... and caves offer exciting experiences and insights into the earth’s history with stalactites, steep rocks, waterfalls and cascades. Many of these geotopes are easily accessible in Bavaria. 12 tips
Where the 'torrent' rushes: Partnachklamm gorge
The impressive Wildbachschlucht gorge in the south of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is about 700 metres long, up to 80 metres deep, more than 10,000 years old – and up to 100 decibels loud (equivalent to the volume of a disco speaker at a distance of one metre)! The gorge was opened up as early as 1912 and declared a natural monument.
Its rapids, waterfalls and gullies thrill visitors, while bizarre ice formations fascinate in winter. Nine tunnels and 26 lights make the way through the gorge easier. The Partnach rises as an outflow of the Schneeferner.
The glacier is still above the Reintal, a high valley below the Zugspitze mountain. The Partnachklamm gorge is well suited for a short excursion; inns at both ends invite you to stop for a bite to eat. The gorge hike also marks the start of other hikes, including to the Reintal valley and the Zugspitze.
Diabolical pleasure: Höllentalklamm gorge
The Hammersbach flows through the Höllental valley in the Zugspitz massif. Above Grainau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it has carved a gorge up to 150 metres deep into the rock. It was developed in 1905. You reach the gorge after an approximately one-hour ascent. At its entrance stands the Höllentale Entrance Hut, equipped with a cosy guest room and a small museum.
The approximately 700-metre-long path through the gorge leads from here through a bizarre rocky landscape. It goes through tunnels, over footbridges and bridges, past boulders and ice, past whirlpools, waterfalls and gullies.
Beyond the gorge you reach the newly built, modern Höllentalanger hut. From there are further touring options, the most famous being the ascent to the Zugspitze. The Höllentalklamm gorge is only open from May to October.
Wild, deep water: Weißbachschlucht gorge
In the Berchtesgadener Land, the Weißbach meanders below the German Alpine Road, between the towns of Weißbach and Schneizlreuth, through a mighty gorge: the Weißbachschlucht. The entrance is at the Mauthäusl.
The rock walls of the almost 1,600-metre-high Ristfeuchthorn, which tower in the west, make the gorge appear impressively deep. The wild water gushes white over cascades or collects in pools. One follows its course on an ascending and descending path, alternating on both banks. A seven-metre-high waterfall marks the end of the gorge.
In Schneizlreuth you can leave the trail – or experience the gorge from a different perspective in the opposite direction. You then have to climb 120 metres to the Mauthäusl. Distance: about five kilometres.
Underground beauty: König-Otto-Tropfsteinhöhle cave
The Karst cave in the district of Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz is considered one of the most beautiful dripstone caves in Germany. It was discovered in 1895, on the name day of Otto, King of Bavaria (1848 to 1916).
Another part of the cave, the so-called Advent Hall, was discovered in 1972. Besides impressive stalactites (hanging from the ceiling) and stalagmites (rising from the floor), the so-called stalagnates – stalactites that have grown together with stalagmites – and different water level lines as well as sinter pools filled with water are particularly impressive.
The cave is 450 metres long. About half of them can be visited with a guided tour (also suitable for wheelchair users). The tour lasts about 45 minutes. Afterwards, you can fortify yourself in the beer garden of the nearby restaurant.
erlebniswelt-velburg.de (only in German)
Hideaway for Bats: Großes Schulerloch
The Karst cave near Essing in the Altmühltal Nature Park is about 1.5 million years old. It is located in the middle of a coral reef of the Jurassic period. In the Stone Age, it served as a dwelling for Neanderthals. Particularly worth seeing is the “water pot”, a free-standing goblet stalagmite into which calcareous water drips and which steadily grows higher.
Fascinating, too, a stalactite and stalagmite that are almost touching but will not grow together for another 50 years. You can see other stalactites such as ground stalactites, which are reminiscent of towers and battlements of a castle. Sinter deposits on the ceiling and walls are also formed as “Montmilch”, a milky-white layer. It gives the Schulerloch a special character.
Tip: Twice a month, meditations are offered in the absolute silence of the cave. In winter, the cave is reserved for endangered bat species.
schulerloch.de (only in German)
Rocks and ferns: Buchberger Leite
The torrent gorge between Freyung and Ringelai in the Bavarian Forest has been awarded the title “Bavaria’s most beautiful geotopes”. In the Leite, the Reschbach and Saußbach meet and together form the Wolfsteiner Ohe. Wild boulders, plus the green of the trees, mosses and ferns create a wildly romantic atmosphere.
You can hike through the gorge on an eight-kilometre path (with a suspension bridge!) that is also exciting for children. Panels inform about the geography and history of the region. The geotope is part of the “Bavarian Pile”, a fault zone in the earth’s crust that cuts straight through the Bavarian Forest.
