Upper Middle Rhine Valley (RLP - Germany)

Rhine is a massive river that begins at Konstanz in South Germany, passes via Switzerland, then goes along the French-German border and goes back into Germany and then heads into Netherlands and finally into the North Sea! The length of the river is a whooping 1033km. A portion of the Rhine River, 67km from 526km to 593km, from Rudeshiem/Bingen to Koblenz is protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site - Upper Middle Rhine Valley. 
Pic Courtesy: Ms.Claudia Schwarz

While I knew I wanted to visit the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, I was absolutely confused on 'how to see upper middle Rhine valley'! It seemed like a vast area and not one place. I did not understand where to stay and what to see. I finally figured it and here's the same for you!

The best way to explore the Rhine Valley is ofcourse on the Rhine River itself. Depending on the time that you have, you could do only a non-stop cruise on the Rhine river, or stop at a few villages or many villages if you do have much time. The cruise has about 10 stops between Koblenz & Bingen. You could stay at Koblenz or Bingen which are big towns or any of the smaller towns or villages in that entire 67km for a more authentic experience. If you do want to see the several castles and churches and beautiful, picturesque villages along the Rhine, you need 4-5 days! While kids would love the touristic activities in Koblenz & Bingen, you could skip one of these if you want to be more authentic/adventurous.

The train does go along the Rhine river all the way from Koblenz to Bingen. Whilst it is possible to go by train and it is super fast, you cannot really enjoy the beauty of the nature here, with that! The train taken 35 mins to reach Bingen from Boppard while the cruise boat takes 4 hrs! Cruise is very slow, even though it has almost the same number of stops as the train. So we took the train in some sections on our forward journey and the whole of our return journey and the boat for the most picturesque regions in the onward journey. The cruises are equipped with a proper restaurant that provide food & drinks a la carte. 

As you go on the cruise, you'll spot the Rhine km mentioned on the banks and it is possible to guide yourself about what you're seeing. Another interesting feature in this path, is that it was loved by William Turner, an English Artist of the Romanticism movement and he has done a series of paintings sitting the banks of Rhine & cliffs of the valley!!! Today, you can stand at the very places where he stood and did his paintings! 

There are a whooping 40+ castles in this length of 67km! Originally these castles were tax collection points for the ships that passed on the Rhine! Almost 50% of the value of the goods were paid as taxes by merchants as the passed through this region!!!! About 35 of those castles are still intact or renovated or rebuilt, for us to go & visit. The oldest of these fortresses & castles date back almost to 10th C CE. Ofcourse there are innumerable churches in this stretch as well. The oldest churches date back to almost 5th C CE! There are 40+ important, historical churches in this stretch! Now, you get why I say you need 4-5 days right?! If you really do want to visit just these castles and churches, and not to mention the trekking paths, trails, vineyards, museums and other things to do in this region, it takes a lot of time!

This region is so gorgeous that you could spend an entire lifetime here. Infact that's what a local that I met, did! He's from Chicago in the USA, and saw this beautiful Rhine Valley and the view was so spectacular that he decided to buy a house & settle down here. That's what the valley is capable of doing.... It is so gorgeous that you could spend a lifetime here, if that's not what you're looking for, atleast 4-5 days would do some justice.... I spent just 2 days and it felt way too rushed! But something is always better than nothing...... 

Our first stop was ofcourse Koblenz (592nd km) for half a day including cable-car to the fortress, and then we proceeded by train to Boppard (570th km) and for the rest of the day we caught a glimpse of Boppard, St.Goar and Oberweesel and spent the night there. Next was was the magical trip on the cruise to Bacharach (543rd km). After spending a couple hours at Bacharach we headed by cruise again to Bingen (529th km). A few hours at Bingen (we missed the chairlift though) and we headed back to Koblenz by train.
It is possible to go along the Rhine via walking & hiking. Way marked trails of various types are available in the region, like Wine Trail, Nordic walking, Mining & countryside etc. The longest is the Rheinsteig Hiking trail that's about 320km, followed by Rhein Castle trail that's about 200km! Ofcourse you can always do a part of it to get the flavour of the region.

On our first cruise from Boppard to Bacharach, the first castle we spotted was at Kamp Bornhoten (566th km) - Sterrenberg Castle and Liebenstein Castle. These were built in 1190, however they fell into ruins in 16th C itself, and were rebuilt later in 1968-78 in Gothic style and converted into a hotel. The are called the 'Feuding brothers', a legend and is one of the Turner paintings as well - Hostile Brothers. In the region between Koblenz & Boppard are about 10 more castles. The next town we crossed was St.Goarshausen & St.Goar (557th km) where the Rheinfels Castle is located. 2 other castles here are the Maus Castle and Katz Castle (mouse & cat). These were built in 1355 & 71 and again, the Turner painting of Burg Maus features this. 

Beyond this is the most famous spot in the whole region - Lorelei (555th km). The legend of Lorelei is that she's a very beautiful maiden with flowing, long, blonde hair who distracted the sailors who tried to maneuver the curve of the river here, making them to wreck their ships (Turner's painting Loreley)! She was standing here awaiting her long-gone lover. Anyways, with the distractions she made, she was ordered to be sent away to a nunnery. She wanted to look onto the river standing at the Lorelei rock one last time and lo-behold, her long gone lover was heading back! She wanted to wave to him from atop there, but slipped and fell!!! Though it sounds medieval, the story was made up only in early 1900s by Heinrich Heine. Her sculpture is there in the middle of the river. The folk song of Lorelei is sometimes played in the cruise as we cross this point!

