11 Things to Do in Winter in Sedona: Insider Secrets to a Perfect Trip 

The sedona landscape in the winter with beautiful clouds and snow-capped landscape

As a proud Sedona resident, let me just start by saying that planning a winter trip to Sedona is one of the best vacation decisions you could make!

Smaller crowds, plenty of festive activities, and temperatures that won’t have you cooking like a baked potato the moment you step outside… it’s all part of the package. 

Winter in Sedona is simply the best.

Christmas decorations hanging up on a famous Sedona landmark evoking the combination of a desert landscape and festive decorations

Plus, if you think that the red rocks of Sedona look beautiful all on their own, just wait until you see them with a light covering of snow.

This is the stuff dreams are made of, people — so add it to your Arizona bucket list, stat! 

The Lowdown on Winter in Sedona


A snow-covered red rock landscape in the winter in Sedona with its characteristic geography covered in trees and snow with blue sky and clouds behind it

So, you’re probably re-reading that first section and thinking to yourself: “Snow?? I thought Sedona was supposed to be the desert!” 

Believe it or not, this part of Arizona can actually get its fair share of snow! Now, it’s no Colorado winter.

The snow usually only sticks around the tops of the red rock mountains, but it’s not uncommon to see some flurries during your visit. 

Of course, it’s also not impossible to find clear skies and sun that will have you eager to throw on your summer shorts. 

In other words, prepare for every type of weather! 

Dig out your sandals from storage but don’t forget your trusty winter beanie.

A pair of traction devices for hiking (like crampons) never hurts, but also make sure you have sunblock on hand.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea!


An icy trail leading to the beginning of a popular Sedona hike, imploring people to take caution while hiking in Sedona in winter and wear proper footwear

Winter in the desert… What could go wrong? Honestly not much! 

The rattlesnakes are hibernating, the crowds are down, the weather is beautiful, what more could you ever ask for? 

Well, to be completely honest, there is one thing to look out for… ice

While Sedona doesn’t get much snow, cold night time temperatures and shaded nooks on the trail lead to impromptu ice skating rinks… oftentimes right on the side of sheer drop-offs. 

Now, this isn’t a normal occurrence and you won’t find yourself shimmying across ice patches in fear of your life every time you hit the trail, but it’s important to know that it happens.

Always check with the Red Rock Ranger Station about icy conditions on the trail and don’t be afraid to turn around if you find yourself in a slippery situation. 

Your safety is always worth more than completing a trail!


a man in a jacket and hat watching the sun set at a cathedral rock viewpoint in sedona in winter

If you couldn’t tell already, the lack of crowds is my favorite thing to talk about but this isn’t to say that it’ll be a ghost town! 

At the end of the day, it’s still Sedona (read: busy).

But after you’ve spent your summer stuck in an hour’s worth of traffic every time you want to go five miles, winter “crowds” feel like a dream. 

You may still struggle to get a parking spot at popular spots like the Cathedral Rock trailhead during peak hours…

… but hit it at sunrise and you may be one of the only people up there. Starting to catch my drift? 

Where to Stay in Sedona in Winter

An infinity pool at a rseort in sedona in the winter with two chairs laid out on the sun deck

One of my favorite things about winter in Sedona is that the world is your oyster!

The crowds have pretty much disappeared (because apparently people prefer to be scorched during the summer months, I know, I’m puzzled too).

Maybe it’s because people aren’t doing their summer-vacation epic mutli-state Southwest road trips or smaller Arizona-only road trips.

And with less demand comes cheaper accommodations, meaning often-pricy spa resorts become a heck of a lot more affordable!

Luxury: Enchantment Resort

Easily one of the fanciest, sought-after options in Sedona, the Enchantment Resort will still cost you a pretty penny but it will feel like a bargain compared to its summer price tag!

This option is for those truly seeking luxury in the form of multiple pools, a spa, a golf club, and more.

Mid-Range: Las Posadas of Sedona

Tucked away in the charming village of Oak Creek, Los Posadas is as close to Sedona as you can get without being in the center of all the excitement.

This incredible hike is pretty much just a rock scramble to the top, and a crab walk down. Totally worth it though!

Alternative Route: To keep the good times rolling (and for a better chance at a parking spot), start at the Baldwin Trailhead for a scenic creekside addition to the main Cathedral Rock trail.

This will put you at 3.7 miles roundtrip with 931 feet of elevation gain. (AllTrails information here) — a lot more hike with just a little more elevation gain.

Devils Bridge

man standing on a snow-covered landmark of sedona in winter, the devils bridge rock formation, with a snowy landscape behind him and some light fog

Most people think that this hike is only 2 miles round trip, and it is… as long as you have a 4WD high-clearance vehicle.

If not, you’ll be adding an extra 2 miles, and I’m here to tell you how to make the most of it.

To start off: do not walk the 4WD road at Dry Creek Vista like everyone else.

Start at the Mescal Trailhead for a much more enjoyable (but equal length) route.

Bonus Tip: Double your reward by going for sunrise — you’ll have that classic walking across Devils Bridge picture in no time, vs. waiting in line at any other time of day! 

Subway Cave

Person in long shirt and long pants hiking in Subway Cave in sedona in the fall or winter months when it's a little cold out but no snow out

I was originally a little hesitant to put this one on here since it’s not technically an official trail, but look.

The views are simply amazing and everyone already knows about it thanks to Instagram, so I figured I should give you the tools for success. 

While I can tell you that it’s located along the Boynton Canyon Trail, you’ll have to do your research to find the cave itself. 

Scavenge the internet and study the directions… or follow everyone else that is going to the same place.

Whatever you do, just make sure to have an offline GPS app of some kind, just in case.

Birthing Cave

cave called the birthing cave opening to reveal red rock landscape of sedona with trees and cloudy sky

Okay so still not technically an official trail, this one has managed to find itself on Alltrails so it is much easier to find, and much shorter too!

This trail will give you some similar cave vibes without the extra fuss of the Subway Cave.

As an added bonus, it’s my favorite place to watch the sunrise! 

See the icicles at West Fork.

ice and snow building up to create icicle fairytale landscape at the west fork area of sedona

The West Fork Trail (AllTrails info here) in Oak Creek Canyon offers something new and spectacular with every season.

Cool off by the water during the summer months, marvel as the canyon becomes a blanket of reds and oranges come fall, admire spring flowers, and escape into a winter wonderland.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving!  

Of course, that natural beauty is also the reason why the parking lot is managed by a concessionaire and costs $12 per vehicle to enter.

This place is always popping! 

I couldn’t tell you which season in West Fork is my favorite but I can tell you that the winter months give this place a completely different feel that’s simply incredible. 

Gigantic icicles line the canyon walls, snow lingers in shady corners, and the creek bubbles as it navigates under the ice.

It feels so unlike Sedona in the very best way! 

The trail itself is 6.5 miles roundtrip, but you can explore this place as much or as little as you want and still have a magical time. 

Hop on the Christmas Train.

verde canyon railroad in the winter with blue painted vintage train going through a snow-covered red rock landscape of arizona

It’s not everyday that you get a chance to go for a festive train ride, let alone pick from one of two amazing choices!

Sedona is located smack dab in the middle of two charming towns that both pride themselves on their Christmas spirit. 

The Verde Canyon Railway, located in Clarkdale, offers a scenic train ride all year-round but at Christmas time, the train is transformed for its Magical Christmas Journey!

You’ll be greeted by a real life bald eagle and have the chance to explore a miniature village before hopping on the train to the North Pole. This is a great option for the kiddos!

You can book a ticket online here for the whole package deal complete with champagne toast, appetizers, and a railway ticket for the gorgeous ride!

Note that pickup is not included, though, so you’ll have to make your way to Clarkdale yourself… though you will likely want a rental car while you’re in Sedona, anyway, to access all those great hikes!

The Grand Canyon Railway, located in Williams, is meant to be a real-life impression of the famous Polar Express!

Start your journey in the winter wonderland that is Williams and enjoy movie impersonations (and hot cocoa!) as you make your way up to the North Pole and back.

This tour includes pick-up and drop-off in Sedona, will let you take the famous Grand Canyon Railway one-way [return is by van], and also allocates plenty of time to explore Grand Canyon National Park in winter by way of a heated van tour!

It’s a great way to combine a winter Grand Canyon trip with a scenic snowy festive train ride!

Attend a festive event.

Local wares for sale at a Sedona christmas market style event with beautiful handcrafted ornaments

From the Sedona Tree Lighting to the Festival of Lights at Tlaquepaque, there is no shortage of festive events in Sedona in winter!

Every weekend there seems to be something new going on (of course, that’s not just during the holiday season!) 

In other words, be prepared to spend some cash on adorable locally crafted items.

Of course, that’s usually the real reason why most people attend holiday festivals in the first place. 

Increase your options for attending an event during your visit by considering the whole Verde Valley!

Check out the Verde Valley Events page to see what’s happening in Sedona as well as nearby charming Arizona towns like Campe Verde and Cottonwood, which make perfect easy day trips from Sedona

Marvel at the night sky.

Dark sky with milky way illuminated as seen over the beautiful landscape of Sedona, Arizona

Considering the fact that Sedona is home to more than 10,000 people, there is no doubt that the city has put in a lot of effort to obtain its International Dark Sky Community certification. 

That’s right, Sedona is home to some of the darkest skies in the country!

And the bottom line is, you can experience it from just about anywhere. 

At night, the bustling tourist city that is Sedona goes pitch-black. There are no annoying street lights creating an obnoxious glow around your night sky. 

When you look up, all you see is darkness and stars… stars like you’ve never seen before!

Still, a pesky car driving by with its headlights ready to blind you will destroy your night vision, so get off the main road for the best night sky viewing experience.

Really, any trailhead on the outskirts of town will do! 

Say hello to the Milky Way for me! 

While you definitely have a great experience DIYing your own stargazing tour, you can make the experience even more fun and quirky by doing this Sedona Stargazing and UFO Tour!

This tour not only takes you to great stargazing viewpoints… it also lets you use military-grade night vision goggles to watch unexplained UFO-esque activity flying above your head, normally undetectable to your own eyes!

While I haven’t done the tour myself just yet, supposedly, the lights are wild — they flash, change size, and move around unpredictably!

If you watched a little too much X-Files as a kid (*raises hand*) this may be the thing to add to your Sedona itinerary.

Catch an epic sunset.

Sedona landscape with snow and sunset illuminated clouds in the background

Ah yes, Sedona… the place where bad sunsets simply don’t exist. 

Literally no matter where you are or what you are doing, if you are in Sedona, you will experience an epic sunset. 

The way the sun reflects on the red rocks as it sets is something that never gets old.

Plus, you don’t have to be in any particular spot to see the sun itself setting. 

You just want to be near the red rocks as they’re illuminated by the setting sun, and the good news is, there are red rocks everywhere you look.

That being said, I do have a few favorite spots…

The Obvious Choice: Airport Mesa

Winter sunset at the popular sunset spot of Airport Mesa in Sedona, with snow landscape and pink sky

While the sunset views here are incredible and it’s always on my list when friends or family come to visit, there’s no denying that it is the busiest sunset spot in Sedona.

But if you can fight the crowds (yes, even during the winter months) and are willing to pay $3 to park, you’ll be rewarded with unmatched views of some of Sedona’s most iconic rock formations. 

You can also hit the Airport Loop trail to avoid some of the crowds! 

The Adventurous Choice: Schuerman Mountain Vista 

Sedona winter landscape at sunset with pink clouds illuminating the beautiful red rocks of the mountain ranges

This is, by far, my favorite sunset spot hands down — maybe the 1.7 mile roundtrip hike with about 370 feet of elevation gain scares people off, but it’s always quiet.

Somehow this trail (AllTrails info here) has managed to stay off the radar even though it offers one of the most spectacular sunset views of Sedona’s red rock country… with zero crowds!

I can’t tell you how many times I have had this place all to myself. It’s the definition of a hidden gem!

So, do me a favor and let’s just keep this between you and me! 

The Perfect Middle Ground: Secret Slick Rock

A sunset on cathedral rock in Sedona Arizona with a natural pool at the base of the formations

This not-so-secret trail offers one of the best reward to effort ratios for sunset hikes in Sedona.

This is a beautiful hike clocking in at just 0.7 miles roundtrip with about 80 feet of elevation gain. AllTrails info here.

A short hike will take you to a massive slab of slick rock (aka plenty of room to spread out) with a close up view of the famous Cathedral Rock. 

When the weather’s right, you’ll even find water in the potholes that make for a perfect reflection image of Cathedral!

You know the one that you see in all those pictures? Yeah, it’s taken here! 

Great Smoky Mountains Itinerary: 2 Days in This Epic National Park!

A beautiful colorful sunrise over Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is absolutely a must-see destination for any lover of the great outdoors, and the numbers are there to prove it.

This is the most visited national park in the country, winning by a landslide, pun only slightly intended.

Knowing all this, when I was planning my road trip through the East Coast’s national parks, I didn’t even dare try to fit this all into a single day.

Straddling two states, both Tennessee and North Carolina, trying to do that would be an act of madness.

So, when I say that this two day Great Smoky Mountains itinerary is the absolute best of what the Great Smokies have to offer, I can say it with confidence because it’s been tested and approved. 

A beautiful view of the green landscape of the epic Chimney Tops hiking trail in Great Smoky Mountains national park

Of course, to be fair, I left wanting more. But that’s just the sign of a great park, right? 

I’ll just have to add it to a future North Carolina itinerary.

The important thing, though, is that even though I couldn’t wait to go back, I didn’t leave feeling like I missed out on anything and if that isn’t a national park trip success, I don’t know what is! 

What’s that? Success means seeing a bear, you say? Well guess what, chances are high! 

Day One of Your Great Smoky Mountains Itinerary: The East Side

Wake up for sunrise at Look Rock Tower.

The view from Look Rock observation tower, a metal structure in the middle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, during the day

How else to say it? Look Rock Tower is everything you could want in a sunrise hike and more.

It’s slightly off the beaten path, which means that not many will make this journey… at least, not first thing in the early morning. 

It’s also a relatively short hike (0.8 mi roundtrip) with the only real climb being the tower itself.

Speaking of which, it has a tower which definitely earns it some brownie points. 

Of course, it has one of the most wide-sweeping views of the Smoky Mountains served up on a platter. What more could you ask for? 

Make it dog-friendly, you say? Well, guess what, it’s your lucky day! 

I’ve done this hike a couple of times because it’s one of my personal favorites (as if you couldn’t tell) and I can say with confidence that sunrise is the best time to do it.  

Not only does the morning light and the potential to get some picturesque fog really make a difference, but it also tends to get a bit crowded by midday. 

Take a kayak on Fontana Lake.

A foggy and misty morning view on Lake Fontana on your Great Smoky Mountains National Park itinerary

While the day is still young, make your way over to Fontana Lake for one of the most incredible things to do on this Great Smoky Mountains itinerary.

One of my favorite memories from my time in the park is from my time kayaking on these gorgeous waters. 

The lake is so vast that even with other people paddling around you’ll feel like you have it all to yourself.

Nothing compares to the serene feeling you get from hearing nothing but the sounds of the birds chirping and water breaking with every paddle.

There are a ton of adventure companies that offer kayak rentals but many of them require a few emails back and forth before sealing the deal.

So, just to make sure your trip goes smoothly, I highly recommend that you schedule your kayak rentals as soon as you have your dates worked out. 

The good news is that most companies will even bring your kayaks right to the docking location of your choice so all you have to do is show up and you’ll be all set to paddle away!

