We finished hiking the entire Rheinsteig, from Bonn to Wiesbaden, this past Friday. It was an incredible hike and quite challenging. The weather was mostly accommodating with only a few days of rain; for most downpours we were safely nestled in a hotel or restaurant. The seemingly unending ascents were difficult but manageable, with the steep descents being much more difficult because of the old knees we carry. We walked 320 kilometres and 79 hours.
As we walked, I could not help comparing the Rheinsteig to the Camino, of which, we have only covered one week (from Paloma to Burgos). Our companions on the Rheinsteig have walked the Camino many times. Overall, the Rheinsteig has a lot more steep and demanding climbs than the Camino, unless you start the Camino in France where you have a mountain range you must negotiate before you get to rolling hills. The Camino is better supported for the long-distance hiker, with plenty of water fountains, snack stops along the way, as well as cheap accommodations scattered throughout the trail. The Rheinsteig has no water breaks, spotty refreshments, and expensive and sub-par accommodations. In Germany, there are also closed days for the restaurants, so coming into a town you cannot know what will be open, if anything at all. These Rheinsteig complaints, however, did not reduce the amount of joy and excitement we received from hiking the trail. It is a remarkable trail, with breath-taking vistas, and beautiful landscapes. I would definitely do it again and recommend it to anyone interested in long-distance hiking.