The Harz is a mountain range in central Germany. It is the highest mountain chain in northern Germany occupying parts of the German states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The name Harz derives from the Middle High German word Hardt or Hart (mountain forest).
The Harz has a length of , stretching from the town of Seesen in the northwest to Eisleben in the southeast, and a width of . It occupies an area of , and reaches its highest point at The Brocken situated in Saxony-Anhalt. The Wurmberg is the highest peak in the portion located in the state of Lower Saxony. Approximately 600,000 people live in towns and villages of the Harz mountains.
The range is divided into the Upper Harz (Oberharz) in the northwest and the Lower Harz (Unterharz) in the southeast. The Upper Harz has a higher elevation and features fir forests, while the Lower Harz gradually descends towards the surrounding land and has deciduous forests mingled with meadows.
968 saw the discovery of silver deposits near the town of Goslar, and mines became established in the following centuries throughout the mountains. During the Middle Ages ore from this region was exported along trade routes to far flung places such as Mesopotamia. The wealth of the region declined after these mines became exhausted in the early 19th century. People abandoned the towns for a short time, but prosperity eventually returned with tourism. Between 1945 and 1990 the inner German border ran through the Harz, the west belonging to the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the east to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Today the Harz forms a popular tourist destination for summer hiking as well as winter sports.
The Harz Narrow Gauge Railway, an old fashioned steam train is a very popular mode of transport, especially with tourists. Main settlements around the Harz including Halberstadt, Wernigerode, Thale, Quedlinburg and Nordhausen are served by standard-gauge rail.
Aside from that, the Harz can be reached by the Bundesautobahn 7 from Hanover to Kassel at the Seesen/Rhüden and Lautenthal junction or by the Bundesautobahn 395 from Braunschweig to Bad Harzburg, the federal highways Bundesstraßen 6, 27, 234, 242 and several others. The Bundesautobahn 38 south of the Harz mountains connecting Halle and Göttingen is currently partly finished, partly under construction.