Chiemsee, the ‘Bavarian Sea’, is the focus of a region which is famous for its outdoor activities.
Its name may sound like a brand of chewing gum, but the Chiemgau region actually comprises the best of Bavaria – lakes, mountains and meadows – in their most laid-back form.
The region sits in the bottom right-hand corner of Germany, where it butts up against the Austrian Alps. Its most distinctive feature is Chiemsee, the Bavarian Sea, a giant lake which covers an area of 85 square kilometres, and is famous for its islands and its watersports. With the Alps as a backdrop, this could so easily be Italy.
If you don’t have access to your own boat on Chiemsee – and there’s plenty of rental opportunities around the lake – never fear, an elegant fleet of ferries criss-crosses the lake from Prien or Gstadt, and serve the two main islands, the Herreninsel and the Fraueninsel (literally men’s island, women’s island). The third island, Krautinsel (herb island) is the smallest and only used for grazing.
The Fraueninsel with its onion-domed tower is home to a convent (which explains the name) and a substantial community of around 300 islanders, all squeezed into a relatively small space. The much larger former monastery island of Herreninsel, by contrast, became very much the private domain of one man – King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built the fabulous palace of Herrenchiemsee here. This imitation of Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles – only bigger and better – was never finished, and this year it is hosting an exhibition about the eccentric monarch and his palace-building obsession. Ludwig spent just nine nights under its roof, doing his own imitation of the Sun King. He would sit in his Hall of Mirrors and read by the light of 78 candelabra primed with 1,848 candles. Then he’d bathe in a pool-sized marble tub that took eight hours to heat and fill.
Get your knees in the breeze
You might feel like doing the same after you’ve made the most of the other significant features of Chiemgau: the mountains. The likes of the Sonntagshorn and the twin peaks of Hochfelln and Hochgern may get no higher than 2,000 metres, but they rear up dramatically from the relative flatlands around Chiemsee, and are doubly impressive as a result. In winter there’s some skiing here, but in spring and summer they are transformed into a floral paradise, laced with hiking trails.
The mountain-cupped resort of Ruhpolding is at the centre of it all: mountain climbing, cable cars, cycle touring, mountain biking, etc etc, while its slightly-sleepier neighbour resort Inzell is particularly well known in ice-skating circles: the German team trains here, and world speed skating championships are held in the Inzell rink.
All of this activity is taking place within just 20km of the giant, placid lake. Effectively that means you can drift under sail in the morning, and be hanging by your fingernails from a precipice in the afternoon. Fun.
If you would like to know more or make a bookingClick through and go to Germany Holidays: Chiemgau’s lakes, mountains and meadows