Nestled in the forest, the lake only comes into full view once you’ve parked your bike and wandered down to the Strandbad. Small waves drift towards the shore and the treeline hugs the perimeter of the massive lake the whole way round. If you’re already itching for a swim, this is the best place for it – the water deepens gradually as you walk in, allowing you to better appreciate the high visibility. Stechlinsee has long been renowned as one of the cleanest, clearest lakes in Brandenburg, and it feels true as you swim through the water, peering down to the lake floor, spotting tiny schools of fish flitting beneath your feet.
After drying off, a hike is definitely in order. The 14km circular forest path is wide and full of dappled light, and follows close to the curve of the lake. Since Stechlinsee is (blissfully) far removed from any large towns, you get to feel fully immersed in nature, sandwiched between glistening water and tall beech trees. There are plenty of places to stop off next to the lake for a private picnic or an impromptu swim.
A deeper dive
If you want to try out diving, Stechlinsee is one of just a handful of good lakes for it in Brandenburg. The clarity of the water allows light to filter down as deep as 10 metres, and it’s large enough that there is plenty to explore. The nearby diving centre, Tauchbasis Stechlin, is open daily from 10am to 6pm starting May 15, when the high season officially begins. You can rent your own equipment, or join a diving course as a beginner.
For such a bucolic nature spot, Stechlinsee has its share of unsavoury quirks. The remains of a defunct nuclear power plant, the Kernkraftwerk Rheinsberg, lie to the west. A 1950s-era East-German project, it was shut down following reunification and awaits a future purpose, a peculiar fixture alongside a lake known for the purity of its water.
Another odd gem can be found along the forest loop. If you follow the circular route heading north from the Stechlinsee Strandbad, keep an eye out for a particularly large tree to the right of the trail around the 1500m mark. Although many trees on the trail bear initials from day-tripping couples and amateur graffiti artists, this tree, the Mordbuche (murder beech), depicts a centuries-old murder. Legend has it that in the early 1900s, a bride was shot by a jealous suitor on her wedding day at this very spot. Witnesses to the crime supposedly carved the scene into the tree as they waited for the police to arrive – a weird way to pass the time, to be honest.
Although you can reach Stechlinsee by car, the best use of a sunny day is to take the train and then cycle. Hop on the RE5 to Fürstenberg/Havel, a journey of about an hour. From Fürstenberg, it’s a 35-minute cycle on the bike path alongside the L15 to Stechlinsee. En route, you’ll pass by Café Glasklar, a regional farm shop and café open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm. This is the last stop for snacks (and one of the few options for miles around), so load up on homemade jam, cheeses, fruit and fresh Brötchen before you head for the lake. You can also cycle back later for lunch and bask in the sun on their front deck with a beer and a veggie bratwurst from the BBQ.
Need more weekend escape ideas? Our Insider’s Guide to Brandenburg takes you on a tour beyond Berlin’s borders to the coolest, quirkiest and most beautiful places you never knew you had to visit.
We invite you to pick your own produce all year round, with insider tips on where to find the ripest strawberries and hidden mushrooms. Or perhaps you’d rather sample smoky rye whiskies in the Spreewald?