Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve
Germany has plenty of unspoiled natural landscapes to enjoy whether you are into hiking, cycling or canoeing. If you are visiting the area of Dessau, you must see the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve. This reserve is the largest floodplain forest in Central Europe and a UNESCO natural heritage site recognized in 1997. It has a unique flora and fauna that is worth taking a trip for.
The reserve extends along the river Elbe – the third-largest in Germany – covering the areas of Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Dessau-Rosslau up to Magdeburg. It is one of the region's oldest unspoiled natural landscapes, where you can observe river courses alongside fertile meadows, that has become rare in Central Europe. And, it is the last uninterrupted stretch of alluvial forest that exists in the world. When staying in Dessau, the Garden Realm is the closest area you will access from the big reserve. It is one of Europe's best-designed gardens and an excellent example of landscape architecture with several parks and palaces. The Wörlitzer Park is one of the highlights. It was planted between 1764 and 1800, during the reign of Prince Leopold III. It is thought to be the first garden designed with an English style in Germany, that included activities of horticulture and agriculture. Around the area explore the different monuments and visit the Stein Island. If you get hungry, there's a couple of restaurants nearby. Another stand out is the Luisium Palace, one of the first neo-classic palaces built in Germany. It was a present of Prince Franz of Anhalt-Dessau to his wife Louise. There are guided tours to visit the dreamy interiors of the palace. Make sure you book beforehand.
The reserve offers many options to enjoy the natural surroundings. Take a rafting trip to admire the natural panorama from the water, a riverboat excursion or go canoeing. If you prefer to walk and stay out of the water, there are plenty of trails and cycling paths to explore nature and wildlife. Although you can sightsee by yourself, it might be useful to visit the information center Auenhaus for maps and any questions you might have to get a better understanding of the area.
What to see
When exploring the reserve, you will see a rich and diverse scenery with various woodlands and gnarled trees, steep riverbanks and inland dunes. You will encounter white-tailed eagles, Nordic gooses in the riverside meadows and plenty of bird watching points. If you get to see a crane it's your lucky day, as they are symbols of happiness and eternal youth. However, what's most important about the reserve, is that is an area for protection of endangered species such as the Eurasia beaver, wolfs, kingfishers, sea eagles and plants such as the Siberian sword lily. To see the Eurasia beaver, visit the recreation area and observe how they live and interact with their families. For a visit, do check their website to reserve a day.