Visit a ghost town (part one).

hazel creek running through proctor ghost town
Photo Credit: Brian Stansberry – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

I almost forgot the best part of your kayak adventure…

If paddling on Great Smoky Mountains’ largest lake is somehow not enough to satisfy you, what if I told you that you can paddle out to a literal ghost town?! 

In less than an hour, you can paddle out to Hazel Creek, which is the most remote part of the national park and home to the Proctor Ghost Town

an abandoned building in the proctor ghost town area
Photo Credit: By Brian Stansberry – Own work, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once you arrive, you’ll find the ruins of a once thriving lumber company town and the graves of its founders.

Add a layer of mist on the lake and you’re looking at a very spooky morning!

Walk and eat Around Bryson City.

Cloudy day in Bryson City, looking at a white church in Bryson City, North Carolina

The lively Bryson City is basically the Gatlinburg of North Carolina, but only in the ways that you would hope for.

It has the same rustic charm, plenty of delicious restaurants, and none of the mob-size crowds. 

Upon arriving, I was honestly shocked by how laid-back it was, and I couldn’t have been happier.

The only problem I had while I was here was deciding where to eat, and that’s a great problem to have if you ask me.

After a bit of indecision, I was quickly reassured that I made the right choice when I bit into my Philly cheesesteak and was transported straight to foodie heaven.

So, when you get to town, do yourself a favor and go right to the High Test Deli Filling Station

Just make sure you save room for dessert because Honey Bears Cupcakery is right down the street and you’ll never forgive yourself for skipping out on one of their specialty cupcakes. 

Hike to the Lonesome Pine Overlook or Deep Creek Falls.

One of the 3 waterfalls on the trail, Tom Branch Falls, in the Deep Creek Trail which is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love a hike that gives me options. 

Sometimes I’ll get overly ambitious when planning and then reach the trailhead and find that I just don’t have the motivation to hike for three hours.

Or (and this is my favorite) vice versa, I get to the trailhead feeling like I could conquer the world. 

So instead of having to completely scrap your hiking plans for the day, give yourself some options and make your way over to the Deep Creek Falls Trailhead

There are three waterfalls on this loop so you can decide to stop at the first one (Juney Whank Falls, which is 0.6 mi roundtrip) and turn around, or you can keep going for the full waterfall loop (which is 2.4 mi roundtrip). 

Bench and place to rest at Juney Whank Falls in on the Deep Creek Falls trail, at the first waterfall where you can turn around after if you want to stop

You can also make it a bigger loop by adding in Indian Creek (4.4 mi roundtrip).

Alternately, you can be extra ambitious and decide you want to hike up to the Lonesome Pine Overlook (but we’re talking 6.7 miles plus 2,300 ft of elevation gain).

No matter which route you choose, it’s certain that you’ll have an amazing time, but if you ask me, the best experience is taking the ambitious route. After all, no risk, no reward, right?

Drive the Road to Nowhere.

A hill with fall trees in yellow and green with a stone tunnel in a hill running through a forest on the Road to Nowhere in the Great Smoky Mountains

If you’ve spent an afternoon in Bryson City thinking and raving about how awesome the Proctor ghost town was, then you absolutely have to drive the Road to Nowhere

Why? Well… This road was originally being built for the town of Proctor!

However, only seven miles were completed before the government gave up on the project due to safety concerns. 

In a way, this failed road is the reason that Proctor became a ghost town and ultimately became a ghost itself. 

My favorite part about this slightly eerie (but extremely scenic) drive is the long tunnel at the end that leads to, well, nowhere! 

Enjoy a Clingman Dome sunset.

Viewpoint at Clingman Dome with a view of the sun on the horizon and pale colors lighting up the sky silhouetting against the forest and mountains.

I usually try to find a less-popular place to enjoy the sunset but sometimes the crowds get it right, and nothing even compares to the sunset at Clingman Dome

Sure, it can be a bit busy but it’s busy for a good reason!

Plus, you really don’t need to climb to the top of the observation tower for a good view so there are plenty of places to find a little corner to yourself. 

At the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the views are sure to amaze! 

Day Two of Your Great Smoky Mountains Itinerary: The West Side

Have an epic Cades Cove sunrise.

Fall foliage colors and leaves on ground with a sign that marks the entrance to Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Okay, I’ll just admit it. Cades Cove is my favorite place in the Great Smokies.

After I experienced my first sunrise here, I was immediately hooked. 

I canceled all sunrise hikes and viewpoint plans for the rest of my time in the Great Smokies, just so I could have more of it.

If I could spend every morning here, there’d be no such thing as a bad day in my life, I’m sure of it. 

Now I know this sounds a bit dramatic but just trust me and check it out. It won’t take you very long to see where I am coming from. 

sunrise in the cades cove area of the great smokies

I mean, just picture it, driving through Cades Cove… the early morning mist… wildlife everywhere…. plenty of historic cabins to explore… peaceful little trails to get lost on… 

You get it, right? I just can’t recommend this spot enough. 

One thing I have to say up front, though, is that this is definitely not a place to rush through.

A beautifully restored cabin in a log cabin style, in a forest of autumn color trees, part of Cades Cove region of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You’ll want to plan on spending all morning here, so if you can’t bear the thought of not eating breakfast until 10-11 AM, make sure to pack something to hold you over. 

As you make your way through the cove, you’ll notice that it gets a bit (or, okay, a lot) more crowded as the morning goes on. This is when you’ll want to make your escape! 

But fear not, the magical views and peaceful solitude can live on with this handy trick…

Take the Rich Mountain Road. 

Views of horses on the rich mountain road on this great smoky mountains itinerary

Don’t even question it.

When you see the sign pointing you in that direction, go.

I know you may feel a bit of FOMO, but I assure you that you’ve already seen all of the cove’s highlights and you’re about to discover its ultimate hidden gem. 

Stuff your face at Crockett’s 1875 Breakfast Camp.

Cinnamon rolls and other breakfast treats at the famous Crocketts in Gatlinburg
Photo Credit: jpellgen (@1179_jp) via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

When I first got to Crockett’s, there was a line out the door and a 45-minute wait, and that’s for breakfast! Big yikes. 

But you see… I had been daydreaming about the Aretha Frankenstein Pancakes for weeks and I was feeling pretty determined at this point. So we waited. 

We walked around Gatlinburg and did our souvenir shopping, because two birds, one stone, right?

Within 20 minutes, our table was ready but I was getting increasingly more nervous because this massive place was fully packed, and we didn’t have all day to wait around for our food.

Those nerves went out the window when we were greeted with immediate service and within 10 minutes I had one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had sitting in front of me.

These were the thickest pancakes I have ever set my eyes on, not to mention the most delicious. 

P.S. They now have an online waitlist you can join so you can start the clock before you even get there!

Visit a ghost town (part two).

Ruins of old settlements seen in the Elkmont Historic District in Great Smokey Mountains National Park part of Tennessee and a must on a Great Smoky Mountains itinerary

Another ghost town? Absolutely! Very different from Proctor, the Elkmont was originally a wealthy resort town located at the hub of the national park. 

When the Great Smokies were made into a national park, the people who lived there were allowed to stay for the rest of their lifetime.

When that time ended, the park service was left with more than 70 abandoned cabins to maintain.

Soon those buildings deteriorated and by the 1990s, Elkmont was labeled a ghost town. 

What is really cool about this ghost town is that it’s not that old!

And to top it off, the NPS has preserved 19 buildings so you can experience what they looked like in their prime. 

Walk down an abandoned street, and pop in and out of homes that tell the story of what it was like to live here in the early to mid-1900s.

Drive and hike on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Autumn colors with fallen leaves around the river on Roaring Fork in Great Smoky Mountains NP

One thing I learned from exploring Roaring Fork is to park whenever you can.

This is a busy road that is only 5.5 miles long so if you wait for the “perfect spot”, chances are that you will finish the drive without really seeing much. 

So, park whenever you can and try not to get frustrated by the minimal amount of spots available. 

The nature trail is filled with waterfall hikes, mountain streams, log cabins, gristmills, and more, so I assure you that no matter where you find a spot to park, the trail will lead you to an awesome adventure. 

For example, on my first trip I pulled over into the first available spot I saw and I ended up on the Baskins Creek Falls Trail

A view of the lovely Baskin Falls in The Great Smoky Mountains after a short hike

Apparently, this is one of the less popular hikes on Roaring Fork but I couldn’t tell you why.

The hike is 3.2 miles roundtrip (prepare for an uphill journey) and takes you to my favorite waterfall in the park! 

Not only did we get this waterfall all to ourselves for over an hour, but we also saw a black bear on the trail!

It is easily one of my favorite Great Smoky memories. 

Work for your sunset at Chimney Tops.

Fall view of the Chimney Tops trailhead in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a bridge that goes over a rocky stream

There is no way around it.

At 3.5 miles roundtrip and a hefty elevation gain of 1,400 feet, Chimney Tops is a view you have to work for but the payoff is immediate and incredible. 

This is a really popular hike (which means limited parking) and the ascent will probably take you longer than you think.

Sign for the Chimney Tops trailhead while hiking in   Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Give yourself some wiggle room to ensure that you make it to the top in time for sunset — and pack a headlamp for the way down.

You don’t want to be the person trying to run up slippery rocks, just to spend your time at the top trying to slow your heart rate down.

That’s no fun — it’s much better to be basking in the stunning view that you raced up there for. 

Foggy view of the stone steps leading up to the summit of the chimney tops trail in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for a great view

Due to a terrible fire that took place in 2016, you can no longer summit to the top of Chimney but a new observation point was finished in 2017 that I think offers an even better view.

From here, you can see the park’s many famous peaks and get a close up view of the rugged Chimney pinnacles themselves. 

All in all, it’s the perfect send off hike that will have you leaving the Great Smokies already planning your next trip. 

Just don’t forget your headlamp!

Have dinner and beers at Smoky Mt. Brewery.

a sample of five different beers at the brewery
Photo Credit: David Limon via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I’ve spent more time in the Smoky Mt. Brewery than I’m proud to admit, but with experience comes wisdom, so, trust me when I say to skip the calzones and go for a burger. 

I know, I know. It’s not everyday that you see a calzone on the menu but seriously…skip it.

I can’t have you questioning my good reputation after having a bad experience following one of my recommendations. 

The burger on the other hand, or the Philly Cheesesteak, or the wings… positively to die for. 

So sit back, stuff your face with pub food and celebrate a perfect ending to your Great Smoky adventure… with a beer in hand of course! 

13 Magical Things to Do in Salzburg in Winter

a frosty, wintry scene in the salzburg city center with a frozen garden and fountain

Salzburg is one of those places that captures your heart the moment you arrive, regardless of the season.

However, anyone who knows a thing or two about this beautiful medieval city knows that winter is the absolute best time to visit. 

Once winter falls over the city, you can admire the (already dazzling) cobblestone streets complimented by hanging lights and festive garlands. 

As you walk around the old town, the mouth-watering smell of roasted almonds will guide you to one of the best Christmas markets in all of Europe.

lit up christmas tree in the center of salzburg with lights all around it and a sign that says welcome with lots of christmas market stalls

Here, you can sip on a warm cup of mulled wine as you shop for unique, handcrafted gifts. 

And that’s just the beginning! Every moment in Salzburg is somehow more magical than the last. 

So throw on your winter coat and get ready to have one of the best winter vacations of your life!

Things to Do in Salzburg in Winter

Visit the Christmas Markets.

The Christmas Markets of Salzburg come alive with festive cheer, opening around late November and typically running through Christmas Eve or New Year.

These markets are some of Austria’s best and they may even beat out Vienna’s in winter!

With their twinkling lights, highly-decorated stalls, roasted sausages and vats of steaming soups, and aromatic smells of mulled wine and gingerbread, they’re a highly atmospheric way to experience Salzburg in winter.

Here are a few of the best Christmas markets in Salzburg!

winter and christmas toys for sale at a salzburg christmas market

Salzburg Christkindlmarkt (Main Salzburg Christmas Market)

Location: Situated in the heart of the historic old town, this market spreads across Domplatz and Residenzplatz. More information here.

2023 Hours: From November 23 to January 1st. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 AM to 8:30 PM. Fridays, 10 AM to 9 PM. Saturdays, 9 AM to 9 PM. Sundays, 9 AM to 8:30 PM. There are a few holiday exceptions:

  • December 24: 9 AM to 3 PM
  • December 25 & 26: 11 AM to 6 PM
  • December 27-30: 10 AM to 8:30 PM
  • December 31: 10 AM to 1 PM
  • January 1: 10 AM to 6 PM

Highlights: This is perhaps the most famous Christmas market in Salzburg and one of the oldest in the world, with a history dating back to the 15th century. Enjoy around 100 stalls offering traditional Austrian handicrafts, festive foods like wurst and garlic soup, and all sorts of delightful gifts.

Winter scene with lit up Christmas market stands in the festive Salzburg Christmas market during winter in salzburg Advent period

Hellbrunner Adventzauber at Hellbrunn Palace

Location: Situated outside the city center, this market is set in front of the beautiful Hellbrunn Palace. More information here.

2023 Hours: From November 23 to December 24. Tuesday to Friday from 1 PM to 8 PM. Saturdays & Sundays from 10 AM to 8 PM. On Christmas Eve, from 10 AM to 2 PM.

Highlights: The romantic ambiance, with over 700 trees illuminated with tens of thousands of ornaments and lights, is truly enchanting. There’s a charming Christmas market with unique crafts and an advent path with life-sized nativity scenes. The palace itself is adorned with festive decorations, too!

Lebkuchen cookie (gingerbread heart) that says Frohes Fest, a winter slogan.

Advent Market at the Fortress Hohensalzburg

Location: Atop the Mönchsberg, this market is within the medieval walls of the Fortress Hohensalzburg. More information here.

2023 Hours: Friday through Saturdays only between December 1 and December 18, from 11 AM to 7 PM.

Highlights: It’s a smaller, more intimate market compared to the others, but it offers a unique atmosphere with its historic setting. Browse through a selection of handcrafted goods and enjoy the views of Salzburg below. The fortress itself is lit up, making it a beacon anywhere in the city!

Take a Stiegl Brewery tour.

sign of the stiegl brewery in salzburg austria
Photo Credit: Mattes, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a country known for its beer, it only makes sense that one of the best ways to warm up on a winter day is by indulging in some beer yourself! 

What better place could you find to sample Austria’s famous beer than the brewery that gave the country its reputation as “Beer Paradise”? 

The Stiegl Brewery is one of the oldest breweries in Austria, drenched in history with roots dating back to the 15th century. 

By taking the Stiegl Brewery tour, you’ll learn all about the brewery’s claim to fame and see how things have changed over the last 500 years. 

Not to mention, you’ll also get to enjoy a variety of Stiegl beers, including the iconic pilsner, along the way. 

Start off at the Stiegl Museum before making your way into the production facility where you will get to see the beer making in action. 

Once the tour has finished, stick around to enjoy another beer and admire the picturesque views of the waterfront property. 

stiegl brewery view Girl goes on a snow-covered winter beautiful city.Walking through the streets of snow-covered city Medieval. Very nice view of Salzburg.Winter town.Journey in winter Austria

I can confirm that it is one of the best views in Salzburg!

And I promise it’s not just the beer talking — it’s actually that good. 

Book your Stiegl brewery tour here!

Watch a classical Mozart concert.

Picture this: You’re seated in one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, that dates back to the 11th century. 

You can see the snow falling down upon the city from the castle’s grand windows. 

You’re listening to musical masterpieces produced by Mozart in the city in which he was born. 

Christmas carols are perfectly intertwined in the performance to create a sense of holiday magic. 

Fortress Hohensalzburg in Salzburg, Austria in Winter, view from below

Talk about a dream, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be! 

The Best of Mozart Fortress Concert brings all of this to life!

But to experience a concert this magnificent, you’ll have to have a bit of dedication, and more than a bit of advance planning. 

Tickets tend to sell out months in advance so this is an experience that you’ll want to try to book the moment you know you’re taking a winter trip to Salzburg. The earlier the better! 

Book your concert at the fortress here!

Classic view of famous Mirabell Gardens with historic Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background in scenic golden evening light at sunset on a beautiful cold sunny day in winter, Salzburg.

But what if you booked a last minute flight to Salzburg and still want to get a taste of Mozart? 

The Mozart Concert at Mirabell Palace is a great alternative and tends to have more availability. 

Here you can listen to Mozart in one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world, while marveling at the idea that Mozart himself once performed in the very same space!

While it isn’t a fortress, it’s still a palace, so it’s not much of a downgrade!

Book your concert at the Mirabell Palace here!

Take a Sound of Music tour.

Detail of the Residence Fountain, Salzburg, Austria

Put on your winter coat, grab a cup of hot chocolate and get ready to spend half a day exploring the many filming locations of the crowd pleasing “Sound of Music”. 

Have someone in your party who doesn’t care for the film? You may as well leave them at the hotel because they don’t deserve to be in Salzburg anyways… (just kidding!)

The beauty of the Sound of Music Tour is that you’ll get to see film-famous locations like the Residenz Fountain where Maria sang “I Have Confidence”.

You’ll also get to see a variety of historic landmarks like the Mondsee Cathedral and the Leopoldskron Palace!

Winter in Salzburg, Leopoldskron Castle and Fortress Hohensalzburg, with frozen-over water in front of the castle

Even better, the incredible views of Lake Fuschl and Salzburg’s surrounding countryside are hard to beat. There’s really something for everyone to enjoy on this tour!

The tour ends at Mirabell Gardens, where you can reenact the Trapp family by dancing around the Pegasus Fountain and admire the incredible Baroque statues peppered through an already breathtaking garden. 

Visit the Salzburg Fortress.

Winter landscape and medieval fortress on top of the mountain. Hohensalzburg Fortress. Austria.

A trip to Salzburg wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, regardless of the season, but there is just something about the sight of this magnificent fortress covered in snow.

It’s a striking scene that makes winter my absolute favorite time to experience it!

Walk through the oldest well-preserved castle in Central Europe, exploring its many museums and wide-sweeping city views along the way.

View on Salzburg from the high tower of Hohensalzburg castle

Even the journey up to the fortress is a memorable experience in its own right, as you travel high above the old town on the Fortress Funicular

If you plan your visit between December 1st and 18th you’ll also be treated to Salzburg’s highest Christmas market! 

The fortress’ courtyard is transformed into a winter wonderland full of charming hanging lights, the chatter of local artists selling their craft, and the smell of the mouth-watering tarte flambée from the Fortress Bakery. 

Ski down a mountain.

Skiers on ski lift enjoying the view to foggy Alps in Austria and beautiful snowy country panorama in famous Kitzbuehel mountain ski resort

With mountain views in every direction, it’s no surprise that Salzburg is a great central hub for a ski vacation!

Within an hour’s drive, you have access to five major ski resorts, and that’s not even including the many smaller resorts like ​​Untersberg (nearby and great for beginners). 

Head to St. Johann for an afternoon of reliable snow, breathtaking views of Horn Peak, and an atmosphere that is both family-friendly and free of crowds. 

Check out Bad Gastein if you want to take a relaxing dip in a thermal pool between runs. 

the zell am see skiing resort with a clear lake in the background

Zell am See is the place to be for those skiers who are in it for the views (think horseshoe-shaped mountain range, charming medieval town, and massive frozen lake). 

You can even ski down Dachstein glacier with a visit to Schladming

Planning to visit more than one resort? Look into buying the Salzburg Super Ski Card

The 10-day flex ticket can seem like quite the investment, but if you consider the lift cost for every resort, there is a good chance you will be saving money. 

The ski card will give you access to 85 ski resorts and 926 ski lifts throughout Austria. It’s time to ski all winter long!

Explore a festive Alstadt. 

Salzburg old town city streets decorated for Christmas advent

Even on the rainiest of days, the charm of Salzburg’s old town (Aldstadt) is impossible to ignore.

My first visit here was paired with bad weather and I still immediately fell in love with its cobblestone streets, tight alleys, and iron guild signs. 

Now, imagine replacing gloomy, gray weather with a peaceful snowfall and Christmas lights galore. 

Salzburg had already earned the title as my favorite old town but visiting again during the holiday season just ensured that no other old town would ever top it! It truly is an experience like no other. 

Walk along Getreidegasse to see the already picturesque street covered in a variety of Christmas decorations, from massive holiday wreaths to an abundance of hanging lights, and enjoy an afternoon of window shopping. 

breze pastries in salzburg

Then, grab yourself a bite to eat at one of the many traditional restaurants before taking a tour of some of the old town’s historic landmarks. 

Just make sure you save time for the Christmas markets and all their delicious pastries, like the Breze.


Warm up at Cafe Tomaselli.

Speaking of the Altstadt (old town), located right at the heart of it is the iconic Cafe Tomaselli

This impressive cafe has been run by the same family for more than 150 years and it has built itself a reputation for being the best place to sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee.

It’s also the oldest coffee house in Austria — no small feat in a country known for them!

After an afternoon of walking around the festive old town, nestle into one of the cozy seats in Cafe Tomaselli as you sip on a delicious cappuccino and treat yourself to one of the bakery’s many fresh cakes and pastries. 

Enjoy the beautiful atmosphere and delicious treats, all while enjoying a session of people watching (and maybe even some snow falling) from the cafe’s perfect window-facing seating.

Go for a horse-drawn sleigh ride.

horse drawn sleigh ride in the austrian countryside with beautiful brown horses and mountain village landscape

Just when you think winter in Salzburg couldn’t get any more romantic, you realize that there are full-day tours of the countryside via horse drawn sleigh ride… How are you supposed to resist that? 

Head to the Mirabellplatz bus station to meet your guide and take a scenic bus tour through the Salzburg countryside to get to Ramsau where you will begin your sleigh ride. 

But not without having lunch first! Walk around the charming town of Ramsau and enjoy a meal of your choosing before setting out on your horse drawn sleigh ride adventure. 

Then, wrapped in a warm blanket, let yourself get swept away by the romance of the horse drawn sleigh as you admire the breathtaking views of the famous Dachstein Glacier and Styria’s surrounding alpine landscape. 

Enjoy a quick stop along the way to buy a hot chocolate or traditional gluhwein to keep you warm all afternoon long!

Book your horse-drawn sleigh tour here!

Ice skate around Mozart Square.

mozartplatz sign with white background and red ornate letters

Between the months of November and January, Mozart Square is transformed into a recreational wonderland for ice skaters… but this isn’t your ordinary ice rink! 

A typical historic plaza nine months out of the year, the rink is constructed every winter to give skaters the opportunity to glide amongst some of Salzburg’s most iconic landmarks. 

You can admire a variety of churches and palaces as you skate around Mozartplatz.

When you need a break, you can visit popular nearby attractions like the Neue Residenz, the Salzburg Christmas Museum, the Residenzplatz and the Salzburg Cathedral… Or just admire them from the rink! 

You will, however, most definitely want to call a brief intermission in order to grab a traditional glühwein from the concession stand to keep you warm out on the ice! 

Attend the Krampus Festival.

krampus demon like figure with red lighting in salzburg in winter

When you envision a magical holiday season in Salzburg, you probably don’t imagine a terrifying creature running through the streets of the old town… right?

Believe it or not,  it’s part of the tradition! 

The Salzburg Krampus Run takes place every year on the night of December 5th and it’s definitely a sight to see… even if it gives you nightmares. 

Krampus is everything that Santa is not.

Instead of rewarding good children with presents, he beats children deemed bad and may even kidnap the real trouble makers to spend the rest of eternity in the underworld. 

Forget a jolly old fat man and replace him with a six foot tall hairy demon, sporting massive horns and a truly uncomfortably long tongue. 

Now multiple that demon by ten, twenty, or maybe even thirty? That’s the Krampus Run. 

A large collection of people in elaborate, unique Krampus costumes roaming free throughout the old town scaring bystanders and chasing children. 

So who’s in?

Visit the Christmas Museum.

Salzburg Christmas Museum or Salzburger Weihnachtsmuseum. Christmas Museum located in Mozartplatz square in the old part of Salzburg city, Austria.

The Salzburg Christmas Museum is open year round but there is just something about visiting during the holiday season that makes this place feel that much more special. 

Make your way through Café Glockenspiel (and maybe grab something warm to drink while you’re at it!) to reach the small yet charming museum. 

Once inside, admire a collection of Christmas decorations that have been collected for more than 50 years. 

From nativity scenes to advent calendars, seeing the way these decorations have changed over time is not only interesting, but also the perfect way to get you in the Christmas spirit! 

Unwind with a thermal bath.

Spa resort Bad Ischl Austria at sunset - nature and architecture background

After a day of exploring the many wonderful winter activities that Salzburg has to offer, you’re bound to start feeling a chill in your bones that not even an excessive amount of glühwein can fix. 

That’s where a thermal bath getaway comes in! 

Aside from the fact that thermal baths offer a variety of health benefits such as fighting inflammation and boosting your immune system, they also provide a soothing way to warm up after a day of adventure. 

Take your pick of nearby thermal spa resorts and consider spending the night to take your relaxing evening to the next level. 

One charming spa town is Bad Ischl, about an hour from Salzburg.

10 Magical Things to Do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

the scenic town of garmisch

My first visit to Garmisch-Partenkirchen was actually a complete accident while exploring Bavarian towns like Füssen, but as I drove into town, I could already tell that this would be one of my favorite places in Germany. 

Home to Germany’s highest mountain, Garmisch is the idyllic Bavarian mountain town of your dreams! 

You can spend your days wandering around mural-painted streets, hiking through fairytale gorges, climbing mountains, and eating some of the best Bavarian treats you’ll ever have. 

This year-round destination has something to offer for every traveler!

old town houses of garmisch-Partenkirchen in the summer

Visit during the winter months to ski around glaciers, book a fall trip to swoon over the foliage, lay in the wildflowers come springtime, or cool off in crystal clear lakes when the weather warms up. 

There’s literally no bad time to visit Garmisch!

Plus, it’s just an hour away from Munich! Drive over for a day trip or spend a few days exploring everything that Garmisch has to offer before exploring places like the Black Forest Germany to the east, or Innsbruck in Austria, which is just south across the border.

Just don’t be surprised if you never want to leave!

Where to Stay in Garmisch

traditional house in bavaria with flower boxes in the summer

Budget: Werdenfelser Hof

Located in an adorable robin egg blue traditional house, the centrally located Werdenfelser Hof won’t break the bank while still offering you a convenient place to stay in the heart of town.

It also has an adorably retro restaurant with photographs and art clustering every square inch of the walls, serving up delicious local Bavarian cuisine.

The rooms are rather simple — some have single beds, others bunk beds, others double beds — but have what you need for a comfortable stay.

Mid-Range: aja Garmisch-Partenkirchen

The stunning aja Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a modern German spa hotel that you’ll truly find it hard to check out of.

With its gorgeous outdoor pool with a view of the mountains (as well as an indoor heated pool), you could spend your entire time in Garmisch enjoying the pool alone.

Plus, the bar area of this hotel is so cool. I mean, they literally have wine on tap, poured straight from the wine barrel!

The rooms themselves are also quite nice, minimalist but not Spartan, with plenty of space and modern bathrooms.

Luxury: Werdenfelserei

Germany does spa hotels better than perhaps anywhere, and Werdenfelserei is no exception to this rule!

Still in a convenient location near town, a 5-minute walk from its museums and restaurants, you’ll enjoy one of the most stunning pools with a direct view of the mountains.

Meanwhile, there’s also a steam room and a sauna to sweat it out in, with a lovely wood-cabin-feeling relaxation area to chill out in afterwards.

The relaxing vibes don’t stop at the spa itself, too — all of the suites, like the Fire Suite and Chalet Suite, have their own in-room soaking tub right in the bedroom!

The Spa Suite even has its own private sauna!

Getting Around

on the romantic road near fussen

Germany does have a robust public transportation system that makes getting to most of these places doable without a car.

Still, I loved having a car for peace of mind and flexibility and for helping me get between charming towns like Füssen and Oberammergau easily, as well as to the lakes and views for sunrise!

Having a car just makes everything easier, so I recommend renting a car. You can pick it up in Munich for the best price if that’s where you’re flying into!

I always use Discover Cars to find the best deal for my rental, since it searches over 500+ agencies to compare prices — plus, I like how it also shows reviews of all the agencies, so you won’t get stuck with a bad one.

10 Best Things to do in Garmisch

Hike the Partnachklamm

Blue water flowing in the Partnach Gorge or Partnachklamm, incised by a mountain stream in the Reintal valley near the south German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Every moment in Garmisch feels magical, thanks to its towering mountains and charming Bavarian streets, but the gorges are what really seal the deal for me, and none more so than the Partnachklamm

This gorge is nearly 300 feet deep, extends over 2,000 feet long, AND you can walk through it! What more could you want? 

Crystal clear, turquoise water? Don’t worry, that’s here too, because the Partnachklamm has it all!

You’ll feel like you’ve entered a fairytale world as you walk through the darkened gorge (headlamps recommended) coated with bright green moss.

You’ll be soothed by the sounds of dripping water, and a rushing river so colorful that it doesn’t even look real. Just don’t forget your raincoat! 

To get here, you’ll have to park at the Garmisch Olympia Stadium (where you can admire some impressive ski jumps!) and take a short, scenic walk to the start of the gorge.

the ski jumps in the summer at garmisch olympia stadium

Once you get there, it’s time to whip out your online reservation (€7.50 per person) and get to exploring!

The gorge remains open all year-round and each season has something amazing to offer. Imagine seeing this already spectacular gem dotted with colorful fall foliage, or covered in shiny icicles! 

Just keep in mind that while winter and spring are a great time to beat the crowds, it’s common to have last minute closures due to safety hazards. 

Choose your journey to Alpspitze. 

pink blooming spring or summer flowers in front of a grassy field with the alpspitze peak behind it

Although it’s not the highest peak in Germany (we will get there), Alpspitze is definitely one of, if not the most recognizable mountain in Garmisch. 

All of those awesome mountain pictures you took back in town? Yeah, Alpspitze was probably the star of the show. 

Towering just under 9,000 feet, Alpspitze’s pyramid-like shape is what really gives it away but if you still weren’t sure, look for the mountain with all the cable cars leading up to the top!

Alpspitze has three cable cars to choose from but if you’re really feeling adventurous, you can opt to hike instead. 

Let’s evaluate your options! 

The Alpspitzbahn Cable Car will take you right to the top, whereas the Kreuzeckbahn and Hochalmbahn cable cars will take you almost all of the way (minus about 1,400 feet).

view from the top of the mountain as reached by the Alpspitzbahn Cable Car

This makes it a great option for people who still want to get a hike in but don’t want to commit to a challenging 4,600 foot elevation gain from the base of the mountain. 

The Garmisch Classic ticket will get you one ascent and descent via a cable car of your choosing for €29.

If you also want to visit Zugspitze (and trust me, you’ll want to check it out!), you should opt for the 2 Peak Pass for €71. I promise it’s worth it!

Once you get to the top, spend as much time as you’d like enjoying the incredible panoramic views, grabbing a bite to eat at the restaurant, or hiking (or cross-country skiing).

the viewing platform in the alps that forms an x shape with two crossing observation decks
Photo Credit: Meikel1965 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Of course, you can’t miss visiting the very unique AlpspiX!

