On the way in the Upper Lusatian Highlands – Zittau Mountains

On the way in the Upper Lusatian Highlands – Zittau Mountains

Travel region in the east – saxonian border triangle

Almost a little bit hidden behind the attractive Elbe valley, the glamorous city of Dresden and the bizarre Saxon Switzerland there is a region that still lacks a little attention – the Upper Lusatia. And quite wrongly so. Because this region can certainly boast some beauty and special features. The Upper Lusatian Highlands (Oberlausitzer Bergland), including the Zittau Mountains, dominate the landscape, while culturally it is above all textile technology in the changing times. From the famous Silesian weavers to the industrial culture of the textile industry, which only largely disappeared with the end of the GDR, the production of textiles has had a significant influence on the culture of Lusatia. A typical feature of this epoch are the so-called Umgebindehäuser (very special half-timbered houses), which can be found in every village and town in Upper Lusatia.

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Table of content in Upper Lusatian and Zittau Mountains

Themed trails make the Lusatian Mountains exciting

My concrete approach to explore this region was to hike on the Upper Lusatian mountain trail. On the way along this path I got to know the places and landscapes of the mountain region. In the process, I noticed other interesting theme trails, some of which were laid out as circular routes on mountain peaks, and others as additional route hiking trails. It was the practise test with my new backpack Abisko hike 35.

Around Sohland at the river Spree there are a number of stone „sculptures“ from the stone age, which possibly document a form of early astronomy. In any case, about 18 of these stone arrangements have been astro-geographically investigated and interesting star geometries have been found, which are mainly related to the solstice data. The stone sculptures now bear such names as „Thor’s hammer“, „Stone Age cinema“, „dwarf pyramid“, „Odin’s index finger“ … and can be visited.

Sohland a.d.Spree / Upper Lusatian Highlands : Stone Age Cinema
stone age cinema in Sohland at the river Spree

Around the Kottmar there is a „legend hiking trail“. Because ten different stories are told about Kottmar and its forest slopes. You can hike and experience these stories on the spot.

And in the health resort of Jonsdorf, the Jonsdorf Fairy Tale Trail invites you to discover them.

You will inevitably come into contact with various other paths on the Upper Lusatian mountain trail. So there is not only the mountain path but also the Lusatian hiking shoe or routes for the mountain bikers, the Lusatian Umgebindehäuser cycle path or in the mountains near Oybin there are various ski hiking paths.

Two scenery characters in one

The mountains of Upper Lusatia offer you, so to speak, two types of landscape with a smooth transition. The highlands are characterised by wide mountainous areas, where several mostly wooded peaks protrude from the hilly area otherwise criss-crossed by open country. Most slopes are used for agriculture, it is partly grassland, in some places arable land dominates. Accordingly the view changes in the course of the seasons. In the long notch valleys, small mountain streams flow, along which many of the towns and villages run.

Mountains of the Upper Lusatian Highlands

From the Kottmar hill with the highest source point over Sohland on the Spree in the direction of Bautzen is the spring area of the Spree. It is interesting to note that a watershed runs through the Lusatian highlands – a part of it drains towards the North Sea, especially in the western part, while from the eastern highlands it flows towards the Baltic Sea. Examples are the Spree, which joins the Havel in Brandenburg and then flows into the Elbe – a well-known estuary into the North Sea. In contrast, the Neiße with tributaries from the Zittau Mountains – this flows into the Oder and therefore into the Baltic Sea.

Upper Lusatian Highlands Kottmar - View from Bieleboh summit
view over Beiersdorf to mount Kottmar

Zittau Mountains

And with that the mountain range with the special second character was already mentioned – the Zittauer Gebirge is part of the highlands, but a typical ridge mountain range with a high density of peaks and a rather mountainous view. Narrow valleys, steeper slopes, high peaks, rock formations, partly deep river valley incisions and plateaus characterize this partial landscape.

This makes this mountain range more „spectacular“ and consequently more accessible for tourists. But both parts have their own charm, it only depends on what you have in mind and what is interesting for you. For a better differentiation I will speak for the more northern areas of highlands and for the mountains of Zittauer Gebirge.

The Upper Lusatian Mountain trail

This mountain landscape stretches south of the A4 motorway from approximately Bischofswerda and Bautzen basically as far as Görlitz an der Neiße, although it flattens out somewhat in the east or shifts more to the south.

Valtenberg – western starting point for the Upper Lusatian mountain trail

The already mentioned Upper Lusatian mountain trail begins at Neukirch/Lusatia with the Valtenberg. There are two stations for the train journey. The train station Neukirch in der Lausitz (East) is located in the middle of the village (approx. 5km to the Valtenberg – summit). Here a good supply is possible before a hiking tour. Practically already in the destination area the stop Neukirch i.d.Lausitz (West) is a good choice. From there it is only about 2km to the Valtenberg. This is located in the middle of the Hohwald, a relatively large forest area (30km²) and with a height of 586 m offers a good view over the region – when the tower is open.

tower on the Valtenberg  summit Upper Lusatian Highlands
Valtenberg tower and inn building

Source of the Wesenitz

Otherwise, the Hohwald forest is especially interesting for nature lovers. With the Wesenitz spring south-east of the summit and other springs, there are a number of marshy areas where typical moorland plants such as sundew, arnica, cotton grass … can be found. The main source of the Wesenitz springs from an old so-called „Mundloch“, a horizontal tunnel running into the mountain, the „Goldbergstollen“. Our hiking trail leads directly past it. The animal world in the Hohwald is also varied, even the black stork breeds. The forest is partly spruce forest, partly beech mixed forest with beginning natural regeneration. Unfortunately, as in the entire region, severe forest damage and dying trees due to storm blows and bark beetle infestation can be observed in the spruce stands in particular – in all areas, extensive forestry interventions are taking place to combat damage.

