See the gorgeous autumn landscapes of Bavaria

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Looking to feast your eyes of some autumnal eye candy? Focus on Bavaria, where vast swaths of forest take on a golden hue in the waning days of summer. Couple the sight of all those turning leaves with skies of dazzling blue, jagged, snow-capped peaks or meandering rivers and the picture of harvest-time idyll grows ever more compelling.

With Bavaria covering nearly one-fifth of Germany’s total land area, it can be hard to decide exactly where and what to explore. Bavaria’s official tourism authority breaks the country’s largest federal state into four major vacation regions: Allgäu and Bavarian Swabia; Eastern Bavaria; Franconia and Upper Bavaria. With this geographical breakdown as our framework, we’ve put together eight unique experiences to get you close to nature and all that beautiful foliage.

Allgäu and Bavarian Swabia

The Allgäu is known for its cheese, and a good way to get a taste for it is by road tripping along the Allgäuer Käsestraße, or Allgau Cheese Route. This is not a linear route but rather several connected stretches linking up a total of 17 dairies which welcome visitors eager to learn about the cheese-making process and munch their way through samples of the tasty wares. Two types of dairies are included in the tour: those that work with the milk from cows who feed in the Alpine meadows, along with farm dairies. The route’s some 130 miles can be explored by car, bicycle or on foot. Towns with dairies in this area northeast of Lake Constance include Lindenberg i. Allgäu, Grünenbach and Missen-Wilhams, to name just a few. For a pdf route map, click here.

While exploring this region, Nagelfluhkette Nature Park makes an interesting destination. Made up of 15 member towns and villages, the area offers a unique geographical phenomenon, rock formations made up of river pebbles that appear to have been hammered in like nails, along with habitats for numerous rare species. The lovely Buchenegger Waterfalls can be reached by a short but challenging hike.

East Bavaria

This region is home to the largest protected forest area in Central Europe, Bavarian Forest National Park, and the ways to explore its mountains, lakes and attractions are many. Indulge in the German take on wellness by wading in the waters of the Spiegelau hydrotherapy pool or admire majestic deer from the viewing platform of the enclosure in Scheuereck. The Baumwipfelpfad, or Treetop Walk, is a walkway through the forest canopy leading to a high observation deck from which the far-off peaks of the Alps at times reveal themselves. The nearby Tierfreigelände in Neuschönau offers the chance to see native species, including big beasts such as bison, wolves, bear and lynx, in an area without any visible barriers.

Not far outside the charming city of Regensburg, the Walhalla Memorial Temple is worthy of a visit. Set at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen rivers, this massive white structure reminiscent of a Greek temple houses 130 marble busts of famous Germans and is accessed by a 358-step staircase. Those who visit in the evening hours are rewarded with impressive views of the sunset.

Franconia

In a part of Bavaria renowned for its tasty brews, it’s possible to combine hiking with pursuit of the perfect pour. The themed walking trail known as the 13 Breweries Way just outside Bamberg leads through an area referred to as Franconian Tuscany. Along a distance of some 20 miles, the path links up charming villages of half-timbered houses, rolling hills, and brewpubs in which cold beer is served in hefty stone mugs. Some 80 types of beer in all can be tasted along the way. The trail begins in the town of Memmelsdorf and passes through Litzendorf und Strullendorf.

The scenery alongside the Main River can be taken in from many vantage points. In Volkach, a town roughly between Kitzingen and Schweinfurt, the river snakes along a looping path. In this area of sparkling water, sandy banks and steep vineyards, hikers tread while others paddle in canoes they’ve rented from local agencies.

Upper Bavaria

You can’t really go wrong basing your exploration around one of the area’s stunning lakes: Ammersee, Chiemsee, Schliersee, Tegernsee, Walchersee or dozens of smaller but no less beautiful bodies of water. If you’ve yet to cast eyes on the Königssee, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better time of year for it. This lake near Berchtesgaden offers emerald-green waters surrounded by towering rock walls. Its crowning glory is the red domed St. Bartholomew's Church, which can be reached by means of a boat departing from Schönau.

While untold numbers of visitors have oohed and ah’ed over King Ludwig II’s most over-the-top fantasy castle, Neuschwanstein, far fewer have feasted their eyes on the King's House on Schachen. Although it’s just outside Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the only way to access it is by means of a steep and challenging hike of several hours’ duration. Those who persevere will see a handsome wooden hunting lodge resembling a Swiss chalet. While the exterior is pretty, it only unveils its true wow factor to those who take the guided tour. The Turkish Hall, with its plush furnishings, gilded walls and fountain, is a study of Oriental grandeur. The hiker’s reward is the hearty fare and cold beer offered at the next door Schachenhaus, which also offers facilities for overnight stays.

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