Travel to the stunning Berchtesgaden national park in Germany! Discover the 11 top must-see attractions and collect useful tips to plan your trip.
I share all the things that you need to know to make the most of your voyage to this unique alpine reserve.
Table of Contents
📕 Where is the Berchtesgaden National Park?
The Berchtesgaden National Park is located in the Southern German alps, in the free state of Bavaria in central Europe.
The 81.08 square miles (ca. 130 kilometers²) large national park is tucked away in a small corner of Germany, and it’s half surrounded by Austria.
In fact, the area is just 30 minutes away by car from Salzburg city, the administrative city of the Austrian Salzburg state.
The historical city of Berchtesgaden is the district state capital of the Berchtesgaden municipality, which is near the national park.
The house of mountains (aka Haus der Berge), which serves as a national park visitor center, can be found in the former US-armed forces recreation center in Berchtesgaden.
Due to its size, you will find that the vast park area can be easily accessed for free from various points of interest. There are no fences and the park is part of the local landscape.
Initially, Germany’s only alpine natural reserve was granted national park status in 1978 but ultimately received in 1990 the UNESCO biosphere reserve designation, and further funding from the EU to uphold its conservation.
💖 Most important Sights
Here are the most important sights from the list below. This will help you prioritize landmarks, especially if you are visiting on a day trip. The most significant places are listed first.
- Königssee lake – for unforgettable views
- Kehlsteinhaus Eagle’s Nest – for history buffs
- Ramsau Malerwinkel – to complete your photo album
- Wimbachklamm gorge – to be close to nature
You will find all excursions and places further below with the destination information.
One of the most popular and most memorable sights in the National Park Berchtesgaden is the legendary Königssee lake. The lake name translates as the king’s lake in German.
This super elongates turquoise blue lake takes you right to the center of the national park. It’s known, with lake Eibsee in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, as one of the most beautiful lakes in Germany and that too for a good reason.
Thanks to the protection and sustainable transformation of the national park over the decades, the natural environment and surrounding of the lake has had a chance to unfold itself.
Your journey starts at Schönau am Königssee, a quaint little Bavarian lake village. At the dock you can book a ride on one of the electric boats to cross the lake to get to St.Bartholomä.
The ferry boat rides are a great unforgettable experience!
St.Bartholomä is a former village converted into an entry point to the natural reserve. Here you can admire the Baroque church of St.Bartholomä and the erstwhile hunting lodge, or continue your journey to the Eiskapelle (ice chapel).
Visitors are free to take a dip at the lake shores or to go on a relaxed walk in the adjacent forest.
⛵️ Obersee Lake and Röthbach Waterfall
The Obersee is another lake, right above the Königsee (ober means above in German) and while you are at the Königssee you can opt to travel to the 2nd boat pier known as Salet on the Königssee lake.
The electric boat can drop you to Salet instead or besides St.Bartholomä and from there you can hike up to the stunning Obersee. Another option is to hike from St.Bartholomä for 2 1/2 hours to Salet.
Take the short walk to the Obersee to get to the first boat house, which takes about 15 minutes, or continue to the second lake boathouse, which is known as Fischerhütte.
Crystal clear alpine lake waters surrounded by steep cliffs and the Röthbach waterfall at the far end complete the picture-perfect scenery.
Take in the beauty and spend some time at the Fischunkelalm, a small mountain inn, or hike further up to Germany’s highest waterfall.
Please wear good hiking shoes if you intend to hike the 60-minute-long trail up to the waterfall, the pathways can be difficult, slippery and they crumble easily.
🗻 Jenner Mountain
The Jenner mountain is situated to the left of the Königssee lake entry point. The summit is accessible via the Jennerbahn cable car station, which you will find at the far end of the Königssee lake parking lot.
High up at the top of the summit, you will find an observation deck from where you can see the Königssee in all its glory.
Info stations at the top point out the various summits, such as the Watzmann and the 5 children (aka Watzmannkinder) which are lower summits. You will also see far into the Austrian alps, and perhaps you can recognize the Hochkönig from afar.
A cable car ride is priced at about €35, but you have the option to wander up and down the hiking trails, which is free of cost, but you will pay with your perspiration and energy for 3 hours.
The area is also a winter sports resort, and you will find down hill skiing slopes adjacent to the Jennerbahn cable car. Paragliding experiences can be booked with professionals all year round.
🌄 Watzmann Summit
The Berchtesgaden national park is well known among hiking enthusiasts and multi day trekking tourists.
One of the top mountainous trails, voted by hikers from all over the world, is the trek up to the highest peak in the Berchtesgadener land in Germany, the 8900 feet (2,713 meter) above sea level high Watzmann mountain.