And let me tell you, AlpspiX is the coolest! This viewing platform jets out of the rugged mountainside to form an X shape, creating two unique viewing areas. 

Wherever you stand, you’ll be rewarded with both unmatched views and the slightly unnerving feeling of floating more than three thousand feet up in the air!

Take a stroll down Ludwigstraße in town.

the fountain in the center of Ludwigstraße in the heart of garmisch with a bavarian building behind it and checked blue and white flags

No trip to explore a new German town would be complete without a visit to its charming pedestrian zone and it just so happens that Ludwigstraße is the most charming of them all. 

Like most other pedestrian zones, you’ll be treated to cobblestone streets, unique shops, and picturesque views but the thing that makes Ludwigstraße stand out amongst the rest is its Bavarian style buildings. 

These colorful homes each have their own special mural painting, known as Lüftlmalerei, that tells the story of the people who once lived there. 

a very ornate painted building in the center of garmisch town which is actually just a restaurant called husar restaurant
The exterior of Restaurant Husar. Photo Credit: Tournachon, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

You can spend all afternoon admiring the murals and learning about what life was once like here in the mountains.

This style of art can only be found in this corner of Bavaria so it’s a real one of a kind treat!

And speaking of treats… Make sure to stop at Benedict Sieß while you’re there for a delicious pastry to enjoy on the go!

Experience Lake Eibsee.

the beauty of lake eibsee as seen from a higher viewpoint with small "islands" in the lake with paler colors of water around the islands

Nestled at the base of Germany’s highest mountain, Lake Eibsee is everything you could hope for in an alpine lake, and so much more. 

The emerald green water paired with the surrounding forest and towering mountain range makes this the place for a perfect photo op.

Even better, in the early morning, the water is so calm that you can literally see Zugspitze reflecting in it (I mean, c’mon!)

But, if making all your Instagram followers jealous isn’t the (only) reason you came to Garmisch, you’ll be happy to know that there are tons of other ways to experience Eibsee! 

Go for a guided boat tour, rent a paddleboard, hike around the lake, eat at one of the lakefront restaurants, go for a swim… The options are endless! 

Whatever you do, save some time to visit Eishütterl am See for an ice cream treat that you’ll be dreaming about for weeks!

This is a great activity to pair with a visit to Zugspitze since the cable car up the mountains leaves from the same parking lot…

And speaking of parking lots, be prepared to pay a pretty penny to park in this one!

It costs €18 for a 4-hour minimum, though you do get €10 back if you use the mountain railway.

Explore the Werdenfels Castle ruins.

castle ruins in garmisch with trees all around it and stone ruins

Sitting high above the Loisach River, the Werdenfels Castle ruins are the definition of a hidden gem!

With so many things to do in Garmisch, it isn’t surprising that Werdenfels stays off the radar, but it’s part of what makes this place so spectacular!

Imagine this… you’re exploring the ruins of a mysterious fortress dating back to the 13th century, mountains towering over you in every direction.

You look through an arch to see the river below… and there is not another soul in sight. 

It doesn’t get much better than that… except it does, because it’s free!

Visit the marvelous Oberammergau.

the Lüftlmalerei wall paintings of the small bavarian town of Oberammergau

If you’ve fallen in love with Ludwigstraße’s special murals, then you absolutely have to visit Oberammergau

Nestled in a serene valley bordered by a towering forest and an even taller mountain range, the town of Oberammergau takes the term “picturesque” to a whole new level. 

Here, you’ll find the famous Lüftlmalerei paintings on a grander scale!

There is even a Lüftlmalerei that tells the story of Hansel and Gretel so keep an eye out! (If you look closely, you’ll find Little Red Riding Hood too!)

When you aren’t marveling at the painted stories, you can shop for a variety of wood carved goods.

Wood carving has been a staple at Oberammergau for centuries and there are more than 60 local wood sculptors to choose from.

Once you’ve picked up a unique souvenir, it’s time to check out the Passion Play Theater.

In 1634, the residents of Oberammergau made a Passion Play pledge in an effort to be spared from the bubonic plague by divine intervention. 

Since then, this play has been faithfully reenacted every ten years!

It draws in thousands of visitors and nearly half of the town’s 5,000 residents participate in one way or another. 

Don’t worry if your trip doesn’t hit the ten year mark! Exploring the theater where the play is held is an experience in its own right. 

Stand atop Germany’s highest mountain.

Zugspitze mountain peak with its gold cross that marks the summit and a small group of hikers approaching, the sky is misty and cloudy but you can still see mountains all around

With Germany’s highest mountain right at your fingertips, it’d be wrong to plan a trip to Garmisch that didn’t include a visit to the top of Zugspitze.

Ambitious travelers can choose to hike to the top, but even if you take the cable car up, you’ll still be able to brag about standing at the very top of Germany.

From the top, you’ll have panoramic views (obviously) of the surrounding area so don’t forget to wave hello to Austria and Italy!

You can also make a valiant attempt to count all of the notable mountains you can see in the distance — but be prepared, because on a clear day, it can be around 400!

Depending on the season, you can spend some time hiking or skiing around the mountaintop and then follow it up by a delicious meal at the cafeteria.

You can even choose to spend a night up here at the Münchner Haus.

P.S. It’s not uncommon to see wedding ceremonies happening here. Talk about romance!

Indulge in Kaiserschmarrn.

the famous Kaiserschmarrn scrambled pancake with jam and powdered sugar at a restaurant with a fork

Also known as a scrambled pancake, I’m pretty sure I could eat nothing else but Kaiserschmarrn for the rest of my life and be perfectly content. 

Sure, you should absolutely try a wide variety of traditional Bavarian food while you are in Garmisch but you should not miss an opportunity to indulge in some Kaiserschmarrn. 

You’re probably going to see this sweet treat on just about any menu in Garmisch but my absolute favorite place (and trust me when I say I ordered it everywhere I went) is Gasthaus zur Schranne.

I swear I’m not saying that just because it has an awesome beer garden (but I mean, it doesn’t hurt that it does).

Explore the scenic Riessersee.

Riessersee with clear reflection of trees and mountains and clouds in the still waters

With all of the attention focused on Lake Eibsee, Riessersee is often overlooked and that’s part of the reason why it’s one of my favorite places in Garmisch.

But even though I’m not complaining, I’m still surprised it doesn’t get more attention. 

Not only does this breathtaking lake date back to medieval times, but it also has hosted many famous competitions like the Olympic Winter Games of 1936. 

Now don’t get me wrong!

You’ll still see people here cooling off with a swim in the summertime or skating around when the lake turns to ice come winter, but it’s not nearly as busy as Eibsee. 

Plus, the lake is large enough that you can always find a nice, quiet space all to yourself. It’ll even have spectacular mountain views to boot!

Watch the sunset… or sunrise.

the scenic lake geroldsee in the charming mountainous bavaria area at sunrise

Imagine some of those incredible views that I’ve been talking about. Now, imagine them at sunset or sunrise. 

There’s absolutely no bad place to watch the sunset as long as you make an effort to be outside.

Watch it from Lake Eibsee or even Ludwigstraße street, but just make it happen. 

Plus, with the towering mountains, you won’t get much of the actual sunrise/sunset so you don’t have to worry about being in the “perfect spot”. Instead, what you’ll get is a spectacular, colorful sky in every direction. Like I said, no bad place! 

But, if I had to pick just one of my favorite sunset/sunrise spots it would be Lake Geroldsee.

This adorable moor lake’s calm waters make for the perfect mountain reflection everytime and the fairytale huts peppered around the valley create a magical feel.

A short hike will take you right to the water’s edge and guarantees a sunset/sunrise experience that isn’t crowded with other people.

While the morning light is still in full radiant effect, stop by Lake Kochel to keep the great views coming! 

13 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Füssen, Germany’s Fairytale Town

view of a road in fussen

Let’s be real: who wouldn’t want to visit a medieval town filled with fairytale charm on their trip to Germany?

Füssen is famous for its picturesque old town, pristine natural landscapes and nearby castles (yes, there’s more than one!) that inspired the work of Walt Disney. 

There is even a section of road that is literally named “The Romantic Road” because it’s just that darn cute.

pastel colored buildings of fussen with an alpine background in bavaria germany

It just doesn’t get more charming than this!

So, pack your suitcase and hop on a plane because Füssen is about to show you why everyone who visits falls in love with this charming Bavarian town.

Just don’t be surprised if you never want to leave once you see how many great things to do in Füssen there are!

The Best Things to Do in Füssen, Germany

Take a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, the “New Castle”.

The famous fairytale-esque Neuschwanstein Castle, a many-story white castle with turrets, which inspired Walt Disney

Who doesn’t love a petty power struggle between royalty?

Designed to put the nearby Hohenschwangau Castle to shame, King Ludwig II of Bavaria planned Neuschwanstein Castle to show off his royal power: inspired by historic knights, done in a throwback 12th century-style.

Originally, he planned for Neuschwanstein to have more than 200 rooms, but only a dozen were built before the King died, causing the construction to come to a halt. 

However, I’m sure Ludwig would be happy to know that, even incomplete, the Neuschwanstein castle now sees nearly 1.5 million visitors a year!

Even cooler, its modern day fame and popularity is in no small part thanks to the work of Walt Disney! 

Before creating Disneyland, Walt Disney visited Neuschwanstein. He was so struck by the beauty of this unique castle and its surrounding landscape that he was inspired to create the iconic design of Sleeping Beauty’s castle! 

So whether you are a history buff, a Disney lover, a castle enthusiast or someone who just simply enjoys incredible views, you can’t miss a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle! 

Plus, every season offers an entirely different view of the surrounding area — all of them dreamy.

One of the best views is in the fall, when the castle is surrounded by bursts of colorful leaves.

Meanwhile, the winter months transform it into a winter wonderland, like something out of a snow globe. 

Winter scene of a snow-covered Neuschwanstein Castle at sunset with mist and snowy landscape

Just make sure you plan ahead (like… ahead ahead), since this is one of the main attractions in Germany, even if Füssen itself isn’t that busy.

Getting tickets to Neuschwanstein can be a bit of a nightmare.

Looking at the official website here, I see that tickets are sold out for over a month for Neuschwanstein Castle during the peak summer season.

This is one of the most famous castles and most visited castles in the world, so you’ll definitely want to plan ahead here.

There are a few tickets that are sold same day at the Ticket-Center Hohenschwangau in the town of Schwangau (not at the castle itself, or in Füssen for that matter, so you’ll also have to walk, drive, or take a bus here).

It opens at 7:30 AM during peak season, and lines sometimes form before the ticket center even opens. It’s not unheard of for tickets to be sold out before 7:45 or 8 AM.

lots of tour buses and chaos in schwangau near the castles

    If you can’t get tickets through the official website, I’d recommend trying to book a guided tour or a ticket online in advance (check here and here to see if there are openings).

    If that still doesn’t work, you can book a private tour of Neuschwanstein Castle, which is pricy but better than going to Füssen and not getting to see it.

    The guided tour includes tickets, a private guide, a shuttle to Marienbrücke (if in season), a tour of Neuschwanstein castle, and a horse carriage ride to to the village of Hohenschwangau before returning to your hotel in Füssen.

    Book your private tour of Neuschwanstein here!

    If that also is sold out, there’s also this private castles tour, which includes Neuschwanstein Castle as well as Linderhof Palace and Wieskirche, a beautiful local church.

    You can also book a private photoshoot at Neuschwanstein Castle here if you want someone to help you capture the memories, but it is a pretty pricy experience.

    Getting tickets may sound like a nightmare (and is, in peak season), but this is still one of the top things to do in Füssen.

    Explore the “Old Castle”, Hohenschwangau Castle.

    view of Hohenschwangau castle, a pale peach csatle, with summer trees and blue sky

    Just a stone’s throw away from the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, you’ll find Hohenschwangau Castle, the place where King Ludwig II grew up. 

    Right away, you can see a huge difference in architecture as you stare at the castles side by side.

    Hohenschwangau has a more medieval look and while it isn’t as grand as Neuschwanstein, it provides a glimpse into what life was like during the early 1800s. 

    If I’m being completely honest, I think the interior of Hohenscwangau is far more impressive (and what really makes it worth visiting)! 

    This may have something to do with the fact that it sees far less visitors but overall, I found Hohenschwangau to be a calmer and more serene experience. 

    You still need to book a tour to see this castle (remember to book ahead several days in advance — luckily, you can do so on the official website some days before and not need to pay a big mark up or shell out for a private tour!).

    It’s worth it, though: you’ll be blown away by the carefully painted walls, plethora of historic artifacts, and picturesque gardens. 

    Just a thought as you plan your trip: you could easily visit both castles in one day! 

    Walk around the Old Town of Füssen.

    Old town of Fussen with white buildings and pastel brown and yellow buildings with a cloudy sky

    Füssen has one of the smaller old towns that I’ve seen but that just means it makes it easier to experience everything this historic gem has to offer! 

    You can explore the old town center in just a few hours, including all of the unique shops, charming souvenir shops, hidden alleys, and historic landmarks along the way. 

    This medieval old town dates back 700 years, and the bright colored buildings contrast perfectly against a mountain range backdrop, making it a great place for photo ops. 

    As you walk amongst the cobblestone streets, you’ll even be treated to views of the High Castle towering above the town.

    I loved getting here early in the morning before the town woke up and watching as it slowly came to life.

    Grab a delicious pastry from one of the many cafes and get to exploring!

    Hike to Germany’s highest lake.

    alpine lake in the alps, called schreksee, with green mountain, teal water, and snowy patches on the mountain crevices

    Located less than an hour away from Füssen, a visit to Lake Schrecksee is well worth the day trip. 

    The hike is a little over nine miles roundtrip (15 km) so it’ll probably take you all day.

    But when you’re finished, you can say that you hiked up to the highest alpine lake in Germany… and you’ll have hundreds of breathtaking photos to prove it! 

    Before you go, make sure you’re well prepared. Pack layers, snacks, water and trekking poles if you can. 

    This hike is a challenging one, so it’s a great addition to your Füssen itinerary if you’re the kind of traveler who thinks a trip isn’t complete without a great hike. 

    That said, I’m a huge hiking field, and to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it for people who don’t normally hike (mainly because of the elevation gain). 

    However, those who rise (literally!) to meet the challenge will be rewarded with panoramic views of the mountains and a breathtaking turquoise lake with an island at its center. If you’re feeling really brave, you can even swim out to the island and back!

    P.S. The trail is only accessible if you visit during the summer months. 

    Marvel at the Linderhof Palace.

    taupe stone building of the facade of the linderhof palace in bavaria on a summer day with lots of ornate detailing on the facade

    Neuschwanstein Castle isn’t the only place in Füssen to admire King Ludwig’s, uh, unique architectural style. 

    During the same time period, Ludwig also designed the Linderhof Palace and it’s another great example of what royalty looked like in the 19th century. 

    From the outside, the Linderhof Palace looks like your typical Baroque style villa but once inside, French influence takes over. 

    Every room in the palace is covered head to toe in lavish ornamentation to the point where it feels overdone. 

    Honestly, some rooms look absolutely ridiculous (sorry Ludwig, you are a bit extra!) but it only makes the palace as a whole that much more interesting. 

    Plus, when the overwhelming environment gets to you and you start feeling claustrophobic, you can head out to the Linderhof Gardens for a beautiful walk. 

    In the gardens, various European styles blend to create an atmosphere that’s equal parts unique and stunning, and the perfect place to escape from the almost-camp that is Linderhof Palace. 

    Try traditional Bavarian food.

