castle, cycling, family travel, germany

Cycling with kids in the Ahrtal, Germany

Like most destinations, tourism in Germany is so much more than ticking off the major sights. Venture almost anywhere off the beaten track with a pair of hiking boots or a bicycle (preferably both!) and you are pretty much guaranteed a holiday or short break to remember.

You see, we had no particular reason for choosing the Ahrtal, in Rhineland Pfalz, as the destination for a short camping holiday. Sure, it was only a few hours away from our home in Luxembourg, we hadn’t been there before, and it seemed to have a few half-decent campsites, but this could also be said for perhaps a dozen other regions of Germany. However, I had read some good things about the local cycle path, so we rather spontaneously set up camp in the buzzing town of Altenahr, pumped up the bike tyres, and got ready to explore.

(Spoiler: It was WONDERFUL!)

IMG_1062 4
Almost ready to go! (Tent: Outwell Nevada SP)

Running traffic-free from Blankenheim in the heights of the Eifel (Ardennes) all the way down to the banks of the Rhine, the Ahrtal Radweg is 77km of pure cycling pleasure, and its gentle gradients and plenty of ice-cream opportunities en-route mean that it is perfect for kids too. Situated at a natural boundary in the valley, it turned out that our campsite in Altenahr was a great base to explore this region from, resulting in two days of very different experiences.

On Day One we headed east towards the Rhine and, in one word, the landscape has been crafted by… wine. Following a disused railway line (tunnels and all!), the Ahrtal Radweg winds and wends its way through vineyards lush with the fresh green leaves of late spring. Castle ruins crown steep rocky hills, with neat terraces of vines cascading down to the valley floor. It is, simply, gorgeous.


The gentle gradients of the Ahrtal Radweg were too easy for Ash. Cycling up the steep hillsides through the vineyards is more his style 🙂

A little further on, the sheer scale of the Kalvarienberg Monastery, rising like a gothic nightmare over a placid sea of vines, made us rub our eyes in disbelief. Replace the vineyards with a lake and add some mountains and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon Hogwarts itself…

Cycling towards the Kalvarienberg Monastery, Ahrweiler, Germany

Kalvarienberg marks yet another transition point of the Ahrtal Radweg. From here towards the Rhine the scenery is more of an urban nature – German style – with the cycle path flowing past the green parks and elegant traffic-free streets of Bad Neuenahr before entering the wide-open landscapes of the Rhine Valley. We took a short detour into the timber-framed alleys of Ahrweiler and paused for lunch in a parkside café before turning around a few kilometres short of the Rhine and heading back towards our tent again.

On Day Two we headed west from Altenahr towards the higher ground of the Eifel and, to our surprise, were treated to a completely different landscape: no vineyards here, just rolling hills of pasture and forest, with quiet villages every few kilometres and chocolate box chapels sprinkled liberally in a sea of verdant green.

But the Ahrtal isn’t all about cycling – it is equally rewarding to explore it by foot. In particular, a well-marked hiking route – the rather unfortunately-named Ahrsteig – criss-crosses the cycling path, allowing hikers to explore the off-the-beaten-path gems lurking in these green hills. On Day Three of our holiday we followed a short section of this 100km trail, and were treated to two spectacular sights – the magnificent 12th Century ruins of Altenahr Castle, and the bizarre-yet-spectacular “Teufelsloch” (Devil’s Hole) rock formation.

Extreme ballet at the Teufelsloch, Ahrtal, Germany

Which led us to wonder… what other hidden gems are awaiting us in this region? Just like Germany as a whole, the Ahrtal is perfect for slow tourism. Take your time, take your bicycle, take your hiking boots… take yourself and your family to Germany.

Practical information on visiting the Ahrtal, Germany.

  • The Ahrtal is located in the northern fringes of Rhineland Pfalz, about an hour south of Cologne. By public transport, trains run directly to Altenahr and Bad Neuenahr from Bonn (less than one hour).
  • Here you can find more information on the Ahrtal Radweg (cycle path, German only) and Ahrsteig (hiking route). Some additional information in English can be found here.
  • We took our own bicycles, but of course bicycle hire is also possible.
  • We stayed at Camping Altenahr, just a few minutes walk away from Altenahr town centre and directly on the cycle path. Clean and simple. Some noise from road traffic and trains, but that’s the price you pay for convenience…
  • We ate – twice – at Café Caspari  at the foot of Altenahr Castle. Simple, delicious food served with a smile; the generous portions were quickly gobbled up by two hungry young cyclists.

