Walking through its landscape of sand dunes, red deer and heathland, Schönower Heide feels like several continents merged into one. Located 5km from Bernau just north of Berlin, this 533 hectare nature reserve offers fresh air, wildlife and scenery that is almost dreamlike. The area was used for military training until 1991 and since then its grasslands and inland dunes have been allowed to flourish. At the park’s arched wooden entrance, two circular walking trails greet you: a 1.6km-long heath footpath for short strolls and a 5km wildlife trail for an adventure around the entire reserve. Whichever path you take, you are sure to meet some beautiful beings, including fallow deer, mouflon sheep, red deer and even wild horses. The paths have maps and signs explaining the flora and fauna, which includes 40 lichen species, numerous wildflowers, over 60 breeding birds and more than 140 four-legged mammals. And the best bit: all this striking, unfamiliar beauty is less than an hour from the city. (Text: Benji Haughton / Photos: Savannah van der Niet)
Schönower Heide, Schönwalder Chaussee, 16348 Bernau; map
The reserve is always open and entry is free. You can reach the park with the S-Bahn to Zepernick station followed by a short cycle. Car and bike parking can be found at the entrance.