At it, 275 million years ago, the Anterior compared to the Inner Bavarian Forest was lifted by hundreds of metres. Along the fault line, a new rock formed: pile shale. You can find it here in different forms.
freyung.de (only in German)
Imposing and healthy: Teufelshöhle cave near Pottenstein
The Karst cave in the Bayreuth district is the largest of the approximately one thousand caves in Franconian Switzerland. It consists of several corridors and large halls and is well developed. Their impressive stalactites make them so attractive.
The largest of these, such as the “Tree” or the “Giant Goliath”, are estimated to be at least 300,000 years old. The highlight is the Barbarossa Dome, a hall with fantastic stalactite formations such as the cave’s most beautiful: “Emperor Barbarossa”, a filigree pagoda-shaped structure.
A guided tour of the cave on easily accessible paths lasts 45 minutes. It will be accompanied by music and a light show. Concerts are held in the entrance cave in summer. In a side gallery there is a therapy centre, the cold and humid cave air has a healing effect on respiratory diseases and allergies.
pottenstein.de (only in German)
Gallery of Beauties: Binghöhle cave near Streitberg
The Bing cave follows the course of a former river and reaches 60 metres below the earth’s surface. It bears the name of the discoverer Ignaz Bing and is located near Streitberg in the district of Forchheim. The first guided tours were conducted in 1906.
On the way through the river cave, which is also called a stalactite gallery cave, you can admire a wide variety of formations: translucent sinter plumes, sinter pools filled with water, slender white candle stalagmites, stalactites growing in all directions, so-called eccentriques, and much more. One of the most beautiful stalactites is the giant column, a 2.5-metre-high stalagmite that looks like the trunk of a palm tree. A guided tour lasts about half an hour.
Around Streitberg, a geological adventure trail that is also exciting for children invites you to make discoveries. The ruins of Neideck Castle rise above the village of Streitberg and are a landmark of Franconian Switzerland.
Fantastic diversity: Sophienhöhle cave near Rabenstein
The Sophienhöhle cave, located near Rabenstein Castle in the Ahorntal valley southwest of Bayreuth, was mentioned in documents as early as 1490. An attempt to extract saltpetre in the antechamber of the cave is reported. Finds of prehistoric pottery prove that this area was also used by people in prehistoric times.
In 1833, the actual cave was discovered. It shows fantastic stalactites in many sizes, shapes and in the colours ochre, brown and red. These include the three-metre-high, free-hanging sinter flag “Elephant's Ear”, the “Oriental City”, consisting of many candle stalagmites, or the stalagmite “Millionaire”, 2.5 metres high and two metres in diameter at the base.
The Sophienhöhle cave is a habitat for thirty-five different species of spiders and insects. You can discover the cave as part of a guided tour or individually “at night”, accompanied by music and a colourful light show.
With draught: Breitachklamm gorge
The Breitach is a mountain river about 20 kilometres long. It rises in Kleinwalsertal and joins Stillach and Trettach near Oberstdorf to form the Iller. When the glaciers began to melt at the end of the last ice age, a good 10,000 years ago, the Breitach river bored its way through the rock near today’s Oberstdorf. An impressive gorge was created, 2.5 kilometres long and 150 metres deep.
Vertical and overhanging rock faces rise up on both sides. The torrent thunders over rocks or collects in pools, drops of water spray through the air. An exciting nature experience! The Breitachklamm gorge was made accessible by a hiking trail in 1904. You can visit it at any time of the year. In winter, the gorge fascinates as a wonderland of ice and snow.
breitachklamm.de (only in German)
A walk through the history of the earth: Eistobel
The Eistobel Gorge between Oberstaufen and Isny in western Allgäu was formed at the end of the last Ice Age. At that time, the drainage channel of melting glaciers dug deeper and deeper into the rock. Today, a well-secured path leads through the 3.5-kilometre-long natural spectacle. You will be impressed by gushing waterfalls and cascades, whirlpools up to five metres deep, huge boulders and steep rock faces.
The path also takes you through the history of the earth: as the different rock strata lie diagonally on top of each other here, in the Eistobel you measure a geological period of several million years over a short distance – that would correspond to a descent into the earth’s interior of 900 metres!
Guided tours are offered. The Eistobel is officially closed in winter.
eistobel.de (only in German)
With cold running water: Sturmannshöhle cave
The Sturmannshöhle is a million-year-old crevice cave. It was formed by water and rock faults and is the only accessible cave in the Allgäu. A beautiful walk leads from Obermaiselstein to the entrance in half an hour. It lies at an altitude of about 1,000 metres.
The tour path, over grid floors and steps, is just under 300 metres long and passes through various cave sections. From the “Törle”, you first walk through the “Dragon Gate” to the “Theatre”, then to the 30-metre-deep, chasm-shaped “Eagle Shaft” and on via the “Hell’s Chasm” to the end point, the “Cave Cauldron”, where you can hear the cave stream roaring.
The difference in altitude is 75 metres. There are no sinter formations or dripstones in the Sturmannshöhle cave. It is a roost for bats in winter.
hoernerdoerfer.de (only in German)