Enchanting mountain landscapes in Berchtesgadener Land
When we were deciding where to go on holiday this year, we knew one thing: we wanted to see some mountains! We didn’t want to have to drive more than eight or nine hours from our home in the Netherlands, we wanted easily accessible walking routes, and if at all possible we wanted a beautiful lake and a nice town to visit nearby. What did we decide on? The beautiful German region of Berchtesgadener Land. I’d love to share my experience and give you some tips on what to do in this beautiful region. Here are five great days out in Berchtesgadener Land.
Let me first introduce this region. Berchtesgadener Land is located in the far southeast of Bavaria, just over 150 kilometres from Munich. Though located in Germany, the Berchtesgadener Land is surrounded by Austria. The south of the region is made up, for a large part, by the Berchtesgaden National Park. Here you will find real Alpine landscapes with high snowy peaks and blue lakes. You can spot chamois, Alpine marmots and even golden eagles! The highest peak in this area is the Watzmann, with its 2713 meters this is the second highest mountain in Germany. Let me tell you what we got up to in this stunning region.
Discovering Jenner mountain by cable car
With the brand new Jennerbahn cable car (the newest part was put in use in June 2019) you will be at an altitude of 1200 meters (the middle station) in 15 minutes. On the way you have a fantastic view. From this station you can take a second cable car to the mountain station at 1800 meters. If you like a nice climb and a nice view you can choose to hike to the top of the Jenner. This can be done from the middle station as well as from the top station. This is a safe walk that is also great for children. During our visit in May, because of the snow, only the middle station was open. The route to the top of the Jenner was not accessible for the same reason.
That’s why we opted for a quiet walk near the middle station. This was a relaxing trip in the sun on a good path, with little ascending or descending. We walked through the forest and through meadows and had a beautiful view of the tops of the Watzmann. The flowering Blue Gentian and the tinkling cowbells contributed to the real Alpine feeling for me!
From the stations of the Jennerbahn you can go walking, hiking, mountain biking, do winter sports or even paragliding. But just taking the gondola up, walking around and enjoying the view and a snack or drink in the restaurant is also a great outing. If you would like to take another cable car ride, you can also take the Obersalzbergbahn up Obersalz mountain to an altitude of 1020 metres.
The impressive Wimbach gorge and Wimbach valley
I prefer to experience a beautiful mountain landscape on foot, and luckily for me that’s perfectly possible from the town of Ramsau, where we were staying. A walk through the Wimbachklamm (Wimbach gorge) and the Wimbachtal (Wimbach valley) is highly recommended. The Wimbachklamm is a narrow gorge with lots of waterfalls. Visitors walk along the steep rocks, above the fast flowing water via a wooden path. This is a lovely route that takes about 15 minutes. The gorge has an entrance fee of about €2.50. After the gorge visitors can continue walking to the Wimbach valley. This is an impressively wide glacier valley with gravel in the middle and steeply rising mountains on both sides.
Our walk took place on a cold, somewhat foggy day, which made for a beautiful, fairy-tale atmosphere. In about 30 – 45 minutes you can walk from the Wimmbach gorge to Wimbachschloss. This walk will take you over a good path through a forest. This old hunting lodge is now a pub/restaurant where you can get something to eat or drink. From this point you can continue hiking to the Wimbachgrieshütte and higher into the mountains. Because of the cold and the snow we ended our hike at the Wimbachschloss. But only after we had taken the time to enjoy the beautiful snowy landscape. We even saw some chamois disappearing between the rocks.
Useful information: You can park at the Wimbachbrücke in Ramsau. From the parking lot you can walk to the entrance of the Wimbach gorge in less than 15 minutes. If the gorge is closed, or if you don’t feel like paying extra entrance fees, you can also walk along the forest path to the Wimbach valley.
The famous Königssee and enchanting Hintersee lakes
The Königssee lake is one of the main attractions of the region. This clear blue lake is surrounded by steep mountainsides and looks a bit like a fjord. A boat trip on the Königssee was therefore not to be missed on our itinerary. We chose a sunny weekend day to embark and it turned out we weren’t the only ones!
