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TOURISM

REVEALED: 10 of the best hiking day trips from Munich

With Germany slowly coming back to life again, former reporter at The Local Shelley Pascual has been reflecting on the most memorable hikes she went on during those long, lockdown months.

REVEALED: 10 of the best hiking day trips from Munich
The long and difficult hike to Germany’s highest Alpine lake, Schrecksee, was worth it, says Shelley Pascual. Shelley captured this photo of Schrecksee and all the other photos in this article.

It is not an understatement to say that hiking helped me maintain a certain level of sanity when the pandemic hit Germany early last year up until the recent easing of rules. Since January 2020, I’ve gone on nearly 30 hikes most of them in Bavaria as I’m based in Munich.

An avid hiker even before the pandemic, my appreciation for hiking elevated to a new level during a time that I was cooped up in my flat working from my dining table each day. Being in nature on the weekends became a form of meditation.

Like many others, I found the international travel restrictions difficult to deal with. But looking back, it meant I was able to see local sights and explore areas of the Alps in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. 

Though very tricky to narrow it down, here are 10 of the hikes I embarked on during weekend day trips which I would recommend (in no particular order). They range from easy to fairly difficult, and none of them require special gear beyond a sturdy pair of hiking boots.

Note that if you plan on travelling by public transport, some of the hiking spots I recommend may be too far for a day trip from Munich. But now that hotels and B&Bs are open again, it could be an option to stay overnight at your destination.

READ ALSO: How to travel the world without leaving Germany

Schliersee

The first time I hiked all the way around Schliersee, a lake in the Bavarian district of Miesbach, was in January 2020. My partner and I had just planned to take a wee stroll as it was already getting dark when we set off, but we ended up continuing on the trail.

As the trail was relatively easy and flat, it took about two hours to hike all the way around it. It was my first time ever going on a hike after sundown, and I don’t regret it, as I discovered Schliersee really is magical at night.

Today, Schliersee remains one of my favorite lakes in Bavaria, probably because it left such an impression on me at a time when I was still rather new to Munich. I even completed a 10K run around Schliersee in September last year.

Wendelstein 

My most memorable hike over the past year and a half is hands down the hike I did on Wendelstein in the Bayrischzell region of Bavaria. I remember seeing only a handful of other hikers on the trail, as it was in March 2020 when the pandemic had just begun to affect life in Germany.

There was something strange, satisfying, and also humbling, about reaching a lookout point with such magnificent, sweeping views (Wendelsteinhaus at 1724m) and being able to enjoy it with less than a handful of other people at the top.

It was a difficult hike, however. From our starting point, a parking lot where you can now alternatively take the cable car up to Wendelsteinhaus, the hike took five hours round-trip – half of which was snowy, uphill slog. 

It’s the hard hikes like these that I’m especially grateful for, as they allowed me to focus on nothing else but taking one step up at a time – literally. These moments really helped get my mind off the pandemic at a time when a lot was still uncertain about the virus.

Murnauer Moos

The Moos-Rundweg is an easy yet fun 12km hike along a track which takes you all around Murnauer Moos, one of the largest nature reserves in Central Europe that’s located just south of the city of Murnau am Staffelsee.

The track takes roughly three hours to complete and though fairly flat, it offers incredible,  unique views from the moor area’s swamps to the mountain ranges in the distance which belong to the region of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

When I hiked the Moos-Rundweg in late winter last year, it was a cloudy, grey day and the nearby mountains were still topped with a bit of snow this felt somehow appropriate for the general mood at the time.

Schrecksee

The longest (and arguably the hardest) hike in this list is the out-and-back 19km hike to Schrecksee (1813m), which I completed against all odds in November 2020.

First things first: Schrecksee is not a directly accessible lake. Nestled within the Allgäu High Alps at the border with Austria, the trail to Germany’s highest Alpine lake starts at Parkplatz ‘Auf der Höh’ in Hinterstein. From there it’s a three hour uphill hike and that’s just one-way.

If you plan on driving, it is highly recommended to arrive early, as the ‘Auf der Höh’ parking lot was full when we arrived at around 11am. This meant we had to park further up the street which added another 30min to the hike. As there were licence plates from all over Germany in the parking lots, I wondered where all the visitors were staying as hotels were closed nationwide at the time.

While I was sceptical prior to the hike, now that I’ve experienced it for myself it I can admit Schrecksee does live up to the hype (i.e. the exhaustion was worth it). I’ve already decided I need to do this hike again in the summer so I can actually swim in the lake and hang out at the island in the middle of it!

