Hiking the Alps of Bavaria and Tyrol, Germany and Austria
- Hike verdant alpine mountain trails during the height of wildflower season
- Visit famous Bavarian castles and historic churches, and take guided walking tours of Munich and Salzburg
- Enjoy an elegant Mozart dinner concert in Salzburg and local folk music in Berchtesgaden
- Delicious Bavarian meals, comfortable lodging, and private luxury coach
- All activity and entrance fees, including castles and chair lifts
- Relaxing electric boat cruise on serene Lake Konigssee
|Dates||Jun 24–Jul 5, 2014|
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Please note that the leader has changed from what was originally published. If you have questions, please contact us.
The German Alps are a scenic region of pristine lakes and rivers, high mountains, green pastures, and thundering river gorges. The hilly countryside, dotted with quaint villages and small farms, is home to the most famous castles in Germany. The locals are fun-loving people who take pride in their laid-back lifestyle, capacity for enjoyment, and efforts to preserve their environment. If you enjoy both hiking and visiting interesting places, this is the trip for you.
Based in comfortable, family-owned hotels, we'll set out each day to explore this breathtakingly beautiful part of the world. Our hikes will range from relaxing strolls on groomed country paths to awe-inspiring and exhilarating hikes in mountainous terrain. Some hikes will begin with a boat or cable car ride. We'll visit King Ludwig II's fantasy castles, cruise on fjord-like Lake Konigssee, and take walking tours of local historical and cultural sites. Expect congenial leaders who look forward to sharing this adventure with you.
Please note that the itinerary is subject to change should weather or participant safety issues arise.
Day 1: We'll meet at a centrally located hotel in Munich at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 24, then travel in our comfortable, air-conditioned bus to beautiful Berchtesgaden, located at the foot of impressive Mt. Watzmann. After arriving at our hotel, we'll have lunch, the first meal of the trip. Afterward, we'll take a guided walking tour of the town center, including the castle square, medieval marketplace, and the Berchtesgaden National Park information center. Overnight: Berchtesgaden.
Day 2: Today will begin at Lake Konigssee in Berchtesgaden National Park. Our electric boat will glide silently past sheer mountain walls and emerald green forests before stopping on a small peninsula at the foot of Watzmann Mountain's impressive east face. We'll hike for an hour or two in the forest behind photogenic St. Bartholomew's Church, and then hear a talk about the history and management of this remarkable park. Then we'll re-board the boat for Salet, at the far end of the lake. A short trail leads to Lake Obersee, one of the most beautiful places on earth. We'll continue hiking along its shore to an idyllic mountain pasture and hut, where we'll stop to rest and enjoy a cold beverage. Choices here include freshly made buttermilk, thanks to the cows grazing nearby, or Radler, a popular drink made from beer and lemon lime soda. Overnight: Berchtesgaden.
Day 3: Following breakfast at our hotel, we will depart for a walking tour of historic Salzburg. Our guided tour includes some information on the filming of The Sound of Music. There will be free time to visit the Mozart Museum, the Mirabell Gardens and palace, or the old city fortress. Chocolate lovers may prefer to stop by the Sacher Hotel to sample the famous Austrian torte. After returning to Berchtesgaden, the afternoon will be free for participants to relax or explore on their own. Optional activities include a soak at the Watzmanntherme fresh and saltwater pools, a visit to the local heritage museum or the nearby salt mines, or a tour of the Eagle's Nest. (The cost of these optional activities is not included in the trip price.) Tonight we'll enjoy a special dinner with folk music at one of Berchtesgaden's finest restaurants. Overnight: Berchtesgaden.
Day 4: We'll begin today's hike at Maria Gern Pilgrimage Church, reputed to be the loveliest church in Berchtesgadener Land. Our trail leads up to the Ettenberg plateau, where we'll enjoy panoramic views of the region before continuing down through the Almbachklamm, a deeply cut chasm, with rock overhangs, thunderous waterfalls, and clear pools. The hike concludes at the Kugelmuehle, Germany's last remaining marble grinding mill. In the evening we will take a bus ride into Austria to attend a dinner concert at Salzburg's 806 CE. Peterskeller, where Charlemagne is said to have dined. Selections of Mozart's works will be performed in an elegant Baroque dining room. Overnight: Berchtesgaden.
