The Elbe Sandstone Mountains, also called the Elbe sandstone highlands (German: Elbsandsteingebirge; Czech: Labské pískovce) is a mountain range straddling the border between the state of Saxony in southeastern Germany and the North Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, with about three-quarters of the area lying on the German side. The mountains are also referred to as Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland in both German and Czech (Sächsische Schweiz and Böhmische Schweiz in German, Saské Švýcarsko and České Švýcarsko in Czech) or simply combined as Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland. In both countries, the mountain range has been declared a national park. The name derives from the sandstone which was carved by erosion. The river Elbe breaks through the mountain range in a steep and narrow valley.
The eroded sandstone landscape of this region was formed from depositions that accumulated on the bottom of the sea millions of years ago. Large rivers carried sand and other eroded debris into the Cretaceous sea. Rough quartz sand, clay and fine marl sank and became lithified layer by layer. A compact sandstone sequence developed, about 20 x 30 kilometres wide and up to 600 metres thick dating to the lower Cenomanian to Santonian stages.The tremendous variety of shapes in the sandstone landscape is a result of the subsequent chemical and physical erosion and biological processes acting on the rocks formed from those sands laid down during the Cretaceous Period.
The Elbe Sandstone mountains have been a popular destination for tourists for more than 200 years, and for climbers for more than 100 years. It is also a popular recreation area for the nearby Saxon capital Dresden. Places of interest include the Bastei cliffs near Rathen, the Königstein Fortress, Pravčická brána, the Schrammsteine, Pfaffenstein, and the valleys of the Kirnitzsch and Kamenice rivers. There are some 14,000 climbing routes via which mountain climbers can conquer 1100 free-standing peaks. Visitors can experience the natural scenes on the asphalt Elbe cycle path, or on board a steam paddleboat that is part of the oldest fleet of its kind in the world.
The Elbe Sandstone Mountains have numerous facilities for cure and rehabilitation. The region has a tradition of many years. The discovery of ferrous and sulphurous sources in Bad Schandau in 1730 led to its development as a health resort and the building of swimming baths.