Explosive combination

Full-on steam. While the Eifel region in the north of Rhineland Palatinate may seem peaceful today, it was once a raging hotbed of the elements. Earth, water and fire battled for supremacy under the ground. There were powerful eruptions as they vied for space, leaving dozens of craters and sinkholes. Today, they are the pearls of a landscape shaped by volcanic activity. The earth erupted for the last time a good 10,000 years ago and the first humans were around to see it happen. They were pretty amazed at how thorough nature could be. No stone was left unturned, no tree left where it had previously stood.

This was the origin of the maars, the circular volcanic craters which occur throughout the Central Eifel region. The most beautiful of these maars are filled with water, 12 royal blue lakes, each surrounded by a natural wall of earth. These maars are also called the eyes of the Eifel, and it is no coincidence that the word maar is reminiscent of the German word for the sea, ‘Meer’.

You can even bathe in some of them, including the Schalkenmehrener Maar and the Gemündener Maar. The Pulvermaar, a volcanic lake 72 metres deep with dazzling water set amidst mystical green forests, is especially popular. There are pedalos for hire, a slide and a diving board, and plenty of space for those who just want to swim.

In the Eifel, it is worth getting to the bottom of things. Wherever the hot magma could make its way upwards unhindered, it shot out of the top of a mountain into the open. However, if it hit groundwater, there were powerful flash fires deep underground and the ground above collapsed. This is why volcanoes are traditionally cone-shaped, while the maars are shaped like funnels.

Gemündener Maar near Daun, Eifel

View of the Gemündener Maar and the volcanic landscape near Daun, Eifel

This is volcanic activity on many levels, as it were: In the Eifel, there is a bit of everything, in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sometimes the craters and sinkholes are filled with water, sometimes they are empty. There is a dry maar like this at Gerolstein, which admittedly is not that dry as the leading mineral water producer of the same name has built a new factory there.

The mineral water is also a product of the activity underground. The carbon dioxide pushes it upwards for people to enjoy. These bubbling springs in the Eifel are also known as Dreese, a term derived from the Celtic, which goes to show just how long people have been impressed by this natural phenomenon.

Schalkenmehrener Maar near Schalkenmehren, Eifel

View of the Schalkenmehrener Maar near Schalkenmehren, Eifel

View of crater lake Windsborn in the UNESCO Global Geopark Vulkaneifel, Eifel

View of crater lake Windsborn in the UNESCO Global Geopark Vulkaneifel, Eifel

The ‘Vulkaneifel Nature Park and Geopark’ was inaugurated over 20 years ago. In 2015, it was even recognised as a ‘UNESCO Global Geopark’, making it the only area of landscape in Central Europe to be honoured in this way. It is the centre of volcanic faults in Germany and the eruption forming the Ulmener Maar was the most recent in this country. For now, at least. Things are still simmering away underground, with frequent gas leaks trying to get to the surface.

With this nature around, things will never get boring. The same can be said for those visiting the South Eifel Nature Park. The further you travel towards Luxembourg, the deeper the valleys and gorges become. Grooves have been cut into the rocks, carving a landscape which often leaves just a few metres space for walkers.

Lake Laach near Maria Laach, Eifel

Lake Laach near Maria Laach, Eifel

But there is plenty of space for flora and fauna. There are isolated stream courses such as those in the Kyll valley that are home to beavers and wildcats, and rare species such as brook lampreys or kingfishers. A beautiful trail near the famous Maria Laach Abbey is even dedicated entirely to the caves and gorges. The path leads through river valleys and to waterfalls, through dark caves and ancient vibrant green forests.

Lake Laach also has its origins in volcanic activity. However, the largest inland lake in Rhineland Palatinate is neither a maar nor a crater lake. The earth collapsed because a chamber of magma underneath it ran empty, a phenomenon also known as a caldera. This was the exact location of the last major volcanic eruption in the region, around 10,000 years ago. It was so massive that the ash spread as far as Scandinavia. You can never finish learning about the Eifel, with all the exotic stories the elements have to tell.

More leisure tips for nature lovers in the Eifel region:

More information about holidays in the Eifel

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations at Eifel Tourismus GmbH.

Dream paths "Traumpfade" Rhein-Mosel-Eifel

Covering a distance of between three and seven kilometres, the dream paths are perfect for gentle walks. For example the Traumpfade "Booser Doppelmaartour" or the "Vulkanpfad".

Schwarzes Icon, das eine Strecke mit Ziel- und Endpunkt zeigt

Cycle paths in the Eifel region

Discover the Eifel by bicycle, with gentle rides along the Kyll, Prüm or Sauer, a family ride along disused railway lines or a more ambitious, sporty ride to the heights of the Eifel.

Partner route of the Eifelsteig: Castles route / Burgen-Route (Blankenheim-Wald - Hellenthal)


17,3 km

5:30 h
The castle route (Burgenroute) from Hellenthal to Blankenheim invites you to a medieval foray into…

Dürres Maar

Gillenfeld a dry maar full of sedges, mosses & cotton grasses


Gillenfeld best researched worldwide

Immerather Maar

Immerath the hidden maar

Ulmener Maar

Ulmen At around 11,000 years old, the Ulmener Maar is the youngest Eifel maar.

Weinfelder Maar

Daun also called Totenmaar [maar of the dead] The Weinfelder Maar is considered the "symbol of the Eifel melancholy". Gentle slopes, on which the Eifel…