Hiking in Germany is kinda a must do. Germans love their mountains, take great care of their trails and there’s an extensive network of them, too. One prime spot is the Vogtland in Germany’s state Saxony with its scenic Vogtland Panorama Trail.
It takes multiple days to conquer and the sights along the way offer record breaking bridges, rugged mountains in deep mountains and bubbling streams as well as fascinating museums, underground caves and picturesque cities.
Here’s an exemplary itinerary I tried out myself with details on where to go and what to see in the Vogtland, Germany.
**** This post was sponsored and paid for by the Saxony Tourism Board to introduce you to the Vogtland Panorama Trail. It also contains affiliate links. If you book anything from them, this doesn’t cost you anything but might give me a little commission to help keep this free blog full of more travel tips and me fuelled with chocolate to keep writing. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. ****
Quick Hiking Q&A
Where is Vogtland, Germany?
The region known as Vogtland spans three German states – Saxony, Thuringia and Bavaria – and Bohemia in the Czech Republic. The name is derived from the historical term of bailiff (German: “Vogt”) as they were very influential in the region, particularly in the towns of Weida, Gera, Plauen and Greiz.
How do I get to the Vogtland?
The main towns are serviced by local trains. You can get into Greiz for instance or take the train to Plauen or Bad Brambach to start your hikes.
While there are local buses operating between villages and along the country roads too, they aren’t operating too regularly. And after all, the Vogtland Panorama Trail in Saxony is made to be hiked, not bussed.
How long is the Vogtland Panorama Trail?
The Vogtland Panorama Trail (German: Vogtland Panorama Weg/VPW) is a circular walk that has a length of 225 km.
How difficult is the Vogtland Panorama Trail?
This hike has a range of difficulty levels, depending on what leg of the trail you are choosing. It’s possible to skip a few parts of the trip by taking trains and buses.
You can find mostly level walks past meadows, fields and through forests between Bad Brambach to Markneukirchen. And you can do a bit of mountain walking between Göltzschtal and Greiz for a medium difficulty.
What makes the Vogtland trail special?
Throughout its entirety, there are 280 changes of landscapes and 82 panorama views, which gave the German hiking trail its name.
How do I stay on track?
The trail is marked by signs. Look out for the white red/blue/yellow/green and white markings on trees by the trails. There are wooden signs at regular intervals and the white badge with the red VPW letters will also indicate the way.
Are there hotels along the way?
While it is a multi-day trek in Saxony, you are not in the middle of nowhere. The sections will near or go through towns and villages as well as past local attractions and sights in the Vogtland.
This means, you do have the options of staying in guest houses, hotels or on campsites. It’s a good idea to reserve your spot in advance especially during the summer months so you don’t have to go looking around too much when you must be already exhausted.
I included the places I stayed at in my Vogtland itinerary below.
What do I need to bring on my hike?
Absolutely essential are proper hiking clothes, including comfortable hiking boots. The terrain is uneven, sometimes rocky and, particularly when it is wet, you need a good grip.
Since you’ll be in nature, you need to bring enough water and snacks to keep your energy up. Remember to keep your trash on you and don’t discard it. Bringing an extra bag just for that is a good idea.
Also, have sunscreen, insect repellent and sunglasses ready to protect yourself. Mosquitoes near water bodies can be really annoying in summer. I wore my new insect repelling summer dress just for that. (The dress was sponsored.)
As always, don’t forget to take out travel insurance when you travel abroad. You never know when accidents might happen or you fall ill and need to seek medical help. Check out WorldNomads, which is made for adventurous travelers and includes over 150 travel activities.
Also, have maps on you so you won’t get lost. While trails are marked, you might still need to locate yourself or estimate further walking times. There’s a free Vogtland app with all the trail maps. (Get it on Google Play or itunes.)
Vogtland Panorama Weg Itinerary
I do love walks in nature but am not the fittest when it comes to proper hiking for the entirety of multiple days. (Plus, I take a ton of photos, which slows me down sooo much.)
Therefore, I didn’t hike the full length of the VPW in Saxony but only sections, but I got a pretty good idea of its beauty and what else there is to visit along the way. So here’s a VPW itinerary based on my experience and I can certainly recommend it.
Day 1: Bridges and Lakes
The first leg of the Vogtland hiking trail was about 21km! That’s about a 7-8 hour walk so you gotta start early. You can take the train to Reichenbach. You can buy a train ticket online or on the train.
