Elbe: Kayaking Summer

Tour name: the Elbe (Schmilka – Lübeck)
Degree of difficulty: easy
Tour length: about 700 km
Alignment: North-West

The Elbe has its origin in the Czech Republic, near the Polish border. From there it flows in a curve through the Czech Republic and reaches after 356.6 km Saxony. On its way across Germany, then the Elbe passes through Dresden, Magdeburg, and Hamburg until it finally flows into the North Sea near Cuxhaven. Overall, the Elbe comes to a total length of about 1,000 km. Thus, the Elbe is number fourteen of the longest rivers in Europe. Globally, it is one of the 200 longest rivers in the world.

After my kayak tour on the Danube to the Black Sea, in 2006 I took a look at the Elbe. In two sections, I paddled, along with my brother and my girlfriend, the German part of the Elbe – but not to the North Sea. Due to the heavy shipping traffic in Hamburg, we decided to continue on the Elbe-Lübeck Canal to the Baltic Sea. We found paddling on the Elbe to be very pleasant as it has – as a classic flow stream – a passable flow rate between 3km/h and 6km/h. In addition to this, the variation between different landscapes and many cities invite to small strolls.
According to DKV (German Canoe Association), traveling on the Elbe is possible with the kayak, but also with folding kayak, outrigger or Canadier, as well as with 7 or 10 seaters. However, at least for multi-day trips with changeable weather, it is recommended to use lockable boats (tarpaulin, upper deck, spray deck). In addition, the boat should not be too wind-prone.
Otherwise, the Elbe – at least at normal or slightly elevated water level, is fairly easy to navigate. So take a look at the current water levels before you start your tour. For shipping, there are fixed fairways. If you follow the rules and drive carefully, you have a safe journey ahead of you. Also in terms of transports, the Elbe is a really recommendable river: It is, at least in the German section, completely passable. Only one lock (Geesthacht) must be passed.
The Elbe also has a lot to offer in terms of accommodation and food. There are a variety of campsites, youth hostels, hotels, and restaurants, which are directly accessible from the water. No wonder that the Elbe is one of the most popular rivers in Germany!

our faithful companion on the Elbe
our faithful companion on the Elbe ©Jarno Hein

Link to Description of the Elbe (in German)
Link to German Canoe Association (in German)

Tip I: Highly recommended, in our opinion, Water maps for the Elbe – made of waterproof paper. So, you have all the information ready at hand.
At that time we had the “Wassersport-Wanderatlas Elbe” by Jübermann.
You can watch the revised version here.

TourenAtlas TA7 Elbe-1 Elbe Sandstone Mountains to Magdeburg
TourenAtlas TA8 Elbe-2 Magdeburg to Hamburg

Tip II: For those who do not like traveling alone, there is the International Elbe Tour from Schmilka to Geesthacht. For all information and the possibility to register look here:


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