Day trip to Bavarian gems – Konigssee lake and Eagle’s nest

row boat and electric boat sailing on konigssee lake with boat reflection on bright green water

Eagles nest and Konigssee Lake – Aren’t they in Germany? So why am I calling it a day trip from Austria’s Salzburg? Because from Salzburg, Germany border is 7km away. And the most scenic nature of Germany -The bavarian region, is an hour away from Salzburg by bus.

The postcard pictures I saw on the internet made me wonder if a stunning place like Konigssee really exists. If it exists, what if I go through an awful experience similar to Hallstatt’s? While I whined, my brother, who had been there in 2008, mentioned a remarkable thing – The boatman playing the trumpet in the middle of the lake surrounded by mountains and its echoing.

So I decided to make a day trip from Salzburg to Konigssee and Adolf Hitler’s eagle nest. I would have regretted if had skipped Konigssee. Because surely it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. As a history buff, I wanted to learn how a cruel dictator enjoyed the Bavarian beauty at the Eagle’s nest.

This post perfectly shows you how/why to visit Konigssee and Eagle’s nest from Salzburg in a day.

HEADS UP: The current COVID-19 regulations in Germany.

Wearing an FFP2 mask is compulsory on all public transport in Germany. You won’t be allowed to board the buses without it. If the bus drivers are kind of, they will point at “Apotheke” to buy the masks and might wait for a minute or two. Otherwise, they leave you immediately and go.

What is special about Konigssee lake?

The word Konig means king, and See means lake in German. It’s the third deepest lake in Germany. The deepest part of the lake is 190 m – So what?

Konigssee lake surrounded by mountains and a church by the side with 3 red onion domes on a white wall

The Watzmann Mountain to the east of Konigssee reaches almost 9000 feet above the lake’s shimmering green ripples. In the morning, these mountains’ reflection in Konigssee’s clear bight emerald colour water feels otherworldly – This reminds many people of the Fjords of Norway, they say. But I remembered the planet where Matt Daemon meets Anne Hathway in Interstellar, where there are mountains overhead upside down! The view of the water is topped with another fantastic sight of a lake-side church – St. Bartholomew’s.

The iconic boat ride and the sound of a trumpet.

electric boat with passengers inside crusing on emerald green water of Konigssee lake

One of the most iconic parts of the boat ride is when the boat stops shortly, and the boatman plays his trumpet to hear the famous Konigssee echo bouncing back from the steep rocks of Mount Watzmann. That is surreal – When everything is quiet, the loud buzzing music of trumpet and the sound of water ripples is a perfect combo with a fantastic vista all around!

The “not-so” quiet and quiet boat journey.

View of saint Bartholomew's  church from afar

I expected a tranquil noiseless journey. Because only rowing, pedal and electric boats are permitted to be on the lake. You obviously want to be left alone to enjoy the scenery in peace. But the boatman narrates throughout – As someone who loves to learn from locals, I didn’t enjoy this part because I didn’t know German. But the German passengers had a good time – They were smiling and laughing!

Dockyard surrounded by bavarian style wooden houses by Konigssee lake

After disembarking, I asked the boatmen two things: Was it a trumpet or the bugle? He patiently explained the basic differences between a trumpet and a bugle. Then he asked, “You didn’t understand a single word I said on the boat. Did you?” Mom and I hesitatingly said no. He was kind enough to tell a little about the catholic church with three onion domes built in the 1600s and how Bavarian kings used the place as a hunting ground. He even mentioned boat timings and smilingly said, “You must learn German before you come to Germany,” and shook hands.

St Bartholomew’s Church.

rear view of Bartholomew's  church beside green lawn on a sunny day

Probably this is one of the unique churches in the whole world! It is stout, unlike any Gothic church. The exterior is minimally ornamented, unlike baroque churches. Its baroque shape, including a red dome roof and two different bulbous spires, makes for a nice dash of colour against the emerald lake water.

