DISCOVER ONE OF GERMANY’S BEST KEPT SECRETS: THE WORLD’S TALLEST ARTIFICIAL SANDHILL
Let me guess the number one experience on your bucket list: being perched on a boat that gets pulled up a colossal dune, then slapping on a pair of skis and cannonballing back down in sizzling 30 degrees C/86 degrees F, before high diving into a pool to cool off.
Did I get it right?
No? Well… let’s rehash it after you’re done reading this article.
It sounds like the plot of one of those dippy dreams everyone experiences from time to time – the ones that combine random occurrences which happened throughout the day. But is it?
Enter Hirschau, a small town in northern Bavaria and home to Monte Kaolino – a 120 m/394 ft hill, consisting of roughly 35 million tons of white quartz sand. It’s what heaven looks like to toddlers!
Read on to find out why this is a must-see while you’re in Germany – even if you’re not into sand. Or hills.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
In 1833 people started mining kaolin, quartz, and feldspar there, which was mainly used to make fine china. Over time, that has changed and nowadays about 60% of it is utilized for paper production. What went wrong there? Do people just not appreciate wispy cups anymore that will break if uncle Günther in the neighboring village sneezes into his pillow?
Anyway, the sand, a byproduct of mining, used to get dumped into a landfill, which slowly grew into Monte Kaolino, drastically changing the landscape in the area.
It was only a matter of time for some madcap to try skiing down the hill. And it panned out! So well, in fact, that people decided to form a club in 1956.
Over time, they added sandboarding and eventually built a boat-shaped lift. One thing led to another and today, Monte, as the locals call it, is surrounded by a small fun park.
In addition, the dune used to be home to the annual sandboarding world championships from 1990 until 2007. It was an epic event every year, with several popular bands playing and all the cool kids camping by the hill. Not me though. I wasn’t allowed to go. Ever. Danke, Mami.
IS THAT ALL?
In addition to tracking up and down the hill by foot or using different means of transport (ski, sandboard, Zipflbob, lift) you can do a variety of other activities at the park:
- Adventure Playground:
This is right by the parking lot, so be prepared to distract your preschooler as soon as you pull up – otherwise, you may not even make it to the hill. We all know how things go when kids stumble upon a playground.
Note: There are water features. You know what to do.
After hiking up Monte Kaolino, take a dip in the lap pool to wash off the sand.
Just kidding – please don’t. You’ll get banned and have to go back home early, which means having to spend the entire ride home listening to your kids whine about not even being able to shoot down the 50 m/164 ft waterslide or hop off the diving platform.
So, do your little ones a favor and rinse off in the shower before jumping in. But just in case it does happen, make sure to read my article on the Six Facts You Wish You Had Known Before Braving The German Autobahn For The First Time, so you don’t have to worry about figuring out where to tinkle, on the way home.
This is a ride for adults and kids three years and up. Children over eight can go alone, younger ones have to be with an adult.
One round takes four to seven minutes, depending on how much of a showboat you are, as every toboggan is equipped with a handbrake that you can use – or not – as you please.
The course is 800 m/0.5 mi long and includes six 180 degree turns as well as several jumps.
Fair warning: if you’ve been on some of the toboggan rides in southern Bavaria or the Black Forest, this one probably won’t impress you much.
If yomping up a monstrous dune, splashing in the outdoor pool, and whooshing down the toboggan ride still hasn’t tired you out, hop over to the High Rope Course, which includes six different levels from “Very Low To The Ground So Even Aunt Betty Who’s Afraid Of Heights Can Do It” up to “11 m/36 ft In The Air – Aunt Betty Can’t Even Look”.
Yup – those are totally the official names of their various levels! Others include “Meh – Not Worth Mentioning” and “Woah – It Looks A Lot Higher From Up Here”.
Physically pooped, but can’t get enough of the area surrounding the hill? Book a guided 40-180 minutes Segway tour around the dune and learn even more about Monte Kaolino and its history.
Also, make sure to take a nice family picture to print on your teenage daughter’s pillow for her next slumber party. She’ll love it.
If you’re less into adrenalin and more into learning, take a tour of the Kaolin Mine Industrial Trail while listening to one of the audio guides on their website in either German, English, or Czech.
Discover how mining china clay, quartz, and feldspar have been changing the landscape in the area since the early 19th century and find out about rare animals that have migrated here due to natural biotopes forming.
Are you able to do all this within just one day? Probably not.
So, if you don’t live close by, consider renting one of the mobile homes or the log cabin at the campground.
There may not be another place in the world where you can camp next to a giant white sandhill, so don’t miss out on this unique chance to kick off your influencer career.
Imagine all the unique pictures you can have someone else take of you from behind while you’re looking at the sand, wearing a flowy gown and a hat, along with perfectly wavy slightly-untidy-but-not-too-much-so hair! No one has ever done that.
IS IT PARTY TIME YET?
Due to the ever-changing event rules of covid, I can’t currently include any info on this, but feel free to check out their events calendar here.
SO, SHOULD I GO?
No matter if you’re a professional sand boarder, an avid hiker, or an inquisitive kid – Monte Kaolino has something to offer for anyone.
Bonus gift: you’ll find grains of sand in your home, your clothing, and probably your future grand kids’ ears for the rest of your life!
Now go plan your trip and create some unforgettable memories in front of one of the world’s most unique backdrops.