The Bavarian Alps are part of the Alps and are located in Germany near the southern border of the federal state of Bavaria and continue across the border into Austria. The region is considered one of the most beautiful landscapes of Germany and ranks as one of the most scenic places in all of Central Europe. This is where German or Bavarian stereotypes of lederhosen, dirndl, bratwurst, and glistening alpine peaks come true. Ironically it only composes less then 10% of Germany's total area. It is also a very rural area, abundant with wildlife, many glacial lakes and thick fir tree forests. It has much more in common, both culturally and geographically, with its southern neighbours Tyrol and Salzburg Province in Austria than with the rest of Germany to the north. It is a place where traditions are still very strong and is also the birthplace of Pope Benedict.
Bavaria used to be an independent kingdom and you can visit the royal castles built by the former kings in the mountains. It joined the German Empire in 1871 and has been part of Germany ever since. It is the largest federal state in contemporary Germany. Bavarians are generally more conservative than other Germans and the traditions of the past generations are alive and well in this scenic region of Central Europe. Roman Catholicism also plays an important role in local customs and culture and the Bavarian Alps are home to many beautiful churches and shrines. In particular road side shrines are a common sight.
While the mountains are not particulary high (the Zugspitze rises only to about 10,000 ft), they are none the less imposing looking to the visitor and native alike. This is because of the massive vertical rise that the mountains take on from the Bavarian countryside south of Munich, giving the viewer the impression that they are much higher than they really are. Added the fact that the mountains are older in geological terms, they are quite chiseled at their peaks giving the traveler wonderful views like the famous landmark mountain of Berchtesgaden, the Watzmann. Alpine crystal blue lakes and flowing rivers are plenty in the region as well. Thick fir tree forests hide abundant wildlife and thousands of kilometers of marked hiking trails that could easily lead you over the open border into Austria. The region is popular with motorbike riders and mountain bikers too.
Flora and fauna
The closest major cities are Munich, Salzburg and Innsbruck. The border to Austria is open to passport free travel. There are both excellent road and rail links from the above cities. Freeways (Autobahn) can get jammed during the summer tourist months in Bavaria.
Considering the rural and mountainous nature of the region the area's rail network is well established and finds its hub in Munich. Many connections can also be found to neighbouring Innsbruck and Salzburg in Austria. The Road system is excellent as well and offers wonderful opportunities for road biking.
Hiking - or "Wandern" in German - is a major pastime in the summer months. Skiing and snowboarding are quite popular at the high quality (yet small) resorts found in southern Bavaria.
Bavaria is known for some of the best beers on the planet!
Bavaria's youth hostels (Jugendherbergen) are the only ones in Germany who have an age limit! If you are over 26 years of age you are out of luck - unless you are a member of a hostel association. Nightly guest memberships are available from the hostel for a small charge, though. The Bavarian Alps are a major tourist and vacation destination inside Germany so there are thousands of guesthouses or Pensionen in the area. Cities also have hotels which are more pricey and less charming.
There are no major cities in the Bavarian Alps so dangerous drivering on mountain roads is your only real concern. The wildlife is generally not hostile. Mountain safety is the key when going to higher altitudes as every year tourists die in accidents because of reckless behaviour and poor planning.