volcanoes & Famous Fossil Sites 

Frankfurt to Munich

15 - 23 October 2020
Includes 3 of the World's most famous fossil localities, 3 UNESCO Geoparks, 2 National Geoparks, 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 2 Meteor Craters, and Europe's leading fossil and mineral show
Exclusive small group tour, number of participants : 4 - 7
Prices are per person, based on 2 people sharing a room.  Single supplement applies please make contact for details.

The Messel Pit
The Messel Pit World Heritage Site in the Bergstrasse - Odenwald Geopark
Fossil mammal from the Messel Pit in the Darmstadt Museum
Fossil mammal from the Messel Pit in the Darmstadt Museum
A huge lava bomb at Strohn in the Vulcaneifel Geopark
A huge lava bomb at Strohn in the Vulcaneifel Geopark
Weinfelder Maar, one of the 'Eyes of the Eifel' in the Vulcaneifel Geopark
Weinfelder Maar, one of the 'Eyes of the Eifel' in the Vulcaneifel Geopark
Loriolaster mirabilis brittle star fossil from the Hunsrück Slate
Loriolaster mirabilis brittle star fossil from the Hunsrück Slate
Speyer Cathedral World Heritage Site
Speyer Cathedral World Heritage Site
Your guide James Cresswell in the Hauff Museum, with a huge fossil behind. The fossil is log encrusted with hundreds of crinoids.
Your guide James Cresswell in the Hauff Museum, with a huge fossil behind. The fossil is log encrusted with hundreds of crinoids.
An Icthyosaur in the Hauff Museum, Holzmaden
An Icthyosaur in the Hauff Museum, Holzmaden
Sirgenstein Cave, part of the 'Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura' World Heritage Site
Sirgenstein Cave, part of the 'Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura' World Heritage Site
cast of the Berlin Archaeopteryx
A copy of the 'Berlin' Archaeopteryx Specimen in the Berger Museum, situated just a few hundred metres from the discovery site of the original fossil

Itinerary - 11 Days

Day 1. Arrival in Frankfurt. We will be staying at a hotel near to Frankfurt am Main Airport. We have a welcome meeting at 18:00 in the hotel.

Day 2 - Messel Pit UNESCO World Heritage Site, a fossil quarry situated inside the Bergstrasse-Odenwald Geopark. Our first stop is the Messel Pit, which is only 30 minutes from our hotel and is the most important Eocene fossil site in the world.  In particular, it provides unique information about the early stages of the evolution of mammals and includes exceptionally well-preserved mammal fossils, ranging from fully articulated skeletons to the contents of stomachs of animals of this period. Here, we view the pit and visit the Visitor Centre. We then visit the Darmstadt Museum where many more Messel Pit fossils can be seen. We spend the night in the vibrant city of Darmstadt. Total driving time for the day: 1 hr 10 mins.

Day 3. Laacher See National Geopark (The East Eifel) - this geopark is full of volcanoes, with some 50 vents and the huge Laacher See caldera! Our first stop are the Roman Mines at Meurin, where the Romans quarried the ignimbrite from the Laacher See eruption to use as building stone. We then visit the Laacher See caldera itself, climbing a tower to get an overall view of the feature. The volcano erupted in 12,900 BP with a huge Plininan eruption, with fallout stretching from Sweden to Italy.  Our next stop is a site called Wingertsbergwand; here we see a 40m thick tephra deposit from the caldera-forming eruption. Our next stop is lunch at the Vulcan Brauhaus in the small town of Mendig. After lunch we visit the Lava Dome Museum where we learn more about the Laacher See eruption and take an underground tour to see how columnar basalt was extracted to make caverns, which are ideal for brewing beer. We then leave the National Geopark and travel to the nearby Vulkaneifel UNESCO Geopark in the West Eifel area. Here we visit the famous 'Eyes of Eifel' maars near Daun learning how maar craters form from the interaction of magama and water. Our final stop of the day is the Windsborn scoria cone before spending the night in the small geopark town of Manderscheid. Total driving time for the day: 2 hrs 45 mins.

