This summer was a bittersweet one. First of all, residency hassles troubled our lives and cost us a lot of money. Then to top it all, we found ourselves neck deep with only our youngest kids, with the easy to manage older ones being busy with their own summer plans. Though its a lot of fun to have the entire brood under one roof, Tarek and I often secretly wished for a break from the vacation. Since that was not possible, we devised ways to survive and enjoy our three weeks summer holidays with our very small children and this post is the second of my “Tips on traveling with children” series. To begin with, we divided our days into relaxing at home, enjoying activities in our city of Cologne and kept the last week for a long road trip. Our itinerary went from the west to former East Germany and we reached our final destination of Berlin via the beautiful Lüneburger Heide.

Lüneburg Heide is famous for blooming heather

The beautiful heather flowers

Lüneburger Heide is a man-made nature reserve of beautiful heathland

For those of you, who have been following my blog for some time, will know that I have a thing for flowers. That is exactly why the lesser-known offbeat destination of Lüneburger Heide popped in our travel plan. A nature reserve, famous for acres of blooming heather fields, every year, the Lüneburger Heide gets carpeted with millions of pink heather flowers. The blooming fields are one of the most beautiful sights of Germany and the nature reserve is situated in northern Germany in the Hamburg, Bremen, and Hannover triangle. The peaceful surrounding countryside attracts millions of visitors everywhere and the landscape is a photogenic mix of Scotch heather, common heather, juniper trees, herds of Heidschnucke sheep and old sheepfolds, and old-fashioned farmland and beekeeping huts.

It is a vast protected area.

Half-timbered houses, photogenic rustic moors, and violet flowers, Lüneburger Heide is beautiful

Vast tracts of the Lüneburger Heide are protected, including the famous “Totengrund” – or “Valley of the Dead” and the view from the 169-meter Wilseder hill is absolutely breathtaking. The history of this lesser known nature reserve of Germany is as unique as the park itself. It all began when in 1910, a pastor bought the land to protect it from being developed.  He eventually managed to turn the area into one of Germany’s first nature reserves and Lüneburg, the town after which the park was named, Lüneburg is a picturesque place with rows of half-timbered houses. To protect the environment and retain the rustic charm of the area,  the park is a no car zone. The best way, thus, to explore the park is on foot, by bike or in a horse-drawn carriage.

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The local moorland Heidschnucke sheep and old sheepfolds are a popular sight here.

Do not miss the Vogelpark or the Birdpark in Walsrode

When we were at the Lüneburger Heide this August, the unusually hot summer dried up most of the heather flowers, and the trees bore reddish brown leaves of fall. The hot weather coupled with a shortage of rain left the landscape looking dry and brittle leaves crunched beneath our feet. It was still lovely, with clear blue skies, ripening apple orchards, and spells of fine misty rain. We stayed at a farmhouse in a village called Walsrode, visited its famous bird park, and spent a lot of time with the in-house petting animals.

Consider a horse-drawn carriage ride through the blooming moors of Lüneburger Heide

One day, we went to the Lüneburger Heide and enjoyed a lovely afternoon riding through the moors on a horse-carriage. Despite most of the heather flowers being dried out, it was a tranquil, open landscape, dotted with ancient woods, brooding moors, heathland streams and gullies. In winter, it is believed that thick veils of mist linger above the Lüneburger Heide making it look a bit eerie, but in summer, the blooming heather was a spectacular sight to behold. The heather flowers bloom in August and September, painting the rolling hills with a sea of lilac and purple blossoms. The best way to experience this natural spectacle is hike or bike the extensive network of walking trails and cycling routes that cut through the national park.

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A horse-drawn carriage is popular

To enjoy the mass blooming of the pink heather flowers, follow the ‘Lila Krönung’ trail

The ‘Lila Krönung’ trail between the villages of Schneverdingen and Amelinghausen go through some of the most beautiful spots and the 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) is divided into several stages that can be easily completed within a day. Lüneburger Heide is a beautiful place to be for nature and bird lovers along with travelers with families and it makes a great day trip for Hamburg.

Calluna vulgaris, also called broom heath is the most widespread in the Lüneburg Heath heath and usually blooms from early August to mid-September

Lüneburger Heide Travel Tips

Lüneburg Heath has extensive areas of heathland, which once covered most of north Germany, but has now almost completely disappeared. The heaths were formed after the Neolithic period by overgrazing of the forests on the poor sandy soils of northern Europe. This makes Lüneburg Heath a historic cultural landscape, which has been inadvertently created by man. Today the remaining areas of the heath are kept clear through grazing by a North German breed of moorland sheep called the Heidschnucke. Without them, the area would get quickly overgrown with trees and shrubs and the heath would disappear within a decade.

How to Reach: Lüneburger Heide is around 30 minutes from Hamburg, 1 hour from Hanover or Bremen and 3 hours from Berlin by car. Going there by car is the easiest and fastest option. Trains running between Hanover and Hamburg also stop there.

How to Get Around: There are quite a few villages where you can stay to explore the Lüneburger Heide. The best way to make the most of this area is in your own car. Lüneburger Heide is a CAR FREE ZONE  in most parts and you can get around on foot, with a horse carriage or with bicycles.

Where to Stay: There are many hotels, guesthouses, and holiday cottages available around Lüneburger Heide. We stayed at a farmhouse near Walsrode village and it was a wonderful experience.

The farmhouse where we stayed.

What to Do: There are plenty of things to do in and around Lüneburger Heide, apart from enjoying the mass blooming of heather flowers.

  • The nature lovers can explore the mystical landscape of bogs and marshlands of the Pietzmoor near Schneverdingen. Since it is connected with Osterheide meadows via numerous cycling tracks and hiking trails, both of them can be combined for a day out in nature. The whole area is protected due to the important flora and fauna which are found there and in spring, you can watch the breathtaking mass blooming of the white flowers of “Wollgrasblüte”. In August and September, the pink heather dominates the landscape.
  • The vast area of 250 hectares of Schweimker Moor is a bird conservation area. It is also one of Germany’s most important crane-breeding grounds. The best time to visit is in March and April when the cranes mate. You may be lucky enough to observe their courtship dance and spot the other local species of curlew, hobby, and the European whinchat.
  • The common heather or the Calluna vulgaris of Lüneburger Heide is commonly referred to as Erica. It is a low growing perennial shrub with purple flowers which can survive up to 40 years on the sandy ground. The easiest way to check out the actual blooming time is to follow this site.
  • The heath gardens “Heidegarten” in Höpen, Schneverdingen is a park where more than 150 different kinds of heath plants are displayed. It is a free attraction open throughout the year.
  • You can buy the special and extremely delicious local honey. The traditional Lüneburg basket beehives are made of plaited straw baskets, using heathland flowers. The baskets are regularly moved to feeding areas which are rich in nectar to make the bees produce the much sought after heath honey.
  • On a rainy day or when traveling with kids, don’t miss the Crazy House, where everything is upside down in Bispingen.

    The heather blooms in August and September.

    The whole area is rich in flora and fauna.

P.S – This blog post is part of the series called the Cologne Diaries, which highlights a new theme, emotion, and beauty of an expat life in Cologne. For more exotic fun, check out my Cairo Chronicles in the Expat Life category.