The Berchtesgaden alps extend over to the Austrian border and longer treks can take you to pristine and untouched areas. The Hochkönig mountain is the highest mountain in the Berchtesgaden national park, with its 9649 feet (ca. 2,941 m) elevation.
The Alpenverein in Germany (Alpine Association) recommends good hiking gear and not to forget to plan the route properly before onset.
Weather conditions can transition quickly, and it’s easy to underestimate the difficulty level of a hike up this mountain.
You can pick between 4 major tours to the Watzmann:
- Hike to the Watzmannhaus – You can book a room in this mountain inn after a long hike.
- Watzmannhaus to Hocheck – The easiest trail up to the summit.
- Watzmann Überschreitung – Only for experienced mountaineers or with a guide.
- Watzmann-Ostwand – the longest continues rock climbing wall in the eastern alps, only with certified guides.
If you are looking for a multi day trekking experience in the Berchtesgaden alps, then add the Watzmann Traverse to your itinerary.
Furthermore, hikers will also appreciate the nearby Hochkalter mountain summit tour. This hike takes you up to the 8553 feet (2,606 meter) high mount Hochkalter.
🌳 Wimmbachklamm Gorge
The most unforgettable gorge experience in the alps is the Wimmbachklamm gorge!
This family-friendly 7-minute long walk across a wooden gorge bridge is an eventful and magical adventure, consisting of green moss covered rocks and countless small waterfalls.
Your journey starts near Ramsau at one of the entrances to the Berchtesgaden national park hiking trails. Walk up for 10 minutes to the gorge from the parking area and get a coin to enter the gorge at the automatic ticket machine.
Currently, the prices are set at €4 per adult and kids older than 6. Unlike the winter wonderland Partnach gorge in Garmisch, the Wimmbach gorge is only accessible between the 1st of May up to 31st October.
When you are done with the gorge, continue the hike up or walk back down the gorge.
🎨 Ramsau and the Malerwinkel
Ramsau is a small traditional hamlet at the core of the Berchtesgaden national reserve. This little village is known for the striking Malerwinkel, which is the so-called painter’s corner.
It’s called that way because of the iconic view to the church, with the Ramsauer Ache river and the snow clad Reiter Alm mountains as a backdrop. Every photograph looks like a painting!
Most visitors come to see this and the aim is to leave with a few painting-like photos. You can park your vehicle in the parking area along the road.
Be prepared that it can get a bit touristy busy at this particular spot, but you can check the current situation with the Ramsau Live Webcam.
I highly recommend visiting on a sunny, crystal clear day for the best photo background, but the village in itself is worth a visit anytime of the year!
Tip: Use the Live Webcam to take a picture, while you are standing on the bridge and waving at the camera. Just take a screenshot.
✨ Hintersee Lake and the Zauberwald Magic Forest
A lesser known travel gem is the Hintersee lake and the Zauberwald forest. The magical allure of this green lake makes its name justice. Zauberwald means magical forest in German.
Although this lake might be a bit hidden, it has been a tourist hot spot for over 100 years. In fact, King Luitpold of Bavaria had a favorite spot where he would contemplate about his rule over the Bavarian kingdom.
Unsurprisingly, this lake, and its surrounding forests, have been a favorite circuit walking tour for families and elderly citizens. Romantic boat rides are the next best reason why you should come to marvel at this lake.
🏫 Kehlsteinhaus Eagle’s Nest
The Kehlsteinhaus was Hitler’s former mountain top base and an important Nazi strategic meeting point. History lovers will not want to miss on this landmark.
You might have heard the more familiar name, Eagle’s nest. The allies coined the hideout during WWII the eagle’s nest.
Due to its unusual location, you will have to either take the bus up to the Kehlsteinhaus or you can hike up. The most straightforward way to get up there is by joining a tour to the Eagle’s nest.
The departure and return bus tickets are priced at €30 per adult. It takes you up to the tunnel and from there you will have to take an elevator ride to get to Hitler’s secret safe house.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a full-fledged exhibition up there because the Kehlsteinhaus was turned into a restaurant. Yet, the panoramic view is an unbeatable perk.
📸 Rossfeld Panorma Straße
The Rossfeld Panorama Strasse (also spelled Panoramastraße) is a high alpine mountain road at the border to Austria.
In fact, the curvy rich road periodically crosses over to the Austrian alps and this unique road in Germany, can be compared to the Grossglockner high alpine road in Austria.
On a beautiful sunny day, you can easily see Salzburg city from afar and the Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s nest as well), thanks to the panoramic viewing points amidst green alpine pastures, set along the whole stretch of the road.
You will have plenty of opportunities to stop to enjoy the infinite scenic 360 View and I highly recommend taking a break in one of the inns to make the most of your experience.
