If the word paradise did not yet exist, it would have to be invented for the Elbe river landscape.

It lies between Hamburg and Hitzacker, the beautiful and varied river landscape Elbe with sun, beach and much more. Just behind Hamburg, the journey begins into a country that is still quite unknown. The blue ribbon of the Elbe flows steadily in the direction of Hamburg, past small pleasure boat harbors, ferry docks and the fine sandy beaches. Red or thatched roofs peek out over the dikes, and sheep graze on the green dikes. A brilliant blue sky often arches above the traveler, with snow-white summer clouds forming ever new shapes. In the early morning light, you can sometimes see the Elves of the Elbe hovering over the landscape in mysterious wisps of mist. The Middle High German word for elves is alb. Many believe that this is where the Elbe got its name. The primeval valley of the Elbe once stretched for kilometers into the countryside. Today, a water network with tributaries, lakes and ditches runs through this light-flooded river landscape. The green of the fields shines far and wide, and the blue of the water glistens in between. White-tailed eagles and red kites circle above the river, and storks sail to their nests in the evening sun. Hiking and biking trails nestle in this grandiose blaze of color, while to the right and left of the paths, views of the sun, the edge of the Elbe, and the river landscapes continue to unfold.

Living with the Elbe

The Elbe is the pulsating lifeline of an entire region. Our early ancestors already settled along the third largest river in Europe. The Elbe is the only river in Central Europe to flow for over 600 km without any barrages. Thus, the floodplain landscapes along the Elbe still live from a millennia-old interplay in which the Elbe floods and recedes again, deposits and brings forth something new again.

The Elbe Valley floodplains - lifeline of nature

Over 600 kilometers flows the Elbe not slowed down by any barrages through the country. The meadows and forests on its banks are regularly flooded and released again by the water. As a result of this natural spectacle, a unique floodplain landscape has developed here, which provides ideal living conditions for plants and animals. Besides various bird species, frogs, salamanders and bats have settled here. And even the beaver, which was almost extinct in the meantime, has found a new home on the banks of the Elbe.

A particularly colorful spectacle of nature offer thousands of fruit trees that line the roads here for many kilometers. Both in spring, when the trees are in full bloom, and in autumn during harvest time, an unforgettable sight awaits you. On the spot, you can learn about the old fruit varieties and their use on several nature trails. Also recommended: go on a discovery tour with one of the well-trained nature and landscape guides in the Elbe valley meadows. You can find a current overview of natural history tours at here.

Sustainable bird paradise

The river landscape of the Elbe is unique throughout Europe with its floodplains and wide natural riparian zones. In order to preserve this wonderful natural area, the transnational biosphere reserve "Elbe River Landscape" was recognized by UNESCO in 1997. This was followed in 2002 by the biosphere reserve "Niedersächsische Elbtalauen". The rich flora and fauna is particularly popular with birdwatchers.

Directly behind the dikes gray geese find ideal resting places. More than 100 pairs of gray herons nest near Radegast in the oak forest. In the winter months, whooper swans can be found at the larger bodies of water as well as in fields and meadows. And every now and then you can admire one of the majestic white-tailed eagles. With a wingspan of over 2.50 meters, it is the largest bird of prey in Germany.

But above all the wetlands and meadows of the Lower Saxony Elbe Valley floodplains are home to the storks. The imposing animals with the distinctive beak find here an abundant food supply and ideal rearing conditions for their young. Hardly a village on the Elbe is without a stork nest About every third stork in Lower Saxony is at home here.

The flat land enables extensive cycling and hiking tours, where you can experience the contrast of nature and technology at the ship lift in Scharnebeck, admire the most diverse fish of the Elbe in the aquarium of the Biosphaerium Elbtalaue, marvel at the colorful variety of orchids in the orchid garden in Dahlenburg, visit the exhibition at the Archezentrum in Neuhaus and the partner farms of the archipelago, or be enchanted by the hundreds of thousands of blooming tulips, roses and dahlias in the Luhe Gardens in Winsen. Tips for cycling tours you will find here.

Elbe course

The Elbe River Landscape with its beauties knows no borders, which is why tourism organizations from six German states have joined forces to further develop their offers for their guests. The cross-state project 'Course Elbe. Hamburg to Wittenberge' networks skippers, restaurateurs and hosts and ensures a diverse range of offers.

The Elbe and its tributaries

Those who are with the boat - whether sport boat, sailboat or dinghy - sets out to explore the Elbe or its tributaries, such as Ilmenau, Luhe, Seeve or Sude, will find the most beautiful small harbors. They are almost always quiet and idyllic. Small inns, cafés and culture houses ensure a successful stay. The harbors are run individually and with a very personal charm. Here, small or somewhat larger jetties await the boats.

The Elbe side channel

The 115 kilometer long artificial waterway was opened on June 15, 1976. It starts in Lauenburg, ends in Braunschweig and shortens the Elbe route by 33 kilometers for inland shipping. In addition, skippers are more independent thanks to the Elbe-Seitenkanal. This is because the Elbe is often impassable due to low water levels or ice. The ship lift in Scharnebeck is a landmark. The concrete columns tower mightily into the sky. Here, the ships are lifted 38 meters into the air. For the locals, the canal is called 'Heide-Suez'. But recreational boaters also use the waterway with their pleasure craft. Cyclists and walkers hike the gravelled paths along the water, or swim in the dredged lakes that were created during the construction of the waterway. For example, the very popular Inselsee in Scharnebeck.

Boat trips in the Elbe river landscape

The ships are so different as the riverside landscapes. Boat trips take you to the cosmopolitan city of Hamburg, to the small shipping town of Lauenburg, to the castle town of Bleckede or as far as the half-timbered town of Hitzacker through the Lüneburg Elbtalaue. White-tailed eagles, beavers, sheep and other animals look for food along the river - the boatmen explain their river home with passion. More information under www.kurs-elbe.de

Tips for Kids: With the living water drop "ENNI", Jenni and Benni you can go on a virtual journey along the Elbe. Waiting for you exciting audio stories about the secrets, beauties and treasures of the region Flusslandschaft Elbe on you.

Cover photo: Enchanting river landscape - in the evening hours the Elbe shows its most beautiful side © Markus Tiemann

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