Wesenitz Spring in Upper Lusatian Mountains
Source of the Wesenitz in the mouth hole of the Goldberg tunnel

Especially around the Valtenberg there are numerous mountain bikers active, who probably have a base in Neukirch/ Lusatia. On the top of the mountain there is a lookout tower („König-Johann-Turm“) with a mine, a „monster scooter“ – rental station as well as a charging station for Pedelec – electric bikes. However, everybody has to bring his own charger, because only the 220V- connections are accessible. The slope in the direction of Neukirch/Valtenhäuser is downhill, there is a ski lift. Whether this system is still operational, must be inquired for the next winter, since the snow quantities in the last years for winter sports activities at the Valtenberg were probably hardly sufficient. During my visit, the installation was disturbed by wind breakage.

If you still need bike parts or if you want to buy a mountain bike or pedelec on site – there are at least 2 good shops in Neukirch in the Lausitz for this assortment.

Stone Age astronomy in Sohland on the Spree

The Upper Lusatian mountain trail leads via the weaver’s village of Wehrsdorf on to Sohland on the Spree (there is still Sohland at the Rotstein). Here, in a project called „Hand of the Gods„, various rock and stone formations were examined for the possibility of calendar-astronomical observations of the sun. This resulted in an overview of the „Sun Shrines in Upper Lusatia“ – a collection of archaeo-astronomical sites that may actually have been used in prehistoric times to study star positions and solar constellations. A brochure in german on this subject is available as a .pdf file (3.8MB) at the address of the „Hunters of Light„. (Right click on the link and select „Save target as… „).

The „Frühlingsstein“ (spring stone) on the Frühlingsberg for example allows the observation of the sun through a sighting channel during the solstice days. Or the „Stone Age Cinema“ – This consists of a rock formation which forms a small grotto. On one of the side walls the head of a „star observer“ is engraved. At midday on the winter solstice the ray of light from the sun hits the back of the stargazer’s head through an opening in the cave. A few metres from the Stone Age cinema is the „Great Sacrificial Pool“, on the edge of which, at equinox, the bearing of the sun can be observed over the roof of the cinema grotto.

Upper Lusatia: Stone Age sacrificial basin
Sacrificial pool

Also near the quarries near Wehrsdorf and other places you can find such interesting astro stones. Especially interesting among them is „Thor’s Anvil“ near Neusalza-Spremberg, which has several sounding holes in the dimensions of a megalithic tomb with cave. The sun observation scheme corresponds to that of the „Sky Disk of Nebra“ and allows to project all seasonal solar events at sunrise and sunset.

Other interesting places in Sohland are a museum of local history in the Old Weaver’s House, the Upper Lusatian Forest Museum and a forest stage near the village of Ellersdorf.

Panoramic view from Bieleboh

From the valley of the Spree the mountain path leads via Ellersdorf and Picka through wooded areas to the top of the Bieleboh mountain (499m). A first lookout tower was already built in 1882. This fell victim to a lightning strike in 1910. A new tower was built with great effort of the operating association. Since an extension and renovation in 1997, the tower is now 18m high and allows a wide view of the surroundings, in good weather even up to the Schneekoppe in the Krkonoše Mountains (CZ). Especially spring presents a hilly landscape with young green of the deciduous trees in the mixed forest hilltops, yellow-blossoming rape fields and white stripes of blackthorn hedges along the field paths.

The Bieleboh association (after refoundation in 1992) still exists today, which is dedicated to the care of the dialect, among other things. Especially for this purpose an open-air stage was built in 2001.

 Bieleboh summit  on the upper lusatian mountain trail Upper Lusatian Highlands
Summit of Bieleboh Mount

Next to the tower there is a massive well-run mine for visitors, which also offers overnight accommodation.

Thor’s anvil and rider house in Neusalza-Spremberg

Via Beiersdorf you get to Neusalza-Spremberg. Here you will find the above mentioned „Thor’s Anvil„, also called „Stone Sky Disk“ because of its similarity to the one of Nebra. If „Güttlers Büschel“ appears at the same place on your GPS device or the hiking map, you are in the right place! This is the naturalised name of the locals. In Neusalza-Spremberg it is also worth visiting the Reiterhaus (riders house). This is an old half-timbered house originally from 1670, which today houses a museum about the half-timbered architecture and changing exhibitions. Bicycle rental and service around the bike on site is offered by the company „Radland„, very closed to the Reiterhaus.

Spree river spring and mountain legends on Kottmar

On the Eichbergweg you leave Neusalza-Spremberg on the Oberlausitzer Bergweg and head for the next highlight with the Kottmar (583m). There, too, various paths invite you to hikes. Most interesting, especially for families with children, is the Sagenweg (Legend Trail) around the summit. Around the slopes of Kottmar there are about 10 stories and legends that can be explored on the Sagenrundweg. The starting point is actually the Kottmarhäuser car park on the eastern slope of the mountain, and then the trail goes clockwise around the mountain plateau. But it should be no problem to enter the Legend Trail from the other access points and follow the stories.

