All too often overlooked in favor of the famous Black Forest, the Bavarian Forest National Park is one of Bavaria’s most scenic natural areas, sprawled along the border of the Czech Republic. The first area in Germany to be designated a National Park back in 1970, the 25-hectare (250,000 square meters) Bavarian Forest together with the Czech Bohemian Forest make up Central Europe’s largest forest.
With the focus on preserving the forest’s natural ecosystems and protecting the area from human interference, the rugged woodlands are an ecological playground for nature enthusiasts and is one of the few truly wild forests left in Europe. Around 95 percent of the landscape is blanketed in dense forest and is inhabited by a varied population of animals including owls, ravens, wood grouse and otters, along with rare specimens like the white-backed or three-toed woodpecker and the pygmy owl. Those looking to explore the great outdoors will find plenty to keep them occupied in the Bavarian Forest. The park is also crisscrossed with some 300km (186 miles) of marked footpaths, around 200km (124 miles) of cycle routes and 80km (50 miles) of cross-country ski trails.
The village of Bayerisch Eisenstein, hugging the Czech border, is the perfect starting point for explorations. You can take the cable car for a view from the nearby Arber Mountain or stroll along the border into the Czech Republic (now part of the European open borders agreement). Alternatively, head to the Rachelsee Lake, the park’s only glacial lake; stay at the unique wilderness camp at Mount Falkenstein; visit the Neuschoenau animal sanctuary; or follow the ‘Glass Road’ tourist trail to discover the region’s famous glass blowers and painters.