The authorities have turned this stretch into a toll road, so to help maintain the road and to protect the surrounding environment. Toll roads tend to be a bit less busy too, which is a perk if you are coming by car or bike.
Currently, the car toll fee is set at €9 and per motorbike it’s €5.50. Mountain bikes can go through free of charge.
You can spend as much time as you want there, and fortunately, compared to other high alpine roads, it is open 24 hours, every day, yet it is forbidden to camp or sleep in the car in a parking lot.
Furthermore, In winter you can access the Roßfeld skiing slopes via the Rossfeld Panoramastraße, so this area pluses as a winter sports resort!
⚒ Salzbergwerk Salt Mines
Berchtesgaden and the bordering northern and eastern areas are in the midst of an antique salt mining belt.
Salzburg in Austria, which means translated salt castle, Bad Reichenhall, which is known for the salt water spa, and Hallein, with the age-old salt mine, are all near Berchtesgaden and important salt strongholds in Europe.
As a matter of fact, you will find a salt mine in Berchtesgaden itself, right near the city center.
Better known as the Salzbergwerk (salt mine), you can expect to learn everything about the salt mining trade in a guided mountain tour.
Yet, this is not everything! On your arrival, you will have to change into a special, freshly washed, coverall. The trip starts with a train ride into the Stollen mines, then you get to walk along the mine railways through the tight tunnels.
At the heart of the tour, you’ll learn more about the history of underground mining and the modern extraction of salt. A laser show will amaze even the smallest visitors and the highlight for everyone are the 2 slides at the end of the tour.
The mines can be visited any day of the week between 9 am and 5 pm.
The only downside is that you can’t take any photos in the mines, but they take a lovely photo of you when you are on the train, and you can purchase that at the end. Don’t forget to get salty souvenirs from the gift shop!
🌲 Almbachklamm Gorge
Located to the north of Berchtesgaden city, in a canyon along the Almbach mountain river at the Unterberg mountain, is the stunning Almbachklamm gorge.
The Almbachklamm is an enthralling naturally formed gorge and worth a hike if you are looking for pristine nature, fewer crowds and a good workout.
A rocky trail leads through caves and narrow passages. Countless steps and footbridges with wire ropes, as well as rewarding waterfall views await you here.
Wear sturdy quality hiking boots and due to the heights, you ought to be free from giddiness!
At the entrance of the gorge, look out for Germany’s oldest marble ball mill. Marble pieces are turned with the river power into perfect round balls.
The gorge is open in the warmer months only, from beginning May to the end of October, every day from 8 am to 7 pm.
Moreover, the entry fee is €6 per adult, older kids and teenagers from 6 to 18 pay €4, and kids younger than 6 years get to go in for free.
🚗 Getting There
Fly into Salzburg international airport (Austria) or the Munich international airport (Germany). The closest airport is Salzburg, but Munich is the bigger one of the two which has better connectivity options.
Getting there by Car
If you are traveling in a rental or taxi from Salzburg airport to the Berchtesgaden national park, it takes 30 minutes to get there.
Then you have the option to take a small stretch of the A1 Austrian highway (you need to pay for a highway ticket). OR you can get out on the German A8 in a town known as Piding before the Austrian border (known as Walserberg) and drive down to Bad Reichenhall to continue direction Berchtesgaden.
If you are traveling from Vienna, take the A1 (get the highway sticker at a petrol pump!) to Salzburg. From Salzburg city, it’s a short 30 minutes on the national road across the mountains.
Travelers coming from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Innsbruck, or Italy via Verona, Trento or Brenner pass, should take the A12 highway in Austria up to Wörgl Ost. From here, travel towards St.Johann in Tirol and Lofer and continue in the direction Unken and Schneizelreuth. From here onwards follow directions to Berchtesgaden.
The stretch in Germany is also known as the German alpine road.
Getting there by Public Transport
If you are flying in, the best possible way to get to the Berchtesgaden national park by public transport, is to start your journey from the Salzburg airport or Munich airport. The Innsbruck airport is a bit too far and the connections leading from there are not that great, so I don’t recommend that route.
If you are coming by train, you can travel to Salzburg city, as it is the largest train station, or to Bad Reichenhall.
You can pick between two bus routes from Salzburg.
The first bus route is a better choice if you are coming from the airport. It takes you from Salzburg to Bad Reichenhall where you have to switch bus to Berchtesgaden.
The second route is your choice if you are in the city center or main railway station. It takes you directly to Berchtesgaden city.
Both bus journeys take on average 70–80 minutes to get you to your destination. The Price is somewhere between € 6 and €10.
⌛ When to visit?
Berchtesgaden is one of the view regions in Bavaria and Germany, that are great all year round.
Yet, certain sights, such as the Königssee and the Wimbachklamm, can get very busy during peak season.
