A trip to the Bavarian Forest is a chance to experience the splendour of nature, in the best possible way. This lush, mountainous region lies in the South East Germany and is the country’s first national park. Founded in 1970, this serene yet dramatically beautiful landscape has the largest closed woodland area in central Europe. It should come as no surprise then that this nature lover’s paradise offers historic hikes that follow the same trails that were used by early salt traders.
The Bavarian Forest is far more accessible than it first seems. There is around 300 km (186 miles) of bicycle routes and hiking paths that the national park allows you to explore at will. You can also find, deep within the Bavarian Forests, picturesque towns and villages such as Regen, Frauenau and Zwiesel, where life takes on a gentler pace than the rest of the world.
The Bavarian Forest is a place for both adventure and relaxation. You can get lost in the spectacular views, as you discover what makes this region so exceptional.
Best Time To Visit Bavarian Forest
There is no one answer to this, as you can enjoy the Bavarian Forest at any time of the year. However, in general, the most popular season is in the summer time (July/August). This is the period when the natural beauty of the area is at its best. All the plants are in full bloom, as vivid colours mix with the wild majesty of the surroundings.
The summertime is also a time when you are most likely to spot creatures native to the area such as bears, wild boars, lynx, sea otters, and even rare species like the three-toed woodpecker. You can really hone your photography skills here, capturing wild animals in their native habitat.
While the summer provides an idyllic backdrop for a wonderful getaway, winter time has just as much to see and do. This is a season for peaceful valleys and snow-capped mountains and, of course, wintery adventure. There is igloo village, where you can learn to build igloos from scratch, husky farms, and go skiing.
If you have ever worried about how to get around while holidaying, then prepare to have a weight taken off your shoulders. It has been free to travel in the Bavarian Forest region since May 2010; this includes more than 1,100 kilometres of the forest route.
Travellers are given a GUTI, which means, in Bavarian language, ‘a little treat’. This aptly named pass can take you anywhere in the ‘Bayerwald-Ticket’ tarrif zone without you spending a penny. The card is valid for as many bus and train trips as you desire to take.
Fancy a bike ride instead? There are many places to hire bikes since this area is very much geared towards cyclists. A bike ride will take you into the heart of the natural surroundings, and is an enjoyable yet eco friendly way to travel.
If you want to get to know the Bavarian Forest by foot, the national park also provides an extensive range of leaflets covering the hiking areas in the forest. These include some incredible ones for nature enthusiasts such as the Schachten & Fitze and Watzlik-Hain trail.
Take A Walk On The Treetops
Treetop walking is probably not something you hear of everyday, but that is the unique experience you can find in Lusen near Neuschönau.
Here they have constructed a wooden platform 20 metres above the forest floor. The wooden platform allows for a leisurely walk, but more importantly a spectacular bird’s eye view of the Bavarian Forest.
This lofty way to see the forest really is too good to pass up. As you take a leisurely stroll along the path you can view the breathtaking mountains and all manner of flora and fauna that might have been missed if seen from the ground up.
One of the highlights of the treetop walk is a domed structure called the view tower. Here they have constructed a cup-like tower that is described by some as alarmingly high off the forest floor. However, reach the top and you are rewarded with one of the most breathtaking views of the woodlands.
The treetop walk and view tower are both accessible by wheelchair and prams. You also have activity stations and other entertaining features along the walk to keep kids busy. This is certainly a walk that can be enjoyed by everyone.
The Bavarian Forest Museum – Glasmuseum Frauenau
The Glasmuseum Frauenau is a museum that is well worth the visit – even if you are not that interested in glass. Located in the middle of the old town of Passau, this museum has more than 13,000 exhibits, making it the largest collection of Bohemian glass in the world. Here you will find various styles such as Baroque and Modernism that date from 1700 to 1950.
Discover how glass is made and see the process in action in glassmaker huts. Experience glass stories and even get the chance to try your own hand at creating a glassy masterpiece.
