Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

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Considered by many to be the top driving tour in Europe, and perhaps even one of the top three in the world (next to Australia’s Great Ocean Road or California’s Highway 1), Germany’s Alpine Road stretches over 450 kilometres through the Alps. There’s no real reason to do this drive… it’s a drive for the hell of it, winding through the mountains, tiny German towns, and castles along the way. Why not? Climbing from Lindau on Lake Constance to Schönau on Lake Königssee, the route attracts all drivers, from cyclists to motorcyclists and mobile-home travellers to the proud owners of valuable sports cars. Completed only within the past few decades, the German Alpine Road takes in breathtaking mountain scenery, castles, ski resorts, and immense high altitude lakes. 

Eibsee. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

The average driver can do this trip in 3-4 days, provided they’re prepared to spend a great deal of time in the car. I’d recommend taking more time, if at all possible. You’re sure to run into adventure along the way, and having the flexibility to stop and take your time will be something you’ll thank yourself for later. There are countless little towns, hiking opportunities, and detours you’ll run into as you climb higher into the Alps. You may even wish to detour to Austria, only 15 minutes away at times, and check out the Alps from a new perspective. 

Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

The Route:

The German Alpine Road twists and winds upwards through multiple towns. For a complete list of the towns along the way and detailed information on each, check out the official German Alpine Road website. The road itself is well maintained and easy to drive. Unlike some more challenging German roads, the Alpine Road resembles a highway, is often multiple lanes wide, and does not curve often or intensely enough to have you clinging to your seat. There are multiple stops along the way, each with their own unique charms and available services. 

May through October is the recommended time to travel on the Alpine Road, though you may wish to make exceptions in order to visit certain festivals (check the official website to stay updated on upcoming local events). Wear layers, and expect the weather to reach cold temperatures as you climb higher into the Alps. 

The German Alpine road will close due to construction in the area of B13/ Isarbridge / Sylvenstein from June 10. / 20:00 until June 14.

In the meantime, take the B472 from Bad Tölz to Gmund am Tegernsee.

Bridge at Lake Sylvenstein. Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

Bridge at Lake Sylvenstein 

Must See:


Start your alpine journey in Lindau. A stroll through the historic old town perfectly sets the stage for a tour along the German Alpine road. Enjoy magnificent lake views and relax with a local coffee before beginning your drive. The first half of the road, from Lindau to Bad Tolz and beyond, snakes through vibrant Alpine foothills populated with tiny, picture perfect villages, ski resorts, and an impressive view of the Alps ahead. You may wish to take a short detour to the nearby Scheidegger waterfalls, considered one of the most beautiful geological destinations in Bavaria. 

Lindau Harbor. From  Driving the Alpine Road in Germany


Known to be Germany’s cleanest lake, and debatably one of the most beautiful bodies of water in Europe, Konigssee should not be missed. At 7km long and almost 2 km wide, the lake is famous for its inaccessibility: you won’t be able to drive here. Since 1909, the lake has been accessible only by electric boat, foot, and rowboat. Most day-trippers take a return trip on one of the electric ferries that will take tourists to St. Bartholoma, a small town on the lake. A 30 minute trip each way, ferry fare costs approximately 13 EUR for round trip passage. Aim to spend 1-3 hours here, exploring the lake and enjoying the beautiful snowcapped peaks that tower above. Consider relaxing at a beer garden on the waterfront in St. Bartholoma for the ultimate experience. If you are an avid hiker, you may wish to skip the electric boat altogether and get to the lake on your own steam.

St. Bartholomew’s chapel on lake Königssee. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

Ludwig’s Castles 

Neuschwanstein is without a doubt the most popular stop along the German Alpine Road, drawing thousands of visitors a year. The crowds can be intense at the foot of King Ludwig’s dream palace, but it’s worth checking out anyway if only for the fantastic scenery and unusual architecture. Referred to as the “Disney Castle,” Ludwig’s palace appeals most to families and history buffs. To avoid the crowds as much as possible, arrive before 1pm. You will likely have to wait 2-3 hours for a tour of the palace. 
View of Neuschwanstein Castle. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

If spending 3 hours waiting in a line sounds like a bore and you aren’t passionate about Ludwig’s castle, check out the tiny Schloss Linderhof instead. This hidden gem has many of the same architectural and historical characteristics of the more popular Neushwanstein, but none of the crowds. Maximilian II also built his home, Hohenshwangau, nearby, which is worth a visit as well. 
Linderhof Palace. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

Bad Tölz

The historic old town of Bad Tölz lies on the banks of the Isar River, beneath the towering peaks of the Alps. With a sprawling old market, glorious murals, and baroque architecture, Bad Tölz is not to be missed. Travellers who enjoy shopping and seeking out the best deals on unique local goods will especially enjoy this stop along the German Alpine Road. Foodies will also appreciate the various local restaurants and cafes, where traditional German foods are available for liberal taste testing, especially during festivals. In early November, May, and June, it’s easy to stumble across a local festival, while the Christmas Markets have their own special appeal.

