Eibsee Lake is an idyllic mountain lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks, lush forests and the looming behemoth Zugspitze. This natural wonder was formed more than 3000 years ago by a landslide. It remains in pristine condition, with almost no trash littering the site. Visitors to Eibsee Lake, can indulge in swimming, boating or hiking the Eibsee Rundweg trail.
How to Get to Eibsee Lake
Most tourists – especially those commuting in for the day – will use the RB64 cogwheel train to Eibsee Lake. This train line services Garmisch-Partenkirchen and a few other small towns along the way. Take the train westwards towards Zugspitze and disembark at Eibsee. The train only runs from about 7 am to 6 pm in both directions, so plan your day accordingly.
Visitors can also take the blue EIBSEE buses, but the route mostly services Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Grainau. The only advantage of taking the bus is that it drops you off closer to the lake. The service hours are slightly longer too, with the last bus back to G-P around 10 pm.
Admission Price & Opening Hours
There is no admission fee to hike around Eibsee Lake. It is free. The lake can’t physically close, but the unofficial opening hours are business hours from 7 am to 6 pm. If you try to take the train towards Eibsee too late in the day, the train conductor will remind you about the closing times of the Zugspitze cable car and the last cogwheel train back. Camping and overnight parking at Eibsee Lake is prohibited.
What to See
Eibsee Lake has a lovely trail around its perimeter called the Eibsee Rundweg. It is 7km long and takes two hours or more to walk the loop, depending on how many breaks you take. The hiking loop has benches at regular intervals – some covered and some with a better view than others. The path is flat, well-maintained and suitable for leisurely strolls or an easy bike ride. A downside is that often the trail is too far back from the lake, ensconced in the forest with no view.
You can get some truly amazing panoramas while hiking the Eibsee Rundweg. Especially on the north part of the trail, you can see crystal clear Eibsee Lake with snow-capped Zugspitze in the distance. There are also a couple of ponds along the loop just off the path, notably the Steingring and Frillensee, to check out.
Photographers looking to capture stunning shots will find an abundance of perfect angles at Eibsee. Although mirror-like reflections on the lake are rare, the water’s jewel-toned hues are a breathtaking everyday occurrence.
If you’re more of an experienced hiker, you can head down to the beach and circle the lake on the shoreline. There are some really gorgeous sheltered bays down here, and you’ll have an unobstructed view of Eibsee Lake for the entire walk. However, the beach has rocks and boulders in the way at times, and getting back up to the Rundweg can be difficult if you change your mind. If you go down to the shore, be ready to commit to the beach path or potentially scramble up a steep hill to get back on the Eibsee Rundweg.
Eibsee is a swimmable lake. In the warmer months, visitors can take a dip in the turquoise waters. Those who want to take it easy can simply relax by the lakeshore or have a picnic. You can also rent paddle, row or pedal boats from the shack near the Eibsee Pavilion Restaurant. Visitors with a GrainauCard or ZugspitzeCard might be entitled to a discount on the rentals. On really nice days, the excursion boat “Reserl” does 20-minute tours of the lake.
I was shocked to discover there were no public toilets anywhere along the 7km Eibsee hiking loop. It took us three and a half hours to walk around the lake, and there wasn’t even a porta-potty along the route. Eventually, we were so desperate that we had to duck off the path to do our business. It was difficult to find a spot since everywhere is so exposed. We were frantically looking over our shoulders for oncoming hikers. Before embarking on this long walk, make sure you use the toilets at the Eibsee train station, the Zugspitze cable car station, or the Eibsee Pavilion restaurant.
Where to Eat at Eibsee Lake
There is an ice cream stand at the end of the Rundweg loop. However, the Eibsee Pavilion restaurant is where people can get a hot meal during their day at Eibsee. This large chalet is right on the lake near the Zugspitze cable car and the train station. The restaurant has a spacious, cosy interior and a deck outside that overlooks Eibsee Lake. The toilets are through the glass doors near the wall of mounted fish heads.
Click on menu pictures to enlarge
The menu at Eibsee Pavilion restaurant has classic German desserts and hot dishes that are simple yet comforting. There are lots of drinks too, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We ordered the Currywurst (€15) and Kaiserschmarrn (€14) and both dishes were just what we needed at that point. The Kaiserschmarrn at Eibsee Pavilion was the best we ate during our entire trip.
As long as you’re not going to miss the last train, you should spend at least an hour to see Eibsee Lake. Walking around the entire lake is roughly a three-hour commitment, so I don’t recommend it unless you’re not doing Zugspitze. It was a long, tiring walk with no toilets or snacks, and the view eventually became more of the same thing. If you just walk the top part of the Eibsee-Rundweg (or even half that, until the Schonbuhl island), you’ll see the best views of Eibsee Lake with Zugspitze in the background.