    Nicole Westcott's hand holding a Nussschnucken pastry (like a cinnamon roll) with the backdrop of Fussen behind her

    Put on your stretchiest eating pants, because Füssen is a great place to try a variety of traditional Bavarian dishes! 

    From the wide variety of restaurants serving local delicacies to the handful of bakeries, there’s a new delicious food to try with every meal. 

    Start the day with a delicious Nussschnecken (German nut roll) from Bäckerei Höfler — it’s one of the top things to do in Füssen. 

    Head to Gasthof Weizen Brauerei for lunch because let’s be honest, no trip to Germany is complete without pigging out on bratwurst at least once.

    As though all that wasn’t enough amazing food, you can finish up the day with the best pork knuckle you’ll ever have at Restaurant Ludwigs

    But wait, there’s more! Don’t forget about snacks! 

    In addition to the classic Bavarian pretzel, Füssen is home to a German favorite: the Schneeball (aka snowball). 

    This deep fried pastry is covered in powdered sugar and often filled with a tasty surprise like marzipan, making it a must on any German adventure!

    Explore around the falls.

    A manmade waterfall called Lechfall with a series of what look like stairs and a river called lech going over it

    The lovely Lechfall may be man-made, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. 

    In fact, what really draws people to the falls isn’t the way the water cascades over tiers of stone, but its impressive turquoise color! 

    I’ll happily confirm that those pictures on Instagram aren’t edited. It’s really that blue! 

    After you’ve admired the falls, the Lech River, and the picturesque gorge surrounding it, consider going for a short walk. 

    In less than half a mile (and a random slide later), you will have crossed the Austrian border!

    Who wouldn’t want to fly back home and brag about the time they hiked from one country to another? 

    Stand on an ancient bridge.

    The Marienbrucke near Neuschwanstein Castle near Fussen Germany, a small bridge with green foliage around it and a misty landscape

    Best paired with a trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle, Marienbrücke is a unique bridge with a lot of history. 

    Also known as Mary’s Bridge, Marienbrucke was originally built back in 1845.

    During this time, a bridge of this magnitude was unheard of, so its trial and error building process left much to be desired.

    Being the lavish king that he was, King Ludwig replaced the bridge in 1866 to make it easier on the eyes and complement (you guessed it) Neuschwanstein Castle. 

    Now, when you walk along this picturesque bridge, you’re rewarded with incredible views of the castle and the mountains beyond it.

    The cascade of Pollat Gorge that you can see from Marienbrucke looking down below

    Look down and you’ll even see the gorgeous Pollat Cascade 300 feet below your feet! 

    Even though the bridge still has its original 1866 barristers, the rest has been restored and renewed to ensure the safety of visitors. 

    Pro tip: Buy your admission ticket to Neuschwanstein ahead of time so you can go right from the bridge into the castle.

    If you don’t, you’ll be taking the 45-minute walk or waiting for the shuttle bus back to the ticket station…. and tickets likely won’t be available by then anyway. 

    Take a cable car up to Tegelberg.

    view of a hiking path on mount tegelberg which you can reach via cable car as a fun thing to do in fussen in the summer

    So, I’m sure you’ve been admiring the towering mountains that surround Füssen as you wander around the old town and visit the castles, but now it’s finally time to see what the beautiful view is like from the top! 

    Mount Tegelberg is a part of the Ammergau Alps (which are part of the larger group of Bavarian Alps), and it’s one of the most well defined mountains in the range. 

    Odds are good it’s the one you have been taking a whole bunch of photos of… 

    Considering the fact that it stands more than 3,000 feet above Füssen (which already has elevation of about 7,000 feet), it’s actually pretty easy to get to. 

    Thanks to delightfully efficient German public transit, a short 10-minute bus ride will take you from the heart of Füssen to the valley of Schwangau. 

    There, you can then hop on a cable car for a 15-minute ride to the top of Tegelberg Mountain. 

    The journey alone is breathtaking with incredible views of the valley, Ammergau Alps, and all the most beautiful castles that bring people to Füssen to begin with. 

    Once you reach the top, you’ll be blown away by the panoramic views. 

    Prolong your stay up here by checking out the archeological site or doing one of the many outdoor activities, like hitting one of the hiking trails, hopping on the toboggan, or even paragliding! 

    Hang by (one of many) the lakes.

    the clear lake waters of alpsee with turquoise water and a few boats and overcast sky with mountain background

    With more than 10 lakes near Füssen to choose from, you’ll have no trouble at all finding a place to relax by, on, or in Germany’s crystal clear waters. 

    To pair lake fun with a visit to the Museum of the Bavarian Kings, choose Alpsee (my top pick).

    It’s also acclaimed for being one of the cleanest lakes in all of Germany!

    Head over to Lake Forggensee to go for a swim in Germany’s largest reservoir and stay late to catch the evening boat ride for some live music. 

    If a family-friendly lake is what you’re after, opt for Hopfensee.

    Not only is it one of the warmest lakes in the Alps, but it also has a sectioned-off swimming zone and a miniature golf course for the kiddos.  

    You can also choose to skip the bathing suit and spend your day exploring along the water’s edge. There are tons of hiking trails around each lake varying from relaxing stroll to heart-thumping adventure. 

    The options are endless in Bavaria’s great outdoors!

    Drive the Romantic Road.

    woman in a dress standing by a road sign that says romantische strasse (romantic road) in germany

    With nearly 250 miles of road and endless attractions along the way, you can plan your entire vacation around the Romantische Straße

    Even if you just have a day to spare, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to drive at least a section of this historic, fairytale-like road. 

    There are 28 official stops along the way ranging from majestic castles to breathtaking churches but each stop will take you into a charming, medieval town. 

    You could spend an hour on Germany’s Romantic Road just seeing the sights from the road and basking in the scenery.

    Better yet, you can even take a full day trip stopping at a selection of towns, exploring what each historic small town has to offer.

    colorful houses of rothenberg ob der tauer with peach, green, yellow, and white colors

    Just a few of the best towns to visit are Rothenburg ob der Tauer, Dinkelsbühl, and Würzburg (at the heart of Franconian wine country!) 

    Plus, for those who love a scenic view, the mountains are never out of sight!

    There’s never a bad time to take this route (even the winter is special!) but try to avoid the summer months if you don’t like big crowds. 

    There’s a good reason that this is one of the most popular activities in Germany!

    Visit the High Castle.

    view of the castle above the town of fussen, as seen from a river side, on a sunny day

    Sitting high atop a rocky outcrop (hence the name), the Hohes Schloss looks over the old town of Füssen and adds to the charm of an already picture perfect place. 

    Just admiring the view of the castle from down below is a treat, but getting to explore it yourself? Chef’s kiss.

    Plus, as an added bonus for you history geeks out there, the castle is considered to be one of the most extensively well-preserved Gothic castles in all of Bavaria. 

    And given German attention to detail, that’s not for nothing.

    As you walk through the castle, you not only get to marvel at the rich detail of 15th century architecture that once was a royal summer residence.

    You also get to admire a variety of 15th, 16th, and 19th century art.

    It’s a historic castle and art museum encompassing years and years of history, all bundled up into one!

    Try a canyoning tour.

    a beautiful waterfall feature in a gorge near fussen germany

    Want to experience a different side of Füssen?

    Explore the beauty of the Starzlachklamm Gorgeon a canyoning tour!

    Cliff jump, climb, and swim your way through this paradise of crystal-clear streams and towering waterfalls!

    You’ll even get to climb up near-vertical rock walls with the aid of ropes and harnesses — and no worries if you’re a canyoning beginner, because your guides will be with you every step of the way — no prior experience needed!

    No need for a GoPro, either – photos will be taken during your tour so you can just focus on enjoying the experience!

    Book your canyoning tour here!

    Where to Stay in Füssen

    a view of an old town street in fussen at night with lamplight and pastel walls

    $: Hotel Ludwigs

    This affordable Old Town gem is in the heart of Füssen’s pedestrian zone, and it’s definitely as extra as the man who inspired it!

    With over-the-top rooms with red velvet tufted headboards, wallpaper, and plush details, King Ludwig himself would approve of the budget-friendly yet very comfortable offerings at Hotel Ludwigs

    The hotel definitely has some strange touches here and there — like a restaurant with twin swan booths — but its quirkiness is its charm, as is its location and relative affordability.

    Check availability, prices, room types, and reviews here!

    $$: Hotel Sonne

    Located right in the heart of Füssen’s Old Town in a stunning historic pink building, the 4-star Hotel Sonne is a great place to stay on a rather affordable budget.

    Its historic exterior contrasts wildly with its ultra-modern interior, with a lobby that wouldn’t be out of place in Bali, with floor cushions, bamboo chairs, and tropical wallpaper.

    Its rooms are ultra-modern as well — think in-suite soaking tubs, brightly lit vanities, extensive wardrobe space, huge beds with funky light fixtures, and a ton of space.

    There’s also an in-house sauna (also with a modern design, with dark-brown wood tiered seating, a tile floor, and glass wall), lounge areas near the sauna, a steam room, and a delicious in-house restaurant called Riwa Bar & Restaurant.

    Check availability, rates, room types, and reviews here!

    $$$: Hotel Hirsch

    The lovely Hotel Hirsch looks straight-up out of a Wes Anderson movie, with its almost-too-symmetrical pastel pink and gray facade, seen against a backdrop of the Bavarian Alps.

    Inside, there’s a variety of room types, from airy rooms with high ceilings and exposed wooden beams, with windows that open right onto alpine views to smaller double rooms.

    Each room is quite unique here, so be sure to check out the exact room type you want when booking. (i.e., the triple room is much more scenic than the quadruple room!)

    The on-site restaurant is very traditionally Bavarian and the included breakfast buffet is to die for!

    Check availability, rates, room types, and reviews here!

    One Day in Lauterbrunnen: Mini Itinerary to Maximize a Quick Trip

    Kirche Lauterbrunnen in the distance

    Nestled within one of the most spectacular valleys of the Bernese Alps, Lauterbrunnen is a must-see destination on any trip to Switzerland.

    The towering rock faces that surround the town of Lauterbrunnen hug the valley, making visitors feel like they have entered a hidden oasis. 

    Far from the hustle and bustle of city life, Lauterbrunnen is everything you’d hope a Swiss village would be.

    Rustic chalets line the streets, the smell of traditional Swiss food fills the air, and the impressive Staubbach Falls stands tall above it all. 

    close up of a flower box in lauterbrunnen town

    But that’s not the only eye-catching waterfall you’ll see. Far from it, in fact!

    The name Lauterbrunnen translates to “many fountains” and once you get there, you’ll see why.

    Throughout the valley, 72 waterfalls make their way down from nearly 1,000 foot cliffs, and the snow-covered mountains of the Bernese Alps tower even higher than that. 

    Lauterbrunnen is truly a place that you’d think could only ever exist on a postcard. 

    With so much beauty to take in, it can be hard to decide what to do first. Luckily, I’m here to help! 

    What to Know Before Visiting Lauterbrunnen

    The village is small.

    the charming town of lauterbrunnen with a wooden house with red window shutters and white ground level

    One thing that caught me by surprise is just how small Lauterbrunnen is.

    With most of the pictures online focused on its famous falls, you don’t get a good feel for the village itself.

    So let me be the first to tell you that it’s smaller than you think it is. You can easily explore the ins and outs of Lauterbrunnen in a day!

    It’s a great hub location.

    gimmelwalds honesty shop in the swiss jungfrau region

    Even though there isn’t a whole lot to fuel a long trip in Lauterbrunnen, it is an incredible hub location.

    With so many nearby towns and villages (ex: Murren, Wengen, Gimmelwald, Grindelwald) accessible by cable car and train, you can spend at least a week exploring the region, using Lauterbrunnen as a hub.

    Plus, you get to see the epic Staubbach Falls every day!

    It’s expensive.

    swiss flag on building with mountains in distance

    This is true for all of Switzerland but it was still a bit of a shock when I first got there.

    Prepare to spend a lot of money on food, drinks, and activities (and I mean a lot).

    The average cost of a “cheap” meal is 20 CHF (if you’re lucky) — that’s about $22 USD.

    If you’re on a tight budget, put the dreams of buying an extravagant souvenir to bed before you even get there!

    Where to Stay in Lauterbrunnen

    green grass in front of a little shed full of logs cut up for firewood with flower boxes

    With a village as small as Lauterbrunnen, there aren’t many options when it comes to lodging.

    But what Lauterbrunnen lacks in abundance, it makes up for in variety. 

    So regardless of whether your idea of vacation revolves around luxury or you’re really just looking for a place to rest your head, there’s an option that’s perfect for you. 

    Hotel Steinbock: Mid-Range to Budget-Friendly

    hotel leading to a balcony with a stunning mountain view capped in snow in lauterbrunnen

    This is where I stayed during my visit and it was more than comfortable. In fact, it was probably the comfiest bed I slept on during my month-long trip in Europe and I had stayed at some pretty nice hotels, so that’s a major win. 

    Aside from that, you can save even more money by opting for the room with a communal bathroom. Don’t worry, I never saw anyone on my trips to the bathroom. 

    Last, but certainly not least, their free breakfast is incredible. Just be sure to get there when it first starts for the fresh, warm bread! 

    the town of lauterbrunnen with road and buildings

    Hotel Silberhorn: Luxury Option

    This is a great option if you don’t mind spending an extra few bucks for an epic view.

    The rooms here aren’t cheap, with an average cost of about $500 a night, but the views from your window will have you wondering if you even need to leave the hotel to experience Lauterbrunnen. 

    Plus, all of the food here is made to order including breakfast. Unlike other hotels that offer continental breakfast (bread, meats, cheeses), Hotel Silberhorn will serve you up a hot breakfast on command. 

    Your One Day in Lauterbrunnen Itinerary

    Enjoy breakfast at Flavours Cafe. 

    a coffee to go with latte art

    This post assumes that you arrive in Lauterbrunnen in the morning, so you don’t have access to your hotel’s free breakfast.

    If you checked in yesterday, though, and have breakfast already taken care of, you can skip this section and move onto the next part.

    Although there isn’t a large variety of breakfast options in Lauterbrunnen, the few choices that you have are top notch. 

    Take Flavours for example. This awesome cafe has everything from a classic sit down breakfast to a grab-and-go pastry selection. 

    pastries in switzerland

    But regardless of what you’re craving, you’re guaranteed a fresh meal, even if you decide that you simply must have ice cream for breakfast. (Don’t worry. I get it.) 

    To make things even better, you won’t pay an arm and leg for it! At least not by Switzerland’s standards. 

    It can be a bit shock trying to adjust to the extremely high prices, so you can rest easy knowing that Flavours won’t break the bank.

    And don’t even get me started on the coffee!

    I can’t tell you how many cappuccinos I’ve had here (sometimes more than once in the same day) and I can assure you that I will be back for more. 

    Toss everything you think you know about cappuccinos out the window because the Swiss version is about to put the rest to shame!

    P.S. The breakfast burger is incredible, so don’t even think twice about it — get it! 

    Get a close-up view of Staubbach Falls.

    view of staubbuch falls in lauterbrunnen in the morning beautiful light

    One of the first things that you’ll see when you get to Lauterbrunnen is Staubbach Falls. There’s literally no way you can miss it. 

    In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably spend a solid five minutes staring in amazement before you even leave the train platform. 

    Staubbach Falls is one of the largest free falling waterfalls in Europe and if you couldn’t tell already, it’s the heart of Lauterbrunnen…

    … which is saying something because there are more than 70 other waterfalls in this valley!

    In most other places you have to put in an effort to see the waterfall, but in Lauterbrunnen, that’s very much not the case.

    close up view of the staubbach falls as you approach them

    Stunning views of Staubbach Falls will follow you everywhere you go, and I can honestly say that these falls simply don’t have a single bad angle.

