Beaches and Mountains: Exploring Berchtesgaden and surroundings

Trip Report Index

With a single visit, Berchtesgaden literally became my favorite place on earth. We only had one full day to explore, so after an early start at the InterContinental we first drove around the hill/mountain where the InterContinental is located. As I mentioned in the previous installment this is the steepest road in all of Germany, so it’s quite an adventure to drive on if you’re not used to driving stick anymore.

From every corner there are beautiful views of the surrounding Alps and towns, and the amazing thing was how much could be seen directly from our car. There were turns where you were just a few feet from a 3,000 foot drop, making for even better (and more exciting!) sightseeing.

Since it was a weekend, plenty of German tourists (on weekend trips) were driving around heading to the various restaurants, Hitler’s Eagle Nest, hiking trails, etc.

After driving around for a bit we stopped at a bakery for breakfast. I’m a sucker for German food (or at least bakery sweets), so we got a few things for the road.

We had a GPS, so we decided to just keep driving and see where it would take us, since all the landscape is so incredible. For a couple of hours we drove around just about every back road, making plenty of stops. Since I was driving I wasn’t taking all that many pictures, unfortunately.

It was literally just the most stunning day ever. Look at the picture below, not for its (lack of) artistic quality, but for the scene. Picture that with perfect 65 degree weather, clear skies, and the smell of real fresh air. It was even more stunning given that I’ve lived in Florida for ten years, where the biggest mountains are those built in kindergarten sandboxes during recess.

As we drove towards Koenigsee we stumbled upon what appeared to be a tractor expo. And to think they call us Floridians rednecks. 😉

In the afternoon after driving around for hours we went to the actual town of Berchtesgaden, where we parked in a parking garage and walked around.

My family is from a small town in Germany (much smaller than Berchtesgaden), so growing up I was accustomed to the German “village” life since I typically spent about six weeks a year in Germany with relatives.

While I love the US and how efficient and productive everyone is, there’s a certain pace to life in smaller towns in Germany that I kind of miss. Look, I love going to Wal-Mart and getting everything I need in no time, but the leisurely pace of life in these towns is also nice, where you actually spend time with family and friends every weekend over a couple of beers, and where you actually run into people you know on the street. The only place I run into people I know is on Twitter.

It just so happened that there was a festival in Berchtesgaden the weekend we were there, so it quickly kicked into folk music and lederhosen overload.

One of my most fond memories of Germany as a kid was often going to one of the ice cream shops in the pedestrian zone in the afternoons for ice cream, where you can just sit and enjoy the nice weather for an hour while people watching. My friend and I both had ice coffees. And damnit, Germans know how to make ice coffee — 90% ice cream, 10% coffee, just the way I like it.

After walking around for a bit longer my friend and I had a late lunch/early dinner at a Bavarian restaurant on the patio. Not only was it a stunning setting, but the food was great too.

Berchtesgaden is truly the most amazing place I’ve ever been. And to tie it back into loyalty programs, my favorite part was that there was such a beautiful, modern InterContinental in such a small, quaint town. I remember staying in bed and breakfasts in Germany and Austria as a kid and enjoying it, but it’s just not practical for me anymore. It’s not just because I’m obsessed with loyalty programs, but because I need a hotel with reliable internet given what I do, which makes it very tough to be disconnected for more than about, oh, 30 minutes.

Anyway, usually I’m all for visiting new places, though I have a few places I never get tired of. One place is Hong Kong, which to me is the most dynamic, exciting, impressive mega-city in the world. Another one is Bali, which not only has natural beauty, but some of the friendliest and most hospitable people of anywhere I’ve been. And I’m pretty sure Berchtesgaden is the third place I’d add to the list, which is almost a hybrid of the two in a completely backwards way — not only is it one of the most scenic places I’ve ever, but it also has some of the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere that left me feeling as refreshed as Berchtesgaden.

Filed Under: Travel
  1. Really? Hong Kong? I found HK incredibly disappointing. There is just not all that much to do and see. At least not during the week i was there. Only city that was more disappointing than HK was perhaps Singapore or KL, maybe even Saigon. –All big cities that don’t live up to their reputations in my opinion.

    The pictures of Berchtesgaden remind me of Switzerland. How did u end up choosing to go there?

  2. @ frank — Wow, surprised to hear you didn’t like Hong Kong, I’d move there in a heartbeat if I could. Guess different people look for different things, since I also liked HCMC (though I agree Singapore and KL are somewhat disappointing).

    Oddly enough I chose to go based on the fact that there was an InterContinental there that I had always seen pictures of and heard great things about. It’s the same reason I went to Queenstown, New Zealand (there’s a Crowne Plaza there), and it’s one of my favorite places in the world now.

  3. Since I’m living vicariously through your travels, I want to know if or when you plan to visit Africa.

    Also, would you ever consider letting your readers vote on a destination/itinerary?

