Germany’s highlight: Lake Chiemsee

Bavaria's Lake Chiemsee | Photo by foottoo
Bavaria's Lake Chiemsee | Photo by foottoo

Germany’s highlight: Lake Chiemsee

by Amanda Palumbo
Stars & Stripes Europe

If you grew up in a land-locked state as I did, a day at the beach meant piling into the station wagon without air conditioning and driving at least six hours in the sweltering Texas heat. While the ocean felt like it was 400-miles away, because it was, we often turned to an equally awesome body of water: lakes.

While Germany is not land-locked, getting to a beach can be a long journey. But, do not despair if the water bug bites you one Saturday morning. Germany has dozens of lakes that will provide you with all the fun in the sun you need. Allow me to introduce you to Lake Chiemsee.

Not your average lake

Chiemsee is Bavaria’s largest lake and the country’s third-largest at 30 square miles. That’s not the only reason it’s referred to as the Bavarian Sea. The lake has tides very similar to a sea and this body of water was part of the Tethys Ocean, a body of water from the Mesozoic area that covered much of Europe. The lake itself was carved out by a glacier at the end of the ice age. In short, the lake is really, really old.


Palace on Herreninsel | Photo by pabkov

Island life

There are three islands situated on the western side of the lake. The largest (and probably most famous) is Herreninsel. It spans just under 600 acres and holds King Ludwig II’s last and, some would argue most majestic fairy tale palace. There are guided tours of the palace, including a stop in the Great Hall of Mirrors, which looks like it was plucked from a scene from “Beauty and the Beast.”

Fraueninsel is the second-largest, though much smaller with just 38 acres. For a small island in the middle of the lake, it’s pretty densely populated, with homes lining the shores for the 300 or so folks who call this island home. It’s also home to the still-active, 1,200-year-old Frauenwörth Monastery. The church makes its own wine, gingerbread and marzipan! Boat tours are offered for both Harreninsel and Fraueninsel.

Krautinsel is the smallest island and translates to ‘herb island.’ It was an 8.6-acre vegetable and herb garden in the Middle Ages. Nobody lives on the island and it now serves as cattle pasture in the summer. Krautinsel is open to explore but it can only be reached by row or pedalboat.


One of Chiemsee's beaches | Photo by susazoom 

Family-friendly swimming

There are several ‘bathing beaches’ that line Chiemsee. Parents with little ones will want to check out Chiemseepark Seebruck. The area is very well maintained with shallow water. There are playgrounds and sandpits along with full changing rooms and showers.

Families with older kiddos and teens can head to Chieming Lido, which has more than three miles worth of sandy beaches, beach volleyball courts and it’s home to a wind and kitesurfing school.

Accommodations

Chiemsee is a popular site for just about any kind of camping. Whether you’re in a caravan or a tent, there’s a spot for you to hunker down for a weekend away. There is no shortage of hotels along the lake’s coast, many of them with inhouse spas and private beaches.


Salzburg is a quick 45-minute drive from Lake Chiemsee | Photo by jakobradlgruber 

Beyond the lake

Southeast Bavaria is one of those perfect locations where you’re close to everything. Salzburg is just a quick 45-minute drive east of Lake Chiemsee. The Chiemgau Alps are a half-hour south, with some prime bucket list hiking. And, if you haven’t gotten enough lake life, the famous Königssee Lake in Berchtesgaden National Park is just an hour away.

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