Day 5: This morning we leave Berchtesgaden for Mittenwald, a typically pretty southern Bavarian town, where the shops, homes, and churches are ornately hand-painted. This traffic-free village is famous for its violin museum and handmade, finely crafted musical instruments. We’ll take the Karwendelbahn gondola up to the top station, where our hike will begin. If the weather's clear, you can expect far-reaching views over Mittenwald and the Karwendel range. After the hike we travel a short distance across the Austrian border into the province of Tyrol to our cozy hotel in the village of Seefeld.
Day 6: After breakfast, we will depart for a pleasant daylong loop hike with our local mountain guide. We have a quick tour of the quaint town and then head to the trails. Our first stop will be Wildmoosalm, a beautiful meadow surrounded by forest and peaks. Along the way we will identify wildflowers and maybe even see some chickadees. We continue on our gentle path to Lottenssee Hutte, a beautiful alpine hut located on the shores of a seasonal lake. We continue in the forest, taking a short uphill trail to a serene lake, and then back to town. We will pass some of the ski jumps used in the winter Olympics and may see a number of Austrians training on their roller skis. Back in town we have time to relax and maybe enjoy a sauna before the sun sets. Overnight: Seefeld.
Day 7: Today we have a daylong hike that covers varied terrain and culminates in a glorious mountain summit. Seefeld sits on a sunny plateau that's cooled by mountain breezes and rimmed by rocky crests. The Tyrolean Wetterstein and Karwendel mountain ranges form dramatic backdrops to the north and east. We’ll begin with a ride on a funicular train up to the Rosshutte, where we’ll board a cable car and ride to the top station. Next we’ll hike uphill for approximately an hour to reach the summit of the Reither Spitze for spectacular views of the region. Finally, we’ll wind our way down to Nordlinger Hutte for lunch and perhaps some yodeling practice before we head down the mountain and back to our hotel. Those who wish to shorten the hike by several hours may re-board the cable car at the Rosshutte for a quicker return to Seefeld. Tonight we enjoy a stroll and maybe a schnapps while listening to after-dinner music at a local hotel. Overnight: Seefeld.
Day 8: Following breakfast, we will take a short drive to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a winter sports mecca and home to Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. We will hike through the Partnachklamm gorge, a dramatic geological wonder. After checking into our hotel there will be free time to explore this charming and lively market town before meeting for dinner at an excellent local restaurant. Overnight: Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Day 9: This morning we depart for Fussen, a center of Bavarian folklore and part of the famous Romantic Road. Along the way we'll stop to tour King Ludwig II's beautiful Linderhof Castle and to walk in the elegant gardens. We'll also tour the Venus Grotto, constructed by King Ludwig II as a private theater where he could listen as his friend Richard Wagner conducted his operas. The main chamber contains an artificial lake, complete with a shell-shaped, gilded boat. After a stop to visit the stunning rococo-style Wieskirche or "Church in the Meadow," a UNESCO World Heritage site, we'll have dinner and stay the night at an interesting, antique-filled hotel near the River Lech. Overnight: Fussen.
Day 10: This will be our two-castle day. After breakfast, we'll hike from the old city center, across the River Lech, then up and down Mt. Kalvarienberg to the Schwansee (Swan Lake), where some may enjoy a refreshing swim. Next we'll visit Schloss Hohenschwangau, the boyhood home of King Ludwig II. After a short castle tour, we'll next ascend the steep Pollat Gorge path to Marienbruecke (Mary's Bridge) that spans the ravine above Neuschwanstein for spectacular castle and countryside views. Overnight: Fussen.
Day 11: We'll board our bus for the two-hour trip to Munich, leave our bags at the hotel, and then begin a guided walking tour of the city in Marienplatz square, famous for its mechanical carillon. We may choose to buy a picnic at the Viktualienmarkt (bustling outdoor food market) or decide to join the locals for a typical beer garden lunch. There will be free time for last-minute shopping before we return to our hotel to check in and have a short rest. Tonight's festive farewell dinner will be at one of Munich's oldest restaurants. Overnight: Munich.
