The Eibsee lake is known as Germany’s most beautiful lake. You will learn everything you need to know in this comprehensive guide. Prepare your trip to this dazzling lake in the German alps!
🗺️ What to expect
The Eibsee is a lake located in the German Bavarian Alps in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district, at an altitude of 3,193 feet (ca. 973 meters) above sea level. In fact, this lake is right at the foot of Zugspitze mountain, Germany’s highest mountain peak.
Due to its location, this lake is also known as one of the most beautiful lakes in Germany (just that the Königssee in Berchtesgaden Bavaria is claiming the same grand title).
Peaks of the alps are reflecting in the turquoise blue crystal clear waters of the Eibsee, which is surrounded by pine tree forests and what seems to be endless nature. That and its mountain views is the whole allure of this lake, its location is that of a fairy tale story.
Because the Eibsee is so serene and pretty to look at it, and thanks to its location right next to the Zugspitze cable car, it has been a popular place for visitors from across the world.
Therefore, this lake is heavily visited, but thankfully even peace-loving nature lovers can find a solitary relaxation spot at the banks of this lake.
I will be covering all the things that you can do there, photo spots, hiking trails, swimming and more.
Tip: The German word See, means lake in English. Spell the “e” as a phonetic e, not like in English the word to see. Discover more German to English travel phrases to help you on your journey across Germany.
💡 Top things to do at the Lake
Here is why you might want to come and visit this fantastic dream lake in the European alps!
Most visitors, including ourselves, visit to shoot some dreamy pictures of the Eibsee lake. Luckily, this lake doesn’t lack great photography spots.
These pictures of the Eibsee were taken on one of our visits in fall 2022 at 8 am. It was October and rather cold.
There are things you need to keep in mind to make the most of your trip if you have come for the photos. Here are 3 major Eibsee photography tips:
Tip 1: Timing
I recommend that you time your visit in the morning hours for the following reasons.
As mentioned further above, this lake can get busy, and it’s not uncommon that you have to literally wait in queue at the best spots to shoot with pure nature in a frame.
This is especially true in peak seasons, which are always July and August, as well as any long weekend tied to religious festivals such for example the long Easter week in spring, 1st May and October 3rd the German unity day.
Groups of school classes populate the banks of the river quickly as well. They are usually out and about in May to June and September to October. We were there at 8 am and a class of loud teenagers just came a few minutes later.
Bus groups make an appearance as well during the day but typically between 10 am and 5 pm because pensioners have set food times.
Besides, the mountains are located northwards and the most stunning pictures are taken with the mountains reflecting in the blue-green water. That means you have to position yourself to the Southern side of the lake.
Know that the sun rises in the east and around midday it will be shining bright above the mountains. If you are standing in the south at the Eibsee by midday, you will have the sun hitting you, creating also strong mountain shades in the lake.
Those highlights from the midday sun with the shades of the mountains, make it more challenging for the perfect shot. Although the mountains do look beautiful with a blue sky.
You can also make great photos in the evening during sunset when the sun is coming down in the west. Keep in mind that the sun rises much later and sets in the later afternoon hours in winter, so the rays will create more dramatic effects.
But those early sunrise hours don’t come without their challenge, especially in autumn. Turns out the lake can be quite foggy at 7:30 am in October. This is great if you are looking to take mysterious creative foggy pictures of the Eibsee. Furthermore, the lack of sun too early in the day can make your pictures look blueish dull.
The perks of taking pictures of the Eibsee lake in fall are the colorful yellow, orange, and red foliage of the leaf trees at the banks of the lake and the mirror reflection in the lake.
Tip 2: Weather & Season
The weather in the mountains is known to be very moody. Clouds fall over the mountains as quick as they clear suddenly again.
Due to the location of the lake at a higher altitude, you will have to keep that in mind all the more. The higher one goes, the faster the clouds move around.
Pick a sunny clear day to visit if possible, if you don’t want to risk having clouds in your Eibsee pictures. This is also especially important if you intend to go up to the highest peak with the Zugspitzbahn cable car because you want a clear view to see as far out as possible.
The season matters as well and may define your photos.
You can expect tree blossoms in spring and a much clearer lake thanks to the snow melt. Don’t come too early in April, or else your trees will still look naked without foliage. Keep in mind that trees start to blossom about 2–3 weeks later in the mountains compared to Munich.
The most beautiful pictures are taken in fall with the lake and tree colors shining through all the more in your photographs.
Winter wonderland photos do look fantastic too. Especially after fresh snow fall or when rays of sun hit the frozen snow creating a white carpet of sparkling crystal effect.
Tip 3: Size of the Lake
If you have just come to take a few pictures, and you want to visit other places, thanks to a tight schedule, I recommend that you walk the Eibsee-Rundweg circular hiking trail for 15 minutes, until you get to the Untersee. From there you can take some epic pictures!
You don’t have to walk the whole loop trail if you are short on time because the complete round takes 2 hours, and it’s about 4.4 miles (ca. 7 kilometers) long.
On the other hand, if you are looking for unique photo spots or to get away from the crowds, then walking around the lake and exploring positions is your choice.
In that case, plan at least 3 hours in to hike around the lake. You will come across, little islands such as the Storchinsel, tiny green lakes such as the Drachenseelein, and at the other end is the Kotbach waterfall.
I have touched upon some points regarding hiking around the lake when I was sharing my photography tips.
The lake walk, called the Eibsee Rundweg takes about 2 hours and its difficulty level is easy to moderate. That’s a length of about 4.4 miles (ca. 7 kilometers).
There are 2 starting points from the car park.
The first is on your left called the Seeweg. From there you cross the hotel and the restaurant with the lake beach area and walk in clock direction around the lake.
You will find the second entry point to your right and that’s the one most people take because it is closer to the photo viewpoint. Most people don’t go any further than the Untersee-Aussichts view point.
Both have their charms and it’s a personal preference choice.
Look out for the Kotbach waterfall on the way and the various islands. The Drachenseelein and Steinringpriel are just 2 of a view of smaller lakes and ponds near the Eibsee.
I recommend you do this hike with proper hiking shoes because the pathway gravel can get a bit slippery downhill and there are some downhill points.
One of the most fun things to do with family and friends on a visit to the Eibsee is to rent a boat. You get a great view from the lake to the shores, and you get to move a bit as well, if you choose a physical activity boat.
The boat rental is located near the restaurant and swimming beach in the boat house. You can’t really miss it.
They are open from May to October, throughout summer, from 10 am to 4 pm daily.
Here are the type of boats that you can rent and the approximate fee:
- Pedal boat – a regular pedal boat or one with a slide on it. Starting price is €10.50 for 30 minutes.
- Rowing boat – budget-friendly, and you get an arm workout with that. Starting price is €8.50 for 30 minutes.
- Old timer style e-boats – those come in various speeds. About €7.50 per adult.
- Stand up paddling (SUPs) – you get an inflatable board, and you stand on it paddling. Starting price is €15.00 for 60 minutes.
When we planned our trip we read online that there was a kayaking facility and that the hotel had canoes (?), but we asked around and apparently that’s false news.
Note that boat rentals tend to take only cash anywhere in the alps, and it’s not any different here. They do mention that they take debit and credit cards online, but this is often not true.
If you are staying in the nearby village Grainau, you will get a Grainau guest card from your hotel or guest house. With this card, you can get cheaper boat rides and also generally speaking cheaper tickets for the cable car and public transport.
When you are on the lake you can’t dock on the islands, and you have to come back to the boat house if a thunderstorm is hitting the lake.
They have lockers where you can keep your stuff, and they allow dogs in the boats (but not on the SUPs).
You can go for a swim at the designated swimming spot at the Eibsee. It’s located near the restaurant and the large parking lot. Look out for the Eibsee Steiniger Strand on the map, that’s the swimmer’s beach.
It’s well located at a small restaurant, which is great if you intend to visit with the family.
As in most natural lakes in Europe, there is no lifeguard, so only swim out if you are experienced.
The water is also ice-cold, so keep that in mind. It’s more common to get a cramp in cold mountain waters.
It is advised to go swimming only in the summer months.
The Zugspitze summit is located just above the Eibsee lake. To get there, you just need to take the cable car up.
Both the Eibsee and Zugspitze share the same parking lot are. If you come by car, you can park it anywhere and spend time at the lake and on the summit.
The visitor ticket to the viewing platform located at the summit is priced a whooping €68 per adult and € 58in winter. Not that they have a different ticket for the skiing pass with another pricing structure in winter.
It’s not cheap to go up to the Zugspitze, in fact, it’s en-par with tickets up to Swiss mountain summits. Yet, the experience is well worth it if you have come specially for that from afar.
🏰 Sights and Places nearby
I wrote a comprehensive guide about things to do in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area. In here you will find something for every taste.
The closest places to visit, especially if you choose to stay at the Eibsee lake hotel, are:
- Grainau – a small tiny village next to the lake. You will find a few budget-friendly accommodations here and a cute village center.
- Garmisch-Partenkirchen – the capital of the district, consisting of two historical towns that were merged in 1935.
- Partnachklamm – the most famous gorge in the area with spectacular tunnel and gorge views.
🚗 Getting There
You can get to the Eibsee by car, bus, and train. We traveled there by car from the Isar-valley, but we met people who took the bus to the lake.
To take a day trip from Munich, take the highway A95 to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The drive takes about 80 minutes on a good traffic day. The highway is free of charge in Germany and if this is your first time, you will need a German Autobahn guide.
If you are coming from Innsbruck in Austria, take the A12 highway (payable with a vignette) and get out at Seefeld. Continue on the main road 177 towards Scharnitz. Cross the open border to Mittenwald and drive on direction Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the road E533.
We took in our last trip the toll road (€5 two ways same day) through the Isar valley Vorderriß, which is a lovely drive. You can get there via Bad Tölz in Germany or via Achensee lake in Austria. The road takes you across the Sylvensteinsee lake and dam.
In Garmisch look out for boards directing you towards the Zugspitze and Eibsee.
You can park your car at the large parking area. It can get pretty crowded here in the day. In fact, at 10 am the lots next to the Zugspitze cable car stations are full. The earlier you come, the easier it is.
Parking is not cheap at all! The rates are about €2.50 from 5 am to 9:30 am and then €8 for 4 hours and every other hour is €1. You can’t stay past 10:15 pm and if you leave it overnight, be prepared to get a juicy bill.
The parking slip has to be paid just before you leave the lot at the automatic counter near the gate. Cars higher than 2.10 meters are restricted to enter.
Train & Bus
You can travel by public transport to the Eibsee lake. The easiest way is to start in Munich and take the train down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The ride takes about 80 minutes.
In Garmisch-Partenkirchen walk from the train station to the adjoining, unmissable bus station and take the Eibsee bus connection. The destinations are prominently written on the bus and the Eibsee bus is blue and white, so you can’t really miss it. This bus line has two buses per hour, each at an 30 to 40 minute interval.
The bus drive from Garmisch to Eibsee takes about 40 minutes as it stops at various stations. The bus stop is just another 10 minutes walk to the lake.
Then there is the cogwheel train option from Garmisch to the Eibsee lake. This traditional train takes you every hour, from quarter past, to Eibsee within 30 minutes. The station is located next to the regular DB station and it’s called Zugspitzbahnhof.
The station of the cogwheel train at the Eibsee is located above the new Zugspitze cable car station. It’s not the last station. In fact, the cogwheel mountain train can take you further up to 2600 meters altitude to the Zugspitzplatt station.
Is the area round the Eibsee dog friendly?
You can come for a walk around the lake with your dog, but dogs have to be on the leash. Some people may claim that they left their dogs, but there are other animals in the area, especially around the smaller ponds, which shouldn’t be disturbed. There are also poisonous Kreuzotter snakes. Dogs are allowed to bathe at certain areas (look out for boards) but not in the beach area.
Is the trail around the lake barrier-free?
The trail is all gravels and not barrier-free for wheel-chairs.
Is the hike family friendly and do-able for kids of any age?
Yes, the circuit hike around the Eibsee lake is very family-friendly and small children will be able to accomplish the round.
Does the lake freeze in winter?
Yes, the Eibsee is known to freeze completely during cold winters. The lake is in the shade of the mountains, so the low winter sun doesn’t get there. While you might see people walk on the ice, it is recommended to not do that because it can break in.
Is there accommodation at the lake with full view to the lake?
Yes, the Eibsee Hotel is located right next to the parking lots, at the main entrance from the road to the lake. The 4-star hotel offers large rooms with a local Bavarian design element. The better rooms have a direct view of the lake, so ask for that specifically if you care about getting up in the morning with a unique view. They also have a top spa facility with a sauna village, and they offer massages. Get acquainted with the sauna rules in Germany.