Below the Kottmar summit, on the south-western slope, is the highest source of the river Spree. Since 1921 it has been enclosed and at the same time the Lusatia Association has erected a war memorial for the victims of the First World War. On its further course into Prussian, should the Spree carry with it the message that wars bring endless suffering to the country?

Upper Lusatian Mountains: river Spree spring - highest spring of Spree river
Spree River spring Kottmar

Two further springs of the Spree river are situated slightly off the Oberlausitzer Bergweg (mountain trail) in Ebersbach- Neugersdorf: the most water-rich spring of the Spree at the public spa „Volksbad“ in Neugersdorf and the „most beautiful“ spring in a cast-iron pavilion on the Spreeborn in Ebersbach. This twin town is worth a visit off the mountain trail anyway – perhaps even on the journey there or on the return journey?

There is also an lookout tower on Kottmar, built by the mountain association Lusatia in 1881. Next to it, several buildings bear witness to the many visitors to the mountain inn in former times. Unfortunately, everything is currently in a state of disrepair, with barred doors and broken windows being the current picture on Kottmar. Without the tower, the view through the forest is also very limited. If you are hungry and looking for gastronomy, you will find it in the surrounding villages. In Eibau those thirsty for beer can enjoy the Eibauer Schwarzbier. The headquarters of the tourist information centre „Spreequelland“ (Hauptstr. 214a) is also located on the Faktorenhof. In this „Homeland and Humboldt Museum“ you can get to know the work of the Oberlausitzer Faktoren (the cloth merchants) and with the farm itself a „pearl of the Upper Lusatian Baroque“.

The peak of Kottmar is a larger plateau, where you can still find a ski jump and several radio towers. In addition to hiking trails, there are also mountain bike paths and paved roads on the mountain. In the region, the 400 km long Spree cycle path begins as a supra-regional cycle path. The company Radsport Oberlausitz in Eibau offers the right service for new bikes, spare parts and repairs, bike accessories and, if necessary, bike rental.

My personal tip: Textile village Großschönau

While the main direction of travel was previously south-east, the Upper Lusatian mountain trail turns off clearly to the south behind Eibau and Oderwitz. The route continues mainly along agricultural roads and small side roads between fields and through wooded areas. After Spitzkunnersdorf follows the White Stone (Karasek Cave) and the Hutberg. From here you have a panoramic view over the ridge of the Zittau mountains and the following villages Großschönau and Waltersdorf.

Großschönau -  Upper Lusatian Highlands
Großschönau – Waentigs Institute in a typical Umgebinde – House
Symbol Persönlicher Tip

Here you can find my personal favourite among the places along the Bergweg – Großschönau. The old centre of the village follows the course of the Mandau river and meanders idyllically in a narrow valley with numerous beautiful Upper Lusatian Umgebinde houses along the river arms. Großschönau is a textile village and offers you a „textile path“ with 29 objects from the history of textiles.

As soon as you come down from the Hutberg into the village, you will find the „Waentigsche Institut“ on the left hand side. A large garden property with a manor house, which has had an eventful history from 1549 onwards as a weaving mill and a secondary school. The highlight of the discoveries on the textile path is certainly the Damask and Terry Museum.

Großschönau is symbolic of the development of textiles in Lusatia. The many Umgebinde houses bear witness to the weaving mills. For the technology of fabric production by means of looms has determined the architecture. The Upper Lusatian half-timbered house „Umgebindehaus“ is in a way the union of the weaving room with the loom in a statically separated residential building. By placing the upper floor above the loom on a separate truss, the master builders of past centuries prevented the vibrations of the loom from being transmitted to the whole building. Today the Upper Lusatian half-timbered houses are lovingly restored houses in many places which fit beautifully into the Lusatian landscape. And a particularly attractive collection of them can be found in Großschönau.

Upper Lusatia: Großschönau - Damasc and Terry museum at the Mandau river
Großschönau – Damasc and Terrymuseum

At the same time the transition to industrial production can be seen in this place and on the textile path. With Damino GmbH and Frottina Textil GmbH, two production companies are still active in this sector, which elsewhere have long since fallen victim to the globalised division of the economy.

So if you only want to visit a part of the Upper Lusatian region, don’t miss Großschönau on the tour plan!

The Zittau Mountains

From the valley into the mountains – to Waltersdorf

If you strictly follow the course of the Upper Lusatian mountain trail, then you will reach the Czech border via Neuschönau and step by step the ridge of the Zittau Mountains. Weberberg and Lausche (793m) are closely nestled into the border. The next official place to stay on the trail is Waltersdorf – which belongs to Großschönau and is „circled“ on the hiking trails.

 Zittau Mountains - Waltersdorf with coffee station an nature park center
Museum Waltersdorf in a typical Umgebinde house

In Waltersdorf you will find, besides other very well restored Upper Lusatian half-timbered houses, above all a nature park house for the Zittauer Gebirge nature park (with exhibition, nature garden, events). You can also enjoy yourself in the coffee roasting house. The small village also has a folklore and mill museum to offer.

In front of the nature park house, pedelec riders reach an electricity filling station. Hiking – and winter sports possibilities are the big pound of the small village, which lies downhill in a notched valley along the stream. As tourism is the main economic branch, there are a lot of good accommodations.

