For centuries, Externsteine has been a special place to visit in Northern Germany. Once you get your first glimpse of this unique rock formation in the Teutoburg Forest you’ll totally understand why! On our visit, we couldn’t help but wonder about the history behind this geological wonder. How did it come to be?! Hopefully, after reading this you’ll be inspired to see Externsteine for yourself!
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Getting to Externsteine Germany
The location deep in the nature of the Teutoburg Forest makes having a car the easiest way to get here. Nevertheless, there are bus and train routes available if you’re coming from some of the nearby towns. The largest city close to Externsteine is Detmold, which is about a 20-minute drive away.
Paderborn, Bielefeld, and Dortmund are all within driving distance as well, but a little bit further. After you arrive at Externsteine Germany there are 3 separate parking lots to choose from. Don’t worry, all are just a short walk from the famous stone complex!
8 Reasons to Visit Externsteine Germany
1. Location in the Teutoburg Forest
One of the best parts about visiting Externsteine is the beautiful setting around it. The Teutoburg Forest is an attraction in itself, featuring 463 miles of dense trees and mountains. This makes it an ideal place for outdoor activities, especially in the warmer months.
This forest was named after the Battle of Teutoburg which was one of the most important conflicts between the Romans and Germanic peoples in 9 AD. Another piece of history worth visiting here is the Hermann Monument, built to commemorate the Germanic tribes victory over Rome.
2. Natural Monument
Gazing up for the first time at Externsteine, it’s almost hard to believe how old it is. The sandstone that makes up the rock monument was formed over 70 millions years ago, and the 13 different columns stand up to 130 feet high.
Although the appearance of the rocks has been modified by humans, it’s still incredibly peculiar to see standing alone high above the Teutoburg Forest.
3. A Unique History
How humans have interacted with Externsteine in Germany is highly debated. Still, there are a few things that experts can agree on from evidence at the site. Many scholars believe that its first use aside from shelter was as a Neolithic worshipping site.
The 8th century brought the arrival of Christian monks who were the first to alter the Externsteine rocks. They added carvings and stairs, more of which would continue to be built during the Middle Ages.
Externsteine would go on to be a place for entertainment, a palace, and even a jail over the years! The most interesting additions for us were the caves and grottos built throughout Externsteine. There is also what appears to be a temple at the top with features to study astronomy.
Whatever the case, the exact history of Externsteine Germany is still unclear. It’s easy to let your imagination run wild and wonder while you’re there!
4. Magic Powers of Externsteine Germany
The out-of-this-world appearance of Externsteine has led to many myths and legends of how it came to be. Some think it was the home of the ancient Yggdrasil tree from Nordic culture. Others believe the shape of the rocks resembles giants, and you can even make out the faces of them in the gigantic pillars.
The mystery is part of the allure of Externsteine and it has led to fringe cult followings. Both Neo-Nazi and Neo-Pagan groups are known to worship the site.
Regardless of its true meaning, Externsteine is an important part of German culture and people travel from all over to see it. It’s even been dubbed the “German Stonehenge” by historians!
5. Breathtaking Views
Once you make it to the top of Externsteine in Germany you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the Lippe countryside. It’s from here that you can truly see the beauty of the Teutoburg Forest.
Take a moment to enjoy the views from over 100 feet high at Externsteine! The best time to visit is first thing in the morning or later on for sunset.
6. Summer Solstice at Externsteine
Speaking of sunset… There is one special time of year to visit Externsteine above all others. The summer solstice brings many visitors to admire this sacred site and watch under the stars.
We mentioned that some believe it holds significance to the study of astronomy. That’s because one of the most interesting things at Externsteine is a hole in the rock that points directly at the sun and moon during this time of year!
There is an annual summer soltice festival where people camp around the massive rocks. In recent years there have been some restrictions due to the sheer number of people and excessive partying.
7. Stunning Artwork
Maybe the most fascinating part of Externsteine Germany is the religious carvings into the walls of the structure. These ancient reliefs show the history of the region and are a stark reminder of the religious conflicts of the past.
Due to the many religious battles that took place in Europe during this time, it’s almost a certainty that some of that happened here. In fact, part of the legend of Externsteine is that King Charlemagne cut down the Yggdrasil tree when he outlawed Paganism.
The “Decent From the Cross” is the most notable carving and a must-see on your visit to Externsteine. Dating back to the 12th century, it’s actually the oldest relief of its kind north of the Alps.
8. Hiking and Cycling in the Teutoburg Forest
Aside from the natural wonder of Externsteine, the Teutoburg Forest draws in outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. On your trip, you’re sure to see dozens of hikers and cyclists heading to this special monument in Germany.
We drove to Externsteine from our apartment in Detmold, but if we did it again we would totally rent a bicycle and have a ride around!
Have any questions on Externsteine Germany or want to share your own adventures from the Teutoburg Forest? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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