Day 4 - Vulkaneifel UNESCO Geopark and the Hunsrück slate fossils. Our first stop of the day is Pulvermaar (Powder Maar) near Gillenfeld. This is one of the picture-perfect maars in the geopark. A maar is a volcanic crater formed by a steam explosion when water comes into contact with magma beneath the surface. Nearby, at Strohn, we see the famous 120 ton, 5m diameter lava bomb that was ejected from an eruption,  examine a lava flow and visit the Vulkanhaus volcano museum and cafe. We then drive to the slate quarrying village of Bundenbach where we have lunch. After lunch we take an underground tour in the world famous Herrenberg Slate mine the discovery site of many of the Hunsrück Slate fossils. These beautifully preserved, detailed fossils are from the lower Devonian period (400 million years old) and fossils from the marine deposits in this area can be seen in many museums in the world. At the mine we also visit a small museum and have the opportunity to split open our own slates to try and find fossils. The day ends with a drive to one of Germany's oldest cities, Speyer, home to the a magnificent cathedral which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS). Total driving time for the day: 3 hrs.

Day 5 - Speyer Cathedral WHS, the Swabian Alb Geopark and The 'Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura'  WHS. Our day begins with a free morning in Speyer, giving you a chance to visit the cathedral and wander around this attractive, historic town. At midday, we will set off for Laichingen in the Swabian Alb Geopark, breaking our journey for lunch en route. We will spend the next 2 nights in Laichingen. Our first stop in the Geopark will be the Laichingen Pothole museum and cave (the deepest in the geopark), which includes an underground walk down into the cave.  We then journey on to Blaubeuren to visit Sirgenstein Cave, part of the Caves and Ice Age Art World Heritage Site. This cave was home to both Neanderthals and modern humans. After the cave we also visit the entrance to the nearby Hohle Fels Cave where Ice Age sculpture and musical instruments have been found. These artefacts are seen in the museum on the following day. We then return to Laichingen for the night. Total driving time for the day: 2 hrs 35 mins.

Day 6 - The Swabian Alb Geopark Day 2: with the URMU Museum,  and Holzmaden Lagerstätte Jurassic fossils . In the morning we return to Blaubeuren and visit Blautopf a spectacular blue coloured kast spring. This is followed by a visit to  The Museum of Prehistory (URMU) where the Ice Age sculpture and musical instruments are displayed.  These artefacts represent some of the earliest examples of prehistoric art and musical instruments ever discovered. We then drive to Holzmaden to visit the Hauff Museum where incredible lower Jurassic marine fossils of the the Holzmaden Lagerstätte are displayed. After a late lunch, we spend the rest of the afternoon searching for our own fossils in the Kromer Slate Quarry.  It is likely we may find ammonites, belemnites and even isolated reptile bones. We then return to Laichingen for a second night. Total driving time for the day: 1 hr 20 mins.

Day 7 - Swabian Alb Geopark Day 3: with the Steinheim am Albuch Meteor Crater and Aalen Museum and Mine . Our first stop of the day is the Steinheim am Albuch Meteor Crater, where we visit the excellent museum and learn about both the impact and the incredible fossils of animals that later inhabited the crater. We also take a walk to the crater rim, and then visit fenced off quarry where the crater fossils were discovered. We then drive to the Geopark town of Aalen to visit its excellent fossil museum and have lunch. After lunch we join an underground tour in Aalen iron mine. Finally we drive through the Ries National Geopark, home to another meteor impact, to reach the town of Treuchtlingen which is situated within the Ries Geopark. Total driving time for the day: 2 hrs 45 mins