    However, there’s one angle in particular that I think is the coolest, and that’s the one from behind the falls!

    A short 30-minute walk with a bit of elevation gain (380 feet) will take you through a tunnel and to an incredible view of the falls and the valley beyond it. 

    Just don’t forget your raincoat because it’s practically guaranteed that you’ll get wet!

    And fear not, there is a tourist information “hut” by the falls to help guide you!

    Explore the interior of a mountain — yes, really!

    interior of trummelbach falls with waterfall churning through the mountain as it pours down

    Okay, so, I stumbled upon Trümmelbach Falls by accident but it immediately became my favorite thing to do in Lauterbrunnen.

    I was a bit hesitant at first since I was nearing the end of my trip and feeling a bit stingy, but I can assure you that it is worth the money (14 CHF per person to be exact). 

    You know how I was saying that Lauterbrunnen is home to more than 70 waterfalls? Well, Trümmelbach Falls is home to no fewer than 10 of them!

    As if the sheer quantity wasn’t enough to convince you, I’d be letting you down if I didn’t mention the fact that they are glacial waterfalls that are literally carved inside of a mountain (the only one of its kind in Europe).

    Plus, the way that the water has carved its way through the mountain is unreal, and pictures don’t even begin to do it justice. 

    This is really a place that you need to see in order to believe. 

    view of trummelbach falls with gorgeous water rushing down

    The good news is that viewing the falls is relatively easy and a lot of fun!

    Take the funicular elevator, which was built into the mountain back in 1913, up to the 7th major waterfall.

    This helps to minimize the amount of walking you need to do uphill (3 upper falls) and then take a leisurely hike back down through the mountain to see the rest! 

    I can’t emphasize enough how awesome this experience is. You feel like you are in a cave as you walk through tunnels and into open galleries to admire the many falls. 

    It’s truly a one of a kind experience!

    Take a hike (or catch the cable-car and train) to Mürren. 

    the beautiful town of murren in switzerland

    Okay, so today might just be a long day of hiking, but who wouldn’t want to spend the day outside when you have nonstop views of the Swiss Alps?

    Just remember that as you encounter 2,800 feet of elevation gain in about four miles! 

    I can practically see you cringing at the thought of all that climbing, but just hear me out! This trail is amazing. 

    Is it torture gaining that much elevation that quickly? Absolutely. 

    But the views rising out of the valley are unmatched and you can stop as many times as like on the way up.

    There’s no such thing as a bad place to stop, catch your breath, and take in the views, so plan some extra time and you’ll make it to the top! 

    Not sold on it? You can opt to take the cable car-train duo for a quicker, more relaxing journey to Mürren. 

    You can also choose to take the cable car-train duo up to Mürren and then hike down after lunch to get the best of both worlds. 

    Eat lunch in Mürren. 

    a potato rosti on a plate in switzerland

    You made it to Murren! Now it’s time to celebrate with lunch.

    This car-free mountain village is as picturesque as it gets, so the wealth of incredible dining options is just icing on the cake. 

    You can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants here but my personal favorite is Stägerstübli.

    Stägerstübli is located smack dab in the middle of Murren’s main street so you can do a bit of window shopping before (and after) lunch, and everything about it screams traditional Swiss experience. What’s not to love? 

    Even better, the Swiss couple who runs the place grew up here! It doesn’t get more authentic than that! 

    As an added bonus, when the weather is nice you can sit out on the patio and admire the view of mountains in every direction!

    But wherever you sit, make sure you try the Rosti!

    It is one of my favorite dishes in Switzerland and Stägerstübli is one of my favorite places to have it. 

    Channel your inner adrenaline junkie.

    paraglider in the lauterbrunnen valley in front of a waterfall

    When you are out and about admiring the beauty of the mountains that surround you, you will notice something: paragliders!

    Flying high above the falls and adding some dimension to the millionth photo you’ve taken of the mountains, paragliding is a popular activity in Lauterbrunnen. 

    So instead of just staring in amazement, wondering what the views are like from up there, go ahead and join them!

    Reserve your tickets ahead of time at Airtime Paragliding back in Lauterbrunnen because you take off right from Mürren.

    No experience is needed! Your adventure will be with a tandem pilot so you can just sit back and relax while they do all of the leg work. 

    The experience costs 180 CHF per person but for a longer experience you can opt for the 250 CHF package. 

    Prepare to check something off your bucket list… Switzerland style! You’ll be talking about this experience for years to come. 

    Not an adrenaline junkie? Head back to Lauterbrunnen where you can rent bikes and spend the afternoon cycling through the valley. 

    Wander around Lauterbrunnen village. 

    flowerbox in lauterbrunnen

    Like I was saying earlier, the Lauterbrunnen village is pretty small but there are just enough shops to walk around for an hour or so, and each one has its own unique individual charm. 

    You won’t find a line of souvenir shops but rather a collection of Swiss classics like a chocolate shop, an outdoor gear shop, and a shop that sells cuckoo clocks (yes, really!) 

    As you make your way to the end of the main street you’ll be hit with a smell of the delicious goodness coming from the donut truck and if you continue on past that you’ll find yourself on pasture land.

    Keep walking for a peek at a farm-fresh vending machine! 

    farm fresh vending machine in lauterbrunnen

    Besides that, there’s also a church with a gorgeous view of Staubbach Falls and the mountains of the Bernese Alps on all sides.

    Head to the Kirche Lauterbrunnen on the map in order to see this quaint church!

    Kirche Lauterbrunnen in the distance

    Have dinner in Lauterbrunnen’s only pub. 

    While part of me is making this suggestion because it really is the only pub in Lauterbrunnen, the other part of me is recommending it because it’s awesome. Good enough for ya?

    Horner Pub is open every day of the year and they don’t stop serving food until midnight. 

    Sit out on the terrace to enjoy a view of Staubbach Falls as you sip a beer and pig out on Älplermagronen (mac & cheese with applesauce).

    Alternately, hang by the bar to make some new friends while you munch on some nachos!

    2 Days in Zurich: Itinerary for Enjoying Switzerland’s Largest City

    blue tram going down the road in zurich

    Home to the largest international airport in Switzerland, Zurich is a city that is frequented by many but explored by few.

    Many people look at Zurich as simply a stepping stone to their next stop on their Swiss itinerary and don’t actually take the time to explore what the city has to offer… including me!

    In fact, the only reason that I wound up with so much time on my hands to explore Zurich was because my flight home got delayed! 

    At first, I was annoyed. What was I supposed to do in Zurich?! 

    View of Zurich on Fraumunster Church and Church of St. Peter with bicycle in Zurich, Switzerland.

    But I quickly realized there are a ton of things to do, and got to work exploring. I mean, it’s not Switzerland’s largest city for nothing!

    So do yourself a favor and spend at least two days in Zurich.

    It’s just enough time to see the main sights, discover a few hidden gems, and leave eager to plan your next visit! 

    Here’s a quick Zurich itinerary — I hope it convinces you to give this Swiss city its due credit when visiting!

    Day One of Your Zurich Itinerary: Getting a Feel for the City

    Fuel up on breakfast.

    a coffee to go with latte art

    One thing that I noticed about Europe is that it’s not uncommon to eat a pastry for breakfast and get on with your day.

    Personally, I sometimes need a little something more to get me to lunch time without getting hangry, especially on big walking days. 

    That’s why I love Babu’s Bakery & Coffeehouse

    Here you can choose to stand at the cafe bar for a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant…

    … or you can opt for a table where you can enjoy a classic breakfast of eggs and pancakes! 

    As great as it is, there are two things that I should mention ahead of time.

    One, this place serves one of the best cups of coffee in Zurich and everyone knows it so this place is always busy and loud. 

    Secondly, it’s expensive. But then again, so is everything in Switzerland, so you may as well get used to it or else you will find yourself extremely disappointed. 

    That being said, I went to Babu’s almost every morning during my visit. It’s just that good. 

    Pro tip: Get there when it first opens at 7 AM! 

    Go for a morning stroll.

    zurich lake and town, view from lindenhof, with morning light falling on the city and body of water

    While the morning light is still working its magic, it’s time to head over to Lindenhof Hill.

    Many people will come here for sunset and the crowds tend to distract from the incredible view, in my humble opinion. 

    Besides, I think the views are better in the morning anyways! 

    Lindenhof sits atop an ancient glacier (technically a moraine, for my geology nerd friends) and offers an incredible view of the medieval old town, Altstadt.

    In the early morning, you can sit atop the hill or climb over the remains of the city wall (so cool!) and watch the warm light glisten as it hits the river. 

    Sounds pretty exciting, right? And I haven’t even mentioned the joy of overlooking the old town as it begins to wake up!

    Zig zag your way to an architectural masterpiece. 

    Grossmunster church on the banks of the water with some awnings in red and blue stripes on the ground level and old buildings around it on a sunny day

    Feel free to use your GPS to help guide you, but do yourself a favor and skip the straightforward route.

    Wandering through the cobblestone streets filled with shops, restaurants, and historic plazas is an experience you can’t pass up! 

    Eventually you will cross the bridge and arrive at your next destination: Grossmunster!

    Grossmunster is not only one of the most beautiful churches in Zurich but it’s also one of the most historically significant.

    It was built way back in 1100 and it was the site where the Swiss-German Reformation in Switzerland was first initiated back in 1520. 

    interior of the grossmunster with arched and vaulted ceilings

    Legend has it that the church was even established by the famous Charlemagne! 

    Even setting history aside, the incredible Romanesque architecture alone is more than enough reason to visit.

    You can explore the main floor to admire the details or pay a small fee to climb to the top for one of the best views in Zurich!

    Explore the Old Town.

    Famous Muensterhof square with fountain in Zurich, Switzerland with blue, yellow, white buildings

    You may not have realized this but you’re already in the Old Town!

    Unlike some cities where the old town is just a few streets, Zurich’s Old Town is massive and sprawls across both sides of the Limmat River

    Here you’ll find endless cobblestone alleys, shops, restaurants, museums, squares like the lovely Muensterhof Square, and gardens… maybe even a cat or two!

    So relax, and spend the afternoon exploring all that the old town has to offer and let your curiosity take the front seat on this adventure!

    There are also free (but don’t forget to tip!) walking tours of the old town if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the vastness of it all.

    We all like to travel in different ways, so do what makes sense for you!

    Enjoy an Old Town lunch.

    cheese fondue on a stick in a restaurant in switzerland for lunch

    You’re going to come across an endless selection of places to eat, and from personal experience I can say that you probably won’t go wrong… most of the time.

    But if you want to guarantee an amazing meal or you just don’t like the stress of having to pick a place, I recommend that you make your way over to the Swiss Chuchi Restaurant

    With plenty of outdoor seating, you can continue to admire the medieval streets of the old town and enjoy a high quality people-watching session.

    Best of all, you can do all of this while scarfing down one of the main things that people come all the way to Switzerland to try: fondue!

    Along with a variety of other traditional Swiss dishes, you can’t go wrong with a meal here, especially when the customer service is top notch! 

    After you’re fed and happy, continue your tour of the old town to walk off all that cheese! 

    Grab a drink with meaning.

    sign that says cabaret voltaire seit 1916 where the original site was

    One of the most unique establishments in Zurich is Cabaret Voltaire

    This is where the Dada movement was born, and ultimately the place that changed modern art forever!

    The movement was a response to the end of World War I and it quickly spread across Europe, even reaching as far as New York City. 

    Today, Cabaret Voltaire is a place where you can grab a drink at one of two one-of-a-kind bars and admire the work of artists past and present.

    It’s a place to make new friends and challenge your perspective, but most importantly, it’s a place that continues to live on through history. 

    Make your way over to Augustinergasse.

    Augustinergasse street in Lindenhof quarter. Zurich. Switzerland, with colorful facades and swiss flags red with white plus signs on them

    With an old town so big, you’re bound to miss a few side streets along the way.

    The good news is that you have to start making your way back to where you started the day at some point.

    Take your time and adventure through new nooks and crannies as you go. 

    Eventually you’ll make your way over to Augustinergasse — and you’ll know when you get there because it is one of the most photographed places in Zurich!

    flowers in front of a building on the famous street in zurich

    The buildings seem to tower over the narrow street and while attached, every building has its own pattern of bright colors to tell it apart from the rest. 

    Known as the most colorful street in Zurich, special additions like iron guild signs and wooden carved oriel windows make this place that much more picturesque. 

    Eat Swiss pizza for dinner.

    a pizza with cheese and pieces of bacon

    Even after a day of walking, the fondue lunch has probably left you less than starving come dinner time.

    But I assure you that the intoxicating smell coming from zur Schtund will help you make some room. 

    Besides, this is the perfect opportunity to try some Swiss pizza!

    Known as flammkuchen, it’s not technically pizza, but it is made up of thinly rolled bread dough, creme fraiche, cheese, a meat of some kind, and onions so…

    And zur Schtund makes the best! Known for its flammkuchen and great evening atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to end your first day in Zurich. 

    Day Two of Your Zurich Itinerary: A Day of Hidden Gems

    Take a sunrise hike (or ride) up to Uetliberg Mountain.

    Beautiful sunrise with a tree and a lake at the Zürich Uetliberg

    You read that right. The city of Zurich actually has a mountain! 

    Just a short streetcar ride from the center of Zurich, you can be hiking up Uetliberg Mountain in no time. 

    Once you reach the top, you’ll be instantly rewarded with views of the city, Zurich Lake, and if you’re really lucky, the Swiss Alps out in the distance.

    The only thing that could make this view better is the sunrise!

    The trail is a little over a mile (2.1 km) to the top with an elevation gain of about 900 feet.

    But if hiking on your city adventure isn’t what you signed up for, you’ll be happy to know that there is also a street car that takes you right to the top!

    So why even bother hiking the trail? Well, the second you hit the trail you’ll find an oasis of peace and calm as you leave the hustle and bustle of the city. 

    In fact, I was shocked by just how peaceful this hike was!

    Fully engulfed by nature, there are portions of this trail where all you can see are trees and the beautiful Lake Zurich out in the distance. 

    There’s also a firetower at the top that you can pay to climb for an even more spectacular view!

    Reward yourself with a Swiss breakfast.

    Pastry, selection assortment variety of different bakery, with croissant, swiss rolls, cake, eclair and others in a basket or a plate, baked desserts, catering or cafe banquet bakery table

    This part requires a bit of planning but I promise it’s worth it. 

    You’re going to want to get a really early start if you want to catch the sunrise, so you probably won’t have time to hit up a bakery before you head out. 

    Instead, plan ahead by scoping out the bakeries the day before and securing a pastry before the shops close.

    This way you can enjoy your delicious Swiss breakfast from the mountaintop! 

    Explore the ruins of Burg Friesenberg.

    castle ruins with graffiti on them outside of zurich
    Photo Credit: Roland Zh, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    There isn’t much left of the Friesenberg Castle (Burg), but the ruins that remain make for an interesting stop on your way back to the city center. 

    The ruins can be seen by taking a quick detour on your hike back down or by taking a streetcar from Uetilberg.

    Either way, it’ll take about 30 minutes to get here. 

    Once you arrive, you’ll be welcomed by the crumbling walls and remaining arches of the mysterious castle.

    To this day, it’s still unclear what this castle was used for. Still, based on the style of its architecture, it’s assumed that it was established around 1100. 

    Feel free to wander around as you enjoy this hidden ruin, protected by trees but still managing to provide spectacular views of the city down below. 

    Take the railway up to Felsenegg for lunch.

    Felsenegg is a vantage point in the canton of Zürich

    You’ve spent your morning up in the mountains so why not go even further with a railway car up to Felsenegg!