Day 12: The trip will end at our hotel following breakfast. Our bus will make an early morning trip to the airport for participants with flights leaving today.
Our trip begins and concludes in Munich. We will meet at a central Munich hotel at 8:30 a.m. on June 24th. The leader will provide specific information well in advance. If possible, try to arrive a day or two early to enjoy Munich and to recover from jet lag. There will be an optional no-host dinner on the 23rd for those who wish to join the leader.
Accommodations and Food
Our accommodations are in small and charming Bavarian hotels. Rooms are double-occupancy, with a roommate of the same gender assigned for solo travelers. Participants who prefer to have a single room and are willing to pay the extra cost should contact the leader well in advance of the trip.
Buffet breakfasts are served in our hotels. Typical spreads include coffee, tea, juices, muesli, and a variety of homemade breads, German-style sausages, cheese, and eggs. On hiking days we will either picnic along the trail or purchase lunch at a mountain hut. For dinner in the hotels expect hearty local cuisine with many braised or roasted meat dishes. Desserts are plentiful and especially delicious. Vegetarian options are always available. For added variety we'll have several dinners in local restaurants.
Please note that while all meals are included in the trip price, drinks (including bottled waters and soft drinks) are not. Bavaria is renowned for world-class beer, while the wines of both Austria and Germany are excellent and varied.
This trip is suitable for adults of all ages who are in good health and used to regular exercise. Participants need to be comfortable hiking up to nine miles a day over varied terrain. As with all hiking trips, your enjoyment of the trip will be greatly enhanced if you are fit and well prepared. While our days will be filled with interesting hikes or other activities, you will also have the option of simply relaxing in this alpine wonderland.
All hikes follow maintained trails, but some are quite steep and rocky. While none of our hikes has an elevation gain of much over 1,000 feet, we may descend 2,500 feet. Most of our hikes are quite moderate and average seven miles. Our hikes will be at a comfortable pace, with plenty of stops to rest, take pictures, and enjoy the views.
Though mountain weather conditions are often unpredictable, it's most common to experience moderate to warm temperatures with frequent afternoon rain showers. Cooler weather can be encountered so appropriate clothing is important.
Equipment and Clothing
A detailed equipment list will be sent to all participants well in advance of the trip. Comfortable, quick-drying hiking clothes, well broken-in hiking boots and a lightweight, breathable rain jacket and pants are essential. Hiking poles are strongly recommended.
- Frommer's Munich & the Bavarian Alps. 6th edition.
- Lonely Planet's Munich, Bavaria & the Black Forest. 3rd edition.
- Rick Steves' Germany 2009. Avalon Travel.
- Munich & the Bavarian Alps. DK Eyewitness Travel Guides.
- Michelin In Your Pocket Munich and The Royal Castles of Bavaria.
- McIntosh, Christopher, Ludwig II of Bavaria: The Swan King.
Participants will receive pre-departure information on the Berchtesgaden National Park and its conservation efforts. Hiking maps can be purchased in Berchtesgaden. The leader will bring alpine wildflower guides available for group use.
Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about the conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad.
Bavarians have a long and committed history of protecting their natural environment. Approximately 46 percent of Austria remains forested, and the German alpine clubs serve as guardians of the mountain pathways, balancing the enjoyment of nature with erosion prevention and watershed conservation. Recycling is well established here, and leaded petroleum products are banned.
Berchtesgadeners are actively involved in preservation efforts. Since 1983, the Berchtesgaden National Park has been involved with UNESCO in a scientific project called "Man and the Biosphere." The UNESCO project's goals are, first, to teach each generation to use nature in a sustainable way, and second, to study the ways in which nature provides for its continued existence. In 1990, the area bordering the park, which includes Berchtesgaden's villages and hamlets, was included in the biosphere reserve. The zone is subject to strict regulation in order to reduce pollution of every kind. Garbage has to be sorted before being thrown away and there are separate containers for paper, glass, aluminum, plastic, and compostable matter. No chemical or polluting industry is permitted in the buffer zone and even visual pollution is avoided, thanks to strict building rules and regulations. Farmers generally use natural fertilizers and people are not allowed to use detergent when washing cars.