Nestled at the foot of the Alps, tourist-busy Füssen is the southern climax of the Romantic Road, with the nearby castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau the highlight of many a southern Germany trip. But having 'done' the country's most popular tourist route and seen Ludwig II's fantasy palaces, there are other reasons to linger longer in the area.
Wedged into Austria and framed by six formidable mountain ranges, the Berchtesgadener Land is a drop-dead-gorgeous corner of Bavaria steeped in myths and legends. Local lore has it that angels given the task of distributing the earth’s wonders were startled by God’s order to get a move on and dropped them all here.
Once a royal retreat and still a popular place of residence with the rich and famous, the Fünf-Seen-Land (Five Lakes District) is set in a glacial plain and makes a fast and easy escape from the urban bustle of Munich. Organised tourism in these parts is very much a seasonal affair, but any time is good for hiking and cycling.
Spectacularly situated in the western Alps, the Allgäu region feels a long, long way from the rest of Bavaria, both in its cuisine (more Spätzle than dumplings) and the dialect, which is closer to the Swabian of Baden-Württemberg. The Allgäu’s chief draw is the car-free resort of Oberstdorf, a major skiing centre a short hop from Austria.
Situated some 40km south of central Munich, Bad Tölz is a pretty spa town straddling the Isar River. The town’s gentle inclines provide a delightful spot for its attractive, frescoed houses and the quaint shops of the old town. At weekends thousands flock here from Munich to enjoy the town's famous, ultramodern swimming complex, Alpine slide and hiking trips along the river.
Quietly quaint Oberammergau occupies a wide valley surrounded by the dark forests and snow-dusted peaks of the Ammergauer Alps. The centre is packed with traditional painted houses, woodcarving shops and awestruck tourists who come here to learn about the town’s world-famous Passion Play.
Nestled in a cul-de-sac under snowcapped peaks, sleepily alluring Mittenwald, 20km southeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, is the most natural spot imaginable for a resort. Known far and wide for its master violin makers, the citizens of this drowsy village seem almost bemused by its popularity.
Known as ‘Wies’ for short, the Wieskirche is one of Bavaria’s best-known baroque churches and a Unesco-listed heritage site. About a million visitors a year flock to see this stuccoed wonder, the monumental work of the legendary artist brothers, Dominikus and Johann Baptist Zimmermann.
A pocket-sized trove of weird treasures, Schloss Linderhof was Ludwig II’s smallest but most sumptuous palace, and the only one he lived to see fully completed. Finished in 1878, the palace hugs a steep hillside in a fantasy landscape of French gardens, fountains and follies. The reclusive king used the palace as a retreat and hardly ever received visitors here.