Cycling towards the horizon – the Emsland Route in Northern Germany
© Emsland Tourismus GmbH, Birgit Janknecht
Just before the German mainland merges with the sea behind East Frisia, the beautiful Emsland region stretches along the Dutch border. With views stretching as far as the eye can see, this flat landscape is a wonderful place to cycle. Both the nature and culture lover in you will be satisfied as you ride between canals, floodplains and unspoilt moorland to historic towns, villages and sights, such as the star-shaped Clemenswerth hunting lodge.
To give you even more leeway when planning your trip, we present two different ways of riding the Emsland Route. Depending on how much time or effort you want to invest, you can ride the route in a 402 kilometre (250 mile) lap or in a shorter 316 kilometre (196 mile) variant. If you wish, you can also split your adventure into two routes. You can find all the information and Tours you need for planning in this Collection.
No matter which option you choose, your journey begins at Meppen train station, making it convenient to reach with public transport from anywhere. From Meppen, the Emsland Route first takes you to the north to the port city of Papenburg, close to the East Frisian border. Here, giant cruise ships decorate the horizon as they are assembled in the Meyer shipyard. Next, you curve east to Haselünne, reaching the southernmost point of the Emsland route in Rheine, just after the North Rhine-Westphalian border. From there, the route continues to Lingen and back to Meppen.
The route’s flat gradients make it ideal for beginners or families with children. And, of course, you don't have to do all the stages, which are sometimes a bit long, in one go. You’ll find great places to stay along the route such as rustic country inns and accommodation for cyclists. To keep you energised, you can try a range of tasty regional and international specialities. In times of need, however, you can also simply visit a farm shop or a chic mill café to experience Emsland hospitality.
They start your journey through the Emsland ... Well where? On the Ems, of course. More precisely in the city of Meppen at the local train station. In Meppen, the Hase and Ems flow together and both flow into the Dortmund-Ems Canal, which not only accompanies many ships on their way to or from the North Sea, but will also be a loyal companion for you on today's stage to Papenburg .Downstream you follow the canal out of the city, soon cross an oxbow lake of the Ems and before you know it, you will find yourself in Borkener Paradies, a small nature reserve, where with a little luck you can even watch the kingfisher hunting for fish.About twelve kilometers later you will be greeted by the shipping town of Haren, which, with its home port for more than 200 inland, coastal and ocean-going vessels, forms one of the most worth seeing sections along the Ems Cycle Route. The whole area is so criss-crossed by canals that it is not uncommon for you to have to make a short stop at a drawbridge - a welcome little breather and a great spectacle at that.Shortly before Papenburg, the cycle path leads you through a dreamy meadow landscape along the Ems. Here it can often happen that, completely unexpectedly, a huge cruise ship suddenly appears above the treetops on the horizon. Don't be surprised - the ship didn't get lost here from the North Sea, it is still under construction. Because in the west of Papenburg is the world-famous Meyer Werft, whose halls produce such ocean liners as the AIDAnova or the Norwegian Escape.Incidentally, Papenburg is the oldest and largest fen colony in Germany. For information: A fen colony is a form of settlement in which originally uninhabitable land, mostly a moor or swamp area, was developed by draining the moor. Accordingly, even today there are still a large number of canals in Papenburg that testify to that time.
With Papenburg you have already reached the northernmost point of the Emsland route. Shortly before the East Frisian border, the cycle path makes a bend towards the southeast. However, it takes a moment before you have cycled out of Papenburg - although the way is not far, there is a new interesting highlight waiting for you at almost every corner. The end of the tour is the informative Van Velen facility: an open-air museum that gives you a good insight into the period of bog colonization.Today's stage is pretty tough with 122 kilometers in length. If you prefer to take it easy, you can, for example, make an overnight stop halfway - or you can take the shortcut between Börgermoor and Sögel. In this way you can reduce the stage to just under 72 kilometers. Incidentally, we will present the short version to you in this collection as a separate tour.If you opt for the complete program, the route from Börgermoor still leads for a long way to the east. At the Esterwegen memorial you can get an impression of the atrocities during the Nazi era, when countless prisoners and concentration camp inmates had to toil in the moors. Incidentally, the famous song “Die Moorsoldaten” also comes from this area at that time.In Sögel the path then joins the shorter route at Clemenswerth Castle. The castle complex is also ideal for an extensive stop at the end of the tour. Here you can recharge your batteries for a moment and let your mind wander in the park before you start the last 35 kilometers of this stage.Another highlight awaits you shortly after Groß Berßen: Here you will come across the first megalithic tombs along the way. They come from the Neolithic Age and are literally "ancient" as they are the oldest surviving structures in northwestern Europe. A little further, in the village of Hüven, you can even take a closer look at such a grave .Your destination, Haselünne, is known for its schnapps distillers culture. In addition to the traditional Heydt distillery and the fine grain distillery Rosche, the Berentzen company also has its headquarters here - the name will be familiar to almost everyone. So why not end the day with a visit to a traditional distillery today. In this sense: Well get it!
