Southern Bavaria is an absolutely amazing place with tons of interesting locations for landscape photography. Unfortunately, we were only visiting for a weekend, so after exploring lake Königsee and shooting the famous boathouses, we had just one more day to check out some of the other sights the region has to offer. Needless to say, it was a busy day with an early start and a late finish, but also one that I enjoyed immensely. Choosing where to go was not easy and obviously we didn’t get to see everything, but if you’re into landscapes and only have one day in the area, the itinerary below might be a good starting point.
Sunrise at Lake Hintersee
There are a few good locations for sunrise in Southern Bavaria. Summer nights are short, so be ready to start early. I was up at 4 am, fresh as a daisy (not really) and heading towards lake Hintersee. Lake Hintersee is a rather small lake west of Königsee that is well-known among photographers for the small islets with the trees just off shore, that reflect beautifully in the shallow water and offer a number of interesting compositions. Getting to the lake Hintersee is easy enough – there’s a parking lot nearby and then it’s a three minute walk to the viewpoint. The spot works for both sunrise and sunset, but a lot depends on the weather. Luck wasn’t on my side that morning, with most clouds gone by the time the sun appeared, leaving me with empty blue skies and a rather bleak image.
One advice I can give in a situation like this is try and look beyond the obvious shot. I know first-hand how hard it is to admit that the image you have envisioned and woken up so early for is simply not happening. However, sometimes that can be an excellent opportunity to capture something equally beautiful but far less common or expected. Something that most photographers easily overlook while being too focused on the iconic composition. For example, below is the photo of the fisherman boat I took with my long lens just as the rising sun started highlighting the forest on the far end of Hintersee.
Luckily, I also have a sunset image of lake Hintersee from my brief stop in Bavaria last year, so you can see how amazing it can look like in proper conditions.
As an alternative to Hintersee, another quite famous sunrise location in the area is Maria Gern church a bit to the north. This beautiful little church surrounded by lush green forest with the mountains up in the distance makes for an amazing sunrise photo. Unfortunately, I cannot quite recommend it, as the best vantage point is located on private land whose owner is not very fond of photographers. There is no fence, just the sign saying as much, so you may try to sneak in at your own risk, but I got shooed away rather rudely when I tried to get there last year. Luckily I did manage to snatch a photo, but the experience was far from pleasant.
Day plan: Eagle’s Nest and the Panoramic Road
After shooting Hintersee, next on our Southern Bavaria itinerary is the famous historic site Eagle’s Nest (or Kehlsteinhaus in German). It is one of the more touristy attractions in the area but quite worth a quick visit. Eagle’s Nest is a mansion built on top of the mountain Kehlstein that served as a private residence of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during World War II. Interestingly, Hitler got it as a present for his 50thbirthday in 1939. As I’m quite fond of history, the prospect of visiting a historic building with stunning mountain-top views was more than enough to get me excited.
Getting to Eagle’s Nest is a bit tricky. The road leading up to the residence is a closed private road, which is claimed to be too steep for regular vehicles. So the most common way to get up top is to take a bus from the Documentation Center here (apparently the buses are specially modified to handle the steep ascent). The return ticket will set you back 16.60 EUR per person plus 3 EUR for parking if you arrive to Documentation Center by car. Buses leave every 25 minutes and can often be crowded in the peak summer season.
Luckily, there is an alternative option, that is much cheaper but will require a certain effort on your part. That’s hiking up. The route starts at the Ofnerboden parking lot (free) and according to official signs will take roughly 2.5 hours to the top. Incidentally, that’s exactly how long it took us. However, we made plenty of stops for photos and video and even had to wait out heavy rain that started half-way up. So I’m pretty confident it can be hiked much faster. To make things a little bit easier, once you reach the upper bus station, you can skip the last part of the hike and instead take the elevator up. That’ll cost 3 EUR per person (you get it for free with the bus ticket), but is totally worth it in my opinion. It is a cool-looking old elevator restored to look exactly as it did during World War II.
Unfortunately, other than the elevator and a gallery of old World War II period photos, there is very little in Eagle’s Nest that reminds of its previous owner. Those interested primarily in the history of the place would probably be disappointed. The views are still fabulous though, offering a 360 degree panorama of Southern Bavaria with lake Königsee far in the distance. With the right conditions the images from Eagle’s Nest can be spectacular. It might even be a great location for sunset, but only if you are prepared to hike down, as the last bus departs from the top at 5pm.
After you’re done with Eagle’s Nest and if you have a car, make sure you don’t miss a great panoramic drive that starts only a couple kilometers away from the Documentation Center. It’s a toll road that costs 8 EUR to enter, but is totally worth it in my opinion. By the way, if you intend to hike to Eagle’s Nest, keep in mind that Ofnerboden parking lot where the hike starts is located on this road, so that’s one expense you won’t be able to avoid. The road is amazingly beautiful with lots of fabulous views all along and plenty of pullout areas for a quick photo stop.
The drive is short and easy and will not take more than half an hour of your time, not counting the stops. If you’re after some amazing alpine scenery, that’s probably the easiest and quickest way to get it. I especially recommend stopping on a long viaduct (you’ll know it when you see it), where you will be treated to a fabulous unobstructed view of the entire region begging for a panorama photo.
Sunset at Church St. Sebastian
Assuming you still have time and energy, for sunset I recommend heading to St. Sebastian church in a small town of Ramsau. It is a well-known landmark of the region and I’d be surprised if you haven’t seen a picture of it before. This cute little church together with magnificent mountain peaks in the background and a lovely blue stream in the foreground make for a perfect Bavarian image pretty much no matter the weather. There isn’t much advice that I can provide here. Just make sure you have a tripod to smoothen up the water and try to not fall into the stream composing the shot.
For more details about any of these locations, feel free to check out my Youtube video and if you happen to know some other great place for landscape photography in Southern Bavaria, please let me know in the comments below!