Largely unknown to the American traveler and surely not sufficiently advertised, the Saxon Switzerland is a very beautiful national park located South-East of Dresden around the Elbe Valley. Bastei Rocks are very interesting geological formation located right in the heart of the Saxon Switzerland. The german word “bastei” means bastion and this gorgeous rock formation truly fits the description. Together with the Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic, the region forms the Sandstone Mountains. I read about this place as I was doingsome research about Dresden, getting ready for our trip to Germany. Due to its sandstone formation, the area is a paradise for hikers and rock climbers, but visitors of all ages can equally explore and enjoy its beauty. Situated about 40 km away from Dresden, the Saxon Switzerland covers an area of about 368 km2 of stunning landscape.
We visited the park in early October, right when the fall colors settle in. To get there from Dresden, you can choose to take a romantic boat tour on the river Elbe on one of the world’s oldest paddle-steamers, take the S-Bahn train, or simply rent a car. We chose to rent a car in Dresden and started our trip about an hour before sunrise, to catch the best light for my pictures and avoid the crowds. The drive was not long, so we stopped for breakfast at a small country style restaurant along the way. Three of the most visited landmarks in the area are Lillenstein Rock, Bastei Bridge, and Köningstein Castle and initially we were planning to visit all three of them. But as the sun was going up and the grandiose rocks began contouring at the horizon, we realized that time would be too short for our initial plan. It was with regret that we decided to skip the Lillenstein Rock, which appeared in the distance beautifully covered in fall colors. They say it offers a gorgeous view form the top, but autumn days are short so we continued our visit to Bastei Rocks and Köningstein Castle. The two objectives are within 10 kilometers distance of each other, but you could easily spend an entire day visiting each one of them.
Bastei Rocks national park, also called the “city of stone,” sits about 300 meters above the sea level and has been a tourist attraction for the past 200 years. The first solid building in the park offering overnight accommodations was built in 1826, followed in 1851 by the famous sandstone bridge (Bastei Bridge) that replaced the wooden one over the deep clefts of Mardertelle. Subject for paintings, poetry, and landscape photography, the bridge offers one the most beautiful views of the valley. The scenery was breathtaking, with vertical drops, strange rock formations, trees clinging to cliffs and panoramic views of the Elbe river. Pictures don’t do justice to this magnificent landscape. The yellow, orange, and red foliage was beautifully complementing the grayish-brown color of the rocks that were in their turn harmonizing with the blue morning sky. Nature’s ability to mix up colors so perfectly always amazes me!
The best time of the day to visit the area is either early morning or before sunset, when the light falls horizontally on the rocks. We arrived at the park a little before 8 a.m., about a couple of hours before the crowds started pouring in so were able to enjoy the pristine wilderness at its best. Later on in the day we had to wait for the proper moment to take photographs and in some narrow passages we had to wait even longer for big groups to pass.
Parking for Bastei Rocks is available on the field of the upper plateau, about 2 km away from the park. From there you can walk or take the shuttle bus to the entrance, or you may continue to drive following the signs for Bastei restaurant. Parking at the restaurant costs 2 € for two hours, but is very limited and most likely reserved for the restaurant customers. The walkways and viewing platforms are very safe and well maintained, as are the stairways and metal bridges that grant you access to many of the high peeks and the big rock formations. Some passages look very scary though because of their height. Not everybody feels secure walking on a narrow bridge with an endless abyss under their feet.
Everywhere you look there is a beautiful panorama that makes you feel on the top of the world. The ruins of an 11th century fortress can still be seen atop the natural stone towers in the park. At the base of the rocks there is a natural amphitheater with excellent acoustics, used for music performances in summer.