Through the health resort Jonsdorf to the health resort Oybin

The penultimate stage of the mountain trail leads right through the Zittau Mountains. The well-known health resorts of Jonsdorf and Oybin are particularly affected here. At the edge of Jonsdorf the path leads over the Nuns‘ Rock (Nonnenfelsen), which offers a wonderful view over the village and out into the Zittau region as well as a mountain restaurant. Already in the Nonnenfelsen several fixed rope routes can be found, which can be conquered with appropriate equipment.

If you come down from the rock, the valley opens up to the Jonsdorf gondola ride. This is an excursion restaurant with a gondola pond. Looking back from the nuns‘ meadow, you might be able to guess which of the stones represent the nuns. According to the legend, two nuns should have enjoyed themselves in the garden and then attracted a few young men outside the convent walls. They were caught by the old abbess throwing themselves into the arms of the men. She then pronounced a spell and the two nuns froze to stone.

Kurort Jonsdorf  (spa town) - Nonnenstein (nun stone) in Zittau mountains
Kurort Jonsdorf – View from the Nonnenstein

From the gondola ride, hiking trails lead through the „Jonsdorf“ rock town. In this area the legendary figures of the fairy tale path come to life. The Upper Lusatian mountain trail still leads via the Alte Leipaer Road and Kammloch to Oybin.

This health resort is mainly characterised by the mountain Oybin with its monastery, castle ruins and mountain church.

Spa town Oybin Monastery castle
Monastery castle health resort Oybin

In the surrounding area, however, there are more attractive climbing rocks. A well-known rock formation is the Kelchstein on the road to Lückendorf. This “ mushroom head “ like its neighbour, the Kelchsteinwächter, are striking landscape figures and climbing rocks.

Descent into the valley of the Neiße – from Oybin to Zittau

From Oybin to Zittau is the last stage of the Upper Lusatian mountain trail. Here it goes over the Scharfenstein and Mount Oybin downhill to Hartau. The border triangle is then already in the Neisse valley, where Saxony meets the Czech Republic and Poland. At the end (or the beginning?) of the path is Zittau.

Oberlausitz Zittau market place and townhall (upper lusatia)
Zittau – Market and Town hall

In Zittau you will find a larger lively city with a university, theater and a beautiful preserved city center. Cyclists can continue the tour on the Neiße cycle path in a northerly direction towards the Oder.

On the mountain trail – from northwest to southeast or the other way around?

This question is above all one about the „dramaturgy“ of the hike. The official recommendation makes the 107 km Upper Lusatian mountain trail a tour in 6 stages, i.e. at least 6 hiking days. If you want to walk the full distance, it is indeed recommended to start at Valtenberg and go to Zittau. Quite simply because the impressions become more and more intense and varied. So the way remains exciting. In the other direction, the route behind the Zittau Mountains and Großschönau stretches ever longer over hilly country, through forests and agricultural landscapes. In addition, there are inevitable sections on developed forest roads and even asphalt roads, which is also rather tiring and physically very stressful.

If you have less time, the part from Zittau through the Zittau Mountains to Großschönau is most impressive. However, most of the altitude difference has to be overcome.

Paths – Sections of the Upper Lusatian mountain trail

  • Neukirch i.d. Lausitz / Valtenberg – Steinigtwolmsdorf – Wehrsdorf – Sohland 21km
  • Sohland – Ellersdorf – Picka – Bieleboh – Beiersdorf 11km
  • Beiersdorf – Neusalza-Spremberg – Eichbergweg – Kottmar – Eibau 23km
  • Eibau – Oderwitz – Spitzkunnersdorf – Großschönau – Lausche – Waltersdorf 25km
  • Waltersdorf – Nonnenfelsen – Jonsdorf – Ulmensteigweg – Kammloch – Oybin 11km
  • Oybin – Lückendorf – Berg Oybin – Teufelsmühle – Eichgraben – Dreiländereck – Zittau 16km

Using the train – partial sections of the mountain trail are also possible

A very good thing is that on most of the sections the train „accompanies“ you. The line from Dresden to Zittau is regularly used by motor coach trains. So it would be possible to travel a section by train instead of walking – especially if the weather is not so good. Only from Großschönau the mountain path leads away from the train and then meets the railroad again in Zittau. But there are other alternatives. Besides the bus service, these are especially the Zittau narrow-gauge railway to Jonsdorf and Oyin.

Hiking without luggage on the Upper Lusatian mountain trail

For hiking enthusiasts who want to hike as carefree as possible, there is the offer of hiking without luggage. This will be brought to the next accommodation by transfer service. The service around the mountain trail is organized by the Tourism Center Naturpark Zittauer Gebirge.

However, you are then bound to the intended intermediate stops. Or you have to inquire how flexible this service is handled.

Upper Lusatia: Weißer Berg (white hill) - Karasekhöhle (Karasek cave)
White stone (Karasekcave)

By the way, the Upper Lusatian mountain trail is part of several other long-distance hiking trails. For example, the East German mountain trail Zittau – Wernigerode, i.e. from the easternmost to one of the westernmost mountain regions of East Germany. Or completely from east to west: Görlitz – Aachen.

Attractive region for different target groups

Upper Lusatia as an eldorado for railway friends

Even if you are not a long distance hiker, this region has a lot to offer. Railway fans will find the still relatively well used standard gauge development around Zittau, which leads in sections through Czech (Varnsdorf) or Polish territory (line to Görlitz near Ostritz). Also the railway connection to the Czech Hradec nad Nisou and Liberec from Zittau runs for the first time several kilometres through Polish territory. Between Sohland on the Spree and Neusalza – Spremberg, a small section of the line (without stops) also runs through the Czech Republic.

