The Ultimate Guide to Driving Germany’s Alpine Route

Lindau
Lindau | © Tommy_Rau / Pixabay
Anwesha Ray

Germany’s alpine route (Deutsche Alpenstraße) is the oldest themed route in the country and one of the most spectacular in the world. It meanders through the gorgeous landscape of the Bavarian Alps, and is punctuated by rugged mountains, magnificent castles, over 20 mirror alpine lakes, rejuvenating wellness resorts, sun-drenched meadows, lush valleys, and rustic farms. Join us as we plan the road trip of a lifetime.

The alpine road winding through Bavaria

The geography of the route

The Deutsche Alpenstraße traverses a widely diverse and truly exhilarating stretch of 450 kilometers (280 miles) through the Bavarian Alps, from the town of Lindau on the shores of Lake Constance in the west to Königssee in the east.

Lake Constance panorama
Views across Lake Königssee

The route

Lake Constance to the western Allgäu: 30 km / 19 miles

A fitting start to this memorable road trip would be a tour of the quaint harbor town of Lindau, lapped by Lake Constance. From here, follow the curving, twisting road of the Rohrbach ascent into the Allgäu peaks. Once you have feasted your eyes on the spread of magnificence that is Allgäu, you might want to consider making short but very worthy detours to the Scheidegger waterfall, Lake Waldsee and the straw hat-making town of Lindenberg.

Scheidegger waterfall

Crossing the Oberjoch Pass: 65 km / 40 miles

Follow the road through Oberstaufen, passing the crystal-clear expanse of the alpine lake of Grosser Alpsee and the traditional German town of Immenstadt, before finding yourself in the most jaw-dropping section of this route—Oberjoch Pass. The Oberjoch Pass, with 106 bends, is an exhilarating drive to say the least, and offers panoramic views of the valleys and mountain hamlets.

Oberjoch Pass

The castles and lakes stretch: 35 km / 22 miles

Continue via Wertach to Grüntensee Lake, where bikers have the opportunity to experience unbeatable adrenaline rush along 580 kilometers (360 miles) of biking trails with over 12,000 meters (40,000 feet) of ascent. Drive on to Pfronten, known for the healing power of its medicinal hay, herbs, and plants. Next comes a series of three tempting lakes—Weissensee, Hopfensee and Forggensee, perfect for a stroll or a swim. Next stop is Füssen, an absolutely charming, albeit very touristy town. Take some time to stroll its romantic cobbled alleys and lively squares before following the footsteps of eccentric King Ludwig II to the dreamy Hohenschwangau Castle, and the most beautiful castle in the world, Neuschwanstein Castle.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle

Upper Bavaria: 73 km / 46 miles

It’s now time to cross over from the lush greenery of Allgäu to the land of winter sports and dramatic landscapes—Upper Bavaria. Explore the many beautiful Baroque churches and monasteries at the Pfaffenwinkel region, especially the Church of Wies. Next stop is one of the most quaint towns you will ever set your eyes on—Oberammergau. Lose yourself in its pristine beauty and amazing façade painting, or try out some thrilling sports. If you are lucky enough to be here in the year 2020, plan ahead and catch the most amazing play in the world, the Oberammergau Passion Play.

Lüftlmalerei in Oberammergau

Two other gems in this stretch are the ornate Linderhof Palace and the palatial structure of Benedictine Ettal Monastery, both absolute must-see sights. Afterwards, drive on to Oberau and Farchant in Werdenfelser Land, treating yourself to the magnificent panorama of the Wetterstein massif, and the imposing peaks of Alpspitze and Zugspitze en route.

Linderhof Palace

Bavaria’s favorite ski resort and a paradise for nature lovers, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is next in line, waiting to woo you with alpine lakes, thrilling gondola rides, and lush valleys. Make a stop at the little violin-making town of Mittenwald before driving on to the pristine towns of Krün and Wallgau, enjoying views of the Karwendel mountains dominating the skyline.

Garmisch Gondola

Crossing the Kesselberg Pass: 43 km / 27 miles

From Lake Walchensee, one of the prettiest lakes along the route, the Kesselberg Road (nine kilometers / six miles) leads travelers to Lake Kochelsee, located 240 meters (780 feet) above Lake Walchensee. En route, you have the option of stopping at vantage points to enjoy uninterrupted views of the Kochel moors. As you leave Kochel, look out for the baroque Basilica of St. Benedict, and drive towards Bad Tölz.

Walchensee

Tegernsee and Schliersee: 70 km / 43 miles

Via the border area between Bavaria and Tyrol, you reach the popular lake of Tegernsee, a great place for sports or a quiet picnic. Suitably recharged, drive on to Lake Schliersee via Gmund. Spirit connoisseurs might enjoy a stop at Slyrs distillery in the hamlet of Neuhaus. From Schliersee, take the steep Sudelfeldstraße road to reach the Sudelfeld pass, near the immensely popular ski resort of Sudelfeld.

Sudelfeld

Tatzelwurm to Lake Chiemsee: 50 km / 31 miles

The Tatzlwurmstraße (eight kilometers / five miles) leads you to the pretty village of Oberau in the deep Inn Valley. Drive on to Nussdorf am Inn, agreed by many to be the most beautiful village in Europe! Enjoy never ending alpine grandeur as you drive through Rohrdorf, Frasdorf, and the paradise for hikers, Samerberg, Aschau im Chiemgau and Bernau am Chiemsee. From Bernau-Felden, you can take a ferry to Castle Herrenchiemsee, King Ludwig II’s magnificent castle set in the lake of Chiemsee.

Herrenchiemsee Castle

Chiemgau region: 66 km / 41 miles

From Bernau am Chiemsee, drive through Rottau and Grassau, an area boasting the first pipeline in the world. Follow the river Tiroler Ache to Marquartstein, and drive up the ascending road from Unterwössen to Oberwössen. As you drive on, you get to feast your eyes on a typical Bavarian mountain landscape and dazzling greenery on all sides. On passing Ruhpolding, you’ll reach the adorable mountain town of Inzell, which is a great place for a stopover.

Inzell

Berchtesgadener Land: 35 km / 22 miles

The German Alpine Route saves the best for last—the incredible landscape of the Berchtesgaden Alps. The alpine road crosses the 868-meter (2,800-foot) high Schwarzbachwacht pass. Pass the gushing Wimbachklamm gorge and reach the fairytale land of Berchtesgaden. As an added bonus, drive along the Rossfeld-Panoramastraße, Germany’s highest scenic road. The very climax of this unforgettable road trip is one fit for the kings—quite literally, as Königssee translates to The King’s Lake. Soak in the beauty of the lake that is agreed by most travelers to be the most stunning in Germany. Don’t miss a cruise across the lake to the pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomew.

Berchtesgaden

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