Totengrund on Lüneburg Heath
Totengrund – a valley of supernatural beauty
The mystic valley in the middle of the nature reserve is one kilometre south-east of Wilsede. Is the place haunted? No, despite a mystically sounding name, it is one of the most beautiful areas of the heath . When the heather blooms in August, visitors can stand on the edge of the valley and look down on a wonderful sea of blossom. The heather-covered cirque becomes a magnificent sight, literally bursting with purple.
Totengrund – a natural spectacle all year round
Totengrund is idyllic all year round – not just when the heather is in bloom. For example, Totengrund is well worth a visit in spring , when nature begins to awake. Aficionados particularly appreciate Totengrund in the winter or in the fog, when the landscape takes on a mystical allure. It’s just like a watercolour painting – almost unreal. This explains why Totengrund is one of the most photographed areas on Lüneburg Heath.
The nature reserve and Father Bode, pastor of the heath
Back in 1906, the pastor of the heath, Wilhelm Bode, rescued Totengrund from a planned construction project, hence giving rise to the first nature conservation area in Germany. The heathland area was put under a nature conservation order in 1921. Totengrund is one of the prettiest and most frequently visited areas on the entire Lüneburg Heath.
How did Totengrund get its name?
How Totengrund – which translates literally as ‘dead ground’ – got its name is a matter of much controversy, although the idea of the dead does appear in the first theory...
The funeral cortege theory
According to old customs, the dead used to be ‘driven’ through Totengrund valley in a funeral cortege. Because the cortege was not meant to take the normal streets, it had to take a detour over the ‘ground of the dead’. Legend has it that the ghosts from these times still haunt Totengrund today.
The dead ice block theory
The unique Totengrund cirque with its ancient juniper groves is part of the gently undulating moraine landscape. The continual thawing of a massive, sand-covered block of dead ice, which existed long after the decline of the glaciers, seems to have given rise to this ‘dry valley’. Once the block of dead ice had melted, all that remained was the Totengrund cirque.
The meteorite theory
Totengrund was created by a violent collision with a meteorite, which killed off all life in this area in one fell swoop. The only thing that remained was ‘Totengrund’ – literally the ‘dead ground’.
The dead ground theory
Since the soil in the Totengrund valley – much like the rest of the heathland – contains very few nutrients, and there was neither a spring or a stream here, no cattle or crops could be farmed in this area. Heathland farmers also used to call this ‘dead ground’. The only plants were juniper and heather and people were not able to survive from these plants alone.
How to get to Totengrund:
Totengrund is found in the centre of the car-free Lüneburg Heath Nature Reserve. The closest town is Wilsede , which itself can only be reached on foot, by bike or by horse-drawn carriage.
Distances to Totengrund (shortest routes)
Undeloh to Totengrund: about 2-hour walk
Niederhaverbeck to Totengrund: about 1-hour walk
Oberhaverbeck to Totengrund: about 1-hour walk
Volkwardingen to Totengrund: about 1-hour walk
Niederhaverbeck to Totengrund: about 1.25-hour walk
Egestorf to Totengrund: about 2.5-hour walk
Schneverdingen to Totengrund: about 3-hour walk
Totengrund is a geological cirque and an area that visitors can only explore on the signposted paths. Hiking trails lead around the top edge of the cirque, however, and afford visitors an outstanding view of the valley. Paths go right the way round the Totengrund cirque.
Visitors can also reach Totengrund by horse-drawn carriage from Oberhaverbeck, Niederhaverbeck, Undeloh, Döhle and Sudermühlen, as well as on foot or by bike.
We recommend the accredited Lüneburg Heath coachmen for horse-drawn carriage rides to Totengrund. All accredited coachmen have undergone extensive training and will be able to let you know which of the Totengrund theories is the most likely! You can recognise accredited coachmen by their beige waistcoat with their name badge and Lüneburg Heath logo, as well as the Lüneburg Heath logo on the side of the carriage.
Totengrund hiking paths:
Totengrund is the perfect place for exploring the countryside. After all, no cars are allowed to enter any part of the nature conservation area. You can explore the region by foot and discover the characteristic moorland sheep, the Heidschnucke , as well as the bee fences that run along the sides of the paths. The heathland shows itself in all its typical glory particularly during late summer when the heather is in bloom, with juniper bushes and thatched sheep folds on the horizon.
Our tip: The Lila Krönung hiking trail
Experience the heathland in all its glory! The Lila Krönung hiking trail crosses the largest contiguous heathland in the nature park from east to west, connecting Amelinghausen and Schneverdingen – the two towns that elect a Heather Queen every year. The trail takes in Totengrund, with all its juniper bushes, the typical heath town of Wilsede and the low-lying land of Haverbeeke. The ‘highlight’ of the hike is Wilseder Berg, which, at an altitude of 169 metres, is the highest point within the North German Plain.
Places to stay
Perfect places to stay around the Totengrund, providing the best access to the nature reserve: Bispingen, Egestorf, Handeloh, Hanstedt, Schneverdingen.
Totengrund and the heathland town of Wilsede are located within the Lüneburg Heath Nature Reserve and cannot be accessed by car.
Parking: You can leave your car in the visitors’ car parks in Niederhaverbeck, Oberhaverbeck, Volkwardingen, Döhle and Undeloh. Hiking paths lead from the visitors’ car parks to Totengrund. Alternatively, you can cycle or take a horse-drawn carriage to Wilsede and walk to Totengrund from there.
Totengrund coordinates N53.15487 E9.96781
GPS addresses of the car parks on the edge of the nature reserve:
- Udeloh visitors’ car park Wilseder Strasse, 21274 Undeloh (the car park is at the end of the street). Coordinates: N53.192311 E9.977018
- Döhle visitors’ car park: Dorfstrase, at the corner of Hörpeler Weg, 21272 Döhle. Coordinates: N53.163745 E10.035300
- Niederhaverbeck visitors’ car park: on the L121, Niederhaverbeck 14, 29646 Niederhaverbeck. Coordinates: N53.150891 E9.908516
- Oberhaverbeck visitors’ car park: on the L121, 29646 Oberhaverbeck. Coordinates: N53.143027 E9.919340
- Volkwardingen visitors’ car park: on the K34 in Volkardingen, 29646 Volkwardingen. Coordinates: N53.134477 E9.997257