The Königssee, whose name means "king's lake" in German, lies among the Bavarian Alps. It is 602 meters (1,975 feet) high, and  192 meters (630 feet) deep at its maximum depth.

The lake is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) long, and never more than 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) across.

Its dark green, calm waters are surrounded by snowcapped mountains and sheer slopes, which cause it to resemble a small fjord. The limestone cliffs surrounding the Königssee are pale and grey, with no vegetation. Many of the slopes are covered by coniferous forests.

The Königssee drains into the River Ache, a turbulent mountain river, at its northern shore. The waters then flow through Berchtesgaden and beyond Munich before they finally merge with the River Danube.

The Malerwinkel, a quiet bay, lies next to lake's exit. Malerwinkel, means "painter's corner", and the view here has been captured by many artists.

The Watzmann group of mountains rises above the Königssee's western flank, reaching a height of 2,713 meters (8,901feet). The Watzmann Cliff is 1,981 meters (6,500 feet) above the lake, a height that is not matched anywhere else in the Eastern Alps.

A delta lies at the foot of the Watzmann Cliff, caused by stones and sand that a small river has carried to the lakeside from the high mountain valleys. The mound of debris that was created is called an alluvial fan.

A small church dedicated to St Bartholomä, or St Bartholomew, lies at the edge of this fan, on a broad meadow. The church was founded in the 17th century by the prince-canons of Berchtesgaden. It has two "onion" domes. Each one resemble a clover leaf when seen from above. A 15-minute walk through the Auwald behind the church leads first to the Chapel of St John and St Paul and then to the Eiskapelle, a large, naturally formed vault of ice.


The Watzmann Mountains is separated from the Hochkalter, a mountain that is 2,607 meters (8,553 feet) high,  by a deep narrow gorge. The Hochkalter's peak is a sharp ridge of rock.

The Blaueis Glacier, lies on one side of this ridge. This is the northernmost glacier in the Alps. Its name means "blue ice", and in bright sunlight it seems to fluoresce with a hard, blue light.

This glacier is a remnant of the ice sheets that carved out the landscape in and around the Königssee. More than 25,000 years ago, every valley in the Bavarian Alps was blocked by glaciers. Only the region's highest peaks, such as the Watzmann, rose above them. As the glaciers traveled down the mountainside, they gouged out massive amounts of rock from the alpine landscape.

The glacier that created the Königssee melted about 10,000 years ago, leaving behind a flat-bottomed, U-shaped valley. After its power was exhausted and the ice receded, a huge pile of stones was left behind. This huge mound, or moraine, blocked off the valley. The Königssee  was formed by the trapped water.

A massive limestone plateau,13 kilometers (8 miles) by 5 kilometers (3 miles), known as the Steinernes Meer, lies at the southern end of the Königssee. Steinernes Meer means "stony sea'. The Steinernes Meer is capped by the Schönfeldspitze, a pyramidal, snowcapped peak that is 2,653 meters (8,705 feet) high.

A tiny, lake, the Obersee, lies at the end of a pathway from the Königssee's southern shore, at the foot of the Steinernes Meer. The Obersee was created when an ancient landslide separated its waters from the main lake. It is completely surrounded by peaks and cliffs.

Salt Mining

Thick layers of salt lie within the underlying rock structures around the Königssee. They were not touched by the glaciers. The mining of salt near the surface has formed the basis of a local industry for more than 2,500 years. In the middle of the first millennium BC, Celts had large-scale mining operations, trading not only with neighboring tribes but also with nations as distant as China.