Millions of people around the world use online dating platforms like Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid. But spending endless nights at home alone, swiping through profiles as though they were special offers on Amazon, can quickly get very depressing.

For those who prefer to meet people in real life, Germany has come up with a popular alternative: romantic group hikes. Several platforms in Germany are currently exploring this alternative approach to dating.

SingleWandern, based in southern Germany, has around 26,000 people on its books, while WanderDate in the town of Gross-Gerau near Frankfurt also has several thousand, aged anywhere between 20 and 69.

The new hiking trend is popular because it offers a “harmless way to approach other people”, says psychologist Werner Gross.

“When hiking, playing games or doing sport, people get to know each other in a way that doesn’t force any obligations,” Gross says. The meeting isn’t about starting a relationship, but a shared activity.”

Karin Zoerrer-Zeiner founded SingleWandern around 10 years ago. “The people are nature-lovers, not looking for quick flings and who want to see the people they get to know in person,” she says of her group participants, who are growing in numbers.

“Looking for a partner isn’t easy,” says Zoerrer-Zeiner, and she believes group hikes help some people with their self-esteem. People enjoy the anonymity and the safe framework on hikes. Some people just come once; others keep coming back.

And if nothing romantic comes of it, at least you’ve spent the day walking in the countryside – rather than sitting on your sofa swiping on your smartphone. – dpa