For many, Bavaria embodies the archetypal Germany. Beneath snow-covered mountains, centuries-old villages cluster around onion-domed church towers. And it is not unusual to see local men wearing traditional lederhosen. King Ludwig II built the extravagant Neuschwanstein Castle in the Alpine foothills (reserve tickets in advance), as well as the opulent island palace of Herrenchiemsee and the more intimate Schloss Linderhof, where he actually lived. Active travelers can take advantage of ski runs, scenic hikes and even whitewater rafting, depending on the season.
En route from Munich to Schloss Elmau, I recommend pausing in Oberammergau, where many of the houses sport façades with elaborate lüftlmalerei (trompe l’oeil).
Germany’s highest mountain is the Zugspitze, and from the terraces at the top, Alpine views extend in all directions. The train to the summit departs from a special station behind Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s main railway terminus. Leave as early as possible, because afternoons tend to be cloudier (consult your concierge about the weather before departing). Consider lunch at the cozy Sonnalpin or the Panorama 2962 restaurant.