Lush meadows, snow-capped mountains, sublime landscapes, crystal lakes and picture-perfect villages are inevitable glimpses throughout a Bavaria road trip.
While Germany might not offer the ruins and ancient historical buildings of France and Italy, it’s scenic landscapes are just as competitive and the perfect road conditions make it the perfect destination for a road trip. A Bavaria road trip offers everything you’d want from the Alps except it ends up way cheaper than if you were on the other side of the mountains in Switzerland.
Renting a car in Germany is common and easy. Parking is not an issue unless you’re in bigger cities and roads are great. There are numerous planned out routes for taking the most scenic road trips in Germany but we agreed on the Romantic road, tailored it to our requirements and made a Bavaria road trip out of it.
A Bavaria road trip is rewarded with enchanting lakes, green pastures, meadows and castles right out of a fairy tale. Come here during winter and you’ll find some of the finest ski slopes in the German Alps, but summer comes with blue skies, neverending greenery and flower blooms adorning each and every window of Bavarian houses.
We had 3 nights in Germany and since our trip was during August, affordable yet good AirBnb’s were gone in a blink. What was left was either too expensive or too rough for our taste. Our initial plans were to stay somewhere in Garmisch and as the situation changed we managed to find a lovely apartment overlooking the Alps in Tirol, Austria which is less than an hour drive from Garmisch.
Day 1: Partnacklamm, Garmisch, Eibsee and Zugspitze
We started our first day with the well-known gorge in the region. Partnacklamm is gorgeous during the summer time and an absolute must visit on a Bavaria road trip. I can imagine winter here would be stunning with all the ice sculptures but there’s always the risk of closing. The gorge itself is a 15-minute walk along a narrow trail cut into the rocks along a gushing river. Once you’ve passed the gorge, there are several hiking trails that can be adjusted to your time and strength or you could just walk back the same way. The entrance to Partnack gorge is 5 Euros which is well worth the experience.
Tip: If you’re going during summer, there’s a chance you might get slightly wet. You could bring a waterproof jacket but it’s honestly not something to worry about. I personally didn’t mind a little water spray. 😉
How to get there?
If you’re reaching Partnack gorge by car, you’d have to park your car at the Olympia ski stadium. From there it’s a 25-minute walk to the gorge but there’s also the option of horse-driven coaches.
The gorge is also accessible by bus from Garmisch.
Once you’re done with Parnack gorge, a short drive around Garmisch Partenkirchen can be a great option. You could choose to have lunch in one of the fine local restaurants or like us, buy some stuff from the supermarket and make yourself a picnic at Eibsee instead.
Eibsee is a huge enchanting lake just beneath Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain. There’s a train station right at the foot and a pricy cable car that takes you all the way to the top. We ditched the 56 Euro cable car and found a perfect spot to have a picnic next to the lake. During our trip around southern Germany, we saw a fair number of lakes and yet Eibsee kept its rank as our number one favourite.
Since we were here on a lovely summer day, there were lots of people going for a dip. There’s also a variety of boats that you could rent (Paddle boats were 12 Euros for an hour that could fit up to 5 people) and I’d highly recommend you to do so.
We spent the whole afternoon just chilling beside the lake but if you’re keen on going up the mountain, there are a few options:
How to go to the top of Zugspitze?
Your first and probably the most scenic option is the Zugspitzebahn which is also the priciest option. There’s a fee of 56€ for a round trip and the station is just next to the Eibsee. This cable car takes you exactly to the peak and offers a whole view of Garmisch and Eibsee while going up. There’s also the cogwheel train. It obviously takes longer to get to the peak but I’d reckon it offers a whole different experience. You could use the same Zugspitze Bahn ticket to use the cogwheel train to ascent and then descent from the mountain via the cable car or vice-versa.
If you want to make it right to the peak but spend a little less, there’s the option of the taking the cable car from the Austrian side of the mountain instead. The … takes you back by 48€.
But apart from these two cable cars, there are plenty of other ones that take you up but require an additional hike to the reach the peak. Try the Karwendelbahn cable car.
