129 geography words in German to spark your wanderlust

Germany, Austria and Switzerland all have scenic landscapes to offer, including countless breathtaking lakes and impressive mountain chains - from the beachy coastline of the North Sea to the snowy mountain tops of the Alps.

There’s so much beauty in nature, which makes it a great topic to talk about when you’re learning German. It includes fascinating landscape features including different bodies of water and landforms that will never let you run out of things to talk about in German.

Learning about geography in German can also help you:

  • Plan your next camping or hiking trip to a German-speaking country
  • Find the most impressive natural landmarks when traveling
  • Find your way when the person you’re asking is referring to landmarks as reference points
  • Strike a conversation about the landscape with a German-speaker
  • Write a pretty nature poem in German

Plan your next camping or hiking trip in German.

How do you say “landforms” and “water bodies” in German

We’ll teach you some of the most important geography terms, from rivers and oceans to hills and mountains in German.

“Landforms” in German are “Oberflächenformen” [ˈoːbɐˌflɛçn̩ˈfɔʁmən]. If you break down the word, it’s a lot less intimidating:

Oberfläche” means “surface (literally: upper area) and “Formen” means “shapes”.

The German word for “Water bodies” is even simpler: Gewässer.

The most common landforms and bodies of water in German

When you’re learning the most commonly used landform terms in German, some of the categories may overlap, but we’ll do our best to keep it as logical as possible, starting with coastal and oceanic landforms.

Visit Seebrücke in Sellin Germany.

Coastal and oceanic landforms in German

Austria and Switzerland are landlocked countries but a long stretch of Northern Germany borders on the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. You may not typically think of Germany as a country with many beaches but the reality looks very different!

You can find a long shoreline and countless beautiful beachy islands in Germany like Föhr, Sylt and Rügen.

English German IPA
ArchipelagoDer Archipel[ˌaʁçiˈpeːl]
Coral reefDas Korallenriff[koˈʁalənˌʁɪf]
AtollDas Atoll[aˈtɔl]
Natural archDas Felsentor[ˈfɛlzn̩toːɐ̯]
Volcanic arcDer Vulkanbogen[vʊlˈkaːnˈboːɡn̩]
Barrier islandDie Barriereinsel[baˈʁi̯eːʁəˈɪnzl̩]
BeachDer Strand[ʃtʁant]
BlowholeDas Blowhole[bləʊhɔʊ̯l]
ChannelDer Kanal[kaˈnaːl]
CapeDas Kap[kap]
CliffDie Klippe[ˈklɪpə]
CalanqueDie Calanque[kaˈlɑ̃k]
CoastDie Küste[ˈkʏstə]
ShoreDas Ufer[ˈuːfɐ]
Bay; BightDie Bucht[bʊxt]
DuneDie Düne[ˈdyːnə]
EstuaryDas Ästuar[ɛstuˈaːɐ̯]
FirthDer Meeresarm[ˈmeːʁəsˌʔaʁm]
FjordDer Fjord[fjɔʁt]
GeoDas Geo[ˈɡeo]
GulfDer Golf[ɡɔlf]
InletDas Inlet; schmaler Meeresarm oder Flussarm[ˈɪnlɛt; ˈʃmaːlɐ ˈmeːʁəsˌʔaʁm ˈoːdɐ ˈflʊsˌʔaʁm]
IslandDie Insel[ˈɪnzl̩]
IsletDie kleine Insel[ˈklaɪ̯nə ˈɪnzl̩]
LagoonDie Lagune[ˌlaˈɡuːnə]
PeninsulaDie Halbinsel[ˈhalpˌʔɪnzl̩]
Sea caveDie Meereshöhle[ˈmeːʁəsˈhøːlə]
Sea mountDer Tiefseeberg[ˈtiːfˌzeːbɛʁk]
ShoalDie Sandbank[ˈzantˌbaŋk]
SpitDie Nehrung[ˈneːʁʊŋ]

Erosion landforms in German

Erosion is the process that wears out earthen materials through wind and water. While this process often seems destructive, it’s brought us some of the most beautiful landscape features such as canyons, caves and fjords.