Spa town Oybin - narrow gauge railway station
Narrow-gauge railway station in the health resort Oybin

Of course, the steam locomotives and steam trains of the (750mm) narrow-gauge railway from Zittau to Jonsdorf or Oybin are interesting for young and old, for railway fans and nostalgics. In Oybin there is even a small theatre in a wagon of the narrow gauge railway.

Popular with bicycle travellers and mountain bike fans

I mentioned mountain biking several times. There is an active scene in Upper Lusatia, now even cross-border German – Czech – Polish. Mountain bike trails are partly specially developed and marked. In view of the relatively long distances over forest roads and asphalt tracks, which are very strenuous for the foot and leg joints, I have considered several times whether this mountain path is not more suitable as a bicycle connection. Especially in the first part Neukirch in the Lausitz to Großschönau. For me the bicycle would be an alternative there in any case.

As mentioned above, Upper Lusatia is the starting point for several long-distance cycle routes. One of these is the Neiße Cycle Path, which then continues as the Oder Cycle Path to the Oderhaff and the Baltic Sea. The Spree Cycle Path along the Spree in Saxony and Brandenburg is also worth a recommendation, especially as it also includes local circular routes such as the „Froschradweg“ (frog cycleway) and the „Gurkenradweg“ (Cucumber cycleway).

e - Pedelec-filing station at the nature park center Waltersdorf in the Zittau mountains
Pedelec filling station

I have already mentioned some electric filling stations for electric bicycles „Pedelec“ on the Valtenberg and in Waltersdorf. In Neusalza-Spremberg there is another eBike – charging station on the Obermarkt and on the B96 opposite the bike rental and shop „Radland„. Another regional bicycle rental company is „Radsport Oberlausitz“ in Eibau. The Tourist Information Spreequell-Land also offers e-bike charging stations at its locations in Faktorenhof Eibau and Haus des Gastes Obercunnersdorf.

At the Obermarkt in Neusalza-Spremberg, at the gondola ride Jonsdorf as well as in Zittau at the car park on Baderstraße you will find electric charging stations for electric cars. There are certainly other possibilities, which I just didn’t notice. (See also „Arrival by car“) In any case, the region is not unprepared in terms of electric mobility.

Climbing summits not entirely without

Zittau Mountains certainly have some climbing peaks in store. The Nun’s Rock has already been mentioned, the rock town Jonsdorf is another destination or the Kelchstein (chalice stone) near Oybin and other stones in the Weißbachtal and in the Winterlöcher.

These climbing area is not as large and less spectacular as Saxon Switzerland, but the area doesn’t have to hide either. For climbing you need the appropriate equipment.

The Upper Lusatian Highlands as a winter sports region

In recent years, the winters were usually too warm, so that winter sports were hardly possible in the low mountain range. But traditionally the Upper Lusatian Highlands is also a winter sports region. Some of the GDR (east german) winter sports aces come from here and made their first training experiences in the Upper Lusatia.

Skijump Sohland Upper Lusatian Mountains
Ski jumping facility in Sohland on the Spree

On almost all mountain slopes there are ski and toboggan slopes. Some of them are equipped with ski-lift facilities. (e.g. Valtenberg an den Valtenhäusern, Waltersdorf am Butterberg, Hain – a district of Jonsdorf bei Waltersdorf and in Lückendorf) Some cross-country ski trails are also prepared, several ski circuits and ski hiking trails are advertised (Valtenberg, several trails near Jonsdorf e.g. via Alte Leipaer Straße, Jonsberg-Slope, Plissenberg-Slope, as well as near Lückendorf, ski hiking trail „Zittauer Gebirge“) There are also several ski jumps, e.g. in Sohland – Tännicht, on the Kottmar and near Oybin over the road to Jonsdorf. At least in Sohland there is also jumping on mats.

If you like summer tobogganing – there is a facility for it near Oderwitz (south) below Spitzberg.

Other interesting details in Upper Lusatia

In many places, Upper Lusatian half-timbered houses are the typical architectural feature. They are often lovingly restored and give the mountainous area with its villages nestling on mountain slopes its own charm. Those who are particularly interested in this should use the „Umgebindehäuser – cycle way“ as a ‚route‘. From the time of the transition from house weaving to the textile industry, however, some striking buildings of industrial architecture have been preserved which, in contrast to today’s production halls, are quite impressive. I have already mentioned Großschönau, but the WEFA industrial site in Spitzkunnersdorf is also interesting.

Upper Lusatian mountains - Wehrsdorf half-timbered house)
Wehrsdorf Umgebindehaus (half-timbered house)

Friends of the Middle Ages will find the ruins of Karlsfried Castle on the road from Lückendorf (Czech border) to Zittau via Eichgraben. This was built in the middle of the 14th century to protect the trade route from Prague to Zittau. Unfortunately the Zittau people used the ruined castle as a „quarry“ to build their own houses, especially in the 18th century. Thus, only foundation walls and tower remains can still be found, which are enthroned on a rock above the road.

Castle ruin  Karlsfried in the Zittau mountains
Castle ruin Karlsfried

There are also windmills on some mountains in the region. In Oderwitz there are two restored trestle windmills on the slopes above the village.

For bathing there is the opportunity in the mountain bath Jonsdorf, which is fed with fresh mountain water (but heated with solar energy). The Trixi holiday park near Groß Schönau has outdoor and indoor pools and wellness facilities.

In Groß Schönau a climbing forest awaits all those who find rocks too boring to climb.

A butterfly house can also be visited in Jonsdorf.

If you want to rent an e-bike, you will find it in Neukirch/ Lausitz at Georgenbadstr. 28.

Trail runners can make a note of 22 August 2020 – then (subject to the current restrictions due to Corona) the 2nd Upper Lusatia Trail will take place.

Travel – Tips Upper Lusatian mountain trail/ Zittau Mountains

Current weather and best travel time

The weather situation in Upper Lusatia essentially corresponds to the general weather situation in Central Germany.

For „small escapes“, the region can be interesting all year round, if you choose suitable fair weather periods (or bring suitable clothing). Even autumn has its charm with its colourful deciduous forests or fog banks in the valleys. Then especially the south of the region in the Zittau Mountains is still attractive for autumnal hikes. In contrast, the highlands seem more monotonous because of the many agricultural areas that lie fallow at the end of October and during the winter.

The weather in Zittau

Otherwise, the whole region becomes more attractive from March/April, when the days become longer, the sun shines and the deciduous trees and hedges are decorated with fresh greenery. Summer offers a varied local climate, especially in the Zittau Mountains, with the alternation of hot sunny plateaus and shady forests and cool mountain valleys.

If the winters are colder and snow falls, then the whole region offers a variety of winter sports – possibilities. This makes the places interesting for spontaneous short trips for ski and toboggan enthusiasts.

Arrival in Upper Lusatia

By train

The entire region is well served by regional railways*. Bicycles can be carried on the trains depending on the traffic volume, the railcars – trains all have bicycle parking spaces. However, it is possible that the number of spaces is not sufficient during peak times. Because from Zittau, in addition to the regional cycle routes, the popular Neisse cycle path also begins, which merges into the Oder cycle path at the mouth of the Neisse and leads to the Baltic Sea on Usedom.

The most important routes are Dresden – Bischofswerda – Görlitz and Görlitz – Zittau. From Bischofswerda, a section branches off directly to Zittau, which runs further south and includes Neukirch/Lusatia, Sohland, Neusalza-Spremberg, Ebersbach-Neugersdorf, Eibau and Oderwitz – in other words, the largest northern section of the Upper Lusatian mountain trail.

However, the region is no longer included in the long-distance railway*. The journey by IC or ICE is possible by changing trains in Dresden. From the north, Cottbus is the last IC station with the possibility to change trains (direction Görlitz – Zittau).

narrow gauge railway station Kurort Jonsdorf (Spa town) in the Zittau mountains
Narrow Gauge railway Station Kurort Jonsdorf

And there is another shortcoming: In Saxony there are 5 different transport associations with different operators of regional railway lines. Unfortunately, it is precisely this peripheral region of eastern Saxony that is affected by one of the absurd regulations in the tariff jungle: If you travel twice in a row on sections of line with a small railway company, you will no longer get a continuous long-distance train ticket. So it is very likely that you can’t buy a ticket for Zittau at a DB-ticketmachine or on the internet. Gone are the distance discount and the BahnCard reduction! You will have to buy one of the overpriced alliance tickets on site. Small states in the 21st century. Alternatively, you can buy the (3-)Ländertickets Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia – Ticket, which then allow you to travel with regional trains from Magdeburg (Saxony-Anhalt) or Eisenach (Thuringia).

From Zittau the steam-driven narrow-gauge railway runs to the health resorts Jonsdorf and Oybin. This is an attraction in itself and makes the hearts of children and railway friends beat faster.

You can download here the 2021 time tabel of the Zittau railway in .pdf format.

With the long-distance bus

The journey to the Upper Lusatia is also possible with the long-distance bus at least as far as Görlitz. Especially Flixbus* serves the route xx- Dresden – Görlitz – Wroclaw (Breslau) – xx several times a day. Partly by bus only from Dresden to Wroclaw, partly with continuous lines across Germany via Dresden to Wroclaw and from there to other Polish cities. From Görlitz there are railcar – trains to Zittau. Tips for comfortable traveling with the long distance bus you can find here.

With your own car or a rental car, electric fuel stations

You can get a rental car* in the Dresden city centre or at Dresden Airport.

With your own car or a camper van* you can always use Dresden as your first point of orientation. Even from the north, it is better to take the A13 to the Dresden-Nord junction first. From there the A4 eastwards towards Görlitz is the best choice for all travellers. For the Upper Lusatian mountain trail it is best to leave the A4 at the Burkau exit. Via Bischofswerda it goes then to Neukirch/ Lausitz. As an alternative to the motorway, the legendary B6 is available with a turn-off in Bischofswerda to the B 98. If you don’t want to take the mountain trail in Neukirch/ Lausitz, you can continue and turn off in Oppach onto the equally legendary B96, which will take you directly to Zittau.

e-fuel  for pedelec in Jonsdorf Upper Lusatia
e-fuel station at the gondola ride

Motorists can either take the B96 in Bautzen West or from Bautzen East via the B6 and from Löbau the 178 to Zittau.