    From here you can get a different, equally impressive view of Zurich and its lake.

    But there’s something here that Uetilberg lacks…an awesome restaurant! 

    A plate of Swiss food with fried food and cheese-smothered potato or pasta with lemon and a berry sauce

    Restaurant Felsenegg has a massive outdoor patio so you can enjoy your lunch with an unmatched view of the city!

    Opt for something light like a Felseneggplättli (similar to a charcuterie board) or go all out with a Swiss classic (did someone say Rosti??). 

    Splurge on the Secret Doors tour. 

    Beautiful Architecture at Fraumunster Church in Zurich City, Switzerland

    Switzerland is expensive enough as it is but once I heard about the Secret Doors tour, I just couldn’t help myself. 

    This tour does cost a pretty penny but it is usually free for kids (6 and under) and the larger your group size, the bigger the discount. 

    With the price disclaimer out of the way… this tour is amazing.

    There are three hidden doors in Zurich that can only be accessed with a special key!

    On the tour, you get to visit places that most of the locals haven’t even seen before. 

    Travel down into a tunnel that dates back to the Middle Ages, discover the walls of a royal palace, and head down into the basement of a modern-day building for a 13th century surprise! 

    Plus, the tours are private, so you won’t have to worry about sharing this experience with a bunch of other people! 

    Book your Secret Doors tour here!

    Eat dinner with the locals.

    cheese spaetzle with crunchy bits

    One of the coolest areas in Zurich is Frau Gerolds Garten and it’s not just because the area is made up of industrial shipping containers.

    This trendy hangout spot has everything from an outdoor eatery to a sustainable urban garden. 

    Have a seat at a table (or on a shipping crate) and enjoy a seasonal dish complimented with the fresh herbs and vegetables that grow in the garden.

    Then make your way over to one of the many shipping container bars to grab a drink. 

    Approaching sunset?

    Head up to the second level and find the green shipping container bar to enjoy an epic view with a drink in hand.

    Alternately, go to the rooftop bar at the nearby Prime Tower for an even cooler experience! 

    Salzburg Itinerary: How to Spend a Perfect 2 Days in Salzburg

    I’m someone who likes to jam-pack her vacations with as many awesome places as possible.

    But I also struggle with the FOMO that comes with only giving yourself a day or two in each place.

    Luckily, I can say with confidence that two days in Salzburg is genuinely the perfect amount of time to see what the city is all about. 

    gardens in front of a palace in salzburg on a sunny day

    This two day itinerary touches on a bit of everything that makes the city the incredible destination that it is.

    From the salt mines that gave the city its name to the famous “Sound of Music” filming locations (which you can take a half-day tour of), your trip will be filled with unique adventures that leave you feeling content… and stuffed!

    Salzburg Itinerary, Day One: Tour of the City

    Indulge in a sweet breakfast.

    A fruit-filled austrian strudel pastry with a beverage served on an outside table during the morning

    One thing I learned after spending a few weeks in Europe is that it isn’t unusual to give in to your sweet tooth first thing in the morning. In fact, it’s practically encouraged! 

    Of all the countries that I have been to, Austria ranks high up there with some of the best pastries I have ever had. 

    Sticky and delicious, there’s a huge range of options to choose from.

    When in doubt, just point at the one that looks the most appetizing.

    (I still don’t know the names of half of the pastries I ate, but I do know they were all amazing). 

    Still stuck on choices? You can never go wrong with a strüdel… like, ever.

    My favorite bakery in Salzburg is Bäckerei Holztrattner, but I also found great success with the sniff and follow method.

    It’s always exciting when you stumble upon an off the map hidden gem!

    Take the funicular to the fortress.

    View of the Hohensalzburg Fortress up on a hill, with houses at its base and lots of trees on the hill that the fortress is built on, in spring or summer

    Now that you’re all fueled up on sugar, it’s time to start sight-seeing!

    What better way to begin your Salzburg itinerary than with the largest fully preserved fortress in Central Europe?

    The Hohensalzburg Fortress dates all the way back to 1077 and by 1500, it had received all of its finishing touches.

    So, when you explore this fortress, you’re literally walking into a time capsule dating back more than 500 years. Furniture and original detailing included! 

    The interior of the Hohensalzburg fortress, with intricate ceiling work and wall detail

    As if that weren’t enticing enough, the historic significance starts before you even get there!

    The funicular that takes you up to the fortress has been transporting visitors since the late 1800s. 

    Luckily, thanks to modern day renovations, the journey now takes under a minute. 

    the funicular in salzburg that takes you up to the fortress on a sunny day in the summer

    Once you get up to the fortress, you may have a hard time deciding what to do first but don’t worry! You’ve got all morning to explore! 

    Before you start shuffling from one awe-inspiring museum to another (the Marionette Museum is my favorite), take a minute to enjoy the view. 

    From the fortress, you have panoramic views of the city and the mountains that surround it. It’s a view like no other in Salzburg.

    Good to Know: You can buy a 48-hour for 35 euros and it’ll get you into all the museums and historic sites in the city.

    Considering the fact that the ticket to the fortress alone is about 14 euros (book online to save time!), it’s definitely something to consider! 

    If you do get the Salzburg Card, make sure to get to the fortress before 11 AM for free entry into the state rooms!

    Enjoy lunch at Restaurant Stiegl-Keller.

    Photo Credit: Mattes, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Directly in your line of sight from the fortress, a short 10-minute walk will take you to one of the best restaurants in Salzburg, maybe even all of Austria!

    The menu is as authentic as it gets… and the beer list does not disappoint! 

    The food had me seriously debating whether I could just eat Wiener schnitzel for the rest of my life.

    I especially have to sing the praises of the parsley potatoes and cranberries.

    I’m not even a cranberry person and the thought of Stiegl-Keller’s cranberries has me ready to hop on the next flight out to Salzburg. 

    But wait, there’s more! 

    As if food perfection wasn’t enough to earn this place an award, they seal the deal with one of the most spectacular views of the city. What more could you want? 

    Plus, if you want to tour the brewery facilities, you can do that too, before or after your meal — and throw in a beer tasting to boot!

    Book your Stiegl brewery tour and tasting here!

    Explore the St. Peters catacombs. 

    Steps leading to St. Peter's Catacombs, Salzburg, Austria

    It’s safe to say you’ll probably be feeling a bit lethargic after your savory lunch, so wake yourself up with a visit to the catacombs!

    What’s more exciting than a mountain-carved cemetery?!

    To get here, you will need to walk through St. Peter’s Cemetery, which means you can say you walked through the oldest Christian cemetery in the country! 

    Plus, as odd as it sounds, the cemetery is extremely peaceful, and picturesque as well!

    Gravestones, flowers, and pathway in the picturesque St. Peter's Cemetery which has kept its present form since 1627

    After you’ve snapped a few photos, make your way up to one of the two catacomb chapels. 

    These chapels date back to the 1100s and the impressive caves that house them are carved directly into Mönchsberg Mountain!

    P.S. If you have one, your Salzburg Card will get you into this site for free, too! 

    Explore all things Mozart.

    yellow building that says mozarts geburtshaus, the birth house museum that showcases where mozart was born

    As the hometown of the iconic composer, it only makes sense that you’d want to take a Mozart tour during your time in Salzburg.

    There are nearly a dozen Mozart-related things to choose from and each one offers a unique experience. 

    Here’s just a few of your options:

    Sit in Cafe Tomaselli and sip coffee in the same place Mozart did (we’ll do that first thing tomorrow!)

    Take a tour of the house where he was born (Birth House Museum) and the home where he spent his teenage years (Mozart’s Apartment Museum in Salzburg). 

    Admire the larger-than-life statue of him at Mozart Square.

    The statue of mozart at mozart square in salzburg.

    Head to the Salzburg Cathedral where he was baptized or opt for the church (St. Peter’s Abbey) where he first performed his famous Great Mass in C minor. 

    You can go to a Mozart concert at the fortress, complete with a romantic and delicious dinner.

    Or do something really weird (and personally, this one’s my favorite)… Go check out his skull! 

    The skull has been at the Mozarteum since 1902 and had been showcased up until recently.

    But while the skull is no longer on display due to some queasy guests, you can always request a viewing!

    Walk around Getreidegasse. 

    One of my favorite things to do in Salzburg is just walk around the Old Town.

    Getreidegasse is overflowing with historic character, and it won’t even let a McDonald’s get in the way of that. 

    The shops here all boast wrought-iron guild signs (McDonald’s included!), and the many tight alleys are an urban explorer’s dream come true.

    You can spend all day zigzagging through the streets, stumbling upon charming courtyards, and checking out the endless shops along the way. 

    scheffer clock in the old town

    Other charming streets in the area to explore are Linzer Gasse (look for the famous Scheffer clock sign!) and Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse with its great view of the clocktower.

    Side note: If you happen to be visiting in December, the streets of the old town are transformed into a traditional Christmas Market! Just keep your eyes out for Krampus…

    Have dinner at Zipfer Bierhaus.

    sign that says restaurant zipfer bierhaus in salzburg austria with christmas deocorations
    Photo Credit: Photo: Andreas Praefcke, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    When your stomach starts rumbling, make your way over to Zipfer Bierhaus on Universitätsplatz for the perfect end to your day.

    This traditional bierhaus can feel slightly intimidating when you first walk in since it’s more of a local scene, but trust me, that’s a good sign!

    The waiter knew enough English to take my order but aside from that, I was the only English speaker there. 

    I spend a lot of time (and I mean a lot of time) exploring side streets when I’m traveling, looking for this exact atmosphere (local crowd, mom and pop style, menus I need to translate) so I always pride myself when I find it.

    If you want authenticity, you’ve come to the right place!

    The food was even better than I thought it would be and the beer was plentiful. Sometimes a simple, home-cooked meal is all you need!

    Salzburg Itinerary, Day Two: A Deeper Dive

    Blend breakfast with history. 

    Photo Credit: JoJan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

    You’re in Salzburg, a city bursting with culture. It only makes sense that even the place you go to breakfast has some historic significance! 

    Cafe Tomaselli has been run by the same family for more than a century and it has had many famous visitors (including Mozart himself). 

    As you stand there deciding between the many eye-catching pastries and make your way over to a table with a specialty coffee in hand, you’re living through history. 

    Besides, how else could a cafe stay open for over 150 years if it wasn’t worth visiting?

    Just get here early because the wonders of Cafe Tomaselli are no secret!  

    Journey through a salt mine.

    river with a salt mine on the edge of it with green trees surrounding it

    At first glance, a salt mine tour doesn’t sound too exhilarating, but I assure you that it will be one of your fondest memories from Austria.

    That’s because you’re not just walking through a salt mine, you’re taking part in an immersive experience!

    The Berchtesgaden salt mine has been in operation since the early 1500s and even when the mining stopped, it continued to draw people in from all over the world.

    It wasn’t just to get a glimpse at history, but to feel like you were actually a part of it.

    When you get to the mine, you’ll be given a pair of old mining overalls to better prepare you for your journey.

    tourist wearing old mining overalls entering a mine in salzburg

    Once dressed, the mine train will take you deep within the famous Salberg Mountain where the real adventure begins. 

    Your guide will tell you everything you need to know about the history of the salt mine as you make your way through tunnels and into grand rooms like the Salt Cathedral. 

    To make things that much more exciting, you will also have the opportunity to slide down various long miners’ slides and even take a raft out on a subterranean salt lake. 

    abandoned mine shift in salzburg mine

    The salt mine is less than 15 miles from Salzburg but there is also a bus (No. 840) that can take you there if you didn’t rent a vehicle.

    If you don’t want to deal with public transportation, there are tours you can book — they’ll take care of getting to and from the mine for you, and they’ll also give you guidance while you’re there.

    Book this guided tour of the salt mine here!

    Make sure to book your tour in advance because this is an experience you don’t want to miss!  

    Have a grab-and-go lunch at Grünmarkt.

    Austrian sausages on a farmer's market in Salzburg

    One of my favorite ways to experience local cuisine is at an open-air market where you can try a variety of street foods at usually reasonable prices.

    Plus, I always have a hard time deciding which delicious thing I should eat, so with this method I get to eat a variety!

    The good news is that the Grünmarkt is open every day (except Sunday) and it’s always jam packed with stands selling everything from fresh bread to spirits and everything in between.

    As you walk through the market, you’ll be struck by a variety of different delicious smells, so just let your nose guide you in the right direction(s). 

    If your open-air market day happens to fall on a Thursday, I’d also consider going to Schrannemarkt instead!

    This weekly market is one of the largest and most-talked about markets in the country and it’s not hard to figure out why. 

    On top of the variety of delicious food you can buy, there are also local vendors selling anything from crafts to flowers. 

    Just do yourself a favor and try the clear fish broth! And a sausage, of course! 

    Visit a different kind of palace.

    Visiting Schloss Hellbrunn near Salzburg, Austria, a. bright yellow palace with blue shutters

    Designed by a prince who doubled as an archbishop, the Hellbrunn Palace is one of a kind… and it’s nothing like you’d expect. 

    Markus Sittikus had one goal in mind when building his palace and that it would be a place of pure pleasure.

    It just so happens that his idea of pleasure is playing jokes on everyone who came to visit — mostly with tricky, hidden water fountains!

    hidden water fountains next to marble chairs

    So, as you walk through this grand palace, its five grottos, and impressive grounds, prepare to be a target to one of the many, intricate trick fountains. 

    It won’t be enough to soak you but enough to catch you by surprise if you aren’t paying attention…. especially since you just never know when a trick fountain is going to claim its next victim!

    Trick fountains aren’t the only thing Sittikus focused on. He wanted every inch of his palace to represent the joys of life.

    unicorn statue at Hellbrun palace near salzburg

    As you walk through the “Grand Delight,” you will find quirky additions like unicorn statues and creative water automats!

    You can easily spend all day here but make sure you keep an eye on the clock (and your rumbling stomach) because dinner awaits you! 

    It’s important to note that this is another destination where you will need to take the bus (No. 25) if you don’t have a vehicle, but that’s part of the Salzburg experience — enjoying Austria’s extremely efficient public transit!

    Alternately, you can get there by boat and enjoy a scenic cruise of Salzburg along the way before having a guided tour of the palace.

    Book your boat cruise and Hellbrunn Palace tour here!

    Have a final farewell dinner in Salzburg.

    traditional sign for a restaurant in austria
    Photo Credit: Werner100359 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    When I visit a new country, I want to pig out on traditional food and nothing else. Wouldn’t you agree? 

    I hope so because your last meal in Salzburg will have you missing Austrian food for years to come. 

    Bärenwirt is easily one of my favorite restaurants in Austria and it’s not just because I had the best fried chicken of my life here (but it definitely helps).

    The sausage melts in your mouth and the bread dumplings follow suit!

    As an added bonus, there’s an outdoor patio that offers spectacular views of the city and the surrounding mountains. 

    Just make sure you make a reservation in advance, because seating is limited and anybody who knows what’s up will be coming here for dinner! 

    Take a late night stroll in Mirabell Gardens.

    Amazing night view of illuminated fountain, in the shape of horse in Mirabell Palace, Salzburg, Austria

    All of the Sound of Music lovers out there will be happy to know that their farewell to Salzburg takes place in one of the most iconic filming locations!

    But even if this famous musical doesn’t strike your fancy, a late night stroll through Mirabell Gardens is still sure to impress. 

    This is one of the most popular tourist locations so it can get pretty hectic during the day but at night, everyone seems to disappear and you’ll be left with Mirabell Gardens all to yourself. 

    I spent hours here walking amongst the Baroque statues and mesmerizing fountains!

    The warm street lights provide just enough of a glow to see the dark streaks that give way to the statues’ age, without it feeling like an eyesore. 