Peak season in Berchtesgaden in winter include Christmas, New Years, January and February. The busiest months in summer are July and August and periodically June and September as well.
School holidays take place during the peak season and therefore, families try to get out and about with their kids. Group tours are also much more common during prime periods.
If you visit during those months, and you want to avoid crowds, especially the summer months, I suggest seeing the main sights in the early morning hours, before 11 am at least.
Coldest Months: December, January, February.
Hottest Months: June, July, August.
Least Busiest Months: March, April, May, October, November.
Quietest Month in the Year: November (but keep in mind some sights and hotels might be on a seasonal break).
Best Time for Winter Sports and Snow: January and February.
Most Magical Time of the Year: Christmas and December.
Best Time for Hiking: May, June, July, August, September.
Best Month for Fall Foliage and Cool Temperatures: October.
Best Month for Blooming Spring Flowers: End of April and Beginning May.
The most prestigious hotel, to satisfy all your needs that will pamper you to the core, is the Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden. Fine dining and an in-house spa with mountain views are, of course, included in this 5-star property.
You can also book a room in the 4-star Hotel Neuhäusl Berchtesgaden where you will find soothing stone pine wooden clad panels and furniture. The decoration here is traditional but modern.
If you prefer to stay in Berchtesgaden city, I can recommend the 3 star Hotel Grünberger Superior. Alpine style rooms invite you to spend a night in the beautiful Berchtesgaden city.
🧭 Day Trips
If you intend to turn Berchtesgaden into your base, which is an excellent idea in my opinion, then you might want to unearth more places nearby.
By the way, the old town of Berchtesgaden is well worth a visit. Marvel at the mural paintings and visit the palace!
- Bad Reichenhall – The closest point of interest to Berchtesgaden in Germany. Bad Reichenhall is known for its salt themed thermal spa water. I can highly recommend a visit to the Thermal spa and sauna and if you do visit, please take a look at the German Spa and Sauna Etiquette.
- Salzburg City – The closest city is Salzburg in Austria, where Mozart was at home. Discover all the wonderful things that you can see and do in Salzburg.
- Hallein – A town just across the German border near Salzburg city in Austria. Known for its ancient salt mine and salt trade, just like Hallstatt. Visit the Celtic museum to learn more about the history of Hallein and don’t skip the charming old town.
- Chiemsee Lake – This particular Bavarian lake is just 1 hour away from Berchtesgaden, and it’s mainly known for the king Ludwig’s II Herrenchiemsee palace, which is situated on an island in the lake.
- Kitzbühel – Kitzbühel is one of the best ski resorts in the world and a jet-setter meeting point. St.Johann in Tirol is another town nearby, worth visiting.
- Zell am See – A beautiful lake town in the Salzburg alps in Austria.
- Bad Gastein – The former glorious Belle Époque spa town from the 19th century in the Austrian alps.
What are the core values of the Berchtesgaden National Park?
The top priority is protecting nature as a whole, including natural processes like erosion, its animals, and the alpine flora and fauna. The park authorities want to safeguard all aspects of nature, not just certain plants or animals. The Berchtesgaden National park has two zones: a fully protected core zone and a maintenance zone. The maintenance zone, limited to 25% of the park, helps preserve cultural landscapes, biotopes, and specific species. The research goal is to understand environmental issues and find solutions. The aim is to study ecosystems and monitor the environment over the long term for better knowledge.
How much does it cost to go to the Berchtesgaden National Park?
There are no entry fees, the national park can be freely accessed from various points.
What animals are in the Berchtesgaden National Park?
If you go on a hike in the national park, you might come across various wild animals. This includes eagle varieties such as the golden eagle, hawk, ibex, chamois, alpine marmots, red deer, red fox, snow mouse, snow rabbit, fire salamander, the protected viper adder, and the blackbird.
What’s the Myth of the Watzmann mountain?
The local legend, called a Sage in German, goes as follows: “In ancient times, a heartless and savage ruler known as Watzmann ruled the lands, driven solely by his passion for hunting. With his rowdy family, blaring horns, and barking dogs, they devastated fields and forests, causing great suffering to the people. During one hunting expedition, they encountered a peaceful scene – a shepherdess with her sleeping child and loyal dog near their hut. The hunting party attacked, resulting in the tragic deaths of the shepherd, the child, and the mother. The king found amusement in the chaos, but his wicked reign eventually reached its limit when vengeful spirits turned him, his family, and his kingdom into mountains and lakes as a lasting reminder of their terrible fate.”
How much time do you need at Berchtesgaden?
It really depends on what you want to visit. If you have come for the main sights only, then plan to stay 2 days in the area. If you are going on some hikes and see the main sights while taking it an attraction at a time, intend to stay 4 to 7 days in the Berchtesgaden area.