Eibsee 

Eibsee is included on this list because let’s face it: the lake’s shimmering, turquoise waters against the towering backdrop of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, is truly a sight to behold. Having been to Zugspitze before and seen Eibsee from high up, it was pretty cool to finally get up close and personal with it.

The Eibsee-Rundweg is popular among tourists, however, so if being around lots of people gives you anxiety right now (perfectly understandable as we’re still in a pandemic), this is not the hike for you. 

There were a decent amount of day-trippers when I hiked around Eibsee in winter last year. Without any breaks, it’s an easy 1.5hour circular path where you’ll pass through a forest and spot several pretty little islands in the lake.

Heiglkopf

Heiglkopf is the ideal destination for Münchner late-risers, as it’s less than an hour’s drive from the Bavarian capital. So even if you sleep in on a Saturday, you’d still be able to manage this hike and get rewarded with a stellar view. 

READ ALSO: Why Munich is the only city I’ve ever really felt at home

I did this hike sometime in November 2020, the day after I’d done a really intense and long hike, so I was thankful it didn’t demand too much of me. At the peak, a group of friends were merrily celebrating their achievement and goofing off; this made me smile and I felt compelled to take a photo of them.

It sounds cheesy but at a time when restrictions on daily life were being enforced yet again, moments like these stand out in my memory. I also saw snow for the first time during the hike, which made me giddy as it was the first snow I’d seen that season.

Sylvensteinsee (Faller Rundweg)

At a time when international travel was restricted and I couldn’t fly back to my home city of Toronto – not even for a short visit this hike was a lifesaver. From the pine trees to the lake views, it reminded me so much of Canada, which is very likely why it remains vivid in my mind.

Along a 9km circular track which loops around Rosskopf, this three hour moderate hike offers superb views of Sylvensteinsee (which by the way is worth seeing each season of the year, from when it’s frozen over in winter to when the swimmers are out in summer). 

Malerwinkel am Königsee

Here comes yet another popular hike which I can’t promise won’t be teeming with tourists when you’re there, but I recommend it nevertheless. Looking back, I’m grateful I had the chance to experience it on a day when it was empty.

To get to Malerwinkel at Lake Königsee in Berchtesgaden National Park, it’s only a short 20min walk from the Königsee car park. From the aptly-named Malerwinkel, you’ll get a magnificent view of the lake. 

Tip #1: There are few benches at this lookout point, so if you want to sit down and chill somewhere, keep walking for a few more minutes down toward the edge of the lake. When you’re ready to head back, you can continue along the trail which goes through a forested area before winding back to the car park. 

Tip #2: Hintersee is another beautiful lake worth checking out if you’re already at Königsee, as it’s only a 20min drive away. If you’re able to and up for it, I’d suggest doing a hike around Hintersee as well! It’s worth it if anything for the view of Watzmann.

Reit im Winkl (Klausenbergalm)

If you’ve never heard of Reit im Winkl, maybe it’s a good time to get to know it. The quaint Bavarian village is known for its ski resorts and heavy snowfall in winter, though it also caters to mountain bikers and hikers with numerous trails to choose from.

On one of the weekends in April this year, I did a simple search for the best hikes in the Chiemsee Alps, and ended up stumbling upon this one through Klausenbergalm. I’m glad I did, because this hike is probably the most underrated one on this list.

Imagine being able to take in the beauty of a gorge and alpine pastures in peace and quiet and being one with nature. That’s what I was lucky enough to experience during this three hour hike, as we had the trail and its sights practically to ourselves.

Herzogstand

Last but not least on this list is Herzogstand (1731m), which is a well-known mountain in the vicinity of Munich at just over an hour’s drive south of the Bavarian capital.

I made my way up to Herzogstand in April 2021, having had all four wisdom teeth taken out a few weeks prior. Though I was still recovering from the operation, I was dying to get a hike in as the lockdown restrictions had started to really take a toll on me.

Starting from a parking lot up a hill in the village of Urfeld, I slowly embarked on a hike where each step was more of a mental challenge than a physical one, as my gums were still so sensitive. I focused on getting to the peak, no matter how long it took me.

In the end it was worth it, as it always is. I was rewarded with views of not one but two lakes: Walchensee to the south against a backdrop of rugged peaks including Karwendel, and views of Kochelsee among the lowlands to the north.

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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