  4. As a resident of neighbouring Salzburg I am very happy to hear that this area is one of your top destinations. I also find the mountain scenery and village atmosphere to be one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating places anywhere. Can’t wait to hear what you thought of Schloss Fuschl and the picture perfect setting around Lake Fuschl.

  5. @ Ms. Vicarious — Thanks for the kind words! Love the idea, and I’ll absolutely do that in the next year. Curious where y’all would send me. 😀

  6. HI Lucky, going to be there on dec 20 in Inter Continental. Thanks for the review.
    P.S. You fears come true the place is getting bombarded. ))))

  7. Hi Ben, we love Berchtesgaden too. Having lived in Germany while serving in the US Army for over ten years from 1980-2010, we also love Garmisch. Exceptionally beautiful during Christmas time (i.e., Christmas Markets)

  8. Great TR as usual, Lucky! I recommend going to Leavenworth, WA which is a Bavarian Village with mountains surrounding it.

  9. @ Jimgotkp — Funny you should mention it, as I just planned a trip there last night. Looks amazing and I’ll report back.

  10. Too bad you didn’t have enough time to stop at some of the highlights of our visit to the area: the Salt Mine tour, the electric boat trip on the Konigssee, and the toboggan slide “Keltenblitz” (in nearby Deurrnberg, AT)

  11. Lucky, Ive always been a fan of beaches, but these photos really make me want to visit some mountains.

    Speaking of HKG, ive got 2 days there coming up. Would you recommend me spending all my time in HKG or should I take a trip to Macau as well?

  12. Lucky I just found out that there is no way to get there except for using TAXI. Am thinking about renting a car in Salzburg. Any suggestions?

  13. @ Latimer — Have you ever been to Hong Kong before? If not, absolutely spend both days there. Be sure to visit the night market, Stanley Market (and most importantly the beautiful land around it), Victoria Peak, the longest series of escalators in the world, watch the Symphony of Lights, and have afternoon tea at the Peninsula. Just a few of the “musts” in my opinion.

    @ Serge — I know there’s a train from Munich, though maybe not from Salzburg? While I know others will disagree, I was SO happy to have had a car, because I felt I was able to see so much more as a result. Then again, in winter I’m not sure I would necessarily want to drive given how steep the roads are.

  14. @serge — No personal experience, but shows you can change trains in Freilassing, Germany (coming from either Salzburg or Munich) and get to Berchtesgaden.

    Or (weather permitting) you can rent a car at SZG like we did. Like Lucky, we HIGHLY recommend having your own transportation while in the area.

  15. Sorry to tell you Lucky, but some of us Floridians ARE proud rednecks, particularly those of us whose family has been in the state since the 1810s!

    Looks beautiful. Southern Germany is definitely my favorite place to go, and I’ll be back there this summer. Thanks for the report!

  16. Have you been to Garmisch-Partenkirchen? If you like Berchtesgaden, I’m sure you will love GP. The town is lovely and the views from the top of the nearby Zugspitze are simply breath-taking.

  17. I love Leavenworth and used to go there all the time with a friend who has a vacation home on Lake Wenatchee. I hope you go during the winter, it is so beautiful in the snow. Maifest is always great too, a huge festival with all the townspeople in lederhosen.

  18. There is a bus from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden that runs pretty frequently.

    A car is a plus in Berchtesgaden, but not absolutely necessary. There are buses to many of the outlying areas (Koenigssee, for example, and many others).

  19. Along with your other favorites of HK and New Zealand, Germany is high on my list of places to visit; your TR has pushed it higher. Thanks for the pictures and recommendations!

    You mention the festival attire, but provide no shot of Lucky in lederhosen? Where’s your German pride? 😉

  20. Ben, check out Hallstatt, Austria, about a 1-2 hour drive southeast of Salzburg. There is lots more great mountain scenery in that part of the world (I’m planning a hiking trip in the mountains of Slovenia, which are further to the southeast).

    Sorry, I don’t think there are any big chain hotels in Hallstadt or Slovenia :-(.

  21. Glad to see you liked this scenery – if thats something you´re into, I can really recommend the Swiss Alps. Plus, you can fly to LUG which is an awesome flight low across the alps with a cool approach into the valley.

  22. If I’m spending 24-48 hrs in Salzburg this December, is it worth using the time to head up here? How far way is it?

  23. @ Ray — It’s about a 30-40 minute drive, though if you only have 1-2 days in Salzburg there, I really don’t think you could do either place justice if you try to visit both. So I’d stick to Salzburg.

  24. Ben, inspired by your TR and great pics we’ll finally be visiting Berchtesgaden. How long do you recommend for first-time visitors?
    Also, reading our report on your unfortunate rental incident seems like you had a good experience with the rental company. Any recommendations on how to get the best deal? I believe you had $22/day?

  25. @ Mon — Happy to hear you’re going! Weather permitting I think 3-4 days is ideal, since you can do activities in the area as well that way. I’m really not a car rental expert, I just used Kayak and booked what was cheapest there.

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