The small town is directly on the left bank of the Elbe river, about 20 metres above sea level. The Elbe river landscape spreads out to the east, north and northwest, protected as the Lower Saxon Elbe Valley Leas biosphere reserve. To the south, a large area of pine forest adjoins it, the Gartower Tannen. This is the largest contiguous privately owned forest in Germany, owned by Graf Bernstorff of Gartow, and is on a large hilly area which grew out of wind-borne sand in a periglacial process.
The entire region, up to the Drawehn chain of hills in the west, is within the Elbe glacial valley, the main run-off for melting glacial water from the last Ice Age. Biogeographically the area belongs to the Northeast German Lowlands.
There are some interesting points of natural history including the Höhbeck terminal moraine from the Wolstonian Stage which looms up from the middle of the flat Elbe Valley as a Pleistocene "island".