fantastic ski slopes, an extensive network of cycling and hiking trails and atmospheric hotels where the hot chocolate after a long, active will taste extra sweet. A treasure trove of sights awaits you underground too!
Winter Sports in The Sauerland
Did you know that the largest ski area north of the Alps is in the Sauerland? With 300 hectares of slopes and another 500 kilometres of cross-country trails, the Sauerland is a winter sports paradise. The mountains of the Sauerland are just a few hours drive from Dortmund, Dusseldorf & Cologne and are therefore a popular destination among many ski and snowboard enthusiasts.
Winterberg is the literal and figurative highlight for almost every traveller who visits the Sauerland. The most elevated city of North Rhine-Westphalia is the most popular winter sports destination of the German region. Not surprising: Winterberg has no less than 27 ski slopes and another 30 cross-country trails. From mid-December to mid-March, you can indulge yourself in the most snow-filled city in North Rhine-Westphalia!
Walking in The Sauerland: The Most Beautiful Routes for a Winter Walk
Don’t forget your walking boots, because the Sauerland is not only a winter sports paradise, but also a hiking destination par excellence too. It is not for nothing that the German Hiking Association declared the Sauerland the first ‘Quality Walking Region’. In winter, the hills disappear under a layer of powder snow and the region turns into a winter fairy tale that is best explored on foot.
Over a length of 250 kilometres, the Sauerland-Höhenflug hike winds over the highest peaks of the Sauerland. Start your walk at the Altena Castle and then follow the hiking route over the snowy mountains, through vast meadows and dense forests. Every now and then you will come across a village where you can warm up for a while with a snack and a drink. If a walk of a few hundred kilometres is just too long for you, then choose one of the shorter day walks. Oh..and make sure to have your camera packed, because you’ll find the most beautiful views along the way!
Slightly shorter, but equally beautiful is the Rothaarsteig. This 154 kilometre long walk runs from Brilon to Dillenburg and takes you on the Langenberg, the highest mountain of the Sauerland and of all North Rhine-Westphalia. Climb to a height of 843 meters and the Sauerland is quite literally at your feet! Over its entire length, the Rothaarsteig treats you to wonderful views over the winter landscape. If your feet are feeling tired you will be able chill in one of the hammocks or couches that you will come across along the route. Do you want an even more sporty challenge? Enroll in the Rothaarsteig marathon and explore the Sauerland landscape on foot.
Both the Rothaarsteig and Sauerland-Höhenflug are long and therefore quite tricky. An easier alternative (ideal for a family holiday) is the Diemelsteig. This 63 kilometre long walking route is known as one of the most beautiful in Germany. It runs across the border of the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. Here you can walk through the mountains and valleys of the Diemelsee nature park and enjoy the beauty of the reservoir with the same name. Alternate your hike with a boat trip and admire the mountains of the Sauerland from the water.
Cycling in The Sauerland
The Sauerland is a top destination for active holiday seekers. Besides the beautiful hiking trails you will also find stunning and sometimes challenging cycling trails. These will take you through the varied landscape. The diversity of cycling routes offer something for everyone: from short day trips on relatively flat paths to long cycling trips through the mountains and a challenging arena for experienced mountain bikers.
The Ruhr Valley Cycle Path connects the Sauerland with the Ruhr region. It runs from the source of the Ruhr in Winterberg to the mouth of the Rhine in Duisburg. The 230 kilometer long route zigzags through forests and along castles. It also takes you to nice places like Essen and Duisburg. The Ruhr Valley Cycle Path is one of the most popular cycling routes in Germany and has been named a four-star quality route by the German Cyclist’s Association.
Sauerland Cycle Circuit
The Ruhr Valley Cycle Path trail turns into the Sauerland Cycle Circuit, a 84-kilometre long trail that takes you on former train tracks. If you’re a bit sporty, you can take the Sauerland Cycle Circuit in one day. Secretly, it’s more fun to book an overnight stay and take a break two days before the bike ride. You’ll have time to stop along the route at various highlights such as the Dampf Land Leute Museum and the Hennesee.
Bike Arena Sauerland
Mountain bike enthusiasts will find their heart in the Bike Arena Sauerland. Conquer the steep paths, winding turns and tough climbs of the 120 kilometre Tour de Willingen or cycle along the Hennesee, the Möhnesee and the Sorpesee via the Three Lakes Loop.
Mountain bikers can also enjoy the Winterberg Bike Park in Winterberg. The park consists of 10 courses, from beginner to steep slopes for advanced. After a descent, a chair lift will bring you back up for the next ride!
