Bavaria is famous for Oktoberfest, its beer gardens and renowned football team, but this alpine region has so much more to offer. An expansive section of the Alps is located in this famously unique German state, offering impressive landscapes for day trips or longer tours. Towering mountains, deep tarns, and spectacular scenery await you in the Free State of Bavaria. Join us on a trip through Bavaria’s seven ranges: the Allgäu Alps, Ammergau Alps, Wetterstein, the Bavarian Prealps, Karwendel, Chiemgau Alps, and the Berchtesgaden Alps.
Rivers Iller, Lech, and Bregenzer Ache all wind through the enchanting Allgäu mountain range, located in Germany and Austria and bordering the well-known Lake Constance. From its highest Bavarian summit, the Hochfrottspitze, to the former royal seat Immenstadt im Allgäu and the Nagelfluhkette nature reserve, this popular area has a lot to offer keen backpackers. Adventurers can marvel at the deepest rocky gorge in Central Europe — the Breitnchklamm —or take a trip to Lake Schrecksee, a stunning lake situated 1,1813 metres above sea level.
Of course, the Allgäu Alps offers this and more. Here you’ll find a map of the Allgäu Alps to help you plan your trip.
Possibly one of the most picture-perfect areas of the Alps, the Ammergau Alps span across southwestern Bavaria into the western Austrian state of Tyrol. At 188 square kilometres, this mountain range is Bavaria’s largest natural reserve and home to one of the state’s most famous attractions – the Neuschwanstein castle, the fairy-tale inspiration behind Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. The charming town of Oberammergau, within the rural district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, is also a Bavarian legend, thanks to its once-a-decade Passion Play.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is also home to a section of the famed Via Alpina, a network of five trails which stretch over more than 5000 kilometres across eight countries in the Alpine region. The Meditationsweg in the Ammergau Alps also twists through 85 kilometres of this mountainous territory, allowing you to come closer to the awe-inspiring nature and history of this region.
Like the Ammergau Alps, Wetterstein also connects Bavaria and Tyrol. Here you can conquer Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, which stands at an impressive 2,962 metres. Take the mountain railway to the top! But the excitement of Wetterstein doesn’t stop at the Zugspitze, the splendid Eibsee and the fascinating Partnach Gorge are also worth visiting.
The Bavarian Prealps are mainly located in Germany, though they too spread into Germany’s neighbour Austria. The highest peak in this range is found in the Ester Mountains. At 2,086 metres, the Krottenkopf can be reached from Klais, Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Eschenlohe. The classic German long-distance hiking route the Traumpfad, or Dreamway, stretches from Munich to Venice and partly runs through the Bavarian Prealps. If you’re up for the challenge, this 580-kilometre trail will take you through the lush Prealps to the Mediterranean Dolomites. The Herzogstand mountain, near Kochel am See and a stone’s throw from Munich, will also dazzle keen hikers with views of Lake Walchen and Lake Kochel.
Conversely to the Prealps, the Karwendel lies mainly in Austria, dipping into Germany with peaks such as the 2,050-metre-high Schöttelkarspitze. The Karwendel – both in Bavaria and Austria – is a protected area and the largest mountain range in the Northern Limestone Alps. Majestic golden eagles can be spotted here. In fact, did you know that the Alps is the only area in Germany where these rare birds still breed?
A total of 25 mountain huts can be found in the Karwendel, all run by the area’s locals. But there’s always the possibility of bivouacking (staying in a temporary and minimalist camp in the middle of nature) or being self-sufficient as well.
Bavarian Alps: Chiemgau
Chiemgau Alps also boasts magnificent mountains and stunning views. If you want to look all the way over the Berchtesgaden Alps, we recommend climbing the Hochstaufen, reaching 1,771 meters in height.
Six stages of the long-distance footpath Via Alpina lead through the Chiemgau Alps. Starting from Unken in Saalachtal, passing Ruhpolding and Marquartstein to reach the Kampenwand cablecar, then further to the Priener Hut, afterwards passing the Spitzsteinhaus before finally reaching Oberaudorf in the Inn valley. Other mountains within the Bavarian section of the Chiemgau Alps include the Hochgern, Rauschberg, Spitzstein and Gurnwandkopf. Furthermore, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the fantastic Lake Chiem can also be found in this breath-taking range.
In keeping with the fairy-tale feel of much of the Alps, myth and majesty can be found in no small measure in the Berchtesgaden range. The name of the highest peak, Hochkönig, translates literally to “High King” in English. On the Bavarian side of this range, eager hikers and culture vultures alike can enjoy the grandeur and legend of the Watzmann. With an impressive 2,713 metres of altitude, Watzmann is sure to inspire. And if that weren’t enough, there is also the curious fable surrounding the peak and its neighbouring mountains: Watzmannfrau, Kleiner Watzmann, and the three Watzmannkinder. Maybe you recognise some of those words from German class at school? Tou’re right, these mountains make up a rocky family of husband, wife and children. Legend has it that the cruel King Watzmann was cursed and turned to stone after his tyrannical rule.
And since we’re on the subject of royalty: the sparkling jewel of Lake Königssee, which translates to “King’s Lake” is also located within the Berchtesgaden Alps. You can also find the gorgeous Lake Hintersee here, near the village of Ramsau which is well-known hiker’s village, beloved due to its idyllic alpine pastures and promotion of sustainable tourism.
The Bavarian Alps is a treasure trove of natural wonder. You can climb mountains, marvel at waterfalls and alpine lakes, plan bike tours or go rock climbing. Whether it be a day trip or a longer holiday, you will never run out of activities and scenery in the Alps.
Naturally, we have to mention that you do have to be careful to a certain degree when hiking in the Alps. Some trails are more dangerous than others; you could fall or be caught in an avalanche. Therefore, it’s important to research conditions as thoroughly as you can and act and react in accordance with any weather warning. If you do that, there’s nothing holding you back for a unique alpine adventure holiday.
The Bavarian Alps offer a multitude of activities year-round, submerse yourself in this utopia of gleaming lakes, towering mountains, and lush pastures. Visit Bavaria’s largest natural reserve, Germany’s tallest mountains, the famous Dreamway and the Karwendel with its golden eagles. Let’s get planning!