A few weeks ago, I discovered one of the most beautiful places in the world. Tucked in the far southern corner of Germany, surrounded by beautiful forests, crystal-clear lakes and rivers, and crowned by the spectacular Bavarian Alps, Berchtesgadener Land simply took my breath away.
The countless hiking trails, fresh alpine air, sunshine and wonderful warm Bavarian hospitality bowled me over completely; and, when the day arrived that I had to say goodbye, I left with a very heavy heart.
Piece of heaven
Berchtesgadener Land is a little piece of heaven, located about 135km south of München, in the district of Upper Bavaria (“Oberbayern” in German) – so-called as it is much higher above sea level that the rest of Bavaria. Its unique geographical setting at the most southern point of Bavaria, bordering the Alps and Austria (it’s very close to Salzburg), has blessed this area with the most extraordinary beauty Nature has on offer. So much so, that it also is home to the spectacular Berchtesgaden National Park, one of the oldest protected areas in the Alps, and the pristine fjord-like Königssee, Germany’s deepest and cleanest lake.
With all these credentials, it is no wonder that I am unable to describe this place without the use of countless superlatives! Only if you have visited this area for yourself, you will know that I am not exaggerating.
I have been lucky to visit Bavaria and Austria a number of times in the past, but somehow this little corner had always escaped me. Little did I know what I was missing! In the summer, nature lovers come from all over Germany to enjoy the healthy fresh mountain air while hiking, mountain biking or simply relaxing in the beautiful surrounds. And in the winter, when the area is transformed into a snowy white wonderland, it becomes a fun playground for alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and sledding.
Berchtesgadener Land is well-known for its many spa resorts (“Kurorte”), especially in the towns of Bad Reichenhall (the administrative centre of the Berchtesgadener Land district) and Berchtesgaden. The area’s fresh spring waters, pure mountain air, mineral-rich soil and salt are the perfect ingredients for natural health treatments and recuperation. However, long before it was cool to go to spas; or hike and ski for exercise, this region was famous for something else: precious salt!
From the early Middle Ages, salt has been extracted from the saline springs in the Bavarian Alps – this “white gold” which was so much more important for survival than gold, brought great wealth to the region. No visit to Berchtesgadener Land is complete without a tour of the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine and the Old Salt Works Museum in Bad Reichenhall.
Exploring Berchtesgadener Land is really easy by use of the local trains, buses and clearly signposted hiking trails. The towns are rich in history, culture and beautiful Bavarian architecture, offer fantastic food and beer (of course!) and it is such a delight to listen to the charming Bavarian dialect.
If you’re up to it, you could walk to all the beautiful towns and villages along the most scenic trails, with the clear waters of the river never far. Feed your soul with long walks in the forest, swim in the lakes, listen to the birdsong and the bells of the cows on the green pastures and admire the majestic Watzmann mountain, which, at a height of 2 713m is the tallest in the area.
Berchtesgadener Land is nicknamed “The Pearl of the Alps”, and rightfully so. I could happily live there for the rest of my life.
Look out for my next blog posts where I will share some more photos and stories about the gems I discovered in Berchtesgadener Land during my recent visit.
(Frame weekly photo challenge)