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Königssee

This is the "jewel in the necklace" of Berchtesgaden. The waters of this scenic lake appear to be dark green because of the steep mountains that jut upward from its shores. Low-lying land on the lake's northern edge contains a parking lot and a few charming inns and bathing facilities, but mountains enclose the rest of the lake, making it impossible to walk along the shoreline. The only way to explore the water, unless you're like one of the mountain goats you may see above, is by boat. Electric motorboats -- no noisy gas-powered launches allowed -- carry passengers on tours around the lake throughout the summer and occasionally even in winter.

The most popular spot on Königssee is the tiny, flat peninsula on the western bank, the site of a basilica as early as the 12th century. Today the Catholic Kirche Sankt Bartholomä (Chapel of St. Bartholomew) is still used for services (except in winter). The clergy must arrive by boat because there's no other way to approach the peninsula.

The adjacent buildings include a fisher's house and a restaurant, which was once a favorite hunting lodge of the Bavarian kings. Here you can sample trout and salmon caught in the crisp, clean waters. At the southern end of the lake you come to the Salet-Alm, where the tour boats make a short stop near a thundering waterfall. If you follow the footpath up the hillside, you'll reach the summer pastures used by the cattle of Berchtesgaden. Just over the hill is Lake Obersee, part of Königssee until an avalanche separated them 8 centuries ago. If you prefer a shorter trip, you can take the boat to St. Bartholomew and back.

To reach Königssee from Berchtesgaden by car, follow the signs south from the town 5km (3 miles). It's also a pleasant hour's walk or a short ride by electric train or bus from the center of town.

For information about boat excursions, call Schiffahrt Königssee at tel. 08652/96360 or visit www.seenschiffahrt.de. An entire tour of Königssee requires about 2 hours. There are boats in summer every 30 minutes, so getting off one boat and climbing aboard another is easy if you want to break up the tour. During the summer, the first boat departs every morning at 8am and the last boat leaves at 5:15pm. In winter, boats leave about every 45 minutes beginning at 9:30am. The important stops are at St. Bartholomä and Salet Obersee, the latter off limits in winter A round-trip fare for a lake tour is 16€ for adults, 8€ for children 6 to 17.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.