You can also take a stroll in the The Glassy Gardens of Frauenau. This is where many pieces of glass from various artists come together to create a dazzling outdoor glass art collection. The walk kicks off with a glass tree that greets you upon entering the garden, cutting a dynamic silhouette against the Bavarian Forest skies, as do all the pieces here.
Go up the Arber Mountain
Arber Mountain has been dubbed, “King of the Bavarian Forest” for good reason. This immense mountain, standing at 1456 metres, is the highest mountain in the Bavarian Forest. There are cable cars and lifts available to bring you to its top, where you will find one of the Bavarian forests largest ski resorts.
The ski resort provides skiing fun for all ability levels. If you don’t want to ski you can also try your hand at snowboarding and tobogganing. Never tried these sports before? That’s fine too as there is a school nearby to help you learn or polish rusty skills.
While this is a mountain that mainly hosts winter sports, you can also take a cable car up there to take in the sights or go for an invigorating walk on the available trails.
Spend A Day At Arber Lake
A trip to the Bavarian Forest would not be complete without a visit to the popular Arber Lake. This dark mountain lake, in the midst of thick vegetation and towering cliffs, is incredibly atmospheric.
If you feel like a stroll, to take in the scenery, the trails surrounding the lake are very well maintained. One of the best things about having a path under a canopy of trees is that in the hotter months it provides excellent shade.
There are also paddle boats, if you feel like getting a little closer to the water. This is a relaxing and somewhat romantic way to experience the lake view. These are available for around €17 per hour.
If you happen to be in the Bavarian Forest in late July, then you’re in for a treat! The Pichelsteinerfest in Regen is a highly enjoyed folk festival in the Forest area. Some of the special attractions include gondola rides, water games, a parade (Sonntagbachmittag) and fireworks.
This happens to be one of the oldest and most traditional festivals in lower Bavaria, where visitors can sample the Pichelsteiner this fair is named after. This is a tasty stew that contains an assortment of meats and vegetables.
The Pichelsteinerfest in Regen normally starts on the Friday before the last weekend in July.
Bayerisch Eisenstein is a village that borders the national park. Although not well known for its shops, you can find a few bargains and interesting shops here. This is the area in the village that sells groceries, which includes freshly baked bread. There are also 2 large sports shops, one of which has a wide array of clothing. There are gift shops here for all your souvenir needs, which sell jewellery, glass and wine.
If your shopping needs are a little more extensive, and you want to find a supermarket, these can be found in neighbouring towns like Deggendorf.
When it comes to eating, this area is very cheap. Most main courses cost less than €15 and at times less than €10. Food ranges from traditional dishes that are mainly beef or pork based to fresh fish caught in the rivers and lakes in the area.
Sengzelten is another pleasurable treat that can be found in the Passau area. This is individual-sized flat bread that is baked in a wood-burning pizza oven. It can then be topped with sour cream and chives, cheese, onion, leeks, or smoked meat, creating an addictively tasty snack.
Where To Stay In the Bavarian Forest
There is a wide range of accommodation offered within the Bavarian Forest National Park region. You can choose from comfy guest houses, campsites, hostels, mountain huts or lavish four star hotels, each one designed to cater to your individual tastes and budget.
When choosing accommodation, it’s recommended that you find one associated with the “National Park Partners”. This essentially means that they are committed to conserving the natural beauty of the area and are certified to meet the high standards set by the park. Some of the National Park Partners include; Natur- und Erlebnisführungen “Wilde Karde”, Gaststätte “Schills Schenke, Rennstieg-Hotel Rettelbusch, Jugendherberge “Urwald-Life-Camp and Ferienwohnungen among others.
The Bavarian Forest may not be as well known as Germany’s Black Forest, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A trip to Germany’s oldest national park offers lots of pleasant surprises whether you go solo, as a couple or as a family. Filled with natural attractions, you can enjoy wholesome foods and explore historical routes, and really get involved in this wonderful forest region.