    In my opinion, there is no time more magical to see the gardens. Besides, you have to walk off that dinner somehow!

    Where to Stay in Salzburg

    With only 2 days on this Salzburg itinerary, you’ll want to pick somewhere central.

    All these hotels are in the Aldstadt neighborhood right in the heart of the city and close to all the places on the itinerary.

    $: Altstadthotel Weisse Taube

    Nestled in the charming labyrinth of narrow cobblestone lanes of Salzburg’s old town, Altstadthotel Weisse Taube combines its historic roots with contemporary, fun design.

    This historic hotel has been transformed with a modern, funky minimalist design, an unexpected blend of traditional and modern.

    The guest rooms of Altstadthotel Weisse Taube have a funky minimalist design, each with its one character: some are decorated with vibrant floral wallpaper; others, a bold striped pattern.

    With its fun design and affordable price tag for its central location, this is the place to be for convenience that’s relatively budget friendly.

    Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

    $$: Altstadthotel Kasererbräu

    Boasting roots dating back to 1342, Altstadthotel Kasererbräu offers guests a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in living history!

    This charming hotel, set within the pedestrian zone of the city’s old town, features both modern rooms as well as suites that preserve the building’s past like a time capsule you can spend the night in.

    One of the hotel’s highlights is the junior suite, which not only features a luxurious hot tub for a relaxing soak but also original architectural details that set it apart.

    The suite’s stunning embellished ceilings, with their intricate design and craftsmanship evoking a sense of the past, are gorgeous to look at while taking a soak in the tub!

    Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

    $$$: Hotel Sacher Salzburg

    Does its name sound familiar for some reason? The Hotel Sacher Salzburg is as historic as it is beautiful, a branch of the same hotel in Vienna that created the now-world-famous Sacher torte.

    Having opened its doors in 1866, this historic hotel is steeped in tradition, yet each room is personally decorated by the hotel’s owner for an individualized touch that sets it apart.

    The decor is a thoughtful mix of timeless elegance and modern comforts. The suites are especially spacious, with ample seating and some even featuring fireplaces or terraces.

    With its on-site restaurant, cafe, and bar featuring live piano music, it’s a little world in itself, tucked away from the busy streets of Salzburg’s Old Town.

    Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

    Two Days in Zion National Park: The Ultimate Itinerary

    zion viewpoint in the winter time

    Zion National Park was the last stop on my Mighty 5 road trip last January, but if I’d only known how much I would fall in love with this place, I probably would have raced right over first thing instead of waiting! 

    Mind you, I had the luxury of going in the heart of winter when the shuttle system isn’t running and popular trails like the Narrows are only lightly peppered with visitors.

    (I know, I’ve got a strange idea of what “luxury” means.)

    The author, Nicole Westcott,
    Visiting Canyonlands on my Mighty 5 road trip!

    Even still, the question remained: would I still share the same admiration for Zion if I visited at the peak of summer tourist season? 

    Just the thought of waiting in long lines for the shuttle and sharing the trail with hundreds of other people was enough to give me anxiety.  

    I was torn between never wanting to visit again (to maintain Zion’s pristine place in my memories) and needing to see what all the fuss was about. 

    So, in the end, of course, I went and you know what?

    Sure it was crowded, but a true national park expert (that’s yours truly) knows how to work around that… and that’s exactly what I did. 

    The end result? You’re looking at it, a perfect 2 day Zion National Park itinerary that I’ve pieced together after many visits, and a lot of trial and error seeing what works — and what doesn’t. 

    So, whether you plan your visit during winter’s slow season (which I still highly recommend!) or the summer’s peak, I assure you that this Zion itinerary will be a crowd-pleaser… and maybe even a crowd-minimizer! 

    My only regret? Not hiking Angels Landing when I had the chance.

    Back in January of 2022, you could hike this trail without a permit during the winter season. 

    Sadly, I was a bit too nervous to take advantage of this (you know, with the whole slick ice and massive drop-offs thing) and missed my chance.

    Now a permit is required to hike Angels Landing year round, but more on that later. 

    Day One of Your Zion National Park Itinerary

    Marvel at a canyon sunrise.

    The author, Nicole Westcott, enjoying a stunning sunset view at Zion National Park with some light snow and morning light falling on the Utah landscape of Zion

    I’ll be honest: the Canyon Overlook Trail (just 1.25 miles roundtrip) took me a bit by surprise, in the best possible way. 

    You don’t hear many people talking about it, and it  isn’t a stop on the summer shuttle system.

    The trailhead is on the side of the road and kind of hard to find (in other words, do your research and bring your maps). 

    Yet, despite all this, it is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, one of my absolute favorite trails in the park, and a true hidden gem.

    A short but moderately intense hike leads up to the overlook, complete with fun attractions like a small bridge tucked under an overhang and hugging a rockwall.

    Plus, there’s long metal handlebars to guide you through the narrowest sections without fear of falling (or at least with less fear!). 

    By the time I got to the viewpoint, I was already feeling satisfied with the hike… but then that view just stopped me in my tracks.

    Watching the sun slowly fill up the canyon is one of my favorite memories of Zion. 

    The fact that this trail is not on the shuttle route is just an added bonus. 

    So, forget waiting in line for a shuttle in the dark with a bunch of cranky visitors who haven’t had enough coffee yet.

    Drive your vehicle right up to the small (and I do mean small) parking lot, and get here early to start your hike at your own pace. 

    Grab a quick breakfast at Deep Creek Coffee Co.

    A cup of coffee to go at a coffee shop

    If you haven’t figured it out already, Utah is known for its coffee, and Deep Creek Coffee Company is no exception.

    Enjoy your coffee exactly how you like it, or get adventurous and discover a way you didn’t know existed. 

    Just make sure to pair it up with one of their many, many breakfast options because you have a long day ahead of you and you’ll want all the energy you can get. 

    If you’re looking for specific recommendations, well, my mouth is watering just thinking about the spiced maple latte and southwest quinoa bowl.

    You should also think about grabbing a sandwich here, since you’ll likely want to fuel up while you’re on a trail!

    Rent the gear and hike the Narrows.

    The author of the article, Nicole Westcott, wearing a yellow hat, coveralls, packback and holding a walking stick as she walks through the Narrows.

    I can’t emphasize this enough. You should absolutely hike the Narrows!! 

    The beauty of this trail is that you can go out as far as you are comfortable and then turn around. This hike can be as long or as short as you’d like. 

    No matter how far or short you make it along this hike, it will, without a doubt, be a memory you will never forget.

    I don’t like to brag, but I’ve hiked countless trails in many different places, and the Narrows makes it into my top three hikes of all time… and I didn’t even make it to the end! 

    Be warned: even when it is so hot that you feel like you are melting away, you really don’t want to be the person who thinks that they don’t need to rent gear to hike the narrows. 

    zion narrows with river going through the valley and beautiful red rock

    The water in the Virgin River is going to be extremely cold, even at the peak of summer, and while that sounds like a nice way to cool off on a hot day, your feet will be screaming within ten minutes. So just don’t do it. 

    Besides, you’ll need a walking stick. The rocks are slimy. The river is flowing. You need the stick. Trust me. Get the stick. 

    Luckily, there’s a ton of places to rent gear right outside of the park. So, after breakfast, head over to Zion Outfitters.

    They have summer and winter rentals (ranging from $32-$55), plus the option to pick them up the night before so you can get on the trail first thing in the morning! 

    Not interested in waiting for the shuttle?

    Dedicate the day to the Subway (9.1 miles roundtrip)!

    With a bit of research and preparation, this is a great alternative for people who want to skip the shuttle, beat the crowds, and go on a more rugged adventure. 

    Stop for a quick sandwich fuel-up.

    the author, nicole westcott, holding a sandwich in the narrows hiking area

    Whenever you get peckish, it’s time to reach into that bag and grab the sandwich you packed earlier.

    This Zion itinerary has one more hike between now and an early dinner, before having you head out again (for some quick views and sunset spots — no major hikes, don’t worry!).

    So have a quick sandwich to fuel up but not stuff yourself whenever you get a little hungry on the trail.

    Nothing makes a sandwich taste better than a stunning views of the Narrows!

    Hike up to an emerald pool… or two!

    Water falling at Emerald Pools trail with some ice on the rocks

    I love a good low effort, high reward hike and the Emerald Pools Trail is just that… for the most part.

    The Lower Emerald Pool is just slightly over a mile and follows a paved (well, sort of paved) trail to a spectacular set of waterfalls and, as the name might suggest, an emerald pool. 

    The Upper Emerald Pool, on the other hand, will make you work a little harder at 3 miles roundtrip, but it’s also a great way to experience the falls without as much of the crowd. 

    As an added bonus, it’s right across the way from the Zion Lodge.

    So, not only can you skip the shuttle for once, but dinner will be only a short walk away!

    Who wants to wait around with a hungry stomach anyways?

    Treat yourself to a Red Rock Grill dinner.

    Photo Credit: Miss Shari via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    If you are as much of a food-driven person as I am, you may have noticed that I skimped a bit on lunch, and I am truly sorry for that.

    But the reality is, there’s only one real restaurant in the park, and the only way to get there is by waiting for the shuttle. 

    So, to save yourself some adventure time (and peace of mind), I highly recommend that you pack your own lunch to enjoy on the trail.

    Instead, save the Red Rock Grill for an early dinner… trust me, you won’t regret it. 

    I’m a burger girl myself, and their burger hits the spot, but Red Rock Grill’s got so much more to offer.

    If you’re looking for a bit more of an elevated dining experience, there are also a variety of other, more classy options like the trout Anasazi and a sirloin steak paired with a cranberry burgundy sauce. 

    Dinner starts at 4 PM so get there as early as you can to beat the crowds. Besides, your day isn’t over yet!

    Leave the crowds behind at Court of the Patriarchs.

    Court of the Patriarchs shuttle stop

    I hesitate to call Court of the Patriarchs a hike, considering the fact that it’s just a quick 0.2-miles roundtrip, but that’s part of what makes it so special! 

    Most people are so busy rushing to the Narrows or to Angels Landing that they completely forget about this stop, but their loss is your gain. 

    Plus, what with it being the first real stop on the shuttle (and the second to last stop on the way back), it just makes sense to take the extra time to check it out. 

    the court of the patriarchs, Zion National Park, Utah

    So, step off the beaten path and walk off your early dinner while you marvel at the three peaks that are so mesmerizing that they earned themselves a religious title. 

    Don’t want to leave? This is a great alternative option for sunset. 

    You won’t get as dramatic of a view as you would at Canyon Junction Bridge (more on that later!), but you’ll definitely have it all to yourself.

    Catch the sunset at Pine Creek Bridge.

    Sunset on the Watchman in Zion National Park, with river in the middle of the valley

    So, a fun fact about me is that I obsess over good sunrise/sunset locations when I’m visiting a national park.

    I do all of the research ahead of time, look at all of the photos, figure out exactly where I want to say good morning or good night to the sun’s rays… but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. 

    So, I present you with a very important piece of information.

    Information that I wish I had known during my first visit… even if it did ultimately lead me to the discovery of an even cooler (and slightly hidden) sunset spot upon my next trip. 

    Canyon Junction Bridge is known for being the iconic sunset spot. But what many websites aren’t telling you is that times have changed. 

    Zion National Park no longer allows for pedestrians to stand on Canyon Junction Bridge. 

    I repeat, you cannot watch the sunset on Canyon Junction Bridge… at least, not without the potential of having your experience ruined by law enforcement. 

    So, knowing this, what is a sunset obsessed traveler to do? Find another spot of course! Lucky for you, the one I found is nothing short of spectacular

    Not only does Pine Creek Bridge offer the same eye-popping views of the Watchman, but it is located on the Pa’Rus Trail which starts at the visitor center (talk about an easy walk back to the car!) and is accessible to all (dogs included!).  

    Day Two of Your Zion National Park Itinerary

    Conquer Angels Landing… or not.

    Allison Green (the editor of the website) doing the Angels Landing hike
    Allison, the editor, doing the Angels Landing hike back in 2017 (pre-permit requirement!) Note: It’s a trick of the angle, but there is another larger rock step just below me, so I am not sitting at the edge of the cliff. That said, I still maneuvered to this area using scrambling technique, always maintaining at least 3 points of contact. Always be careful and never risk your safety for a cool-looking photo!

    This is one of those bucket list hikes that everyone wants to do, even if it terrifies them, and for good reason!

    Angels Landing offers views of Zion like you’ve never seen and the adventure to match.

    Of course, it also runs along a very narrow fin with massive, “fall to your death” drop-offs, and a set of chains to hold on to so you don’t do just that.

    While this may sound like too much of a risk , there is no denying that it is the number one hike in Zion. 

    But with popularity comes difficulty, because the only way to hike Angels Landing is to score a permit through a lottery system, either months or advance, or at the very last minute the day before.

    So, your chances of hiking this trail boil down to a mix of dedication and luck.

    As a very dedicated person, I can confidently say that I lack luck because I have tried many times and failed just as often.  

    It’s not all bad news, though, since with failure comes the chance for a silver lining, and a little bit of persistence here helped me to find one of my absolute favorite hikes. 

    So, try for Angels Landing because, well, why not? But if you can’t get a permit, rest assured, I’ve got  you covered with an epic alternative. 

    That alternative, of course, is none other than Observation Point, via the East Mesa Trail (7 miles roundtrip). 

    View from observation point in Zion National Park

    Before you get excited and head off to the trail, it’s really really important to note that the only way to access this trail right now is on the East Mesa Trail

    A recent rockslide has closed the main trail, and it probably won’t reopen for a few years.

    So double check that map and make sure you are starting at the right location! 

    On the bright side, this means that the trail will be way less crowded, and you’ll want these scenic views all to yourself. Trust me, I know. 

    Observation Point has such a wide-sweeping view that it literally overlooks Angels Landing.

    It is, by far, the most impressive view that I have seen in the park. 

    In fact, it is probably the most impressive view that I have ever seen, and that’s saying something!

    Just don’t forget to pack yourself a sandwich (or similar) because you’ll beat yourself up if you miss the opportunity to enjoy lunch with this kind of view. 

    Take a scenic drive.

    views on kolob terrace road just outside of zion national park

    What many people don’t realize is that there is a whole world outside of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

    I only happened to stumble upon this on a brutally hot summer’s day when I just didn’t have it in me to wait for a shuttle in the heat surrounded by hundreds of other people. 

    Studying the map, I discovered the Kolob Terrace Road and just decided to wing it. This turned out to be a truly wonderful decision.

    This was probably one of my favorite experiences in Zion National Park!

    With not another soul in sight (except the occasional cow), I drove along one of the most scenic roads that I’ve ever encountered and stopped at countless viewpoints offering views drastically different from what I had seen “inside” of the park. 

    So, if you like scenic drives and crowdless afternoons, you absolutely have to go for a drive on the Kolob Terrace Road.

    Besides, I discovered a sunset spot along this route that will blow you away!

    Enjoy a crowdless sunset.

    sunset at lava point overlook near a campground with trees and plateaus and mountains of the zion valley area

    Kolob Terrace Road has treated me very well and I feel obligated to tell everyone I know about the delights it has to offer.

    Just picture it. A Zion National Park sunset… all to yourself. Think it sounds too good to be true? Well, it isn’t! 

    The Lava Point Overlook makes you feel like you have entered an entirely different, but equally beautiful park — both in views as well as in terms of crowd level. 

    As the sun starts to dip, the golden light falls over the lava points and Zion’s main canyon out in the distance. Paired with a magical silence, there is nothing quite like it. 

    Last but not least, there is a campground at the overlook so it’s a great place to set up a tent and spend the night!