One of the oldest states in Europe, Bavaria lies in the southernmost region of Germany, along the border with Austria, and covers 20% of the country’s total land area. Rich in culture and home to some of Europe’s most beautiful mountain scenery, there is a local saying that Bavaria is ‘not part of Germany, but near it’. Indeed the state has a very strong and colourful identity of its own, with Bavarians taking great pride in their traditions, which include playing the Alpenhorn and Maypole dancing, the regional dress of lederhosen for men and dirndls for women, such culinary specialities as white sausage and excellent local beers (served by the litre!), and centuries-old folk music amongst the many charms of the region.
At the heart of the Bavarian Alps, the Berchtesgaden National Park, situated between the Austrian city of Salzburg and the historic spa town of Bad Reichenhal, conserves the very best of this unique region and is the focus of this exciting Naturetrek holiday. Once a royal hunting reserve, this national park now protects over 200 square kilometres of pristine mountains rising to 2,700 metres. The park’s spectacular scenery includes the deep glacial Königssee (King’s Lake), glaciated valleys, deep gorges and mountains that are cloaked with forest beneath the 2,000-metre tree-line. We’ll explore this wide range of habitats and altitudes during daily walks in Berchtesgaden’s fabulous mountains and valleys, focusing on the area’s rich variety of alpine flowers, birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Our comfortable base for this holiday is a traditional family-run Bavarian hotel, enjoying magnificent views of the mountains from the forested slopes near the village of Bischofswiesen, close to the national park. Not far away, nestled beneath the imposing and jagged Watzmann Mountain range, lies the picturesque and unspoilt market town of Berchtesgaden — delightfully quaint and quintessentially Bavarian!
Within the national park we will explore the wonderful meadows and forests of the Klausbachtal Valley, rich in such wild flowers such as Lady’s Slipper Orchid, White and Red Helleborine, Lily of the Valley and May Lily. We will also look out for birds such as Golden Eagle, Hazelhen and Capercaillie. On another day we’ll explore the Königssee, scanning the surrounding area for mammals such as Chamois and Red Deer as well as the many woodland and water birds to be found here. After exploring the lake, we will visit the world-famous St. Bartholomew Church before searching nearby mixed forest and clearings along the lakeside banks for interesting flora such as Herb Paris, Twayblade and Bird’s-nest Orchid. These woods are also home to a rich birdlife — including Crested Tit and White-backed Woodpecker — and abundant butterflies.
At higher altitudes we’ll look for birds such as Golden Eagle, Alpine Chough, Ring Ouzel and Alpine Accentor, while descents through the forests give us the chance of Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers, Nutcracker and Goshawk. One of the highlights of a visit to the Berchtesgaden National Park in early summer is the carpets of alpine flowers in its high meadows; Globe Flower, Arnica montana, Alpenrose, Alpine Snowbell, Primula auricula, and numerous gentians being among the many species we hope to see. We’ll also keep an eye open for Marmots and Ibex. On one day we may offer an optional, more challenging walk on Mount Watzmann, Germany’s second highest mountain. Here, a winding forest trail leads to a high ‘alm’ (alpine grazing meadow) and gives us the chance to look for a variety of special forest and alpine plants such as Martagon Lily and Whorled Solomon’s Seal, as well as Griffon Vultures, Capercaillies and a wealth of butterflies.
While our main aim on this new tour will be to enjoy the mountain scenery, wildlife and flowers, a visit to this region of Germany would not be complete without the chance to discover aspects of Bavarian history and culture. We will be based very near the beautiful city of Salzburg — a World Heritage Site, birthplace of Mozart and, more recently, the setting for ‘The Sound of Music’ — and will pay the city a visit during our tour. The area around Berchtesgaden National Park is also known for its association with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, and you will have the chance to visit Hitler’s imposing ‘Eagle’s Nest’, perched high above Berchtesgaden town on Kehlstein Mountain.
Finally, after a week spent enjoying the stunning mountain scenery, wildlife, flowers and local Bavarian history and culture we reluctantly have to transfer back to Salzburg for our flight home. However, if you have time, and wish to extend your stay in this special region of Germany, extra nights in Salzburg are highly recommended.
The two local guides were first class and very knowledgeable.
Andy and Ingrid did an excellent job of organising our programme to suit the prevailing conditions. They worked hard for us and were excellent company. The Alpen hotel Hundsreitlehen was the best accommodation I've stayed in on our Naturetrek holidays. The setting, the standard or our room, the food and attentive and friendly staff put this hotel in a class of its own. This trip exceeded expectation.
Enjoyed the holiday very much, as we did the past two taken with you; a very nice group.
The hotel was wonderful, and its owners couldn't have done more. Room, view, comfort - all fantastic.
This was a very enjoyable holiday in large part thanks to our three leaders who were cheerful, helpful, accommodating and very knowledgeable. I will have very happy memories of my trip to Bavaria and Austria as a result of their careful planning, flexibility and involvement. They always greeted us with a smile even when the weather conditions made it hard to be optimistic. As a result of this holiday, my knowledge of the wildlife of the Alps has increased thanks to Dawn, Andy and Ingrid's expertise.
This was one of the best holidays that I have ever had. Bavaria is stunningly beautfiul and the range of plant and animal life which we saw was spectacular. The length of the walks and the mix of activities were just about right. Dawn Nelson was a most enthusiastic botanist who was very keen to share her extensive knowledge of plants with us all. Andy and Ingrid Patmore were the best guides I have ever met. They both had a wide knowledge of the local area, did all they could to make our stay enjoyable (including rearranging the itinerary to minimise the adverse effects of the wet start to the week), and were friendly and interested in all of us. It was a pleasure to be with them throughout the week. They, together with Dawn, are an absolute credit to Naturetrek.
Mr & Mrs E.
Firstly, a most wonderful area for a holiday, think the most amazing scenery of all the places we've been to, possibly as the mountains are so close and accessible. We would definitely like to return, and I know two of our party have already booked for next year. ... Andy & Ingrid (Patmore) - lovely couple. Very welcoming and friendly, and their local knowledge was exceptional, and Andy's woodland expertise too. ... They worked very hard at ensuring everybody got the most from the holiday. We were very impressed with them both.
Tyne & Wear
The idea to base a holiday in the Berchtesgadener Land region really was an inspired one. We had never been there before and are pleased to report that it has so much to offer for an unusually wide range of interests. The hotel was first class and it was a relief that they made a real effort to cater for vegetarians like ourselves. Angelica, Marcus and their staff were very friendly and helpful. We must say how impressed we were by Andy and Ingrid, the 'core leaders', as well as Dawn. They went out of their way to make everyone welcome and feel part of the group. Their planning was excellent and they sensibly tailored what was actually done according to the weather on the day and to the preferences of the group. There was a good division between a (well conceived) guided tour and 'private' time on the Salzberg visit. They were wise to make the last day a bit more relaxed than others. So thanks to Andy, Ingrid and Dawn. We hope Naturetrek will keep this holiday on their list and, indeed, add similar ones. Prior to the holiday the staff in the Naturetrek office were also very helpful too so thanks to them as well.
Mr & Mrs P.
We also wish to commend Andy, Ingrid and Dawn who made the holiday so enjoyable with their knowledge, good humour and energy which ensured everything ran smoothly.
All three leaders - Andy & Ingrid Patmore, along with Dawn Nelson were particularly good. They were very knowledgeable and informative, this with their sense of fun greatly added to the enjoyment of the trip. The hotel was very comfortable and in a lovely setting. We were made very welcome and the food was excellent.