English German IPA
CanyonDer Canyon; die Schlucht[ˈkɛnjən; ʃlʊxt]
CaveDie Höhle[ˈhøːlə]
CliffDie Klippe[ˈklɪpə]
FjordDer Fjord[fjɔʁt]
BadlandsDas Ödland[ˈøːtlant]
ButteDer Härtling[ˈhɛʁtlɪŋ]
ErgDer Erg[ɛrᵊx]
GullyDie Erosionsrinne[eʁoˈzi̯oːnsˈʁɪnə]
HogbackDie Schichtrippe[ʃɪçtˈʁɪpə]
MesaDer Tafelberg[taflbɛʁk]
RidgeDer Gebirgskamm[ɡəˈbɪʁksˌkam]
TorDas Tor[toːɐ̯]
ValleyDas Tal[taːl]
Wind gapDer Strunkpass[ʃtʁʊŋkpas]

Fluvial landforms

Fluvial landforms are shaped by running water. They dominate many of our landscapes, even those that seem arid today.

English German IPA
RiverDer Fluss[flʊs]
River islandDie Flussinsel[flʊsˈɪnzl̩]
ShoalDie Sandbank[ˈzantˌbaŋk]
SpringDie Quelle[ˈkvɛlə]
AidDer Werder[ˈvɛʁdɐ]
BenchDie Schorre; die Brandungsplattform[ʃɔɐ̯ə; ˈbʁandʊŋsˈplatˌfɔʁm]
EskerDer Os[oːs]
FloodplainDie Flussaue[flʊsˈaʊ̯ə]
LeveeDer Deich[daɪ̯ç]
MarshDer Sumpf[zʊmp͡f]
SwampDer Bruch[bʁʊx]
MeanderDer Mäander[mɛˈandɐ]
StreamDer Strom[ʃtʁoːm]
RiffleDie Stromschnelle[ˈʃtʁoːmˌʃnɛlə]
WaterfallDer Wasserfall[ˈvasɐˌfal]

Impact landforms in German

When a large object hits the earth, this of course impacts its surface. 15 Million years ago for example, an asteroid hit the earth where Bavaria is today and the result is a huge crate called the “Nördlinger Ries” that is still very visible today.

English GermanIPA
CraterDer Krater[ˈkʁaːtɐ]
Meteor craterDer Meteorkrater[meteˈoːɐ̯ˌkʁaːtɐ]
Impact craterDer Einschlagkrater[ˈaɪ̯nˌʃlaːkˈkʁaːtɐ]
Complex craterKomplexer Krater [kɔmˈplɛksɐ ˈkʁaːtɐ]
Cratered landscapeDie Kraterlandschaft[ˈkʁaːtɐˌlantʃaft]
Crater lakeDer Kratersee[ˈkʁaːtɐˌzeː]

Mountains and glacial landforms in German

Austria, Switzerland and the South of Germany are highly mountainous as Europe’s highest and most extensive mountain range, the Alps, stretches through all three countries. This gives these countries their distinctive look that brings to mind charming little mountain towns, surrounded by the beautiful snowy Alps.

Mountains and glacial landform geography in German.

