Exploring mountains and lakes: Berchtesgaden Alps

A very large part of our Southern Germany road trip was to see and experience the German Alps so after visiting the Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee near Munich and without a booking, we arrived at the picturesque campground Winkl-Landthal and decided to stay put for the next three nights. This turned out to be a great base for exploring the Berchtesgaden Alps.

Read more: Touring unfinished Schloss Herrenchiemsee
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Campervan Siegfried and our towel decorated camping chairs. Behind the van is a creek that provided some beautiful gurgling evening concerts. And quick access for washing your hands.

Although Mrs. Campground Owner wasn’t the unfriendliest German I’ve ever met, she wasn’t exactly the “I’ll go out of my way to make your stay is super comfortable here” either. But that was ok by me since the campsite we scored totally made up for it. Plus staying at that particular campground entitled us to free public transport for the entire Berchtesgaden area.

So we left trusty campervan Siegfried at the campground and caught buses everywhere, which meant breaking out into serious sprinting once or twice since buses left only every hour or so and missing a bus just wasn’t an option!

UP MOUNT JENNER

If you’re into hiking, there are tons of hikes to do in the Berchtesgaden Alps but get some information first. We didn’t come as prepared as we perhaps should have. Well, you’ll always know better in hindsight.

So we were initially a bit lost as to what to do. We definitely knew we wanted to go on a hike but where and how… hm, yeah, we struggled with getting that kind of information. Or maybe we’re just too cheap and didn’t want to invest in a map of hiking trails when we were only there for a couple of days.

So on our first day, we ended up taking the cable car up Mount Jenner (1,874 m). And voilà, found a great map of the area on the wall of the cable car station at the top. By then we’d of course figured out what do but never mind… 🙂

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On board the Jennerbahn (cable car) looking towards Schönau and the Lake Königssee Valley

From the cable car station at the top, it’s a quick hike up to the summit of Mount Jenner. The views over the Berchtesgaden Alps and surrounds are breathtaking! You can see Lake Königssee, the surrounding Alpine ranges including the Watzmann, the highest peak at 2,713 m, and into the Alpine lowlands to the right.

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Overlooking the Königssee

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View from the summit of the Jenner. Mount Watzmann towers over Lake Königssee in the background (towards the left).

From the summit it took us several hours to hike back down to the tiny village of Schönau from where we had started our adventure in the morning. Most of the hike was really pleasant though I wasn’t too impressed with the gravel that covered large sections of the path and made it more into a road than a hiking trail.

I’d also forgotten my knee brace that day so ended up doing a lot of awkward sideways walking to protect my knee, which also meant I skidded even more on the gravel and found myself squarely on my bottom once or twice.

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Along the Königsbachweg, hiking down from Mount Jenner.

If your German is up to scratch, you can check out the Wanderkarte (hiking map); we took the Königsbachweg and then the quieter Hochbahnweg with intermittent views of Lake Königssee.

The area is beautiful but popular with hikers so I’d probably choose a path less well-trodden next time; as an introduction though, this was a great way to finally meet the Alps.

And perhaps we should have also hiked up, rather than down, given the enormous impact walking downhill has on my right knee. Or maybe I should have just remembered my knee brace and actually come prepared! 🙂

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Cows and alms (alpine huts / pastures). That’s kind of what I remember most about this hike.

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Cows lining the path. The noise from the cow bells was deafening though strangely melodious.

If you’re used to hiking in Australia like we are, you’ll probably be equally as amazed by the abundance of huts that sell food to weary hikers. The sign in the photo below informs tired out hikers – and anyone still with a fresh spring in their step – that you can get ‘fresh milk, butter and cheese; cold drinks and Speckbrot (bread with smoked bacon, kind of like prosciutto)’.

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I liked this cow. She kept rubbing her head against the sign and ringing her bell. You don’t need a human dressed up as cow if you’ve got her for advertising!

I think the husband and I were the only hikers who actually brought food. Everyone else seemed to just know about these Alms that offer a kind of plowman’s lunch, and of course beer…

We were fascinated by them but didn’t actually visit one (since there’s a lot of bread involved and I didn’t feel like having a cup of tea while watching the husband eat). I’m sure they offer great fresh produce for a well-deserved break.

At the end of the day, we had just enough time to race around the Malerwinkel (Painter’s Corner) circuit that offers stunning views of Lake Königssee before catching the last bus back to our campground in Bischofswiesen.

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View of Lake Königssee from famous Painter’s Corner

ACROSS LAKE KÖNIGSSEE

After spending the morning exploring Eagle’s Nest on our second day in the area, we decided that we could squeeze in crossing Lake Königssee after all.

Read more: Tracing Hitler in the Alps: A visit to Eagle’s Nest

It takes almost an hour to cross the 8 km long Königssee to Salet. We literally had just enough time to race the 10 min walk to tranquil Lake Obersee, soak in the view, hang around for 5 min, go mad taking photos and briskly march back to the boat landing to catch the very last ferry back to Schönau. If you miss the last one, you have to spend the night in the open. There are no paths back along the shores of the lake.

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At Lake Obersee. There’s a waterfall in the background (towards the right).

You can wander around Lake Obersee and visit the Röthbach Waterfall. According to the Lake Königssee brochure, this is Germany’s highest waterfall. Amazingly, you can also find Germany’s highest waterfall in the Black Forest at Triberg (according to Lonely Planet)…

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View from the boat landing at Salet

The trip out to Salet goes past St. Bartholomä, and I really wish we’d had the time to visit the chapel and stroll around the banks of the lake there. The mountain range in the background marks the beginning of the Steinernes Meer (Stony Sea) and almost Austria.

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One of the Königssee electric boats approaching St. Bartholomä (this chapel dates back to the 17th century)

On the way back, the boat stopped at the Echowand (echo wall) and we got to listen to some rather boring trumpet blowing. The sound is meant to echo seven times. You would have thought that they could have played some catching tunes or something to really show off the echo.

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The sheer rock surface of the echo wall

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The boat sheds at Schönau

And then we were back at Schönau where someone decided to have a rather delicious cherry ice cream. Ice cream is sooo cheap in Germany, it’s ridiculous. The husband had to pay tourist prices here and spent a whopping €1 ($1.50) for his scoop of cherry deliciousness.

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COSTS

With the ACSI camping card, the campground cost €18 ($26) a night (plus visitor’s tax of €5). To that, we added the cable car ride, boat trip and also the visit up to Eagle’s Nest.

The Jenner cable car isn’t exactly cheap. Initially we ummed and ahed a bit but then decided that it was unlikely we’d ever come and take the Jennerbahn again. So up we went for €17 ($25) one way for each of us (it’s an extra €5 for return).

The electric boats across Lake Königssee (to Salet at the Southern end) are just as pricey and will set you back another €16.90 per person.

And then add to that all the ice cream cones you’re going to devour.

SUMMING UP…

There is a ton to see and do around the Berchtesgaden Alps and we absolutely wished we’d have had at least another day to explore it a bit more. That said, by the next day the clouds were rolling in and it was time to leave the Alps for greener (= less foggy) pastures.

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Hiking in the Berchtesgaden Alps, Germany, is an awesome way to experience the majesty of these mountain ranges. Or take a boat across Lake Königssee! | Queensland & Beyond

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