We spent an amazing snowy week in Germany & Austrian alps. We arrived by train in Munich via Prague and rented a car. We did a circular(ish) route from Munich to Salzburg through Innsbruck to Neuschwanstein castle back up to Munich for our flight to Barcelona.
Munich to Chiemgau & Bavarian Alps (app. 1 hour drive)
The Chiemgau region is known for its hiking, winter sports and mountain climbing. It is a great stopping off point between Munich and Salzburg and offers beautiful scenery, cute towns and great hiking. We enjoyed a great hike that started off in the green valley and gently worked its way into a deep pack of snow.
Chiemgau to Salzburg
Salzburg in the winter is surrounded by snowy peaks of mountains and is truly beautiful. We only spent a quick afternoon in the city but enjoyed our time in this walkable lovely city.
Salzburg to Fernpass (via Berchtesgaden) app.3 hr. drive
From Salzburg we headed deeper into the mountains and stopped in Berchtesgaden. In the summer the area is famously known for Eagle’s nest; Hitler’s 50th birthday present from the Nazi party. That terrible fact aside the area is gorgeous and is on the outskirts of the National park. We stopped for a great hike at Lake Königssee, an elongated lake, surrounded by high mountains, which gives it the appearance of a fjord. It is the third deepest lake in Germany and on the west side wall of the east rises Mount Watzmann, the third highest mountain in Germany. Since we were there in January the snow added an extra special effect. There is a nice walk around the lake which leads to a great overlook and a boat that takes passengers to a church on the far shore. We spent a few hours hiking around the lake and up to an overlook back around to the ski lift and parking lot.
The drive from Berchtesgarden to Fernpass was breathtaking.
We also stopped for a quick visit in Innsbruck. We drove to the end of the cable car route and took in a view of the city.
We reached Fernpass in the evening and stayed two nights at a place called Alpenretreat. We stayed during a ski & yoga retreat and were able to attend yoga classes in their beautiful studio. We spent two wonderful days taking yoga classes, snowshoeing and hiking in the Fernpass, Lermoos, Ehrwald area.
Fernpass to Neuschwanstein Castle (app. 1 hr drive)
It was only supposed to be about an hour drive from Fernpass to Fussen but it turned into an all day affair. The snow was coming down very heavy and so traffic on that Saturday turned into a mess but luckily for us it slowed us down enough to notice a beautiful castle on the hill. We pulled over at what turned out to be not the entrance to the trail to the castle but just some random pull off. We trekked out in waste high ungroomed snow towards what we thought and hoped was in the direction of the castle we saw on the hill. After about an hour and me almost giving in about 100 times we reached what turned out to be the Highline 179 bridge in Reutte, Austria. This monstrous swinging bridge crosses over the interstate to reach the Ehrenburg castle. Built in 2014 the bridge is 374 feet above the valley floor and 1,330 ft. long. We paid the entrance fee and crossed what turned out to be a terrifying walk over the interstate to reach the castle. Yes, there are easier ways to reach the Ehrenburg castle, no we didn’t know that at the time so the castle felt that much more magical once we reached it. The 13th century castle ruins were covered in snow and the views reaching down over the valley and mountains were beautiful.
Once we made it in the late afternoon to Fussen we missed the ticket sales for the Neuschwanstein castle so we headed for a hike around Alpsee lake for sunset views of the castle. Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most visited castles in Germany and one of the most popular tourist destination in Europe so we had a unique experience going in the off season, in the snow and in the late afternoon so had the place basically to ourselves. The waterfall hike near the castle was closed for the season for repairs so we took in the views from the lake and they did not disappoint.
The next morning we went on the insane rushed tour of the castle itself. The tour is quick and a terrible shame that they make you go through so fast, but I get it lots of people little time. However, that shouldn’t stop anyone from doing it. The castle is absolutely amazing inside and the few rooms you get to see and the little information they give you is still worth the experience and peak inside. When we got the top of the hill it was almost a complete white out in the snow and we could barely see anything so when we got inside it was gorgeous to see the views from the castle windows of the snowstorm outside.
Neuschwanstein castle to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (app.1- hour)
We spent our last evening in the mountains in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area. It is only about an hour drive from Munich and is wrapped in the high alpine peaks making it a perfect getaway spot. Our last day we hiked in the morning on a very cold January day to the Partnach gorge. We parked at the Olympic stadium and took the chair lift up to the top which allowed for wonderful views on the sunny blue sky day we were blessed with. We had a panoramic view of the mountains from the top and hiked our way down the mountain to the gorge. The trail leads right through the mountain and along the river through the gorge. In the winter the hike is cold but the payoff is the beautiful icicles along the cave walls and ceiling.
We spent our last road trip day in Munich checking out the beer halls and major sights. Munich is a lovely city with lots to see, eat and drink. We had a wonderful trip through Bavaria and Austria and was the perfect vacation for mountain lovers like ourselves.