Relaxed, scenic driving excursions that take you into the heart of the country are the feature of this next route. Using Düsseldorf airport as the starting point for our Nature & Wildlife route, pick up your rental car and head towards the Schwalm-Nette nature park, for this is where your wildlife adventure begins.
Düsseldorf Airport to Schwalm-Nette Nature Park
Good to know: The Schwalm-Nette Nature Park on the Lower Rhine is dominated by water. The Schwalm, Rur, Niers and Nette rivers all flow through here. There are smaller backwaters, oxbow lakes, wetlands and quarry ponds - all provide important habitats for animals and plants, not to mention tranquil havens for visitors looking for a magical spot to stop and unwind.
Schwalm-Nette Nature Park to Zwillbrocker Venn
Thought you’d have to fly to Florida to see flamingos? Think again. Drive on, from the Schwalm-Nette nature park to the Zwillbrocker Venn in the Münsterland region, where you’ll find the world’s most northerly breeding colony of flamingos. Yes, flamingos! Good to know: flamingos have been living for the past three decades at Zwillbrocker Venn, a region of forest, moorland, wetland meadows and lakes in North Rhine-Westphalia. In March, these exotic birds fly in from their wintering grounds on the Dutch coast, to spend the summer in Münsterland and raise their young here.
Zwillbrocker Venn to Dülmen
Just an hour onward by car, the route takes you to Dülmen and the wild horse sanctuary at Merfelder Bruch. Home to almost 400 wild horses this is the last remaining herd in Continental Europe. These hardy and good-natured animals are mostly left to fend for themselves, but the sanctuary provides hay at a small number of feeders in particularly cold and snowy weather. In spring, summer and autumn, visitors can observe the peacefully grazing horses and their lively foals via designated paths or on a guided tour.
Dülmen to Bad Berleburg
No need to divert to the American midwest – head to Bad Berleburg in the Siegen-Wittgenstein region for the chance to observe majestic, European bison, better known as “Wisent”. These mammals used to roam freely in this area of Germany, until they were hunted to extinction. However, they have been successfully reintroduced to their habitat. In 2013, a herd of 8 bison was released in the Wisent Wildernis at Rothaarsteig and today, the numbers of bison in the area is increasing; just the place to observe them in the wild.
Bad Berleburg to Atta Cave to Düsseldorf Airport
37 miles to the Atta Cave | 80 miles to Düsseldorf Airport
If exotic and unfamiliar breeds of wildlife wasn’t enough, take a drive to the Sauerland region and the curious Atta cave in Attendorn. This natural phenomenon was discovered in 1907, when quarrymen, busy blasting away a rock facia, opened a glistening labyrinth of stalagmites and stalactites, as artistically formed as the work of any sculptor. Quite by chance, the incredible Atta Cave, formed several millions of years ago had been opened - never seen before. The cave was later named after Princess Atta, who also gave her name to the nearby Hanseatic town of Attendorn.
After exploring the diversity of North Rhine-Westphalian wildlife and nature, it is time to end the road trip and fly from Düsseldorf Airport back to the UK. If your curiosity is still not satisfied, feel free to linger longer and explore the other, enticing themed routes through NRW.