Earth : Europe : Central Europe : Germany : Northern Germany : Lower Saxony : Lüneburg Heath
The Lüneburg Heath is an extensive region of heath and farmland in the state of Lower Saxony which has become a popular holiday and excursion destination. It lies roughly between the cities of Hanover, Hamburg and Wolfsburg. Historically it was where Montgomery received the German surrender at the end of the Second World War.
The area has very rural feel to it. Dense pine forests alternate with green meadows and cultivated fields with purple heath. Its leafy villages are clustered around ancient Lower Saxon farmhouses - typical of North Germany - with their vast thatched roofs sweeping down over red brick and timber-framed walls.
The area has lots of attractions suitable for families such as the Heide Park near Soltau, the Walsrode Bird Park, the Serengeti Park and 3 wildlife parks. More recently a big indoor ski slope has been opened, the SnowDome near Bispingen, as well as the Schumacher go-kart hall.
For those interested in exploring the culture and history there is also a wealth of museums - covering every field from agriculture to science, from war to local history.
Lying on the great North German Plain, the region is relatively flat and there are excellent cycling routes over a network of cycle paths.
- Elbufer-Drawehn Nature Park
- Lüneburger Heide Nature Park
- Südheide Nature Park
Three motorways (Autobahnen) run across the Lüneburg Heath, the A 7, A 27 and A 250, as well as various federal roads, including the B 3, B 71 and B 440.
The Lüneburg Heath is also served by the following railway lines:
- The Hanover–Hamburg railway: Hamburg–Lüneburg–Uelzen–Celle–Hanover
- The Rollbahn: Hamburg–Buchholz in der Nordheide–Rotenburg (Wümme)–Bremen
- The Heath Railway (Heidebahn): (Hamburg)–Buchholz in der Nordheide–Soltau–Bad Fallingbostel–Walsrode–Bennemühlen–Hanover
- The Uelzen–Langwedel railway: Bremen–Visselhövede–Soltau–Munster–Uelzen
- The Brunswick–Uelzen railway: Uelzen–Wieren–Wittingen–Gifhorn–Braunschweig
- The East Hanoverian Railways (Osthannoversche Eisenbahnen or OHE) maintains a railway network, the greater part of which lies in the Lüneburg Heath (only for freight and museum services and sometimes the Heath Express (Heide-Express)).
- Explore the Heath. There are plenty of easy walking trails in the area with good car parking facilities. A good starting points for walks are the car parks at Overhaverbeek and Niederhaverbeek northwest of Bispingen. From there you can walk or catch a horse and coach ride to the Heath's highest hill, the Wilseder Berg - all 169 metres of it! From here there is a great panorama of the surrounding area and, on clear days, you can see as far as Hamburg. Beware, it is often teeming with tourists on summer weekends! But there are many other quieter walks all over the area.
- Take the family to the Heide Park near Soltau, the biggest amusement park in Northern Germany and part of the British-based Merlin Entertainments complex. Expensive, but good for a family day out. Open mid Mar-Oct, daily, 9am - 6pm (Jul-Aug open to 8pm), €37 (age 12 and over), €30 (4-11yrs); free under 4s. Online discounts and family tickets available. www.heide-park.de
- Enjoy nature at the Otter Centre in Hankensbüttel. As well as otters, which are being reintroduced to local rivers, there are polecats, minks, otter hounds, badgers and much more besides. Very educational and child-friendly with a good self-service restaurant on site. Open: 1 Feb - last Sun in Mar, 9.30am - 5pm, last Sun in Mar - last Sun in Oct, 9.30am - 6pm, last Sun in Oct - 30 Nov, 9.30am - 5pm; Adults €8.50, children 4-17yrs €5, family tickets and student etc. reductions available. cms.otterzentrum.de
- Visit Bergen-Belsen, the memorial site to the victims of the concentration camp freed by British forces in 1945. Large visitor centre with comprehensive exhibition chronicling the history of the camp, which began as a POW camp. 70,000 people are buried here, including Anne Frank who wrote a poignant diary of her life during the Nazi era. Open: Apr-Sep, daily, 10am - 6pm; Oct-Mar, 10am - 5pm. Closed 1 Jan, 24-26 and 31 Dec. Admission free. 05051 475 90. www.bergenbelsen.de.
- Eiscafe Dal Cin, Winsen an der Aller. On the main street. Great ice-creams and in summer you can sit outside and watch the storks nesting opposite.
- Zur Heideschänke, Wolthausen. Pricey and the menu is limited, but very good. For those special occasions. www.heideschenke.de
- Hotel Landhaus Eickhof, Niederhaverbeck, on the Heath itself. Old farmhouse 100 yards from the main car park at Niederhaverbeck, tucked away in the woods. Does a good hearty farmer's breakfast which you can work off by walking to the Wilseder Berg! www.landhaus-eickhof.de.
- Zur Alten Fuhrmanns-Schänke near Oldendorf. Traditional rustic German atmosphere and restaurant specialising in game - venison, wild boar and Heidschucke, the local moorland sheep. www.fuhrmanns-schaenke.de.