Day  8 - Solnhofen Limestone Lagerstätte:  home of the Archaeopteryx prehistoric bird fossils. The Solnhofen Limestone is world famous for its Archaeopteryx  fossils; so far, 12 Archaeopteryx  have been found in it. Our first stop of the day is the Bürgermeister Müller museum in the village of Solnhofen. In this is a superb museum we see Pterosaur and fish fossils as well as the Solnhofen and Bürgermeister Müller Archaeopteryx specimens. We then visit the Langenaltheim quarries to see the discovery sites of the London, Maxberg and Munich Archaeopteryx specimens. We then visit the the Besuchersteinbruch quarry at Mühlheim. This is the discovery site of the Eleventh Archaeopteryx Specimen, discovered in 2011. Here we spend several hours searching for our own fossils. We then visit Berger Museum at Blumenberg near Eichstatt. It is in the neighboring quarry that the Berlin Archaeopteryx Specimen was found. After viewing the numerous quarries in the area we head into the town of Eichstätt to see the Eichstätt Specimen which is hosted in the Jura Museum. In the mid-afternoon we drive to the city of Munich where we spend the next 3 nights. Total driving time for the day: 2 hrs.

Day 9 - Depart. If you would like to extend your stay, it is suggested you visit the Geology Museum, and go on a tour of the famous Breweries.


Geological guiding from James Cresswell
Transportation from destination to destination
Hotel accommodation
Breakfast in the hotels
Entrance to all attractions except those visited on free time


Lunch and dinner


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click on an image to open the gallery

"We have taken two trips with James now -- Morocco and Germany, both trips focusing on fossils. First, let me say that James is a wonderful trip leader. He is a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, patient, capable and adaptable guide, and genuinely loves his work. Morocco was the first trip we took with him, and one of the best trips we've ever taken -- what a thrill to see the fossil sites we'd only heard of from our buying trips to Tucson! We had such a great time with the many, many opportunities for fossil hunting, where we collected far too many fossils. The lodgings and meals were satisfying and just exotic enough to be another interesting part of the trip. The Germany trip was the first run, and we had another amazing experience, one I'm still thinking about daily! We started with volcanoes and meteors and the impact they had on the landscape of Germany -- who knew? We visited the most famous fossil sites in Germany and saw the original fossils in museums. We had some fossil digs where everyone came back with something, so much fun! We saw caves where some of the most ancient known artifacts were found, then saw the artifacts. We ended at the Munich gem, mineral and fossil show, the biggest in Europe.
I cannot recommend James or his trips highly enough! I hope we can join him for more adventures in the future!"

Sue C., Maine, USA
Review was posted to TripAdvisor, November 2019

"This was an absolutely incredible trip. Meticulously organised and researched by Abby and James Cresswell ,it did not fail to please. Having little experience of geology and just a basic feel for fossils, our rudimentary knowledge was considerably expanded. There was plenty of opportunity to question James. The trips between locations were admirably managed to permit one to one time with James as we all changed seats in the comfortable transport regularly to permit this. The small group allowed for plenty of interaction and we had friendly humorous travelling companions from the USA.We were able to dine together on several occasions sharing ideas and engaging in much discussion of fossils, stones, politics.It was an enlightening time for all and the aim is a reunion in Tuscon one day!
The German people we encountered were unfailingly polite and helpful. We were delighted to meet owners of museums and listen to their stories. The guides whom James engaged were so enthusiastic about their subject. Chance meetings of researchers at sites occurred too further enhancing the thrill of the journey around Germany. People were happy to open their museums specifically to accommodate the small group which was certainly a privilege. These times were negotiated by James and were much appreciated by the group.
We were totally 'blown away' at the chance to see the Messel pit and all that followed. Seeking ones own fossil finds in quarries was amazing and further brought home how difficult the work around locating and preserving fossils is. The private collections in local museums were enchanting. There is no way we would have seen so much were it not for James' hard work in locating places of interest-caves . ( underground and overground), caldera, quarries, maars , sites of meteor impacts, scoria sites, museums, the Munich rock and gem show. Ancient sculpture and musical instruments were memorable.The number of exquisite items for sale at the rock and gem show made for a splendid conclusion to a truly magical trip.
Travelling as a small group is a truly rewarding experience and we all learned a lot about each other and life in different countries. As a consequence there was not a dull moment. Collectively we managed to read food menus and navigate as there were al least two technologically minded people in the group. Just aim to relax around others and fully enjoy the number of days you are together."

Roger B., Cardiff, UK
Review was posted to TripAdvisor, October 2019