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Harz: Active holiday only four hours south of the border

Climbing vertical rock walls, winding mountain bike routes and idyllic walks. Here you get tips for what to experience in the Harz - adrenaline junkie or not.
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Harz: Active holiday only four hours south of the border is written by Peter Christiansen.

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On rock wall, ski and downhill bike in the Harz

Like another Bird Phoenix has the Harz in Germany - after many years with the predicate "pensioners' paradise" - traveled and developed, so guests with predilection for active vacation now flows to.

The geographical conditions in the central German mountain range Harz are optimal for active holidays. First and foremost, you can boast mountain peaks such as the 1.141 meter high Brocken as well as Wurmberg, Achtermann and Bruchberg, which all rise above 900 meters, and in snowy winters the ski season lasts from December to March.

In the summer, the ski lifts transport adrenaline-hungry downhill riders to the heights, and four different places have created 'bike parks' with jumps, ramps and steep curves. Here you can on your own or rented bike whiz down the various tracks and test technique, physics and courage. The Harz's many forests as well as dense networks of roads also invite for hours on mountain bike or racing bike, and for most cyclists, the ascent of the Brocken is a classic.

Less known is the Harz as climbing destination. But in several of the valleys you will find vertical granite cliffs up to 50 meters high, and here are laid routes of all levels of difficulty. Practitioners can get started with fuses, ropes and carabiners, while beginners can sign up for one of the numerous courses offered.

Finally, the Harz has positioned itself as a mecca for hikers. The most known hiking route - Harzer Hexen Stieg - goes from Osterode in the west to Thale in the east, and here awaits well over 100 kilometers in beautiful and challenging nature. In addition, there are several routes that lend themselves to day trips, so the aforementioned cyclists do not have Brocken to themselves. The highest mountain in the Harz is also a must for hikers.

Here are some selected places and activities that can inspire you for your next mini vacation, and otherwise you will find further information about the Harz here.

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Resins: Hiking experiences from the top shelf

The walkers The possibilities of the Harz are numerous, so here only two good experiences should be highlighted - the stage route Harzer Hexen Stieg and the Brocken ascent.

Harz witches rose is a five-stage tour that starts in Osterode near Goslar, while ending in Thale, located in the Eastern Harz. The trip can of course be reversed, so you start in the east and end in the west, and there are several variations along the way. But expect a good 100 kilometers of hiking, and set aside five days for the trip. Hotels can be booked in advance and luggage transport can be arranged.

The Harz's most famous day trip is the ascent of Chunk, which in Danish is called Bloksbjerg. A good starting point is the village of Schierke, from which there are about 500 meters of altitude and five kilometers of hiking left. At the top, which is located at an altitude of 1.141 meters, the view is fantastic, and several restaurants entice with food, cold beer and the German classic 'currywurst mit pommes'.

The advantage of having Schierke as a starting point is that one can take the famous railway Harzer Schmalspurbahn back, but many other routes lead to the top.

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Over jumps, through curves and along winding forest paths

Cycling clubs, couples of friends, competition riders - you name it - for many, the Harz is the closest option for a few days of mountain driving. Bicycle rentals are everywhere, and in many places you will also find Bett & Bike hotels, which are specially geared to accommodate cycling guests.

While one can experience good mountain bike and road routes in Denmark, the Harz offers something completely unique - namely bike parks with challenging descents of international standard, where you come up with a lift, while the descent takes place along blue, red or black tracks, as you know it from skiing.

Needless to say, the black tracks are only for experts with special bikes, 'fullface' helmets and back shields. But less can do it, and in every park there are also beginner tracks where you can practice at a controlled pace.

Mountain bikers can choose from countless tracks, and you will find the most beautiful routes with passages through green valleys, where the water runs next to it, past narrow crevices and up over impressive viewpoints.

Also road riders have good conditions. In the Harz, the concentration of hills with double-digit ascent rates is high, and especially mountain aficionados will enjoy the many challenges. For example, try your hand at St. Andreasberg, where it rises over 500 meters by 11,6% on average, or take the almost 700 meters of altitude from Elend to the top of Brocken. Of course, there are also flatter routes, which lend themselves to family and cozy cycling.

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On vertical rock wall

Except Bornholm you have to either Southern Sweden - eg Kullen - or just the Harz, if you want to change the grip of the climbing hall with real rocks within a short distance.

The most visited places are Okertal and Steinbachtal, and while Okertal is in the western part of the Harz, Steinbachtal is in the east. You will find both places routes of varying difficulty, and courses are offered - not just in climbing, but also in rappelling. If you can not get enough heights, trips are also arranged balloon.

Here are good deals on hotels in the Harz Mountains - click on "see offers" on the page to get the final price

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Ski - both alpine and Nordic

Let it be said immediately: the Harz does not have the same snow safety as e.g. Alps, so the opportunities for skiing do not match those you meet in Alpe d'Huez or Canazei. Furthermore, the catchment area is with cities like Hamburg, Hanover and Kassel so big that the weekends can be well filled up on the slopes. But in good winters with lots of snow, the Harz offers okay skiing to a day or two, and in several places the white rainfall is supplemented by snow cannons.

The largest alpine area in the Harz is Wurmberg near Braunlage. Here they are almost 12 piste kilometers divided into 15 slopes, and the maximum drop is 400 meters. Other areas are Hahnenklee and Sonnenberg, but do not expect large areas and dizzying falls. On the other hand, cross-country skiers have plenty of trails in the beautiful forests, and you will find tracks for both classic and skating style.

In other words, there is plenty of opportunity to spend an active holiday in the Harz - a really good trip!

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About the travel writer

Peter Christiansen

Peter Christiansen has for 25 years written travel articles for newspapers such as Politiken, Jyllands Posten and Berlingske. The desire to travel was really aroused on trips to Japan, where Peter has been several times to practice judo. Since then, there have been lots of articles about active holidays, and Peter has tried everything from marathon running in New York and ice climbing in Chamonix to bobsledding in Lillehammer and bridge climbing in Sydney.
Peter covers a wide range and has recently written on such diverse topics as interrail in the Balkans, river sailing in Russia and cultural holidays in the Loire Valley.

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