If you arrive with an electric car, you will find, as already mentioned, electric filling stations in Zittau at the car park in Baderstraße, in the spa town of Jonsdorf at the gondola ride car park, in Neusalza-Spremberg at the Obermarkt and in Ebersbach – Neugersdorf in Adam-Ries-Straße.

Accommodation in the Upper Lusatia

Naturally, a region attractive to tourists offers a wide range of accommodation with different facilities and for every level of demand – whether for a simple overnight stay on a hiking tour or for a longer stay with comprehensive service. Below is a selection, roughly following the villages of the Upper Lusatian mountain trail:


On the outskirts of Steinigtwolmsdorf in a quiet location is the apartment Schlafwandler*. There are two apartments (5-max.7 and 3-max.5 persons) as well as a double room (+sleeping sofa, max. 4 persons). Terrace and garden with barbecue and children’s playground are part of the common facilities. Hiking and skiing in Hohwald and Valtenberg are possible from here.


The Prinz-Friedrich-August-Baude* directly on the Upper Lusatian mountain trail includes a restaurant and bar as well as a large garden at the house. A children’s playground is available. For winter sports enthusiasts, there is quick access to the ski slopes. Various hiking routes can also be reached quickly. Offered are mainly double rooms with private bathroom, including family rooms. Undemanding hikers can also stay in the dormitory. A good breakfast is included. There is a cash dispenser at the building.

Beiersdorf – Bieleboh

On the Bieleboh Mount, Apartment Bieleboh* offers two single beds, a bar and terrace as well as a garden with a barbecue area for relaxing and lingering. Hiking trails around the Bieleboh as well as many excursion destinations in the surrounding area are inviting. In winter, skiing is possible on the slopes as well as on groomed cross-country trails on site, in Sohland or on the Kottmar.


Just outside and away from the mountain trail is the TRIXI Holiday Park Zittauer Gebirge* on Jonsdorfer Straße. Accommodation is provided in separate holiday homes of different sizes with barbecue areas at the house. Children are very welcome. The holiday park includes a bathing area with indoor and outdoor pools, wellness oases in oriental style with sauna and massages, playrooms and children’s playgrounds. Lift facilities for ski and toboggan lovers are about 3-4km away.


Several rooms and apartments with different furnishings await guests at the Hiking Hotel Sonnenbergbaude* in Waltersdorf. A restaurant with terrace belongs to the hotel. Breakfast is included. The restaurant offers hearty meals from Saxon cuisine. Hiking and cycling tours in the surrounding area are easily possible. For winter sports enthusiasts, the nearest ski lifts are all less than 500m away. Ski courses are arranged and the hotel also offers the rental of ski equipment. Bicycles can be rented.

The holiday home Waltersdorf* at the Butterberg offers space for 4 persons in two bedrooms and a sofa bed for 1 person in the living room. A fully equipped kitchen and a fireplace room are available. Children are welcome, extra beds are extra. In front of the house the brook splashes, otherwise it is very quiet. There is a terrace and it is allowed to barbecue. Pets are allowed. Many hiking trails are in the immediate vicinity. The nearest ski lifts for winter sports are about 1.4 km away.

Kurort Jonsdorf (spa town)

The Romantikhotel „Zum Lindengarten „* is a good destination for hikers, cyclists and skiing friends. A very good breakfast with good coffee is part of the offer. All rooms are double or twin bed rooms. A restaurant with terrace belongs to the Romantic hotel. Barbecue is possible in the garden. The next ski lifts for skiers are about 2,5 km away. A ski storage is offered to the winter sports friends in the house.

upper Lusatia - Oberlausitz Gasthaus Lindengarten inn
Kurort Jonsdorf – Inn Lindengarten*

The Hexenhäusl Jonsdorf* is a nice place to stay, especially for children, as the facility offers many utensils for children as well as a children’s playground in the garden. Two apartments – one for 5 and one for up to 10 persons – are available in the house. All kitchens are equipped with all technical equipment including an oven, so that self-catering is possible. The Nun’s Rock, the fastest hiking destination, is reached after 500m.

„Frische Quelle „Inn* in Jonsdorf offers simple accommodation in double rooms. Buffet breakfast is included in the overnight stay. As this is a guesthouse, further meals are possible on site. Pets are possible on request.


The Oybiner Blockhaus* is a holiday home for up to 6 people. In addition, the complex includes further apartments for 6 and 3 persons. Solid wood furniture and a soapstone stove create a homely atmosphere. A large garden with barbecue facilities belongs to the house. Pets are allowed. Hiking trails and ski slopes are practically around the corner. The castle Oybin is about 2 km away. Climbing slopes and mountain bike trails are also nearby.

Kurort Oybin (spa town)

In the silence of the forest you can relax in the holiday home „Am Waldessaum „* on 130 square meters. Two bedrooms with one double bed or two single beds allow four people to stay overnight at the same time. A kitchen and a garden with barbecue facilities are available. The castle Oybin is about 800m away. Hiking trails, ski slopes and cycle routes are numerous in the area.

Several apartments are waiting for your visit in the Holzwerk Oybin*. Among them the studio apartment with whirpool, otherwise shower bathrooms. Breakfast can be taken from the house, otherwise there is the possibility to prepare your own meals in the fully equipped kitchens of the apartments. To the house belongs a room with fireplace, a garden with barbecue as well as washing machine and ski storage for winter sportsmen.