The olden-days hunting lodge is converted into restaurants that serve Bavarian dishes – It isn’t expensive but has a limited option for vegetarians. But the surrounding of the church makes you fall in love with the place every second! It is crazy how a boat full of crowds disperses everywhere, and you don’t feel rushed.

Can you walk around Konigssee?

There are dozens of hiking trails around the lake. The national park beside the lake is the quietest feast! Even in the hottest month of summer, the lake surrounding was chilly. My mother hated the bright sun everywhere else. But wanted to sunbathe near the lake. The forest area is shaded yet bright.

Don’t forget to check this fallen tree – The roots looked so unrealistic! Call me gross, but I took a bit of soil from the root and licked to know why the ground seemed so unique there!

The waterfalls and mountain lovers can easily get lost without the worry of the world at Konigssee.

Can you swim in lake Konigssee?

Konigssee is also the cleanest lake in Europe. Swimming is allowed. So I carried my bathing suit too! The two reasons why I didn’t swim were – The water was too cold. Secondly, a few others like me could bear the water’s coldness but didn’t want to pollute the cleanest lake in Europe. Honestly, the water here feels holy!

How do I get to lake Konigssee?

Joining a tour is a fantastic idea. It’s more expensive than independent travel, but you will spend less time travelling. And some tours may rush you. Renting a car is good if you are fine with spending more money to get to Konigssee from Salzburg. Otherwise, buses are the best option.

How do you get from Salzburg to Lake Konigssee?

Take bus 840 from Salzburg to Berchstgarden. Surprisingly, Germany’s Bayern 9 Euro tickets also work for Salzburg buses. So buy that.

  • Get off at the Berchsgarden bus stop after 1.5hr. DB (Deutsche Bahn) 841 or 842 leaves for Schönau am Königssee around once per hour.
  • After 20 minutes, you arrive at Schonau am Konigssee. A 10-minute easy walk through the town of tacky souvenir shops takes you to lake Konigssee.
  • Once at the ticket, you must take a boat to reach St church or Obresse.
  • You can buy either two way or one-way ticket depending on your convenience. The boarding time is fixed as per your ticket. But return depends on when you want to leave.

PS: The bus schedule does not match so well with the boat schedule (i.e. need to wait over 40mins for the bus and then over 40mins for the boat.

How do you explore Konigssee?

From Konigsee, the boat leaves at specific times and has three particular stops-

  • Kessel – It’s not a regular stop. Only hikers use it.
  • St Bartholomew’s Church – I went to an old church whose reflection in water looks like a painting. The surrounding is mountainous, and you can spend a whole day here.
  • Salet: The last stop from where you can hike to you can walk to Obersee Lake.

I met a couple who were hiking around Konigssee. They said they were going to a nearby waterfall with an infinity plunge pool! So, if you want to spend time at St Bartholomew’s Church leisurely, hike around to waterfalls and walk to Obersee lake, you will need one whole day at Konigssee. This means you can visit Eagle’s the next day.

Which means you can visit Eagle’s the next day. The town Is Berchtesgaden has a lot of things a tourist can do and experience. However, if you make a day trip, you must stick to Konigsee’s St Bartholomew’s Church by boat. Along with Eagles’ nest by bus.

Eagles Nest and Konigsse in one day?

This is what we did. I neither say it’s the rightest thing to do nor wrong! Let me tell you what is what so you can decide it yourself. If you plan to make a day trip to see Konigsse and Eagle’s nest from Salzburg by public transport, you must be careful about a few things.

  • You need to get to Berchtesgaden on bus 840. The easiest place to get in is at Mirabelplatz.
  • Leave Salzburg at the earliest. Because from Berchsgarden you need to change the bus to get to Konigssee or Eagle’snest are different. Plus, they don’t match or get connected with the Salzburg bus. So you must wait at least 30 minutes to catch either of the buses.

Beware of the last bus!

If you don’t have the Deutschbahn (Germany) bus and the Salzburg timetable, you get into trouble for missing the last bus. Many who want to make the Eagles nest and Konigssee tour from Salzburg on the same day skip either. Or forget the last bus! The bus frequency is lesser on weekends. Regular bus timetable varies with seasons also.