English GermanIPA
HillDer Hügel[ˈhyːɡl̩]
MountainDer Berg[bɛʁk]
RidgeDer Kamm[kam]
GlacierDer Gletscher[ˈɡlɛt͡ʃɐ]
CrevasseDie Gletscherspalte[ˈɡlɛt͡ʃɐˌʃpaltə]
Glacier caveDie Höhle[ˈhøːlə]
Mountain rangeDas Gebirge[ɡəˈbɪʁɡə]
Mountain chainDie Gebirgskette[ɡəˈbɪʁksˌkɛtə]
Mountain passDer Gebirgspass[ɡəˈbɪʁksˌpas]
ArêteDer Gebirgsgrat[ɡəˈbɪʁɡsɡʁaːt]
CirqueDas Kar[kaːɐ̯]
ColDie ​​Scharte[ˈʃaʁtə]
CoveDie Einbuchtung[ˈaɪ̯nˌbʊxtʊŋ]
Dirt coneDer Sandkegel[zantˈkeːɡl̩]
ValleyDas Tal[taːl]
Side valleyDas Seitental[ˈzaɪ̯tn̩taːl]
HighlandDas Hochland[ˈhoːxˌlant]
SummitDer Gipfel[ˈɡɪp͡fl̩]
InselbergDer Inselberg[ˈɪnzl̩bɛʁk]
Outwash plainDer Sander[ˈzandɐ]

Volcanic landforms in German

Did you know there were more than 30 volcanoes in Germany? Don’t worry about them when you’re visiting though. The last one erupted around 11,000 years ago!

English GermanIPA
GeyserDer Geysir[ˈɡaɪ̯ziːɐ̯]
LavaDie Lava[ˈlaːva]
MagmaDas ​​Magma[ˈmaɡma]
VolcanoDer Vulkan[vʊlˈkaːn]
Shield volcanoDer Schildvulkan[ˈʃɪltvʊlˌkaːn]
SupervolcanoDer Supervulkan[ˈzuːpɐvʊlˌkaːn]
CalderaDie Caldera[kalˈdeːʁa]
GuyotDie Tiefseekuppe[ˈtiːfˌzeːˈkʊpə]
SeamountDer Tiefseeberg[ˈtiːfˌzeːˈbɛʁk]
Lava domeDer Lavadom[ˈlaːvadoːm]
Lava fieldDas Lavafeld[ˈlaːvaˌfɛlt]
Lava lakeDer Lavasee[ˈlaːvaˌzeː]
MaarDas Maar[maːɐ̯]
Volcanic crater lakeVulkanischer Kratersee[vʊlˈkaːnɪʃɐ ˈkʁaːtɐˌzeː]

Bodies of water in German

These terms are especially important because they describe most of the wonders we have on our little blue planet as an impressive 71% of the Earth's surface is water-covered.

River in German.

English GermanIPA
Water massDie Wassermasse[ˈvasɐˌmasə]
OceanDer Ozean[ˈotseaːn]
SeaDas Meer[meːɐ̯]
LakeDer See[zeː]
RiverDer Fluss[flʊs]
CreekDer Bach[bax]
PondDer Teich[taɪ̯ç]
Sea armDer Meeresarm[ˈmeːʁəsˌʔaʁm]
ReservoirDer Stausee[ˈʃtaʊ̯ˌzeː]
BayDie Bucht[bʊxt]
BayouDer Bayou[baˈjuː]
CanalDer Kanal[kaˈnaːl]
River deltaDas Flussdelta[flʊsˈdɛlta]
Hot springDie Thermalquelle[tɛʁˈmaːlˌkvɛlə]
LagoonDie Lagune[ˌlaˈɡuːnə]
LochDer Loch[lɔx]
MangroveDie Mangrove[mɑ̃.ɡʁɔv]
Mediterranean seaDas Mittelmeer[ˈmɪtl̩meːɐ̯]
Mill pondDer Mühlenteich[ˈmyːləntaɪ̯ç]
PuddleDie Pfütze[ˈpfʏt͡sə]
WetlandDas Feuchtgebiet[ˈfɔɪ̯çtɡəˌbiːt]
BogDas Moor[moːɐ̯]
PortDer Hafen[ˈhaːfn]

Phrases or idioms that contain landforms in German

If someone mentions a “silence in the forest” in German (Schweigen im Walde), they’re referring to an awkward silence.

To save you from any of those awkward silences in the forest, we’ll make sure you never run out of things to say in German. That’s why we always teach you plenty of idioms that you can use in a conversation.

