Content Produced in Partnership with the German National Tourist Board & German UNESCO World Heritage Sites Association
Many first think of visiting Germany’s cities, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more nature-loving country with incredible and diverse landscapes. These green reprieves are teeming with flora and fauna and recreational pursuits prime for exploration. A select few are so unique that they've even been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, celebrated for their cultural importance, design and stunning ecosystems. As iconic as they are breathtaking, here are the outdoor spaces you simply must-see in Germany.
Nestled in the heart of Europe, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley runs from the wine region of Bingen up to Koblenz. You can enjoy the outdoors before venturing to explore the region’s romantic small towns and wine-growing villages by foot, car or cruise ship. The area is dotted with vineyards, Michelin-starred restaurants, and thermal baths and spas, making it a perfect getaway for any style of traveler. Whether you’re looking for culture, adventure, relaxation, or a little bit of everything, The Upper Middle Rhine Valley is a destination that everyone will relish.
The largest English-style landscaped park in Europe, Muskauer Park on the Germany-Poland border is regarded as one of the most impressive gardens in the world. The area spans 830 hectares and was designed with the goal of “painting with plants” to fluidly integrate the river Neisse and enhance an already aesthetically beautiful landscape. The crown jewel is New Castle, which sits flanked by valleys and vistas just begging to be explored.
Wilhelmshöhe Park's standout features are a monumental statue of Hercules and dancing water features. The fountain spouts waterfalls and rapids in grand geyser-like fashion. Once you’ve admired the organic elements, step inside Wilhelmshöhe Palace to see how the architecture, art, and antiquities of the time blend seemlessly with the natural landscape.
The only place in the world with untouched lowland beech forests, the five ancient forests of Germany offer a prime example of post-glacial evolution. The beech trees were the original vegetation after the Ice Age and grow so densely it may have you feeling like you’re the protagonist in your very own adventure novel. Visit the National Park Kellerwald Edersee, for example, where 260-year-old trees bring the primeval forest to life.
A geological wonder with coastal wetland habitats that change as frequently as the tides, Wadden Sea encompasses 4,247 square miles. It is the largest unbroken ecosystem system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world. The area is teeming with migratory birds, seals and porpoises you can see by hiking or cycling. At low tide, you can experience the unique natural phenomenon of walking right out on the mud flats all the way to the islands off the coast.
The first English-style garden in mainland Europe, over 100 buildings, palaces, and museums make up the cultural compound known as Dessau-Wörlitz. A dreamy landscape you can explore by foot, bike, horseback, gondola, or ferry, it’s a charming town with a history dating back more than 1,000 years. Said to exemplify the philosophical principles of the Age of Enlightenment, be sure to visit Schloss Wörlitz, the house that established neo-classicism in Germany, Oranienbaum, a Dutch-inspired palace, Luisium, Princess Louise’s private retreat, the Georgium gardens, and the Rococo palace of Mosigkau.
Germany’s first Natural World Heritage Site, the Messel Pit has uncovered over 40,000 fossils that date between 57 million and 36 million years ago. Artifacts include over 1,000 species of ancient plants, birds, fish and animals, providing scientists with valuable insight into the evolution of mammals. You can take a guided tour of the shale quarry and see more than 30 complete skeletons recovered in the accompanying museum.