My brother missed the last bus from Berchstgarden to Salzburg. So he couldn’t visit Egle’s nest. He ended up staying in a hostel at Berchstgarden as the trains to Salzburg were also unavailable. I met an Indian couple in Salzburg who started their day trip later in the day and could visit only Eagle’s nest- Because they had to catch the last bus to Salzburg. Online forums show hundreds of stories where travellers tell their story of missing the last bus or one of the places.

I did the aftermath

We saw the earliest bus from Salzburg at 6.35. and last but one bus from Berchstgarden to Salzburg at 4.15 PM. We spent 2 hours at St Bartholomew’s Church and 2 hours at Eagle’s nest. Salzburg to Berchstgarden journey is around 1 hour 30 minutes.

So on that day, out of 10 hours, 3 spent 3 hours on a bus journey, 4 hours at beautiful places and the rest 3 hours either waiting for the bus!

Which gave me a lot of time to taste Germany’s iconic Pretzel at many places

Is there a preference for doing Konigsse first or Eagles nest?

There is! Fortunately, I planned to visit Konigsse first and went to Eagle’s nest during lunchtime. This is the best thing to do. Because the lighting changes late in the day at Konigsse. Much of the mountains are in shadow, which doesn’t create that magical reflection on the water. The water that looked bright emerald turned almost blackish green in an hour. Plus, it gets crowded.

Is Berchtesgaden worth visiting?

Berchtgarden is German’s Alps paradise. Bavaria is considered German’s Mecca for a nature break. Jenner Mountain has a cable car reaching the mountaintop from Berchtesgaden. I even saw a signboard saying summer slide, like the one I went to in Saint Gilgen. You can stay for three days and two nights to have the best of Berchtesgaden.

Personal bad experience at Berchtesgaden because of racism.

I may have spent just a few minutes in Berchtesgaden. But mom and I faced a lot of racism and hatred from the locals in those few minutes! No doubt, Berchgarden has a lot to offer the tourist. But I had a humiliating time there – Read here to know why!

Is Eagles Nest worth visiting?

Panoramic and epic scenery comes with the world’s most hated history here at Eagle’s nest. This is a place to immerse yourself in the vistas and landscape that used to be “the” place for Nazis. Being here is weird – You will be admiring the Bavarian alps for a while. And then you remember how Adolf Hitler brought dark times to the world here.

What looks like a romantic setup surrounded by mountains and flowers was once where insane Nazis formed plans for war and mass murder. A golden brass elevator is buried in the heart of the mountain to take you to the hilltop. Imagine cutting the hill to build something solely to impress people – The world would have said no now. But during Hitler’s time, everything was fair in love and war.

History of Eagle’s nest

Hitler became German chancellor in 1930. He sought the perfect spot to establish an official mountain retreat for the Nazi party. He chose a dramatically scenic mountainside area a few miles uphill from the market town of Berchtesgaden. Initially, there was just a chalet – a wooden house with overhanging eaves. The media publicised the place in 1936. The mountains surrounding the farmhouse were a setting where alpine flowers bloom. Then it became part of the member’s official vacation spot.

In 1939, Hitler’s inner circle friends built a stone lodge and gifted him on his 50th birthday – evoking fascist obedience! Once his era was over, the British army entirely bombed the place, and this building escaped it.

What is at the Eagle’s Nest now?

Now with not even one single sign of Nazism, the place lies in the hands of Berchtesgaden Municipality. Tourists like us go hiking around admiring the Bavarian beauty full of lakes and mountains. Berchtesgaden has outlasted its political importance and is an awesome place for visitors to walk and have lunch with a view.

The local government body erased everything that was remotely related to Nazism. The museum inside shows photographs of Hitler’s visit and how his friends had a lavish time there. Plus, the restoration photos show how the government didn’t leave even a single “Swastika” on any of the walls. It always surprises Hindus like us – Hindus consider Swastik, the cross with each leg bent at a 90-degree angle, as auspicious and part of Hindu tradition. But with Adolf Hitler, the black Swastika became a symbol associated with World War II, military brutality, fascism, and genocide.

