Bavaria unfolds across Germany's southeast like a fairytale. Jump in the car and head out on the road to encounter some of the magic and fantasy. This fairytale is in technicolour - everything seems just a little bit brighter than usual, a little bit quainter, surprisingly cool and slightly surreal.
This is where you'll find men in lederhosen serving up black forest gateau; women dressed in dirndl pulling mammoth-sized pints of beer; and even a tram that serves as public transport by day and turns into a disco at night, with a resident DJ spinning tunes at the back while passengers take to the aisles to dance.
This is also the land of the deep, dark woods that Little Red Riding Hood skipped through, the land of towers tall enough for Rapunzel, and charming chocolate-box houses to tempt Hansel and Gretel. Roads skirt walled villages with castles fit for Sleeping Beauty, and picture-perfect towns tumble down to lakesides where sailboats bob in the sunset in search of the Frog Prince.
Throw the map out of the window and let your curiosity lead the way. As you roll into small towns in the evening you'll be greeted by family-run bed and breakfasts and larger-than-life hospitality. You'll be pointed in the direction of the local gaststatte where, in summer, you'll be fed platters of fresh asparagus and new potatoes from the garden, fish caught in the local stream, and homemade sausage.
Follow the ribbon-like Romantic Road as it twists and turns its way across the region, taking you to gorgeous castles you've never heard of in towns with colourful architecture straight out of a film set. Get lost on the roads that wind their way up and down the hills of the Black Forest, where the summer sun filters through the canopy of trees to dapple the road in front of you.
Hit the city. Munich is an artist's haven with galleries, live music and markets, not to mention over-sized beer halls. This is the city that accommodates backpackers in circus tents in summer and has sidewalk champagne cafes, vibrant clubs and whimsical puppet shows.
Take a dip in the spa waters of elegant Baden-Baden, where Queen Victoria and friends soaked away their worries. Hike through the breathtaking scenery of the Bavarian Alps or hop on the cable car to reach the top of Germany's highest peak. Paddle across Lake Constance from Lindau, an impossibly pretty town that's watched over by blue mountains. Scoff apple strudel and pretzels and taste test your way through the 14000 schnapps distilleries.
Bavaria comes as a surprise to most visitors who soon wonder how they thought they'd manage to see it all in two weeks. You'll leave wondering what was just around that next bend - and planning your return trip.
This article was updated in February 2012.