The holiday villa Tanneck & Red Rock Lodge* is located at the edge of the forest near Oybin. Various rooms and apartments are offered here, some with their own kitchen or with several bedrooms. A motorhome is also available. The holiday villa has a large garden with barbecue and a room with a fireplace. A sauna can be heated up by appointment. The nearest restaurants are about 300m away. The Johannisstein – ski lift is also not far away with a 400m way.


Those who prefer to live in the city or would like to keep up their business operations on the side will find a place in the Zittau holiday apartment*. Two apartments, one for 4 persons with two bedrooms and one for 2 persons with 1 bedroom including fully equipped kitchens are available. Fax and copy machines are available for business travellers. If you would like to go to the Zittau Mountains from here, you will find a stop for the Zittau narrow-gauge railway virtually on your doorstep.

Behind „Wellness time in the Zittau Mountains „* is a 65 sqm – holiday apartment in Zittau – Eichgraben with terrace and complete kitchen equipment. A bedroom with double bed belongs to the apartment. There is a café in the village after a 5 minute walk. The next bus stop is about 100m away. From this part of the village numerous hiking trails into the Zittau Mountains as well as to the Czech Republic and Poland start. The Upper Lusatian mountain trail also leads through Eichgraben.

Hiking maps for the Upper Lusatian Mountain Trail

Unfortunately, there is no hiking map for the entire Upper Lusatian mountain trail yet.

A hiking map for the Zittau Mountains including the Czech side has been published under the title „Naturpark Zittauer Gebirge – Luzicke Hory (Lausitzer Gebirge)*“. It serves as a map for hiking and biking and also includes the southern part of the Upper Lusatian mountain trail from about Eibau (after Kottmar). This is where the route begins in the Zittau Mountains Nature Park. The scale of 1:33,000 is very good and detailed for hikers. The backside contains among other things a small city map for Zittau. This map is published by Sachsen Kartographie (Saxony Cartography).

You can find the right connection in northern direction on the Upper Lusatian mountain trail with the hiking and cycling map „Schirgiswalde – Kirschau and surroundings*“ from the same publisher. It shows the Valtenberg, Bieleboh and Kottmar, which are located on the Upper Lusatian mountain trail. But the covered area is even more extensive, so that side trips are possible or if you live in the region, you can plan one or the other Sunday afternoon tour. In addition, further information about the winter sports possibilities in this region are included. The very detailed scale of 1:33.000 has also been set here.

Organ music from church organs of Upper Lusatia

The audio CD „Orgellandschaft Oberlausitz „* proves that Upper Lusatia is not only a beautiful region but also home to cultural and musical traditions. Matthias Grünert has compiled on this CD, in addition to his own works, pieces by Bach, Rheinberger and Robert Schumann, played on Upper Lusatian church organs.

Conclusion on the „Little Escape“ to the Upper Lusatian Highlands

An excursion into the Upper Lusatian Highlands is worthwhile. Not only for mountain and long-distance hiking lovers or, if the weather is suitable, for winter sports enthusiasts, but also, among other things, for bicycle or railway enthusiasts. The diversity of the region makes a trip varied and interesting. Whether you are interested in hiking, special architecture and technology, arts and crafts, nature or sports, there is definitely something for you to discover. And especially for families with children the different aspects offer variety for every day. Hikes are easy to manage, as the ascents are not too long and the tours can be arranged with interesting intermediate stops. Thus, Upper Lusatia has so far been rather an underestimated tourist region, which is well developed but not overcrowded.

A little FAQ to the Upper Lusatian region as a summary

Where is the Upper Lusatian Highlands located?

The Upper Lusatian Highlands in Germany is the southeastern region in Saxony on the border of the triangle with the Czech Republic and Poland. Geographically, it even includes parts of these countries, as the border runs across some of the mountain ridges.

Where are the Zittau Mountains located?

The Zittau Mountains in Germany are part of the Upper Lusatian Mountains and are located on the border with the Czech Republic in the extreme southeast of Saxony.

What can you do in the Zittau Mountains?

In the Zittau Mountains you can go hiking, climbing and mountain biking. There are some beautiful mountain villages and small spa towns like Oybin and Jonsdorf to see. From these two spa towns you can also take a narrow-gauge railroad with steam locomotives and historic wagons to Zittau. In winter, you can go skiing and tobogganing, as well as skiing down several downhill slopes. Several long-distance hiking trails run through the Zittau Mountains, such as the Upper Lusatian Mountain Trail, and long-distance cycling trails such as the Neisse-Oder river Cycle Path to the Baltic sea and the Spree river Cycle Path start here.

Where does the Upper Lusatian Mountain Trail run?

The Upper Lusatian Mountain Trail starts on the Valtenberg hill near Neukirch/ Lusatia and passes several mountain slopes such as Bieleboh and Kottmar, leads near Großschönau into the Zittau Mountains with the highest peak – the Lausche – and crosses the spa towns of Jonsdorf and Oybin. At the other end of the Upper Lusatian Mountain Trail lies Zittau. This trail is a german high quality hiking trail.

Is it possible to hike the Upper Lusatian Mountain Trail without luggage?

For „hiking without luggage“ there is an offer from the tourist information office in Zittau. From there the luggage transport to the stage places is organized.

Is the Upper Lusatian Mountain region a nature reserve?

In the Upper Lusatian Mountains there are several nature reserves and a large part is a protected landscape area. The Zittau Mountains are the largest contiguous protected area and have the status of a nature park. You can find out more about this in the nature park information center in Waltersdorf.

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