If you budget your time carefully, you can see some of the highlights of Bavaria in just 1 week. Naturally, you will want to visit its capital, Munich. The most important man-made attractions, including some of Europe's greatest museums, are here. But for pure scenic grandeur, the Bavarian Alps rank among Europe's greatest treasures.
One of Europe's most beautiful drives is the Deutsche Alpenstrasse (German Alpine Road), which stretches for some 480km (298 miles) from Berchtesgaden in the east, all the way to Lindau on Lake Constance in the west. The road goes through mountains, lakes, "black" forests, and "castles in the sky." Where commercial reality hasn't intruded, it's a true fantasy. In winter, driving can be perilous, and mountain passes are often shut down. We always prefer to take the drive in early spring or early autumn.
Day 1: Hitler's Scenic Retreat at Berchtesgaden
From Munich, head south along Autobahn A8 (and drive in the right lane if you want to avoid the hysterical speeders on the left). Turn south on Route B20 for Berchtesgaden, 158km (98 miles) southeast of Munich. After settling in and having lunch, take an afternoon excursion to Obersalzberg and the Kehlstein. The Kehlstein road was blasted from bedrock, and an elevator ascends to the summit, once Hitler's famed Eagle's Nest. The panorama is quite spectacular.
While here you can also explore the Berchtesgaden National Park and the town of Berchtesgaden itself. Overnight in Berchtesgaden.
Day 2: Königssee & Bad Reichenhall
While still based in Berchtesgaden, take the 2-hour boat ride on the Königssee, 5km (3 miles) to the south. This long, narrow lake, famed for its steep banks and dark waters, is one of Europe's most dramatic and romantic sights. In the afternoon, drive west along the Alpine road and then north on Route B20 some 19km (12 miles) to Bad Reichenhall. This is one of Germany's most famous spas on the Saalach River. The town was built around its Kurpark (spa center), and it's filled with both luxury and moderately priced hotels.
Day 3: Neues Schloss, Another Ludwig Castle
Get back on Autobahn A8 toward Munich, but turn off at Prien am Chiemsee, 85km (53 miles) southeast of Munich. The premier attraction here is the Neues Schloss, a fantastic castle begun by Ludwig II in 1878 on the island of Herrenchiemsee. You can find food and lodging at Prien.
Day 4: Bad Tölz to Mittenwald
Get back on the autobahn to Munich, but take a cross-country route (472) to Bad Tölz, one of Bavaria's leading spas. Its spa center (Kurverwaltung) makes a good place to take a break. Hotel Am Wald, Austrasse 39 in Bad Tölz (tel. 08041/78830), is a reasonable place to dine, with meals beginning at 10€. It serves good Bavarian fare -- nothing fancy, but fit fortification for this breezy part of the country. Standing on its own grounds, the hotel lies about a 10-minute walk from the Altstadt (Old Town).
Leave Bad Tölz and go along Hwy. 472 for another 8km (5 miles) to Bad Heilbrunn, another typical Bavarian spa. There's not much to see, but in another 6.5km (4 miles) you reach Benediktbeuren, Upper Bavaria's oldest Benedictine monastery. Records trace it back to the year 739. After a look, continue along for 6.5km (4 miles) to Kochel am See, with its Alpine vistas, and from here take B20 for 32km (20 miles) to Mittenwald on the Austrian frontier. Plan an overnight stay.
Day 5: Garmisch-Partenkirchen & the Zugspitze
You'll want to spend as much time as possible in Mittenwald, one of the most beautiful and evocative of all Bavarian villages. It is also a major center for violin making. At least give it a morning before driving northwest for 19km (12 miles) on Route 2 to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, two towns combined. After checking in, head for the major attraction, the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany. Wear warm clothing. You can overnight in Garmisch, which has the most hotels and restaurants of all the resorts of Bavaria.
Day 6: En Route to Oberammergau
Leaving Garmisch-Partenkirchen, head north for 19km (12 miles) to Oberammergau. Along the way you'll pass Kloster Ettal, founded by Ludwig the Bavarian in 1330. Its original 10-sided church is a stunning example of the Bavarian rococo style. Some 9.5km (6 miles) to the west is Schloss Linderhof, one of "Mad" King Ludwig's royal residences, built on the grounds of his hunting lodge between 1874 and 1878. These two attractions will take up most of your day, but you'll still arrive in the little old woodcarver's village of Oberammergau, 11km (6 3/4 miles) northeast of Linderhof, in time to wander about. Later, enjoy a hearty Bavarian dinner before turning in to your Alpine bed.
Day 7: Return to Munich
The Alpine village of Oberammergau lies 95km (59 miles) southwest of Munich. Most motorists make the run in 1 1/2 hours. If you leave Oberammergau in the morning, you can easily be in Munich in time to check into a hotel and have lunch. If you arrive in Munich on Day 7, it will be convenient for your takeoff in the morning.
After lunch, you'll still have the afternoon for some of those sights you missed in your first 2 days in Munich . Try to take in a visit of the Residenz, the enormous palace of the Wittelsbach family and the official residence of the rulers of Bavaria from 1385 to 1918. It lies at Max-Joseph-Platz 3. You might also try to visit the Cuvilliés Theater, one of the most flamboyant in all of Europe. These visits will take at least 2 hours. With the remaining time, visit Frauenkirche, the "Cathedral of Our Lady" at Frauenplatz.
If it's a summer night, you might enjoy a final evening in one of the outdoor beer gardens, a fit farewell to the kingdom of the brew. If you're not big on the suds, you might like to dine in one of the restaurants of Schwabing, which has been compared to New York's Greenwich Village.
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.