The next castle we spotted was Schonburg Castle in Oberwesel (550th km), followed by Gutenfels Castle in Kaub (546th km). In Kaub is also the most fascinating, photographers' favourite castle - Pfalzgrafenstein Castle (Turner's painting Pfalz bei Kaub). This is an island castle built in 14th C CE. Very close to it, in the main land is the Sauerburg Castle, also built in 14th C. Today, this is a hotel as well. Beyond this, are the ruins of castles Stahlberg in Bacharach (544th km) and Furstenberg (541st km). 

The next huge castle is Rheinstein Castle in Trechtingshausen (533rd km). The Mauseturm in Bingen (529th km) is another island castle (or rather, a watch tower), built in 14th C CE. And finally the Niederburg Castle in Rudesheim (527th km) wraps up this series of castles. This was probably built in 10th-11th C on top of ancient Roman ruins that existed here already. All of these castles are either renovated, rebuilt or in ruins. Only 2 of the castles in this entire stretch were left unscathed - Markusburg Castle in Braubach (580th km) and Pfalzgrafenstein Castle in Kaub. 
Here's our video, a vlog of the Rhine cruise and some the villages we visited. Coming back soon with the review of the gorgeous hotel we stayed in Boppard!

To Get There:
Explained in the article above in paragraphs 2-4.
Turner Route: https://www.turner-route.de/en
Cruise: Various cruises with various comfort levels and budgets are available. 
We took the Line rides on Köln Düsseldorfer (like hop-on hop-off)

To Stay: 
Check the 3rd para of this post for details.
Read my review of Bellevue Rheinhotel Boppard where we stayed

My complete Rhine Valley Travelogue: Rhine River cruiseKoblenz, Boppard, St.Goar, Oberwesel, Bacharach, Bingen

P.S: I was invited by UNESCO Germany to experience the region for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

12 comments:

  1. One of my favourite things to do whilst driving (I didnt go by boat) through the Rhine Valley is checking out all the castles. I remember Liebenstein Castle well and thought it was very cute. I also loved staying in the small towns and villages and enjoying the food and beer through this route. :)

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  2. Great to know part of River Rhine is UNESCO site! And 67 castles along the entire stretch?! Wonder if there are at least half that number along any of the rivers in India. The legend of Lorelei is really touching! What a fall and end! It must be interesting to see the 2 castles in their original form.

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  3. I am enjoying your trip down the Rhine Valley. Good to know it would take 4-5 days to explore along the upper middle portion. I love train travel. But think you really need to see the Rhine area from the water. I am sure with 40+ castles along the way that we would have our camera going non-stop. But we would definitely want to see the vineyards too. Hubby loves wine from this area.

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  4. I knew all along that the Rhine was an integral part of Germany but never thought that a portion of the River from Rudeshiem/Bingen to Koblenz was a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. I am sucker for UNESCO lusts so this alone would add this to my list for sure and add a bit of wine to it and it becomes even better. I would love to cruise along the Rhine some day and take it relaxing on a 4 -5 day trip rather than rushing it. Overall it would be a great experience and one I might plan for 2020. Thanks for sharing

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  5. At first I thought spending 4-5 days to explore this region sounded kinda long, but then after reading about the beautiful landscape on the way as well as looking at your pictures, I changed my mind. I'd love to go on that cruise and take in all the views of the castles along the path. This area is truly gorgeous.

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  6. I love Germany’s Rhine Valley! I was only able to visit a small part of it but it’s one of my favorite memories of Germany. Cruising down the river with the castles all around was magical. I was able to jump off and explore a few of the villages and had the absolute best schnitzel ever. This makes me want to return and see more of the area!

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  7. I've always wanted to take a Rhine river valley cruise. That's crazy that there are 40+ castles in only 67km. I could see why someone might move to the area! Taking a cable car to the fortress in Koblenz must have been a fun way to get to the castle!

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  8. I have seen Rhine river and its bank in Switzerland and was amazed by its beautiful shores. Good to know that Upper Middle Rhine Valley is theUNESCO World Heritage Site. 40 castles in the stretch of 67km sounds amazing and though we cannot do all of them but it would be worth to see the most famous and beautiful ones during this trip. The most famous spot in the whole region - Lorelei looks splendid with that bend curve of river. The legend behind this Lorelei is interesting of a maiden waiting for her lover and it truly looks like Bollywood story.

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  9. This is a truly beautiful region and I can absolutely understand why it might not be clear how to see everything because of how big it is. You do a great job of breaking it down, and it's good to know that there are both boat and train options. You mention the tourist who settled down here because of how beautiful it is, and I can see why! Thanks for sharing, Bhushavali!

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  10. I would love to do a Rhine River cruise, stopping on the way in several villages. I can't believe there are more than 40 kms in the span of 67 kms, that really is a lot of castles and I would absolutely love to visit some of them. I guess this is something I can plan to do when I visit Germany.

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  11. I'm not sure if I'd be able to attempt either the Rheinsteig Hiking trail or the Rhein Castle one, but a scenic cruise along the river definitely sounds up my alley. I also can't believe how there are over 40 castles!!!!! I can only imagine how picturesque and fairy-tale like this must area must be. Would love to visit someday!

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  12. You are writing is always fabulous. I’ve read your blog and I find the information very useful.

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