Landmarks in The Sauerland
Lose yourself in a mysterious cave system, romp on your skis on the slopes of Winterberg or imagine being a medieval castle resident for an afternoon. These are the most beautiful sights of the Sauerland!
Two of Sauerland’s most popular and impressive sights can be found deep underground. Descend to the Atta Cave and Dechen Cave and discover the magical cave systems full of stalactites and stalagmites that the Sauerland is blessed with.
Did you know that the world’s first youth hostel is in the Sauerland? In 1914, the first hostel opened its doors in the ancient castle of Altena. The 12th century castle towers over a hill above the rest of Altena. Today you can still stay the night in the castle which is a childhood dream come true for most!
The 10 square kilometre Möhnesee is the largest reservoir in the Sauerland and one of the largest in Germany too. Walk around the lake or take a boat trip on the glistening and peaceful waters.
Celebrating Christmas in The Sauerland
Did you know that one in three Christmas trees in Germany comes from the Sauerland region? In the woods near Winterberg you can even cut down your own Christmas tree!
Every lover of mulled wine, cosy Christmas stalls and warm chocolate knows that you’ll find the very best Christmas markets in Germany. Celebrate Christmas this year in the Sauerland with a day trip or weekend to one of the atmospheric Christmas markets.
Super Duper Secret Guru tip: stroll past the approximately 100 stalls of the Christmas market in the historic centre of Soest or take a look at the Christmas market at Altena Castle. The Christmas songs, the festive lighting, the atmospheric stalls and the romantic background of the castle give you the ultimate festive feeling.
Winter Events in The Sauerland
In addition to the dozens of Christmas markets, many other fun events take place in the Sauerland during the winter months. For example, go for a day trip to Europe’s biggest fair or attend a World Cup Tobogganing competition or the Ski Jumping World Cup.
All Saints’ Fair in Soest: 7-11 November 2018. The largest fair in Europe will be held in the historic centre of Soest in November. Approximately one million people visit the city in the Sauerland for its 50,000 square metre fairground.
BMW IBSF Bob & Skeleton World Cup: 14-16 December 2018. For winter sports enthusiasts! Watch the VELTINS Ice Arena as the world’s best bobsleigh pilots fly through the razor-sharp bends at lightning speed.
WK Rodelen 2019 : 25 – 27 January 2019. At the beginning of next year, the 48th edition of the World Cup Tobogganing will take place in Winterberg. The races are held in the Winterberg VELTINS Ice Arena and tickets cost but between 10 and 20 euros so take a look!
FIS Ski Jumping World Cup: 15 – 17 February 2019. In February, at the Mühlenkopfschanze in Willingen, you can see the world’s best ski jumping at work during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup.
FIS Snowboard World Cup: 23 – 24 March 2019. At the end of the winter sports season you can still take part in the FIS Snowboard World Cup in Winterberg. Learn from the best and see professional snowboarders flying over the slopes.
Hotels in The Sauerland
To enjoy all the beauty of the Sauerland to the fullest, you will need to find a nice hotel for yourself. If you like a bit of luxury, you can book an overnight stay at the 4* Hotel Seegarten. From the pool on the roof you look out over the Sorpesee. Or how about an overnight stay in a tree house? At Gasthof Zu den Linden, childhood dreams become reality. Go skiing and snowboarding in the Sauerland, then book a hotel in the city of Winterberg, the hotspot for winter sports holidays.
The peaks and valleys of the Sauerland often disappear in winter under a layer of white snow. Yet it can happen that during your holiday in the Sauerland you might encounter a bit of changeable weather and you prefer not to go on the slopes or a long walk. Not to worry, there are plenty of fun alternatives!
Look for a day at one of the many spas in Sauerland and let yourself be pampered with a fabulous massage.
The Sauerland is a real ‘beer country’. On a rainy day, follow a guided tour of a brewery followed by a delicious beer tasting.
Also perfect for wet days: a walk through the underground cave systems of the Sauerland!
Book a winter holiday in The Sauerland
Feel like skiing or snowboarding over the mountains of Winterberg, walking through the winter landscape of the Sauerland or strolling through the cosy German Christmas markets? Book a holiday to the Sauerland this winter and discover this beautiful region just a few hours drive from the Netherlands!
This is of course one of the many hidden gems that I’ll be sharing with you during my spotlight on North Rhine-Westphalia this week, so be sure to keep checking back for even more inspiration!