At the train station, get a bus ticket at a machine. There aren’t many shops selling them in the region. Then take the bus from “Reichenbach (Vogtl), Bahnhof” to the stop „Mylau, Abzw Göltzschtalbrücke“. Check times here. A bus ticket is 1.60€ one way.
A taxi ride costs around 16€. Check prices here.
Before you start your hike, really take in the world’s largest brick bridge. It looks like a viaduct but was never used to transport water. Instead, it was constructed to connect the village across the valley via steam train all the way from Leipzig to Hof.
The bridge is 78m high, 574 m long and was completed in 1851, ten years after the project was officially decided upon. It is still used to this day and has been pretty much preserved in its original state.
The timeless design was the result of a huge competition among architectures, some of which suggested building prison cells into the arches. (That didn’t happen.)
When you’re done taking it all in, wander through the arches and into the forest, where you are headed towards the town of Greiz. The trails will meander through the woods and up mountainsides, which is a bit of a challenge but it’s all the more scenic.
If you have time, get up on the Köhlersteig to the top called Köhlerspitze, which is 345m above sea level. Up here, you have a grand view over the valley of Göltzschtal and the stone steps themselves surrounded by oddly shaped rocks are worth a picture too.
While the German word Köhler means “charcoal burner”, the name was actually derived from the philosopher Johann August Ernst Köhler who founded the local natural history club in 1859.
Elster Valley Bridge
It takes about two hours to get from the bridge to the south of Greiz. From here, you have a rather long stretch of walking ahead of you.
The trails will lead you down south to the world’s second largest brick bridge. The Elstertalbrücke (bridge over the Elster valley) was built together with the bridge over the Göltzschtal and therefore is also nicknamed the “Little Sister”.
In total, it is made up of 12 million bricks and is only 10m smaller in height. During WWII the Nazis tried to blow it up to stop Russia from using it but they only managed to blow up its centre, which was later reconstructed.
Walk the bridge at half its height; there is a small footpath with excellent views over the valley. Then trail onward past the town of Pöhl next to the river dam and lake known as Talsperre Pöhl.
The hike from the bridge to the lake is between 1 to 2 hours, depending on whether you include other VPW viewing points.
A very popular option are the camping grounds around the lake. Fancy a 4 star camping ground by the lake? Try the Gunzenberg camping, where you don’t even need your own campervan to stay.
I got to stay at one of the new ECLUs, which are small wooden pods big enough for two beds, a table and small cupboard. Perfect for glamping! They are a minute walk away from the lakeshore. Perfect for catching a sunrise and then falling into bed again!
If you still have energy, hop on a ferry around the lake, have fun at the nearby tree climbing trail or get the absolute best view at the Julius Mosen Tower or the Friedenshöhe.
If you prefer to space out your Vogtland hike more and seeing more of the surrounding countryside, towns and attractions, that’s of course possible. For instance, halfway between Greiz and Pöhl, you can stop in Elsterberg.
The little town is pretty and has a few restaurants in case you are really hungry. Also, it has its own castle ruin, Elsterberg Castle, which hosts a few exciting events throughout the year. Think medieval festivals with people all dressed up. Right now it’s undergoing renovations, so you can’t access most of it.
Day 2: Caves, Windmills and Baroque
Did you catch the sunrise over the water? Grab breakfast at the onsite campsite or a local bakery in town and then keep heading westward. From Pöhl, take the VPW trails towards Syrau. This part is about 11.1km and the highlight is right at its end.
The Drachenhöhle Syrau (Dragon Cave Syrau) is a beautiful quirk of nature. It was accidentally discovered when the rock ceiling was being mined and a hammer fell into a crack. What they found in the cave were multiple underground lakes and massive stalactites and stalagmites.
The cave is 16m below the surface and has a 350m long path that can be accessed with a tour guide. They leave regularly, so get your ticket at the museum entrance and wait for the next touring.
Between May and August, the tours are concluded with a short laser show projection onto the rocks above a cave lake. Wear a jacket as it is a constant 10°C down here and a tour takes about an hour.
How to get around
From the Syrau Cave it’s easy to get to the major district town Plauen in the southwest. The walk takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
It’s also possible to skip the cave and go straight to town in case you want to cut your hiking shorter due to weather, for instance. The stretch between Syrau and Plauen is mostly along roads and past residential houses, thus not as scenic as the other hikes before.
There’s an alternative including less walking. Get to the main road of Syrau and change get into the local tram number 143 at the stop “Syrau Wartehalle”.