Day 2: Munich, Neuschwanstein, Alpsee and High line 179
On the second day of our Bavaria road trip, we decided to head over to Munich. This wasn’t really my personal decision but since there was 5 of us, everyone got a say. To be honest, Munich was a bad idea. We could have easily spent the day exploring more of the natural beauty of Bavaria instead of wasting time going and coming back to Munich which didn’t offer much of what I was expecting. We explored the central district, had lunch in one of the many restaurants and headed back south to visit Neuschwanstein castle.
I’ve heard different ideas about Neuschwanstein castle from Germans. Some didn’t understand why it had become such a touristy spot since the castle is not really that old and Germany has many other historical castles to visit. But to be honest, despite how historic the castle is, or the fact that it was built by a king who was crazy about castles, we’ll have to give him credit for choosing such a location. The view of the castle Marienbrucke is indeed right out of a fairy tale, just as King Ludwig wanted it to be but never got to see the final version due to his premature death.
The castle is high up in the mountain. If you’re not up for the hike, there are buses and horse-ridden coaches. Buses are 3€ for a round trip (which is slightly cheaper than if you buy the tickets separately) and coaches were 7€ for a one-way ride. Once you get up, follow the route to Marienbrucke where you’re rewarded with a jaw-dropping view of the castle and its surroundings for only a few minutes hike. Keep going up and the view only gets better.
Visits to the castle can only be done through a guided tour which costs 13€ per person. You can also buy a combined ticket with Hohenschwangau castle known as the King’s ticket which will set you back by 25€. Reservation for the castle tour is possible 2 days before your visit through their website which might be a wise decision as this castle is one of the most popular attractions in Bavaria.
The Hohenschwangau castle is just across the Neuschwanstein. It’s a different hike but they are pretty close.
The Alpsee is also just at the bottom of both castles. It’s an enchanting lake with crystal clear water and views of both castles. Paddle boat rentals cost 6€ for 30 min and are well worth it. If you’re here during summer, then going for a dip is almost inevitable.
After visiting the Neuschwanstein we headed to cross over a pending bridge I was told about by one of my readers. The bridge is actually in Austria but very close to the German border and obviously on our way back to our accommodation in Tirol. There are many such bridges around the Alps whether in Austria, Germany or Switzerland and we were lucky to at least try one of them. This specific one was known as Highland179. It’s about a 30 min hike up to the bridge and the ticket costs 8€ to cross over and come back. There are ruins of an ancient castle up on the hill and bewildering views of the Austrian countryside.
Day 3: Lake Constance and heading to the Black Forest
We really didn’t have much of a 3rd day in Bavaria as there was a downpour. There was almost nothing we could do in the pouring rain so we decided to continue our road to the Black Forest which was our next destination. Luckily the weather got clear as we reached lake Constance. This massive lake combines the borders of 3 countries: Germany, Switzerland and Austria. There’s a beautiful cute village on the German side and plenty of restaurants to stop for lunch.
On our way to Freiburg, we also stopped for an afternoon walk by Titisee, another lake in the Black Forest.
Where else I would have gone?
Our Bavaria road trip went on for a week but since we had started from Paris the route was pretty long and we made stops to visit Strasbourg and Freiburg to cut on the driving. If you’re lucky to get a week in Bavaria and its surroundings, there are quite a couple of other places high on my list.
#1 A visit to Werfen ice caves
The Largest ice caves in the world are not to be missed if you have enough time. Check out their website for more info. I really regretted not having gone here.
#2 Day trip to Salzburg
Salzburg was about 300km from where we were staying but it could make a great day trip from Munich or anywhere closer. The Bavaria regional ticket also known as the Bayern ticket is the easiest and cheapest way to get to Salzburg as finding a car park can be a pricey challenge. It costs 25€ for one person for one whole day but you can add up to 4 people to the same ticket with an additional cost of 6€ per person. The ticket will get you to Salzburg and back if you manage to do it in one day. Read more here.
#3 Linderhof Castle
Another enchanting castle built under the rule of the castle loving King Ludwig. It’s not too far from Neuschwanstein so it could easily be arranged on your way to the castle.
#4 Dachau Concentration camp
If you’re into world war history and don’t mind adding a sombre visit to a concentration camp on your Bavaria road trip then Dachao is the most popular in the region.