This European National Park Is The Perfect Getaway For Nature Lovers

These days, unplugging is a luxury. When you need to get away from it all, Berchtesgaden National Park in Germany is just what the doctor ordered. From glaciers to forests, valleys to waterfalls, the UNESCO world heritage site is prized for its varied landscapes and untouched scenery. It's also Germany's only national park in the alpine region, says the Berchtesgaden Mountain Experience Association.

For an introduction to the park — and the easiest way to see the Bavarian Alps — take a road trip along Rossfeld Panorama Road (Roßfeldpanoramastraße). Open all year round, the 17-mile loop offers panoramic views of Salzburg and the Salzach Valley, given the close proximity to Austria. If the endless alpine pastures aren't enough to relax your mind, perhaps the impressive views of the Hoher Göll, Kehlstein, and Tennen mountains will do the trick. Though the park itself is free, the toll for this road costs $9.50. With a 4.8 rating and 5,000-plus reviews on Google, evidently the scenic route is worth every penny.

Hiking trails in Berchtesgaden National Park

Once you're ready to get outside and stretch your legs, there are trails galore for hikers of every fitness level. Whether you're seeking a pleasant half-day stroll or a full-on mountain climb, the park has a vast network of hiking trails spanning more than 161 miles, says the National Park Administration.

If it's waterfalls you fancy, consider the trail to the Almbach Gorge. You'll begin at a historic marble mill that dates back to 1683 then trek through a gorge past crystal-clear pools of water. The shortest trail takes a little more than an hour to complete. For a little more challenge, the pilgrimage to the church of Ettenberg offers a spectacular vista at the top, taking around two and a half hours round trip. If you're up for it, continue on to Maria Gern, known as the most beautiful church in Berchtesgaden for a total hiking time of about four hours.

To try your hand at some wildlife spotting, embark on a four-hour hike through the Klausbachtal Valley — a.k.a. The Valley of the Golden Eagles — to the Hintersee Lake and Ramsau, Germany's first mountaineering village. There you'll find cattle grazing, birds soaring, and pristine meadows aplenty. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for other species native to the area, including 700 types of butterflies, red deer, chamois (alpine antelopes), and ibex– wild mountain goats with long curved horns and adorably bearded chins.

More things to do in Berchtesgaden

Of course, not all visitors are looking for an active experience. For something more laid-back, head to the Eagle's Nest. Once a retreat for Adolf Hilter that was seized by the German government, today the site is open with historical tours, a restaurant, and a beer garden. To get there, a shuttle will take you 6,000 feet up Mount Kehlstein and a brass elevator will take you up the rest. From the top, enjoy otherworldly views with a pint of some strong German brew.

Also not to be missed are the Berchtesgaden lakes sitting at the foot of Mount Watzmann. The water of Lake Königssee is a brilliant emerald green, thanks to dissolving lime deposits. Visitors can take a quiet electric passenger boat from Obersee to the trails of Malerwinkel or the Church of St. Bartholomä, an iconic landmark constructed in 1134. While en route, a boatman will play the trumpet to invite the famous Königssee echo from the surrounding rock walls.

A few minutes away, the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines are a great draw for families with children. Once onboard the miner's train, the track will lead you 2,000 feet inside the mountain to a salt cathedral and a miner's slide, as well as a boat trip across an underground lake. Tickets cost $24 for adults and $13 for kids. The adventurous spirit for braving a site constructed in 1517? Well, that you'll get for free.