© Sabine Meisel

Experience water

There is a small but exclusive choice of water-related activities in Saxon Switzerland. Along the Elbe River there are several boat rentals and tour operators.

Rocky banks, green meadows, dense woods, behind them rugged rock faces and mighty table mountains. The 30 km long section of the Elbe River between Schmilka Village and the town of Pirna belongs to the most impressive parts of the entire course of this river.

A highlight of holidays in this area is enjoying this majestic scenery in a dinghy, canoe or on a boat.

Traditional: Exploring the Elbe River on a steam ship or motor boat

Sächsische Dampfschifffahrt Kurort Rathen© Achim Meurer

A boat ride on one of the historic paddle wheel steamers is the classical way to experience the Elbe River and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. As early as 1837, a steam ship left Dresden for Rathen in Saxon Switzerland for the first time. This tour still today is one of the highlights of the Saxon Steam Ship Company’s summer timetable. This company operates the world’s oldest and biggest paddle wheel steamer fleet, combining great landscape and historic technology on one trip.

Sächsische Dampfschifffahrt

Relaxed day trips through Saxon Switzerland with on-board catering are also offered by the passenger boat company Personenschiffahrt Oberelbe with the MS "Sächsische Schweiz", built in 1979, and MS "Bastei", built in 1983. From the beginning of May to the end of October, there is a daily scheduled trip from Tuesday to Saturday from Pirna to Hřensko (Herrnskretschen) and back.

Passenger Boat Rides on the Upper Elbe (Personenschiffahrt Oberelbe)

Close to Nature: Paddling and Canoeing on the Elbe River

Paddeln auf der Elbe bei Königstein© Yvonne Brückner

A feeling of freedom and adventure and an intense natural experience - this is what awaits active canoe or dinghy expeditions. Paddlers nowadays can enjoy an intact eco-system along the Elbe including fish, ducks, wild geese, gulls and grey herons. Sometimes even a beaver or a kingfisher can be spotted. It is hard to imagine that this river about 30 years ago was one of Europe’s most polluted water bodies. The current speed of the Elbe River is about 3 km per hour. Downstream canoeists can reach about 4 – 5 km per hour when paddling actively. Along the route there are many occasions for picnics in green meadows. In addition, cafés and beer gardens offer their services in the communities. Therefore the day stages should not be planned too ambitiously. Local boat rental specialists provide kayak and Canadian canoes or inflatables as well as life jackets and waterproof pack sacks. The boat transfer is usually included in the rental fee for the standard routes in the area. Extensions are possible.

Kanu Aktiv Tours
Elbe Adventure

Boating through Mystical Gorges: Obere Schleuse Dam Lake in Hinterhermsdorf Village

Obere Schleuse Bootsfahrt Kirnitzschklamm© V. Sojka

The shady gorges and ravines of Saxon Switzerland, those moss green realms of eternal twilight, they are full of secrets. The most mysterious among all Saxon Switzerland gorges might be Kirnitzschklamm Gorge near Hinterhermsdorf Village, which is accessible by punt starting from the hiking destination Obere Schleuse Dam Lake.  Steep and tall rock faces rise left and right. The imagination is inspired at the sight of strange moss and lichen covered rock formations and trees clinging to the rocks with their roots. The boating season on Obere Schleuse Dam Lake is from Easter to the end of October.

Obere Schleuse


Rowing on Lake Amselsee in Rathen

Amselsee Kurort Rathen Bootsverleih© Achim Meurer

Lake Amselsee in Kurort Rathen can be explored by rowing boat or pedalo. The lake was created in 1934 when Grünbach Brook was dammed. Schedule about 20 minutes for a relaxed boat ride on Lake Amselsee. The boat rental station is open from April to October.


Water Taxi: Saxon Switzerland Hiker Boat

Wanderschiff Sächsische Schweiz© RVSOE GmbH

The hiker boat runs on a 10 km section of the Elbe River. Each pier is at an attractive starting point for hiking tours. The boat commutes up to four times daily from Bad Schandau to Hřensko (Herrnskretschen) and back via the villages of Krippen/Postelwitz and Schmilka.

Wanderschiff Sächsische Schweiz – Saxon Switzerland Hiker Boat

Let’s call the ferryman: Ferries in Saxon Switzerland

Fähre Stadt Wehlen Elbe© Florian Tyrowski

The Elbe River meanders through its valley in Saxon Switzerland and separates the region in the left bank and the right bank area. To access and explore both the two sides there is a total of 10 ferries linking the riverside places while providing a moment of tranquility on the water. This change of perspective is definitely worthwhile. Tip: All ferries (except the one in Kurort Rathen) can be used free of charge with the  Gästekarte mobil (Mobility Guest Pass).

Overview of ferries in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains

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