Day in Bohemian Switzerland with Northern Hikes

Day in Bohemian Switzerland with Northern Hikes


One thing I have learned about Czech culture since moving to Prague, is the deep love they share for being in “the nature” (as they affectionately call it). The Czech Republic is so known for the stunning capital city (and for good reason), that it often overshadows the outlying landscapes the country possesses. Beautiful mountains, lush forests, unique rock formations and rolling countrysides create a stunning landscape that is entirely Czech. It is interwoven into the heart of all that is Czech just as much as knedlíky and pork. This creates a strong magnetic pull to spend as much time outside as possible and Czechs often vacate the cities on weekends, retreating to family cabins and cottages in the countryside to spend time together and breathe some fresh air – no matter the time of year. It’s also not uncommon to hear of their regular adventures snowboarding, cross-country skiing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and just about any other outdoor sport that would allow them to use the incredible landscape to its potential.

Photo // Alexandra Siebenthal

So what does that mean for you, traveler? Are you eager to immerse yourself in Czech culture and explore beyond the glittery sites of Prague? We have a solution for you! An easy day trip from Prague, yet miles away from anything that resembles a castle and art nouveau architecture, lies Bohemian-Saxon Switzerland National Park. Straddling the border of Germany and the Czech Republic lies some of the most epic scenery (though not all, we have lots ;)) in the country. We feel the best way to experience this side of Bohemia is to see it with a local. Our friends at Northern Hikes, based out of the gateway village Děčín, offer day trips from Prague, taking you on an adventure through sandstone cliffs, stunning vistas and noteworthy landmarks. They offer tours and hikes for all levels of enthusiasm and experience, and are lead by locals passionate about sharing their gorgeous corner of Bohemia.

Photo // Alexandra Siebenthal

The park earns its name  from the region in which it lies – Saxony (Germany) and Bohemia (northern and western parts of the Czech Republic). The term “Bohemian” is something that certainly gets tossed around quite a bit, usually in reference to hippies or anyone living a counter-cultured sort of lifestyle coined from a French term- but that’s for another article. True Bohemia, however, comes from the historic “Kingdom of Bohemia” which ceased to exist after 1918, and this area is as much Bohemia as Prague.

Photo // Alexandra Siebenthal

I got exceptionally lucky on my trip, to see this place covered in fluffy white powder. My guide, Marek, kept mentioning how they are finally having a “proper winter” with so much snow and rather low temperatures, one they have not seen the past few years. That said, I have to imagine exploring this region in any season will yield just as much stunning scenery and unmatched atmosphere, be it blooming trees in the spring, lush forests in the summer or the vibrant colors of fall. The beauty of the Czech nature is its transition through the four seasons.

Photo // Alexandra Siebenthal

For me, seeing this caked with snow was perfection. The way the snow stuck to the bare trees and hugged the sandstone’s cracked surface made hiking through this place a photographer’s dream. If you thought, ‘wow this place is like Narnia’,  you would be right! Tisá is where they actually filmed those stunning winter scenes from the movie- and it’s exactly how you would hope Narnia to be. We were exceptionally lucky to get to see this place exactly as I imagined, making a childhood story come to life.

Photo // Alexandra Siebenthal

What makes the Northern Hikes tours ideal, though, is the chance to see a lot of remote locations quickly, which are a bit challenging to reach by public transit. Upon arriving to Tisá, one of the more remote areas of the park, you can see a wall of jagged, yet smooth rocks set in a wall, hovering over over the village below. We passed few others on the trails, and those we did were heading in a different direction,  on cross country skis. The hike was virtually silent outside the crunch of our shoes compacting the snowy floor, and the occasional snow-clump dropping from the trees. The path was not well-worn (although still walkable) giving you the feeling of solitude. The hike took us through the rocks, up close to some of the formations, then above to get a view of the valley below. Even if visibility was low, the view was still incredible- well worth braving the chilly temperatures.

Photo // Alexandra Siebenthal

After a hearty meal at a cozy Czech lodge, specializing in local game dishes served with a nice cold beer (we are in Bohemia, remember?) we made our way by car to the German-Saxon side of the park. Here, lies the remarkable “Bastei”, a bridge built solely to enjoy the view of the valley below. This area is largely where the name “Switzerland” came from, where two Swiss artists took up residency here (as well as the Dresden Academy of Art during the 18th century). They felt it was reminiscent of their own home and thus the name was born. We were lucky enough to catch a stunning sunset, as the sun shone through the hazy, winter sky and provided a bit of warmth and vitamin D after a day of hiking in the snow. I don’t think I have to do much talking here… the photo says it all.

Photo // Alexandra Siebenthal

The guides at Northern Hikes provide an incredible getaway in an intimate, small group atmosphere lead by insightful, charismatic guides where you quickly begin to feel like friends- especially after all of those narrow staircases through the sandstone cliffs. If you are looking for a unique day trip out of Prague, or a getaway to the Czech countryside to see a different side of the culture, this is definitely an experience worth seeking, and ever changing depending on the time of year. 

Photo // Alexandra Siebenthal

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Alexandra is American photographer and writer living in Prague, who came for the views and stayed for the cheap beer. She is into sunrise walks on the bridge, cafe culture and is overly enthusiastic for all things Prague, travel and good coffee.


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