The source of the Elbe River lies in the southern Krkonoše mountain range, on the border to Poland. From here it crosses the Czech Republic, flowing through the Ceské Stredohorí (Czech Middle Mountains) and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, on the border to Germany, before making its way across the North German Plain to Cuxhaven, where it empties into the North Sea after a distance of 1,165 Kilometres. The route in this book begins in Prague an, at first, follows the Vltava River to its confluence with the Elbe River (Czech: Labe) at Melník. From here the route follows the Elbe River to Magdeburg, alternating between the banks and sometimes having a main route on each bank to choose from. The riverine landscape of the Elbe is famous for its flora and fauna and has therefore largely been placed under protection. Not only are common species such as Wild Duck, Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron and Common Bussard, to be found here, but also Storks, Goosander, Cormorants, Kestrels and even Beaver. Plants of interest include White Willow, Black Alder, Meadow Foxtail, Orchard Grass, Cow Parsley, Curlytop Knotweed and Small-flowered Willowherb The Elbe River is also an important transport corridor. It is Navigable for about 940 Kilometres, connecting the North Sea to the cities of the Bohemian basin. There are also several canals connecting the Elbe to other waterways such the Oder and Rhine Rivers and the Baltic Sea. The two largest and most important harbours on the Elbe are Hamburg and Magdeburg.
The distance along the Elbe River Trail between Prague and Magdeburg is 500 Kilometres. This figure does not include the 300 Kilometres of additional excursions and alternative routes from which the rider can choose.
Surface quality and traffic
As a whole, the route of the Elbe River Trail has not quite reached the quality which is seen along the upper parts of the Danube Bike Trail, but years of continual improvements have produced and excellent cycling route with few gaps. Regular work is still being conducted on the route as well as on flood mitigation structures along the river, so please be aware that the route described in our guide may in some places differ from the actual signposted route. The route in the Czech Republic still frequently follows unpaved field roads or tracks, especially along the Vltava River, or along country roads with light to moderate traffic. Well developed bicycle paths and infrastructure can already be found between Litomerice and the German border. Once in Saxony you will find a very cycling-friendly state which has almost completed the development of the Elbe River Trail. The route partly follows quiet country roads, but mostly runs along even, paved bicycle paths. In Saxony-Anhalt you will still find some gravel paths along the river meadows, but these are generally good to ride on, even with a heavily loaded bicycle.
Along the section between Prague and the German border you will follow the signposted route No. 2, which is well posted on the bicycle paths, less often along the stretches on the roads. In some cases the signs are poorly recognisable In Saxony the route is signposted throughout with the distinct Elbe River Trail logo and in Saxony-Anhalt it is additionally signposted with "R2", the state´s own code for the route.
Planning your tour
Important telephone numbers
International country telephone codes: Germany: 0049 Czech Republic: 00420 Please note that local calls in the Czech Republic require the local area code, except for mobile telephone calls. The area code is listed where data for a place is given in the text, as well as in the accommodation guide.
Central information sources Overview: www.elberadweg.de
(German, English, Dutsch, Czech languages) www.elberadweg-r2.de