The biggest state within Germany – and where you’ll find some of the best riding
Southern Germany is a delight – and the huge and varied state of Bavaria is the jewel in its crown. From fairytale castles and half-timbered towns to lush forests climbing steep mountain sides, this is everything that’s attractive about the rest of the country dialled up to 11.
So many of the things we Brits think of as 'German' – such as oompah bands in lederhosen and beer-toting waitresses in dirndl dresses – are more 'Bavarian' in origin. It’s as bustling and modern as the rest of the country, but there’s something about the traditional touches in tourist spots that makes touring here feel intensely German.
From a riding point of view, it’s a fantastic place to visit. As it’s so large, there’s all kinds of riding – but the further south and east you head, the more mountainous it becomes and the roads get twistier as the views get bigger. And in summer, the temperatures soar.
Where to stay
For many Brits, Berchtesgaden is forever associated with Hitler, whose 'Eagle’s Nest' was built on the Kehlstein south of the town. In fact, it’s a lovely, traditional Tyrolean town and as the end of the DAS, it’s also a great place to aim for. Hotel tip: Gästehaus Achental
An extremely popular tourist destination – the nearest town to the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. So it has great facilities, amazing attractions off the bike… and brilliant roads. A near-perfect destination. Hotel tip: Ruchti’s
A bigger base in Northern Bavaria, the small city of Würzburg is packed with things to see off the bike (the Residence and the Marienberg should not be missed). Easy to reach from UK crossing points and surrounded by great riding. Hotel tip: Ghotel
What to see
The Deutsche Alpenstraße runs from Lindau on Lake Konstanz to Berchtesgaden on the Austrian border (and hops across it a few times along the way). A great ride, whether you are using all or part of it. It's also an ideal introduction to mountain riding if you’ve never ridden in them before.
This ski town, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, near the Austrian border has become a bit of a motorcycling mecca. Really handy if you want to extend your tour into Austria or even into the northern reaches of Italy or Switzerland. Visit the Linderhof Palace or take a cable car up Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain.
There are loads of scenic lakes in Bavaria – generally with pleasant lakeside towns or at least the occasional considerately placed café for the thirsty touring rider. Picks of the bunch for us would be quiet Plansee, mountainringed Walchsee or chic Tegernsee.
Take time off the bike to explore lovely Lindau, jutting out into the still waters of Lake Konstanz (go up the lighthouse for the best views). The historic core of the town is a gem – and it’s the perfect place to prepare for a ride along the DAS.
The town of Nordlingen was built inside a huge meteor crater – the Ries – and while the lovely old-town is worth exploring, the Riescrater museum explaining about the meteor is unmissable.
This huge city has loads to offer (especially when the Oktoberfest is in full swing – just don’t plan to get on the bike next day). But whenever you go, a visit to the Hofbräuhaus is practically compulsory. Lots to see and do in Münich, especially if you’re interested in automotive history.
Forget about the Nazi rallies and the post-War trials, there’s so much more to Nüremberg than that dark chapter of its past. The castle, the cathedral, the museums, the gardens, the old town with its huge market… See for yourself why this is one of European tourism’s best-kept secrets.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
One of the must-see towns on the Romantic Road, Rothenburg has one of the best-preserved Medieval old-towns in Germany. If there’s one to walk around, it’s this one – just don’t eat too many of the local donuts…
The big draw in the German schloss stakes is Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein, built by 'Mad' King Ludwig. It’s the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle but Ludwig’s childhood home, Hohenschwangau, is right next door and is equally impressive. Allow a half day for each one – and accept that there will be lots of tourists.
A must for music-lovers: Bayreuth in the north of Bavaria was Wagner’s home so there’s a good museum and his operas are still performed regularly there – especially during the annual music festival. The Eremitage castle is also great.
B308 Deutsche Alpen Strasse - An epic road – with something for everyone. Our favourite stretch? Sonthofen to Oberjoch
31 Berchtesgarden Spectacle
Two short but satisfying loops, linked by a great bridging road. It’s a short enough day to allow time to visit the Kehlsteinhaus (site of Hitler’s old summer house: www.kehlsteinhaus.de)
Distance: 115 miles
Riding time: 3.5 hours
32 Neuschwanstein & Plansee
Another deliberately short route to allow time for a bit of sightseeing: get round the Neuschwanstein in the morning, then have a glorious afternoon on the quiet roads out to beautiful Plansee.
Distance: 120 miles
Riding time: 3.5 hours
33 Würzburg Wanderer
The north of Bavaria has stunning roads and loads to see. Take the Romantic road from Würzburg to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, then romp through the stunning countryside to return to base: a full day in the saddle.
Distance: 235 miles
Riding time: 6.5 hours
On Bavaria’s eastern border, next to the Czech Republic, the vast forest of Bayerisherwald (uh, Bavarian Forest in English) is packed with amazing roads – and there’s hardly anybody on them.
Start/finish: Furthim Wald
Distance: 175 miles
Riding time: 4.5 hours
Like a shot of schnapps, this short route through the heartland of Bavaria packs a real punch. Easily adapted to include a sightseeing side trip to Nüremburg (or to run from the city if you want use that as a base instead).
Distance: 125 miles
Riding time: 3.5 hours