Disclosure: We are a tester family for Outwell, who provided us with our tent and certain  camping equipment. All views and opinions are entirely our own.

Daisy the bus visited Altenahr in May 2018

(c) 2018 Jonathan Orr




27 thoughts on “Cycling with kids in the Ahrtal, Germany”

  1. Ooh I know just how to share this with!
    How wonderful to live so close. We did try to cover too much when we went to Germany and we know it has so much more to offer.


  2. I would love to have a family holiday like this with plenty to explore and just active enough to keep everyone occupied. I don’t know Germany at all, aside from cycling just over the boarder for a couple of days as a teenager. You make me want to visit the area you explored. That monastery really is impressive and the little hillside towns and vineyards look idyllic.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids


  3. It’s been a long time since I last read one of your posts, and you’re coming back with a bang! How beautiful is this!? I love how your adventure was quite spontaneous, and how it turned out fantastic. There are several such greenways in France where I’m from, and I’d love to explore them slowly with the kids too. Need to sort out a way of transporting our bikes on the car.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha – thanks! I’ve been doing a PGCE over the past nine months or so, which kind of took up most of my available “computer screen hours” :o) We hope to have plenty of adventures over the summer.

      Bike transport for large families is, indeed, a problem. For this trip it was only myself and the two eldest kids, so we just threw the bikes into the back of the minivan.


    1. It’s great that he wants to be in the German stream! Although Luxembourg as a whole may be culturally closer to France, my kids certainly feel more at ease with German and Germany, and the country is a brilliant place for exploration with kids, with or without a bicycle. I hope you get there soon, and that your son enjoys secondary school!


  4. This is a great summary of what looks like a fab experience. Love that extreme ballet! We’re not quite at the cycling holiday stage yet but you make it sound effortless. The Harry Potter monastery would be high on my wild one’s must-visit list. #FarawayFiles


    1. I feel like a bit of a cheat calling this a “cycling holiday”… It was a short break of three days, only two of which were actually spent cycling, and we only went around 85km in total (which is nothing for a couple of pre-teens on flat, well-maintained paths like these). I think that these sort of holidays are far more accessible than many people believe them to be. :o) Please give Caroline our best wishes as she continues her brave and inspirational recovery!


    1. Germany (and Luxembourg!) is an amazing place for cycling, with well-maintained traffic-free cycle paths almost everywhere. A cycling holiday there is a real pleasure!


  5. We always used to cycle with the boys when they were younger & happily they still love it (although leaving me well behind now). We never ventured into Germany with them, but I think we will do it ourselves at some point – it looks beautiful & great trails too


    1. There are great trails in Germany, all set up for a top class cycling holiday. As I mentioned in the article, we didn’t have any particular reason for choosing the Ahrtal – much of the country is primed for exploration by pedal power. I’m sure you’d love it!


    1. Thanks! Shouldn’t be too far away from you, right? But that’s what I love about Germany: there are so many “Ahrtal”-type places just ripe for discovery, by bike or any other means. Hope you make it there someday!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a lovely trip. I love setting off and now quite knowing what you will find. The Kalvarienberg Monastery, is quite a discovery and I can see what you mean about Hogwarts. Germany is country (to my shame) I know little of, I hope to put that right some time #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The beautiful German countryside really lends itself to slow travel like this. I’ve done a few vintage car rallies with my father in Germany and the countryside is just stunning and there are always so many great castles or cake shops to stop off along the way. Great adventure for kids, this. Thanks for sharing on #Farawayfiles

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh that looks like a great little getaway! That is very cool to have two distinctive biking experiences from the same home base. I would love the vineyard views, but those German churches are so idyllic. Such nice photos and video. I’m a huge fan of bike rides for families. Thanks for sharing! #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

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