road with mountains
Germany

The Ultimate Driving Route through the German Alps

How do I begin to describe the magnificent Alpine Road in Germany? This road passes through some of the most picturesque rolling hills, lush meadows, towering trees, charming towns, and calming lakes that leave you mesmerized. Not to mention you are surrounded by the German and Austrian Alps. The Alpine Road is 450 km from Lindau on Lake Constance in the west to Schönau on Lake Königssee in the east. This is the ultimate driving route through the German Alps. Here are the top things to do and must-see places to visit along the Alpine Road. Enjoy the ride!

Starting Point for the Alpine Road

GERMAN ALPS IN EASTERN BAVARIA

From Munich, we drove 75 minutes to Ruhpolding. Ruhpolding is the ideal location to explore the nearby Berchtesgaden National Park, Lake Chiemsee, and Salzburg Austria. This small town is famous for hosting the World Biathlon Championships not once, but four times. It’s nestled in the German Alps and offers the most incredible views, not to mention the array of outdoor activities at your doorstep. Here are the best places to go near the Alpine Road in the east. 

RELATED READING | Guide to Munich

Bad Reichenhall
fresco art mural on building
A historic spa town known for producing salt and offering healthy spa services. This town draws locals and tourists for a relaxing short getaway with pretty gardens and old town.
Berchtesgaden National Park
emerald green lake with mountains
The beautiful emerald green Lake Königssee offers the most incredible views of the steep mountains that surround the lake. You can only access it from an electric ferry. Tour operators stop about half way to play a trumpet to demonstrate the incredible echo. The sound bounces off the mountains sounding like it is as many as seven players. 
mountains on lake with white church and red dome roof
St Bartholomew’s Church is a Roman Catholic pilgrimage church that sits in a picture-perfect setting on the edge of Königssee. The church stands out because of its beautiful baroque architecture, with its red onion domes roof and the rugged Alps providing a stunning backdrop. This is the one of two stops the electric boat brings you to.
clear lake with mountains
The last stop the electric boat makes across Königssee is Salent. From there you walk a short distance until you come upon one of the most stunning views ever – Obersee of Upper Sea. It is a smaller, but equally pristine lake that resembles a fjorid.
Salzburg Austria
castle sitting up high on hill

READ MORE | Guide to Salzburg

RECOMMENDED PLACE TO STAY

view of mountains at sunset
The best part of the place we stayed? The incredible west facing views of the valley and Chiemgau Alps of course! It was the perfect way to end a busy day of sightseeing by simply watching the sun slowly dip behind the Alps. Magical!

We stayed in a 1-bedroom  traditional alpine chalet. The interior features traditional alpine elements mixed with contemporary furnishings.  Click here to book your stay. 

Mid-Way Point of Alpine Road

GERMAN ALPS IN CENTRAL BAVARIA

Leaving from Ruhpolding  and driving west takes you through three spectacular mountain passes with panoramic views – the Griessneralm, the Wochenbrunneralm, and the Kitzbühlerhorn. The drive is absolutely incredible. On our way to the mid-way point of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, there are two villages worth stopping for. 

REIT IM WINKL

meadow with spring flowers and mountains
A small village worth a stop is Reit im Winkl. There you will find rustic old farmhouses and chapels surrounded by fields, meadows, mountain views and cows. You may even want to take a ride on the old-fashioned chairlift from the Winklmoos-Alm to Dürrnbachhorn to take in these views from above. 

BAD TOLZ

town with river and bridge
The icy turquoise river Isar leads you into the charming town of Bad Tölz. You will find an abundance of shops, cafes, restaurants with the traditional art murals adorning the facades of brightly coloured buildings of the main street. This town is the perfect spot to relax over a delicious traditional German meal.

