This is the stunning Pravčická Brana, with a span of 26.5 metres, it is the biggest natural arch in the whole of Europe. Just one of the good reasons to stop off and visit the Czech Switzerland region.
Many people will have seen part of the Czech Switzerland region while travelling on a train between Prague and Dresden. This is a view from the train on a snowy February day. Click on the image to see Hrensko, the main entrance to the Czech Switzerland region where you can find a range of hotels and restaurants as well as tourist information.
Here is the attractive tourist office in Hrensko. You can get all the maps you need, advice on accommodation and restaurants and, when I was there they were able to arrange a seriously overpriced taxi to Decin.
If you are looking for some cheap tat, then Hrensko is the place to come. Enterprising Vietnamese stallholders are waiting to part tourists from their money. When I was there, stalls outnumbered tourists by about ten to one.
What do you mean, there are too many stalls, and this ugly side of the free market economy is ruining the atmosphere of this otherwise attractive town? This could be your big chance to buy a flick knife, an Iron Maiden T shirt and some cheap cigarettes. Who could resist an offer like that?
Once through Hrensko and you are quickly onto a hiking trail, leading you into some very attractive countryside.
This is the Czech Switzerland National Park. I think the Czech National Park service does a great job, protecting the most beautiful parts of the Czech Republic, striking a balance between offering access and maintaining the natural beauty.
It is not far to the Pravcicka arch and the paths are well signposted. It was surprising how few tourists came up this far (okay, it was April. I can imagine in summer there are one or two more).
Yes, it is a bit of a climb, but the views from the top are definitely worth it. The restaurant you can see next to the arch is the Falcon’s Nest Chateau, was built in 1881. Upstairs there is a museum with information about the flora, fauna, folklore, architecture and geology.
Walking around the back of the restaurant to get a better view of the arch. You also get stunning views of the surrounding geology.
These huge standstone pillars have been eroded over thousands of years. I love the way the trees are able to grow, balanced precariously on a piece of bare rock.
While it clear that many people have walked across the top of the arch, access is now prohibited to protect this wonder of nature.
I love little touches like this. Who took the time to chisel out some steps in the sandstone?
A deep layer of pine needles will put a spring in your step. And the smell is fantastic.
Not the best photo of this wonderful panorama. A good excuse to go back and take some more photos.
I can’t imagine this scene has changed much in 10000 years. No hotels, no restaurants, just an expanse of forest and stunning geology. Breathtaking.
Weird geological formations appear as the sandstone is worn away.
From Hrensko, I walked along the river and across the border -no passport was required. This is the small village of Schmilka, the very first village on the German side of the Czech German border. No Vietnamese stalls here. Just a number of penzions catering for tourists visiting the area.
A hike up from Schmilka through lovely beech forest.
Here you can see an area where wild pigs have been foraging for food. You may be lucky enough to be able to try some Wildschwein in one of the restaurants in the area. In Czech it is known as ‘Divoca’.
A typical wooden house in Czech Switzerland.
So many stunning views you simply can’t take it all in. You could easily spend a week in this area, a few days cycling, a few days hiking, and still have not seen everything.
Just the occasional barrier to stop a tourist falling (or perhaps being blown) off the cliffs.
Practical information for the Czech Switzerland area
The best way to get to the area is by train. There are frequent trains from both Prague and Dresden. For timetables, look at the Czech or German rail websites.
This website lists 49 places to stay on the Czech side. Many of them are not too expensive and look very interesting places to stay. Personally I like the idea of staying in an old windmill.
This website lists 87 places to stay on the German side.
There are plenty of restaurants in Hrensko. The food is typically Czech and, fortunately, so close to the border, so are the prices. I couldn’t find a website describing them – something for my next visit.
On the German side, there are plenty of restaurants in Bad Schandau, though in the national park, you are limited to the very busy Grosser Winterberg, which also has reasonably priced rooms.
Here are 13 cycling trails in the region.
And 9 hiking trails.
It is always a good idea to have a map of the area. I use the KCT 1:50,000 maps, and, as always, they are great.
For information in English, German or Czech about the Czech-Saxon Switzerland
For information in German about the Sachsiche Schweiz
More of the Czech Republic?
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