Take the direction “Plauen Busbahnhof” as you will get straight to the main bus and train station of Plauen. Buy the ticket at the machine; it’s 1.60€.
Plauen itself is a charming town with beautifully preserved historic houses, museums and the most wonderful and hip river walk. From the train station it only takes 20 minutes to walk into the old centre. (That is, unless you take the tram. A ticket costs 1.60€.)
A museum I can highly recommend is the Vogtlandmuseum. The information texts are all in German but you get a really good insight into life as one of the rich folk in town over the past centuries. The houses are lavish and living quarters have been recreated.
There’s a special room that’s named after Napoleon Bonaparte since he spent the night in the huge double house on his way through Germany and had a little chat about the local state of affairs with the owners.
On top of the insights into lifestyles, you will also see the famous lace from Plauen (“Plauener Spitze”), which became a massive trend during German industrialization for decades. The lace was made by machines and new techniques to sew delicate patterns onto tulle.
Close by is a museum dedicated to the history of local lace production as well in case you want to learn and see more. It’s called Plauener Spitzenmuseum. From the museum, you are right by the main market place with the town hall.
Then, walk to the church of St John (Johanniskirche) and take the stone steps down to the stream Mühlgraben. Turn right and follow it past the beautiful cafes among pretty and colourfully decorated gardens, through an alley hung with vines and alongside a stretch of workshops and cafes.
This is a beautiful place to wind down and take some quiet time to reflect on your hike through Saxony in Germany so far. In case you need to get some shopping done before you continue, check out the mall Stadt-Galerie Plauen.
Where to Stay
To really indulge in a luxurious stay in Plauen, check into the Hotel Alexandra. It’s only a 10 minute walk away from the centre and 15 minutes from the train station on foot.
The rooms have beautiful Biedermeier-style furniture and the breakfast was served in a romantic vintage parlour with absolutely yummy cakes. There’s a spa and wellness area inhouse in case you want to relax or get pampered before the next day.
Day 3: Forest hikes and museums
How to get there
My favourite stretch of the Vogtland Panorama trail was my last day. It had a great mix between easy hiking through quaint landscapes and unique museums. To cut the Saxon trail hiking a bit shorter, I took the train from Plauen to Bad Brambach. You can get the ticket on the train. It’s 8,30€ one way.
From Bad Brambach, make you way into town and continue on the Panorama trail past the small church. This part of the hike will see you past corn fields and into the village of Landwüst.
Open Air Museum
Here lies the open air museum Landwüst (Freilichtmuseum Landwüst), which features various houses from all over the region. It started as a small museum in 1968 as part of local research and quickly became a passion project to preserve the heritage of farmers in the Vogtland region.
For centuries, local farmers pretty much lived in their own little bubble as they were too poor to keep up with the agricultural innovations of the times until industrialization struck. It was pretty much self contained.
Farmer families had to be self sufficient and skilled in various things, such as clothes making and carpentry. Lands around here weren’t super fertile and taxes high, so families had to sleep in the same room and poor farmers’ offspring could only work as servers for other farms.
In the museum you can glimpse how life was like up to 100 years ago. There are 2.5 hectares with over 12,000 tools and pieces of farming equipment and educational information boards. (Only in German.) In the museum shop, you can get a quick snack before continuing your walk, too.
The next leg of the trail includes wonderful forest walks. Moss covered forest floors around pine trees, open meadows with bubbling streams and mixed forests will await you. When you see a bench, really take a moment to rest and take it all in!
Musical Instrument History
After about two hours you will reach the small town of Markneukirchen. Before meandering down the hills into the centre, climb up the steps of the Bismarck Tower. It’s free to enter and you have a great 360°C view over your surroundings.
It’s only about 10 minutes to the Museum of Musical Instruments (Musikinstrumenten-Museum) from here and that one is a must in town. After all, Markneukirchen has had quite the international reputation or over 350 years as being a major high quality musical instrument producer.
The museum will guide you through over 100 instruments: some well known and other rather odd ones, local and foreign. Not for nothing does the area also carry the nickname Musicon Valley.
On three storeys, you see the intricate handiwork up close of violins, tubas and more. On the ground floor, you have a better look at the stages of instrument making and can have a small chat with a master maker.
How to get back
You can continue your hike along the Vogtland trail back to Göltzsch and Greiz. But if you want to end your adventure here like I did, take the taxi to Adorf. This takes around 6 minutes costs around 14€.
From Adorf, you can take the regional train back to Plauen. A taxi from Markneukirchen to Plauen costs at least 60€. That’s not cheap.
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