It was the summer of 2016. While planning a trip to Salzburg, I was having difficulty in zeroing in on places in the surrounding Alps region since there were just too many that excited me. I eventually fell for Berchtesgaden. Maybe it was the pictures? Having experienced this Bavarian gem, I can safely say that Berchtesgaden lives up to its hype. From the famous Königssee, to Eagle’s Nest (Hitler’s summer retreat), its pretty towns and hiking trails to various mountains, Berchtesgaden national park is a paradise for nature lovers. We, unfortunately, did not have the luxury of spending few days here. In the day we had, we explored Lake Königssee, Obersee and Mount Jenner (which gives off panoramic views of Königssee).
The day started with a debate – what to visit first, Königssee or Mount Jenner? Debate because heavy rain was in the day’s forecast, so we wanted to try and make an “informed” decision. Err, we ended up getting a wee bit technical. The probability of rain was higher in the afternoon so we considered going to Jenner first to avoid the rain (hopefully) and get some good views, and be safely on a boat in the afternoon if it did rain. Seeing bus after bus full of people heading towards Königssee kind of sealed the deal.
Best decision ever.
With nature’s elements at play, the day in Berchtesgaden turned out to be nothing short of heavenly.
It started with breathtaking views from Mount Jenner. Miles upon miles of alpine beauty stretched out in front of us – green valleys, wild flowers in full bloom and the emerald green waters of Königssee below. Soon the clouds descended over the lake making the landscape even more stunning. I felt I was in a fairy tale land, somewhere above the world.
After wandering around for a bit and a quick snack break, we headed back down to explore Königssee and Obersee. Whatever I had read about these two lakes had got me quite excited. Königssee (quite literally, King Lake), shaped like a Norwegian Fjord, is an alpine lake known for its picturesque setting and pristine waters. Its water is the cleanest in Germany and only electric boats are allowed. Obersee is another spectacular Bavarian lake which is cut off from mainland and can only be reached via Königssee.
You can almost feel the stillness of the lake as the boat leaves the port and chatter of crowds behind. With stunning views of Alps throughout, the boat ride is definitely worth the hour or so it takes till the end. During the ride, clouds had been gathering and soon, the sky turned a dark grey, making the scenery quite dramatic.
It was thirty minutes into the ride when the clouds finally burst. Gliding in the middle of an alpine lake surrounded by lush green mountains on either side with rain pounding heavily on the little boat was nothing short of spectacular! Grinning widely at each other, we settled down to enjoy the remaining ride.
There are two stops on way – one at St Barthaloma and the other at Salet. There is a medieval church, a restaurant and a hiking trail to explore at St Barthaloma. We continued further to Salet for Obersee, which is another 15 min walk from the stop at Salet. What luck was it that it stopped raining a few mins before we reached Salet? The sun shone and the walk to Obersee was quite pleasant with looming mountains, green meadows and gushing streams.
After 15 mins, we spotted Obersee. It is peaceful, set in a stunning location, reflecting the surroundings in its clear, still water.
At least it was peaceful for five mins till the crowds came along. We moved on to the path surrounding the lake which goes all the way to the other end of the lake, and then on to Röthbach waterfall, which is the highest waterfall in Germany. We did not have enough time for the 50 min walk to the waterfall and after spending some time around Obersee, had to head back to catch the last ferry.
It turned out to be a stunning day in Berchtesgaden. Clearly, a day wasn’t enough to take in everything, but it was enough to get a taste of the gorgeous Bavarian landscape and make me want to come back for more.
Tips for visiting Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden should most definitely be on the itinerary of anyone looking to explore the Alps region from Salzburg. In the one day we had, we chose to keep it confined to Mount Jenner, Königssee and Obersee. If time permits, one can easily spend 3-5 days here. Some highlights of the area are:
1) A day at Königssee to see the town, St Barthaloma, Obersee and hike to Röthbach waterfalls
2) Eagle’s nest
3) Mount Jenner
4) Berchtesgaden salt mine
5) The many, many hiking opportunities (including one to Mount Watzmann)
Berchtesgaden is well connected from Salzburg. If using public transport, the bus journey on No. 840 takes barely 45 mins and the route is just so pretty. Once in Berchtesgaden, there are different bus routes which can take you to Königssee (No. 841), Eagle’s Nest (No. 838) etc.