Dark sky parks and car-free islands: four of Germany’s hidden eco-travel gems

Beyond the great cities and idyllic Alps, Germany is home to a terrific range of destinations for the sustainable traveller. Here are four lesser-known green spots you won’t want to missHow many German cities can you name, outside Berlin, Munich and Hamburg? What about the country’s 16 regions, or any of its 14 national parks? While many of us can discuss the merits of Puglia, Andalucía or the Algarve, we are rarely as knowledgable about Mecklenburg, Saarland or Hesse. But it’s well worth taking the time to get to know these areas. Outside the country’s big cities and its most visited region of Bavaria, there is a lot to attract the discerning traveller, particularly those who are looking for a greener, more sustainable holiday. Visit one of these four off-the-beaten-track destinations and you’ll be very glad you did.SaarlandBus and train travel cards for tourists now make it easier, cheaper and greener to explore regions such as the Black Forest (with the Konus card), and Northern Hesse, home and inspiration for the Brothers Grimm (MeineCardPlus). For eco-travellers, top of the list should be the central region of Saarland. It might be the smallest of the German states – apart from the city-states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen – but it was also the first to become a certified sustainable destination, with more than two-thirds of its landscape now under conservation. The Saarland Card gives free local bus and train travel, making it easy to access its sensational countryside, as well as entry to more than 100 attractions, including saunas, animal encounters and adventure trails. The card is provided free of charge when you book certain types of accommodation. Meanwhile, the region’s latest eco scheme, Hiking with Hammocks, has hammocks for rent in its three national parks and biospheres, with designated “dangling points” – so you can soak up all the peace and quiet this little-known region has to offer.
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