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The short variant of the second stage takes you on a direct route south from Börgermoor to Sögel. This way you can save almost exactly 50 kilometers of the total distance. You won't get past the concentration camp memorial in Esterwegen or the beautiful Erikasee, but other great highlights await you on your way: for example the Batakhaus in Werpeloh, a replica of an Indonesian stilt house, or the farm shop of the Nieters family, where you can stock up on local specialties as provisions for your onward journey.On the outskirts of Sögel, the route merges with the main route. Here you can take a nice rest at Schloss Clemenswerth before the last 35 kilometers of this stage to Haselünne.
Your journey on the third stage of the Emsland route begins at the Hase in Haselünne, that idyllic river that you last met briefly at the beginning of your journey in Meppen. The cycle path follows a short stretch of this wonderful river landscape to Herzlake, where it branches off to the south.In Haselünne you have another option to significantly shorten the route: Here you can take the Haseradweg directly back to your starting point in Meppen - it's only about 20 kilometers away from here. So if you only want to do a small lap on the Emsland route or want to split the entire route into two laps, you will find the perfect connecting route with the Haseradweg.The big round now continues south over fields and meadows, at a distance it touches the Hahnenmoor and then leads via Wettrup to Handrup, where the charming Hesemannsche Mühle invites you to take a short break. After about half of the day's distance, you will soon reach Saller See, a popular excursion destination in the region. The idyllic lakeshore is perfect for a longer break. Here you can draw energy for the second half of the day.Shortly before your destination in Spelle, a little something special awaits you - here you turn onto an old railway line: a full six kilometers through almost untouched nature, just straight ahead. Every now and then an old signal box crosses your path, which invites you to take a break with a few benches. Before you roll to your destination at Spelle, it is worth making a short detour to the “Speller Dose” nature reserve. The railway line passes it in just a few hundred meters.
The shortcut between Haselünne and Meppen, which you can use to easily split the Emsland route into two smaller rounds, for example, runs comfortably on the cycle path along the Hase. You follow the playful course of the river and cross idyllic floodplain landscapes, while hardly a larger town crosses your path - a route that you can also cycle twice.
Today's stage goes back to the Ems. She will also accompany you on the rest of the route until you finally get back to your starting point in Meppen. Before you get to the Ems, you make a short detour from Spelle to the Dortmund-Ems Canal, which you follow to the city of Rheine - the southernmost point on your journey.Buy some provisions for a second breakfast here and make yourself comfortable in the inviting park of the Bentlage monastery garden. Here, after almost a third of today's route, you can take a breather and draw new energy - the salty air around the graduation tower is particularly suitable for this.Back on the Ems, you first drive to Salzbergen and from there to Emsbüren. If you are looking for a bit of sporting variety, you will find it at the SwinGolf course near Mehringer Heide - here you can play a game of golf comfortably and without complicated club regulations.The path leads you further north along the Ems through a wonderful meadow landscape. Every now and then you cross it, every now and then it flows together for a short distance with the Dortmund-Ems Canal. At your destination, the city center of Lingen invites you to stroll through the market square paved with red bricks. Tomorrow is the grand finale of the Emsland route.
The last stage on the Emsland route takes you from Lingen over an approximately 43-kilometer detour towards the Dutch border and then back to your starting point in Meppen. If you prefer to drive directly to Meppen - that is, along the Ems - we recommend the shorter version of stage 5. It saves you 35 kilometers and shortens the total distance to 40 kilometers. For the sake of simplicity, you will find the shorter route in this collection as a separate tour.From Lingen you follow the Ems downriver today and make a short detour to the Geeste reservoir shortly after the little village of Holthausen. In the north of the lake there is a great sandy beach that invites you to swim on hot days. A small beach bar rounds off the holiday feeling at the lake.In Groß Hesepe you leave the Ems and cycle towards the Dutch border. On the way you can visit the Moor Museum: Here you can find out more about how the “peat” industry shaped this area well into the 20th century, which not least also affected natural areas worthy of protection. For almost five kilometers you cycle in the Netherlands along the Bargerveen nature reserve. This can of course be emphasized very clearly on the tour statistics - after all, you don't cross a national border by bike every day.Then it goes back to Meppen, where you meet the shorter route shortly after the village of Rühle. Only five kilometers and you have reached Meppen and can toast your successful finish. In the old town south of the confluence of the Ems and Dortmund-Ems Canal you will find some localities that are ideal for a refreshing landing drink and a little refreshment before the tour finally comes to an end at Meppener Bahnhof.
The short variant of stage number 5 takes you directly from Groß Hesepe to Rühle. You skip the generous extra round in the direction of the Netherlands, but you cycle comfortably over fields and meadows along the meandering Ems.If you want, you can make a short detour to the river and visit a hydropower plant that combines traditional craftsmanship with modern technology in an impressive way. All in all, this shortcut will save you a full 35 kilometers. Shortly after the village of Rühle, this short route merges with the longer one.