The Eagle’s Nest is open from the middle of May until the end of October, depending on the weather.

How do I get to Hitler’s Eagles Nest in Salzburg?

  • Similar to Konigssee, take the 840 bus from Salzburg to Berchstgarden and buy Germany’s 9 Euro ticket. It is cheaper than buying a day pass.
  • You take bus 838 from Berchstgarden to the Dokumentation Obersalzberg stop. Get off there and follow the crowd to buy your ticket. Only a few signboards show you where to buy the ticket.

How To Visit Eagles Nest Without A Tour?

It is easy to visit Eagle’s nest without a tour. First, reach Obersalzberg by car/bus from Berchtesgaden. Only the (RVO) Eagle’s Nest buses can continue to the Eagle’s Nest.

So even if you come by car, you must take RVO buses t get to the top from Documentation Center on Obersalzberg, AKA Kehlstein Busabfahrt. The buses depart daily every 25 min. Beginning at 8:30 and ending at 16:00. The fees you pay here are only for the bus. There are no entrance fees for Eagle’s nest.

Buy the ticket and wait for your turn. It is usually around 40 minutes. Waiting for the bus in summer was hard. So you see many people lying on the grass under the tree there.

Can I pre-book the ticket to Eagle’s Nest?

Yes, you can. I don’t recommend it if you visit Eagle’s nest and Konigssee lake on a day trip. Because once you book the ticket, you must stick to the timing. Suppose you have booked a 9.20 ticket; you can neither depart at 8.55 bus nor 9.45. You never know how much time you will spend there!

The officials check your tickets while boarding.

  • Four buses numbered 1 to 4 depart to the hilltop at a time. Your ticket will have that specific number. So board the bus as mentioned in your ticket to the same number bus.
  • Whatever seemed like a tough task until now eases down once you start the journey from Obersalzberg to the Eagle’s nest. The grey stone mountains in summer dotted with green lakes and trees bring peace!
  • Once you get off at the hilltop after travelling on the winding road trying to identify lakes, you will be rewarded with a nicer view at Kehlsteinparkplatz- Wait, it isn’t the Eagle’s nest yet.
  • A long tunnel that is as chilly as an ice cave welcomes you! Trust me, we both were shivering inside the stone tunnel after walking inside for five minutes.
  • The tunnel leads you to a brass-cladded elevator – The long tunnel and gold-themed elevator! The Nazis knew how to prove their power symbolically to the visitors.
  • The lift takes you up 124m! Usually, around 20 people are let into the left at once. So the waiting period is hardly 10 minutes.

Can you hike to the Eagle’s Nest?

  • If you don’t want to take the elevator, you can also walk up the footpath further down the road, where you will see a small marked path on the left. I saw cyclists and hikers there, sweating like crazy going up. The track looked carpeted by small purple-coloured flowers at intervals.
  • The lift opens to a closed area – You are now at the place where Adolf Hitler and his friends sat to plot bloodshed! Unless you think of it that way, you will never realise such a stone chalet was once the symbol of brutality. Walk around or follow the crowd.
  • The main viewpoint is a 10-minute uphill walk to where a cross is mounted. The most famous view of the Eagle’s nest with stone buildings and mountains is here!
  • The place may be a little crowded. But the crowd always moves – either to hike further up. Or to have food at the restaurant in the stone building. Plus, the place is vast. So you find yourself sitting next to pretty flower plants and spotting different mountain peaks and emerald lakes.

How long does it take to tour the Eagle’s Nest?

The ticket you bought at Obersalzberg allows you to stay at the top for 3 hours. If you want to extend your stay, there are machines at the hilltop where you must change your departure time. Unless you want to go further hiking, 2 hours is plenty of time. We climbed up to the cross. Also ate leisurely delicious dumplings with Hofbrau beer and went through the old photo gallery during that time.

Would you combine Konigssee lake and the Eagle’s nest in a day or explore them separately? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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