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN

The mid-way point along the Alpine Road Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This makes a great location to stay for a few days to explore this area. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is two towns that sit at the base of Mount Zugspitze. Historically they were two separate towns but now considered one. This is a large city now offering many choices in accommodations, restaurants, and things to do. Click here to book your stay. 

wall fresco on buildings
In Garmisch, recommended areas to visit are Frühlingsstraße and the fußgangerzone (pedestrian-friendly) from Marienplatz up to Richard-Strauss-Platz where you will find traditional shops, restaurants and bakeries. 
alpine town with colourful buildings and mountain
In Partenkirchen, walk through the historic Ludwigstraße where you will find wonderful Lüftlmalereien (painted murals) telling a story of the past inhabitants’ lives.
Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck Austria, a alpine town full of year-round activities.
Yes, only an hour away is Innsbruck! All around, towering over you, are the mountains. The jagged rock spires of the Nordkette range are incredibly majestic and are your backdrop for this beautiful alpine town. Being surrounded by ski slopes during the winter and mountainous hiking trails during the summer makes this a must-see destination for any adventurous traveler.

READ MORE | Guide to Innsbruck

Zugspitze
mountain peak with clouds
The biggest attraction to this area is to visit Zugspitze. At 2,962 metres above sea level, the Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany and home to three glaciers.

End Point of Alpine Road

Leaving from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and driving further west to reach our final destination of Lake Constance. There are two small towns worth stopping along the way. And, the top thing to do in this area is to visit Neuschwanstein Castle.  

OBERAMMERGAU

alpine buildings with mountain
The lovely village of Obermmergau is worth a for a quick stop.  Here, you will find an extensive amount of Lüftlmalerei (painted murals) depicting the history of Bavaria and religious stories. As well as, it offers some quaint traditional shops and restaurants.

NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE

white castle perched on mountain with trees
Neuschwanstein castle is one of the most visited palaces and castles in Europe today. Known as "the castle of the fairy tale king" it sits in the most idyllic setting.

FUSSEN

colourful buildings in town center
You have to make a stop in Füssen, the picturesque town where the German Alpine Road meets the Romantic Road. This romantic, charming old town has almost an Italian flair with its market squares, street cafes and pastel coloured buildings.

Leaving Füssen you are immediately struck by the change in landscape. The Alps appear smaller, the land becomes flatter and the abundance of water is more prevalent. We are nearing Lindau which is a picturesque island on Lake Constance, and the end of the Alpine Road. 

LINDAU

port city with boats and colourful buildings
Lindau is the ending (or starting) point of the Alpine Road. Lindau is one of the port cities situated in an area called Lake Constance. Lake Constance offers travellers a resort town feel. With its wide-open waterfront views, boardwalks, and amazing gardens. It's the perfect destination to end the ultimate drive through the German Alps. 

A recommended place to stay is in Konstanz or Constance called the RIVA boutique hotel just steps from the waterfront. This luxury property offers 5-star dining, a spa, a wellness center, and a gorgeous rooftop pool. Or do your own search using Booking.com. 

As a holidaymaker…

Driving the German Alps on eh Alpine Road is a trip of a lifetime. Hopefully, this has inspired your next trip destination to Germany. 

mountains with road

Disclosure: as a Booking.com Affiliate Partner, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to book.

33 Comments

  • JoJo Hall

    This is quite the driving route to the German Alps. Those small towns and spectacular view points in between just make the overall trip so beautiful and worth it!

  • Carolin

    Aw Renee thank you for the throwback to my childhood. These were my holidays as a kid with my family. My parents wanted me to “see” my country before taking me abroad for exploring. We would often go to Bavaria for the autumn break as the Alps are magical then We stayed either in the western part (Partnachklamm, Fuessen, Etal and Walchensee/Kochel and had a few stays in the Eastern part (Reit im Winkl is particularly interesting for hiking). And of course, I saw all the castles of Ludwig II. Linderhof is my favourite and I would love to revisit this area of my country. Let’s hope Covid will allow this soon.

    Carolin | Solo Travel Story

  • Pamela

    Wow! St. Bartholomew’s is stunning! I’ve also always wanted to see Neuschwanstein Castle – it always looked like the fairytale castles in the mountains. What a breathtaking road trip!

