For many, the Bavarian Alps represents the picturebook Germany of yore – mountain villages, glittering lakes and spectacular castles. While hikers and skiers are in their element, there’s as much to be said for idling in a biergarten with lederhosen-clad locals.

The Berchtesgadener Land is perhaps the most beautiful corner of Germany – famed for its jagged mountains, fir-lined valleys, onion-domed churches and the Königssee lake. Take the bus from Berchtesgaden to the Kehlsteinhaus, for some of the best views on your way to the site of Hitler’s infamous Eagle’s Nest residence.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria ordered the construction of Schloss Neuschwanstein in the late 19th century in homage to composer Richard Wagner. The spirit of operatic excess also extends to the lavish interiors (£10).

The ski resort of Garmisch- Partenkirchen is also the gateway to many of the best walking trails. Wander the Alpspitze slopes or stroll the narrow Partnachklamm gorge. The local tourist office has information on routes.

The mountain-fringed Chiemsee is the biggest of the many lakes across the region. In summer, people flock here to swim from the beaches. Don’t miss another of Ludwig’s flamboyant palaces on Herrenchiemsee island (fares from £4).

In 1634, the folk of Oberammergau swore they would stage a passion play every 10 years if they were spared from the bubonic plague. They were saved, and while the next performance isn’t due until 2020, a theatre and museum trace the history of this tradition (£5).

Eat and drink
A 300-year-old Bavarian pub, Braüstüberl in Garmisch- Partenkirchen certainly looks the part, with a painted façade, waitresses wearing dirndls (traditional Alpine dresses) and an enormous enamel coal-burning stove. Choose from a formidable selection of beers (Fürstenstrasse 23; pints of beer from £2.50).

Isi’s Goldener Engel is an abiding favourite with the residents – the hunting lodge décor mixes and matches frescoes, stag heads and a gilded stucco ceiling. The operation focuses on such hearty local fare as roast pork, dumplings, schnitzel and spätzle (Bankgasse 5; mains from £8).

Gasthaus zum Hirschberg in Kreuth gives home cooking the gourmet treatment – antlers bear down on diners feasting on local venison, trout and veal (Nördliche Hauptstrasse 89; mains from £9). Mühlberger Restaurant is the shooting star of Chiemsee, with traditional dishes deftly blended with international influences (Bernauerstrasse 40; mains from £15).

Auberge Moar Alm is an emphatically Francophile restaurant outside the town of Bad Tölz. The repertoire swings between Med brio and heart-warming dishes from northern France, including foie gras, duck confit and crème brûlée (Holzkirchner Strasse 14; mains from £20).

Owned by the same family for 100 years, Hotel Bavaria in Berchtesgaden offers traditionally decorated rooms, some fitted with beamed ceilings and sturdy four-poster beds. It’s worth paying a bit more for a balcony that looks out to the mountains (Sunklergässchen 11; from £50).

Murnau’s Am Eichholz Galerie & Art-Hotel takes its cue from the artists who made this small town famous – notably Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter – with splashes of colour and original artwork throughout. There’s also an expansive garden that accommodates sculptures and installations (Am Eichholz 21; from £90).

Inselhotel zur Linde is a 600-year-old hotel on the island of Fraueninsel in the Chiemsee. Its comfortable rooms have views of the lake, while its great restaurant serves fresh fish. Also, bear in mind that you’ll need to catch the ferry from Gstadt to get there (Fraueninsel im Chiemsee; from £100).

Reindl’s Partenkirchner Hof is an institution in Garmisch Partenkirchen, with flowerboxes adorning the balconies and an acclaimed restaurant that’s popular with après skiers. Well-appointed rooms are a study in folk-themed elegance and some enjoy gobsmacking mountain views (Bahnhofstrasse 15; from £105).

Feng shui meets Bavarian rusticity at Romantik Hotel Landhaus Wilhelmy, an eco-friendly hotel on the shores of the Tegernsee. The green ethos extends from organic meals to green cleaning products (Freihausstrasse 15; from £120).

When to go
Garmisch-Partenkirchen hosts its Richard Strauss festival in June, while the town of Bad Tölz hosts the Leonhardifahrt horseback procession in November.

Getting around
The area is best explored by car, with car hire available at Munich airport (from £60 per day). Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Berchtesgaden and Bad Tölz all have train stations – the Bayern Ticket allows unlimited travel in Bavaria (£20).

How to go
The Bavarian Alps are best accessed from Munich – Lufthansa operates flights from Heathrow to Munich airport (from £160) while easyJet flies from Edinburgh (from £80). From Munich Hauptbahnhof, trains run south to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 90 minutes (from £15).

The article 'Mini guide to the Bavarian Alps, Germany' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.