Boats continuously leave from the village of Schönau am Königssee. An electric boat takes you quietly over the lake while a guide tells you about the lake and its surroundings. One of the highlights of the cruise was the ‘Echowand’. The guide demonstrated the famous echo by playing a tune on his trumpet. You do indeed hear each melody reflected several times.
You can choose to sail to the end of the lake, but many people stop halfway and visit the town of St. Bartholomä. If you don’t like queuing, then it’s advisable to buy your tickets online before your outing. This can be done up to one day in advance.
A lesser-known lake is the Hintersee. This lake is a lot smaller than the Königssee. You can walk around it in an hour. We did this on a quiet evening and it was a beautiful, quiet walk. The surrounding mountains were mirrored by the water and from each corner there was a different picturesque view. Highly recommended! If you want, you can rent a boat here and take it out on your own. The surrounding forest is called the ‘Zauberwald’ (magic forest). And I can see why it’s so enchanting!
Castles, gardens and nice cafes in Salzburg
After all that natural beauty, a trip across the border to the Austrian city of Salzburg was a nice change of pace. From Berchtesgaden we drove to this famous city in 30 to 40 minutes. Salzburg is quite small; for us everything was easy to do on foot. The Salzach River runs through the city. On both sides of the river you will find sights such as the Fortress Hohensalzburg, the Cathedral of Salzburg and the Mirabell palace. If you have ever watched the film The Sound of Music, the gardens of this palace are sure to look familiar to you. Maria and the Von Trapp children ran through this garden singing and dancing as they practised their do-re-mis. Although this famous musical from 1965 was largely shot in and around Salzburg, for a long time the film was hardly known in Austria. This has changed by now. Enthusiasts can take a The Sound of Music bus tour, among other things. Personally, that was a bit too much for me, but it was fun to recognise a few locations.
The south side of the river houses the market square, the cathedral and a number of shopping streets (for people who are not on a budget). On the north side you can stroll through nice streets with beautiful views. Here you will also find many welcoming cafes and restaurants.
The panoramic route by car
Sometimes you are just walked out. In that case, a nice drive over a panoramic route is an excellent option. From Berchtesgaden you can cycle or drive the Rossfeld Panoramastrasse. This toll road is 15 kilometres long and the highest point is at 1570 metres. There are several car parks on the route where you can enjoy the view, or which are the starting point of a walk. Take your time and bring your camera or binoculars with you! The toll is €8.50 for a car and €5 for a motorcycle.
More great outings in Berchtesgadener Land
- The Kehlsteinhaus or The Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden is a famous historical attraction. This house was one of Adolf Hitler’s holiday homes. The place is special because of its history, but also because of the fantastic views. The Kehlsteinhaus is usually open from mid-May to mid-October.
- Visit the old salt mine Salzbergwerk. This is now a pleasant museum. You can ride a train into the mountain and there is even an underground boat ride! This is a nice outing for children and also a great option for when the weather is not so good.
- Enjoy a day of bathing in the Watzmann Spa.
Berchtesgadener Land has a good road network. From the town of Berchtesgaden you can reach most of the sights within half an hour by car. Most places have paid parking. You often get a discount with the Berchtesgadener Gästekarte. It’s also useful to have a parking disc with you. If you want to head out without your car, you can also take the train to Berchtesgaden and a bus to the sights. The Jennerbahn and Königssee have a large, well signposted, paid car park. Of course you will find various lovely campsites in Berchtesgadener Land.
Please note that not all attractions are open all year round due to mountain weather conditions and the resulting issues such as snow and melt water. In our case we had the bad luck that the Kehlsteinhaus was not yet open in mid-May when we were there (2019). The accessibility of the gorges and mountain huts also depends on the weather conditions.
If you’re going on a winter holiday in Germany, read Bram’s blog about the rules for winter tyres in Germany. If you are crossing the border into Austria and want to use the motorway there, please note that you will need a toll vignette. You can buy a vignette at one of the petrol stations on the way.