No visit to Bavaria, would be complete without exploring Munich, the capital city. Visitors will love exploring the centuries-old sights, many of which can easily be explored on foot or by bike. But you won’t want to stop there. Bavaria has so much more to offer, from hikes through a dramatic gorge to the region’s colorful traditional culture. Here, your perfect outdoor itinerary.
However you decide to explore Munich, be sure to check out the river surfers who ride a standing wave in the English Garden. They’re there every day – even in winter! I’ve seen it multiple times and seeing surfing in such an unexpected place always puts a smile on my face.
You’ll also want to check out Olympic Park, home to the 1972 Olympics. Rather than just a regular visit, adventure lovers can try the flying fox (zip line) over the Olympic Stadium. Not only will it get your adrenaline pumping, you’ll also get one of the best, not to mention most unique, views of the city! This is on my bucket list and is the most adventurous thing you can do in Munich.
After a day in the city it’s time to travel outside and head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, less than a two-hour train ride away. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise consisting of two charming rival towns surrounded by mountains, including the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany.
Since it will take two days to hike the Zugspitze, unless you take a cable car to the top, I recommend an adventure somewhere in between: specifically the Partnach Gorge (Partnachklamm). It’s one of the most renowned hikes in the area, and is suitable for families with children. It’s a national monument and you’ll experience the deafening sound of the roaring water as you walk along a pathway. You may get a little wet, depending on how wild the water is on the day of your visit, so wear Quick Dry clothing. Whenever I have visitors, I take them here, especially in winter when it’s even more spectacular with its dramatic hanging icicles and frozen waterfalls. It’s always one of my visitor’s highlights.
You have the option to return the same way, or for more of an adventure, hike 20 minutes uphill. You’ll reach a traditional mountain hut and a hotel. Both serve traditional Bavarian cuisine and give you a glimpse into historical Bavarian culture which remains timeless today: Locals still wear traditional clothing.
You can either hike down, or take the oldest functioning small cabin tram in the world, the Graseckbahn, which was built in 1953. Not only is it historic, but it’s also self-operating, meaning you’re the tram operator. It takes a leap of faith to get in and my stomach flip-flops every time I do it, even though it’s perfectly safe, but it’s always a thrill.
You can spend the rest of the day exploring the towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on foot and checking out the gorgeous paintings that decorate the historic houses and asking yourself whether you’re brave enough to attempt the famous ski jump that you can ski from all over town. You’ll want to wear something versatile and breathable like Performance Flannel for this active and enjoyable day.
Bavaria is also famous for its castles, especially those of the mad King Ludwig. (One of his castles, Neuschwanstein, inspired Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland.)
Another, the King’s Palace on Mount Schachen (Königshaus am Schachen) offers you a more unique adventure than a typical castle visit. There are several different starting points to hike up to this hunting castle, including the Partnach Gorge. After approximately 3 hours you reach the site where you can do a short guided tour. The castle is rather plain, especially for King Ludwig II’s extravagant standards, but that all changes when you go upstairs and enter the lavish Turkish Hall. The king celebrated his birthday there each year and loved the seclusion the castle gave him. In keeping up with the tradition, I celebrated my birthday here, just as the king did. As you look across Mount Schachen onto mountain after mountain, it’s easy to see why the king loved this tranquil place so much.
A few minutes’ walk away is a building, which used to be the servant’s quarters. Today it’s an authentic Bavarian mountain hut where you can eat, or choose to spend the night in very simple down-to-earth quarters with other hikers. It’s a cheap one-of-a-kind experience that few tourists have heard about. The experience of staying in a hut in the Alps really captures the spirit of Bavarian life in my opinion – wholesome food, spending quality time with family and friends, and getting back to nature. It’s something I do several times a year. It does get chilly though, so bring a sweater.
After an adventurous and insightful three days into Bavarian culture, head back to Munich. What adventure is waiting for you next?