Lancaster County stretches for about 45 miles from Coatesville, which is forty miles west of Philadelphia on US-30, to the Susquehanna River in the west. Although tiny, uncosmopolitan Lancaster, ten miles east of the river, was US capital for a day in September 1777, the region is famed more for its preponderance of agricultural religious communities, known collectively as the Pennsylvania Dutch. They actually have no connection to the Netherlands; the name is a mistaken derivation of Deutsch (German). A touristy place even before it was brought to international fame by the movie Witness, most of Lancaster County has maintained its natural beauty in the face of encroaching commercialization. It is a region of gentle countryside and fertile farmlands, eccentric-sounding place names such as Intercourse, horse-drawn buggies, tiny roadside bakeries and Amish children wending their way between immaculate, flower-filled farmhouses and one-room schoolhouses.

However, attempting to live a simple life away from the pressures of the outside world has proved too much for many Pennsylvania Dutch. A few (mainly Mennonites) have succumbed to commercial need by offering rides in their buggies and meals in their homes, while members of the stricter orders have moved away to communities in less touristic mid-Western states. When visiting, remember that Sunday is a day of rest for the Amish, so many attractions, restaurants and other amenities will be closed.

Though useful for a general overview and historical insight, the attractions that interpret Amish culture tend toward overkill. It’s far more satisfying just to explore the countryside for yourself. Here, among the streams with their covered bridges and fields striped with corn, alfalfa and tobacco, the reality hits you – these aren’t actors recreating an ancient lifestyle, but real people, part of a living, working community.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The many faces of changing Detroit: America's comeback city

The many faces of changing Detroit: America's comeback city

In 2013 Detroit became the largest city in American history to file for bankruptcy. But now the city is on the rebound: cool start-ups are filling once-neglec…

23 May 2018 • Jacqui Agate local_activity Special feature
A city in motion: why Detroit should be on your radar

A city in motion: why Detroit should be on your radar

Perhaps no city in history has fallen from such heady heights as Detroit. Through the earlier half of the twentieth century, the city bubbled with industry. Det…

22 May 2018 • Jacqui Agate insert_drive_file Article
King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

This year marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, and also the launch of a new Civil Rights Trail through the USA's south – a r…

04 Apr 2018 • Ella Buchan local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs