Fall into the beauty of Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Fall into the beauty of Garmisch-Partenkirchen

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Fall is hands-down my favorite time of year. In Germany, autumn is marvelous — especially tucked away in the Bavarian alpine alcove of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Mother Nature shows off spectacular foliage, the air has a crisp to it and a buzzy anticipation of the upcoming seasons. With plenty of outdoor activities and not as many tourists roaming the trails, fall into the beauty of this magnificent area.

A little history

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, more affectionately known as “GaPa” to locals or simply “Garmisch” to us Americans, was indeed once two separate villages. Separated by the icy blue waters of the Partnach and Loisach rivers, each had its own distinct flair. Located on the west side, Garmisch was known as the livelier of the two — hosting parties and nightlife, while Partenkirchen was quieter and more in touch with its historical past. In 1935, the mayors of the adjoining towns were mandated by Adolf Hitler to combine into one entity in preparation for the 1936 Winter Olympics which were held in the town.  Spared from substantial destruction during World War II (WWII), much of the original architecture, including the handcrafted frescos adorning the sides of buildings, has been well preserved over the years.

What to do

If you’ve been in Germany for any length of time, fall is the time for celebrating and festivals. A mere 80 miles from Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is often a popular home base for Oktoberfest. Unfortunately, due to the recent pandemic, many of the fun-loving rowdy festivals have been put on hold until next year. But there is still so much to experience! If you’re missing the Oktoberfest vibe, pop into one of the local “Gasthauses” for an authentic Bavarian meal. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear the bellowing of an oompah band witness some traditional dance moves while enjoying a “Maß” of locally-sourced brew.

If you’re more of the outdoorsy type, autumn is almost picture-perfect weather for hiking. The perennial favorite trail is Partnachklamm. This gorge hike is great for all ages and abilities. Be sure to look up at the trees as you walk along. The ombre shades of crimson, orange and yellow stand out against the dark rock walls. Feeling up for a challenge? Hit up Höllentalklamm before it closes for the winter. More challenging than Partnachklamm, this incredible gorge hike will leave you feeling quite humbled. Tumbling torrents of water cut between imposing alpine massifs. Narrow walkways guide your way up and around. Creaky rope bridges warning of one person at a time can definitely get your heart racing — especially if it’s a foggy day.

Maybe you’d rather experience nature at a more leisurely pace? There are plenty of ways to see nature’s beauty without coming home with sore muscles as a souvenir. Take a leisurely gondola ride up to the AlpspiX viewing platform. The x-shaped platforms perch perilously (yet safely) over the edge of Alpspitze. Perfect for jaw-dropping vistas for thrill seekers. For those seeking a less adrenaline-pumping yet equally scenic view, hop on the Kreuzeckbahn. Or check out Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze. Enjoy an old-fashioned cogwheel train ride up to the summit, or for a faster journey, jump on one of the cable cars. Just be mindful of the weather, as it can change very quickly.

Spend a day at the lake

While the craggy peaks surrounding Garmisch-Partenkirchen tend to draw a good chunk of attention, the many lakes in the area are stunning this time of year. Sitting at the base of Zugspitze is Eibsee, often regarded as one of Germany’s most beautiful lakes. With crystal clear water fading from shades of sapphire to emerald, enjoy a quiet day walking around the lake or rent a paddle boat and nature’s splendor up close. Another fabulous spot, Riessersee boasts a proud Olympic history. As host to 10 events in 1936, visitors can still see small sections of the dismantled bobsled track above the shore. Relax inside Hotel Riessersee and enjoy the stunning colors of foliage reflected on the water.

Take it down a notch at Edelweiss

Following WWII, the Army’s 10th Armored Division took over the former German base which eventually became U.S. Army Garrison Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Part of the garrison houses one of five Armed Forces Resorts — Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. Surrounded by green pastures at the foot of the Alps, this cozy spot offers plenty of European charm with familiar American amenities. The friendly resort staff can help arrange special tours and day trips around the area. During fall holidays and long weekends, Edelweiss usually runs special packages and pricing.

Discovering this beautiful piece of Germany is a must on any travel bucket list, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. With cool breezes and spectacular scenery — and fewer tourists — fall into the beauty of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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