Sauerland – literally “sour land” in German – apparently meant “south land” originally, but don’t let the name put you off. It is far from sour here, with wonderful countryside and mountains (anything over 300 meters) to explore both in summer and winter, with an abundance of outdoor activities.
I recently traveled here with an expat motorcycle group and if you are a biker, the roads offer some wonderful curves and hills. Which is what motorcycle riders yearn for, especially if you’re based in the Netherlands like me.
Sauerland is in the southeast of North Rhine-Westphalia (Noordrijn-Westfalen) in Germany, just east of the Rhine-Ruhr megacity cluster that includes Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen and Dortmund. So this is an easy trip for expats in Belgium and the Netherlands, as well.
If summer outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling are your thing, or, alternatively, winter sports such as skiing and sledding are your jam, then Sauerland has a lot to offer.
Sauerland has mountains, the highest being Langenberg (843 meters), six reservoir lakes and hundreds of kilometres of cycling paths and hiking trails, all of which offer fun in both summer and winter.
In the winter the area offers 300 hectares of slopes and more than 100 ski lifts, plenty of winter hiking and cross-country ski trails. If it is speed you crave, the “taxibob” will give you a taste of speed and if you need winter romance you can take a horse drawn sleigh ride or a trip on a steam train.
With 97 descents to utilize the card allows touch-free, speedy entrance and costs between 100 euros for three days and 179 euros for seven days.
Skiliftkarussell Winterberg is the largest ski resort with 27.5 kilometers of ski slopes.
Tobogganing is something children and adults can enjoy, with night tobogganing trails and snow tubing.
Sauerland Rothaargebirge Nature Park
With 3,830 square kilometers, the Sauerland Rothaargebirge Nature Park is the largest nature park in this Noordrijn-Westfalen region. Since 2015, this new nature park identity has brought together three nature parks – Ebbegebirge, Rothaargebirge and Homert.
This is available from many of accommodations and gives you free admission to a range of activities.
Erlebnisberg Kappe is a family fun park that provides activities all year round. With Kletterwald, a treetop adventure playground; a zipline to test your nerve; summer tobogganing on the Sommerrodelbahn; a mountain bike park for those gnarly trails and a bridge from which to view the countryside of Sauerland, this place is the perfect family adventure.
There is also a budget hostel if you want to make this spot your base camp.
Sauerland has 1,140 kilometers of GPS accessible cycling trails, whether you are a beginner or like to test your limits. You can even take guided tours.
With plenty of outdoor pools and large lakes, you can spread your aqua wings in Sauerland.
There are three major long-distance trails and trails that take in the white timbered towns, lakes and forests.
Sauerland loves bikers! Check out the Winterburg website for motorcycle friendly hotels, self-guided tours and service and rental suggestions.
Lakes and Reservoirs
Both in winter and summer these lakes – Sorpesee, Biggesee, Hennesee, Listersee, Diemelsee and Möhnesee – are worth a visit. In the summer they provide a destination for water sports and boat trips and are great places to just sit and enjoy a beautiful day.
ALL YEAR ROUND
Spas and Health Resorts
If you just want to treat yourself to a relaxing break, Sauerland also has many spas, health resorts and even suggestions for “healing climate hiking.” In Winterberg and Hallenberg you can also find “soul places,” somewhere to find personal peace.
As you can tell, Sauerland has pretty much any activity, from horse riding, climbing, watersports or skiing to name but a few. What it doesn’t have is a reason to just sit in your hotel room.
The area of Sauerland offers a multitude of choices when looking for somewhere to stay.
Winterberg is Sauerland’s main ski resort with lots of hotels, self-catering apartments and camping spots. There is also a Centre Parc resort close by. We stayed in Dorint Resort Winterberg, which had great rooms, an indoor pool, spa, gym, plenty of parking and a good restaurant.
Langscheid, a town on the lake Sorpesee, is another spot for camping and hotels.
Schmallenberg is the third-largest city and a “climatic health resort.”
Of course these are just a few of the places to look for accommodation but, given that the area is 34 square kilometres, you are bound to find the type of accommodation you are looking for somewhere.
Photographer/writer Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a long-time expat, she lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past 10 years.
Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.
Contributing to Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.
She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.
She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.