Farm house in the district of Bad Toelz. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

Salz (Salt) & Moor Museum

Located between Rottau and Grassau, the Salz & Moor Museum captures the tradition of the old salt mines and the German Salt Road, which transported thousands of pounds of salt across Europe during the medieval era. Commonly called the ‘first pipeline in the world,’ this road brought brine to Rosenheim from the salt mines in the Berchtesgaden area. History buffs and foodies will especially enjoy exploring this key part of Bavarian culture!


Foodie Must-haves:

While enjoying the incredible Alpine scenery is great, you won’t have immersed yourself in the full Bavarian experience until you try some of these dishes. German food, especially in this region, tends to center heavily around meats, root vegetables, and beer. Traveling here as a vegetarian or vegan is possible, but not recommended! 
Culinary Bavaria: beer garde. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germanyn
of: Beer and beef sausage - a typical speciality from Hof. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

•    Weisswurst is a traditional Bavarian sausage, made from… wait for it… fresh bacon! It tends to be prepared and served in the same day.
•    Schweinsbraten is the most common dish you’ll find along the German Alpine Road. Slices of pork are served in pools of delicious gravy with Knödel (dumplings) on the side.
•    Steckerlfisch is smoked fish, generally mackerel or pike. 
•    Nürnberger Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut is likely the smallest of all Bavarian sausages and has become famous around Germany for its flavour. 
•    Apple Strudel is a delicious apple pastry usually eaten as a dessert. It makes a wonderful breakfast as well. 
Culinary Bavaria: beer garde. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germany

Driving tips:

In order to rent a car in Germany, non-Europeans need a valid driver’s license from their home state or province. Although the legal driving age is 18, drivers usually must be over 21 (sometimes even older) to rent a car. 

Most cars in the US and Canada have an automatic transmission. However, it’s important to note that in Europe, it’s the complete opposite. Here, most cars are a manual “stick-shift” transmission with four or five-speeds and a shift lever in the center floor console. While the German Alpine Road isn’t a challenging drive, you will need to know how to drive standard safely. It is possible to get an automatic, but it’ll cost you dearly.

Parking is almost never free in Germany, but it can be hard to figure out where to go to get your parking slip. Always look for a sign that says “Parkscheine” (parking tickets) and the nearby machine that dispenses them. After paying for your ticket using coins, place the ticket on your dashboard where it’s visible to avoid incurring a fee. 

Renting or bringing a GPS is a great way to avoid getting lost and to look up new destinations along your route. It’s possible to rent a portable GPS “Navi” for about 9 euros a day or ask for a rental car with a built-in GPS navigation system. 

The German Alpine Road is a great road trip adventure for first time international drivers. The roads are well maintained, tourist information and help is readily available, and it’s considered an easy start to driving outside of familiar territory. Along the way, enjoy incredible Bavarian food, learn more about local culture and history, hike the Alps, and take in the scenery from the comfort of your own vehicle. There’s really nothing about this drive that shouldn’t have you leaping to collect your maps and guidebooks in preparation for the adventure of a lifetime! Don’t forget to check for local festivals and hidden foodie treats along the way. Ready to go? We’ll see you at the top! 

Spa city Bad Heilbrunn. From Driving the Alpine Road in Germany


About Hannah Miller: I’m a nineteen year old girl, with a serious case of wanderlust. Over the past few years I’ve traveled to over twenty-four countries, on five different continents, using bikes, buses, trains, planes, and of course, my own two feet. Wherever I go, a video camera and three instruments follow. I’m trying to change the world, one step at a time. By the end of my life I want to have visited every country in the world, and do it all through travel writing. In my opinion, there’s no better school than the big world around us, and no better way to learn about the planet I live on than to see it myself! My greatest fear: to reach the end of my days only to be filled with regret for the adventures I never had. Find me at http://www.edventuregirl.com/


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