  • Barry

    The change in architecture of the buildings on this route is astounding, From painted muralleed ones, to alpine wooden, heavily-baconied ones (that remind me of Switzwerland) to the stucco, pastel coloured ones with high pitched roofs.
    I’ve never been to the German Alps and those pics of shimmering lake-filled vallies are certainly enticing me to try getting here. I didn’t realize this part of Europe was so heavily mountainous – and it’s on my doorstep almost! I’ve heard and read a lot about a couple of these villages and the castle so maybe I should plan on seeing them all for myself.

  • Nicole

    This is being saved for my next European road trip. I have been to Germany four times and there is so much to see. I managed to see fussen and the fairytale castle but missed out on Ludwigstraße (which I’ve never heard of until now) and the other areas you’ve recommended. Definitely an excuse to go back!

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    We would definitely want to rent a car and drive through the German Alps. The sights along the way looked magical. I know it would take us far longer to do this route than we would plan. So many great small towns to see. The buildings in Garmisch look so charming.

  • Eric Gamble

    We loved Innsbruck! What an amazing area of the german alps. Here we took several trips around and rode the Alpine meiders roller coaster. I think when we return we would love renting a car and exploring more of the German Alps especially the Berchtesgaden National Park! That area looks absolutely amazing.. It may be one of our most favorite parts of bavaria for sure.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Eric for your comment. If you love Innsbruck, then for sure you’ll have to do this road trip. It is simply incredible!

  • Kevin

    Wow, as someone who hasn’t been to Germany before, I feel like in my mind I always associated those steep, jagged peaks with Switzerland. It’s very interesting to see some that Germany offers some similar Alps views and experiences as well, and I would bet for a better deal, too! St Bartholomew’s Church and the backdrop behind it look like a painting! I just looked it up and I see that it’s equally beautiful in the wintertime with a lot of snow on the mountains.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Kevin for your comment, and thanks for stopping by. Yes the Alps hug the border of Germany, Austria and then onto Switzerland. It is so amazing. I’m so glad to hear that this sparked some new inspiration for future travels.

  • Candy

    This is the type of road trip I absolutely love. Driving through such beautiful surroundings brings me so much joy. The village Reit im Winkl sounds like a hidden gem and so picturesque. The old-fashioned chairlift sounds pretty interesting.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Candy for your comment. I too gained a huge amount of joy doing this trip. It’s one that fondly sticks out in my mind. Hope you get the chance in the future to do it too.

  • Emma

    I love how beautifully ornate so many of the buildings in this region are. That’s one of the reasons I really like Germany, and have always wanted to visit Austria too. Partenkirchen looks like the most adorable town. A road trip around here would be a dream

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Emma for stopping by and commenting. I’m so glad you enjoy this region of Germany as well.

  • Gus Feliciano

    This looks like the most amazing road trip ever! I cannot wait to go back to Europe to be able to do a drive like this.

    I do have a giant soft sport for old european towns and this seems to cross all those boxes!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Then definitely you need to do this trip! It has so many cute towns to stop along the way. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Gus.

  • Riana Ang-Canning

    What a beautiful road trip! I love those small German/Austrian towns and the big ones too. We did the drive from Salzburg to Munich but didn’t manage to make as many pretty stops. I remember reading about Berchtesgaden National Park but we didn’t stop for some reason. Will have to go back! And really want to check out Innsbruck too!

  • molly

    Germany has been on my list of go-to places for a long time! Beautiful scenery. Thanks for the tips including details of Airbnbs that you found etc.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Molly for stopping by and commenting. Hopefully one day you get a chance to go, and if you do, I recommend those Airbnbs.

  • Jamie Italiane

    The only time I have been in Germany was only because Munich was the easiest place to fly out after a long European trip. I was very impressed by it. I would love to do this drive. I love the look of the clear water and the mountains remind me of the beauty of Norway’s fjords. Is this area far from the Black Forest? That is an area I have been interested in exploring.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Our journey started and ended in Munich, it’s not far from it at all. But if you do the drive, leave lots of time. We did it over 2 weeks, and that way it allows you lots of time to explore all the wonderful places along the way. The Black Forest is closest to Lake Constance, only a bit farther north. Hopefully you get the chance to do this trip one day. It truly is the ultimate road trip.

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