German Literal translationMeaningIPA
Berge versetzen könnenTo be able to move mountainsTo do something so difficult it’s almost impossible[ˈbɛʁɡə fɛɐ̯ˈzɛt͡sn̩ ˌkœnən]
Wie ein Strich in der LandschaftLike a line in the landscapeExtremely skinny[viː aɪ̯n ʃtʁɪç ɪn deːɐ̯ ˈlantʃaft]
Wie Sand am MeerLike sand by the seaA dime a dozen[viː ˈzant am ˈmeːɐ̯]
Nah am Wasser gebaut seinTo be built close to the waterTo cry easily[naː am ˈvasɐ ɡəˈbaʊ̯t zaɪ̯n]
Ins kalte Wasser springenTo jump into the cold waterTo jump in at the deep end[ ɪns kaltɛ ˈvasɐ ˈʃpʁɪŋən]
Den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehenTo not see the forest from so many treesCan't see the forest for the trees[deːn valt foːɐ̯ ˈlaʊ̯tɐ ˈbɔɪ̯mən nɪçt ˈzeːən]
Es herrscht Schweigen im WaldeThere’s silence in the forestThere’s an awkward silence[ɛs hɛʁʃt ˈʃvaɪ̯ɡn̩ ɪm valt]

Scenic highlights of German-speaking countries

If you ever get to travel to a German-speaking country, you can look forward to some impressive natural landmarks.

Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland are filled with forested hills and some larger mountains like the Alps. In the North, Germany flattens out all the way to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, which offer lovely sandy beaches.

These are some of the scenic highlights that these countries have to offer:

Hallstatt Lake in German.

The Black Forest

Despite its name, the Black Forest is a lush green woodland area with an abundance of wildlife and wild plants. What makes it so special is how pure and wild it is: Some areas have been purposefully left untouched by humans for more than 100 years.

This makes it the ideal habitat for a number of rare and endangered birds like the fastest bird in the world, the peregrine falcon, and Europe’s smallest owl, the pygmy owl.

Vulkanland

The Styrian Volcanic Land in Austria gets its name from the remains of volcanoes that are millions of years old and still visible as hills in the region. Today, the area is a popular wine-growing area, so make sure you also try a local German wine when you’re there!

Ostseebäder

Germany has a number of so-called “Ostseebäder” (Baltic Sea Baths) like the Ostseebad Travemünde or Sellin on the island of Rügen. These little gems by the Baltic Sea are places with beautiful sandy beaches and a distinct beach culture.

The Alps

Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany are all Alpine countries, so don’t forget your hiking boots when you’re visiting! If you love nature and especially the mountains, you won’t wanna miss out on this stunning mountain chain!

Lakes Constance

Lake Constance, the so-called “Bodensee” is where Germany, Austria and Switzerland meet. As Germany’s largest lake and the third biggest lake in Europe, it’s a popular tourist destination, with deep blue water and a scenic view of the Alps in the background.

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva is on the French-Swiss border and offers fancy spa resorts as well as beautiful hiking trails through flowery patches of nature.

Lake Hallstatt

This lake is beautifully situated in Austria’s Salzkammergut region and surrounded by a number of little villages that could be straight from a storybook.

Plan your dream vacation

When you go to bed tonight, you’re probably dreaming of scenic landscapes and counting sheep-shaped clouds above the Alps before you fall asleep. Whether you’ve decided to visit the sandy beaches of the Ostsee or the sleepy towns in the Swiss Alps, your dream vacation is waiting - and the best way to prepare for a trip to a German-speaking country is with a German class of course.

There’s just no better way to experience a country than by chatting to the locals and getting all the insider tips that tourists miss out on. You’ll be fluent in no time because remember, with enough motivation and endurance, you can move mountains!

Whatever it is you want to talk to a German-speaker about, we’ve probably covered it in our extensive German language blog. So make sure to check it out and brush up on your German vocab before you hop on that plane!

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