Travel influencers are not always welcomed with open arms. Recently a small lake in Germany, the Königssee experienced a dramatic increase in social media attention. Reason behind that trend are travel influencers featuring a delicate site on their plattforms, very much contributing to the distress of locals and authorities.
Until recently this spot had a rather traditional image. Located in the south-east corner of Bavaria in Germany the Königssee was more a travel destination for our grandparents. All water sport activities on the lake are entirely forbidden and you risk a fine if violating the rules. If you fancy to go to one of the two destinations available St. Bartholomä or Salet you have only two options. Either you take one of the 18 electrical boats operating since 1909 or you rent a rowboat and hope for the best.
Why is Königssee Germany so popular despite being so boring?
Simply said because of the incredible beauty of the lake and it’s surrounding landscape. Due to drastic measures the area is perfectly conserved. The stats are speaking for themselves: since 2012 the region registered a steady increase in visitors. People are coming to the shores of Königssee despite the harsh rules. One of the reasons behind this trend could be the popularity on social media of one particular place – the natural infinity pools at the Königssee waterfall.
In 2020 one German influencer got a lot of negative feedback on one of her pictures showing her posing in one of this nature infinity pools. We need to mention that this pools are not an official site to visit. However the debate is still ongoing whether and on what grounds it is illigal to go there. In the meantime the national park authorities closed this pools due to safety and environmental concerns. Several tourists seriously injured themselves in the past years attempting to climb there. Two young men even drowned in one of this pools in spring 2019. Despite the incidents and the barriers at the site visitors still pilgrim to this place ignoring all warnings.
How do Instagrammers impact the places they promote?
Serious studies on the influence of social media on people’s behavior are scarce. However a 2017 published study from Ashley A. Anderson summerize evidence that the impact of social media on environmental awareness has been, for the most part, positive. If we assume that there is measurable influence of scocial media on one topic e.g. climate change, then there exists also influence on other topics, like traveling. We can assume, that people do get motivated to visit places their Instagram idols go.
An influencer with a bigger reach has bigger power on their platforms. This is an interesting effect. On one hand places draw enormous profit from the almost free publicity the Instagrammers are providing. Königssee recieved a complete image refurbishment, turning from a destination for our grandparents to a hot spot for young people. On the other hand the authorities and local people are not amused when the visitors disregard official trekking routes and safety percussions. Unreasonable behavior of people leaving the treks leads to nature being destroyed. Not to mention risking lifes for that one IG shot. Not worth it!
How could the national park react?
In our view it boils down to the golden rule of markets: demand = price. Obviously the national park sits on this one million dollar spot so why don’t they leverage on it? Obviously it didn’t help to close the site and sue instagrammers for taking picture there. The illegal climbs continue as long as this place will recieve likes on IG.
A way the national park could react is to open the site for visitors, at least partly. Investing in safety precautions and trecks redirecting the visitors from the most delicate parts of the national park. It is very well possible to successfully transform a certain site in a national park from a no go area to a visitors friendly zone and still keep the status as a nature conservation area. Someone also someday approved to have a bobsleigh track being blown into the mountain at the shores of the Königssee.
We visited the natural pools?
After a long and controversial discussion we decided not to visit the nature infinity pools. We made this decision based on two reasons: first there are thousands of mind blowing sites around Königssee where you can take perfect pictures. Second we want to use our reach in a way we feel comfortable with. Although we are not entirely in agreement with the way the national park Berchtesgaden treats this topic, we do not want to promote unsafe behavior on our platforms. If you are looking for a picture of the infinity pool, continue scrolling, you will not find one here.
Our top 5 activities to do around the Königssee, Germany
Below we would like to share with you our top 5 highlights of what to do around Königssee.
1. Take the first boat to Obersee
Obersee is the small brother of the Königssee in Germany but definetly not the ugly sibling. Hop on the first boat leaving to Salet at 8:30 AM. You will need to be at the docks already 8 o’clock to queue like a real German. Obviously nothing is complete in this country without some decent queueing involved. If you are not as amused by queuing you can pre-book tickets online via Seeschifffahrt Königssee. When you arrive at Obersee take the path to Fischunkenalm first. It is a very nice and easy hike at the shores of Obersee and takes only about 30 minutes. From there you can continue to the Röthbachfallwaterfall which is not too far off.
2. Take a swim in the Königssee
They say (German joke alert!): if a king jumps into the Königssee he comes out as a princess. The water rarely reaches 20 degrees celsius at the surface which makes long swims quite impossible. However nothing feels more refreshing than jumping into the ice cold clear water after a long day in the mountains.
3. Get a Weißwuascht-breakfast
This is a must do when in Bavaria. Weißwürste or white sausages were traditionally manufactured early in the morning. They were eaten as a snack between breakfast and lunch. Since they are not smoked or otherwise preserved they are very perishable. A local rule says that white sausages should never hear the sound of the noon chime. Today still most restaurants do not serve Weißwürste after 11 o’clock. Be altert that you might get a confused look from the waiter when trying to order some after that time.
4. Hike the Rinnkendl-Steig
The Rinnkendl-Steig is a beautiful but challenging hike from St. Bartholomä up the east heights of the Kleiner Watzmann mountain to the Kührointalm. Along the hike you have a beautiful view on the lake as you are progressing to climb. You should definitely wear good hiking gear for this one. Also it help to be free from giddiness as it gets a bit tricky from time to time. The route is 11 km long in total (incl. the way back to Schönau) and you conquer about 800m in elevation. Plan to be on the road for about 6 hours. Spend some time at the Kührointalm, drink some buttermilk and lay in the grass next to the cows for a bit to feel like a real mountaineer.
5. Enjoy the most famous view in Germany on the Königssee
Probably one of the most famous views in Germany is the view on the Königssee from the Malerwinkel. The Malerwinkel is the perfect location to end a busy day full of hiking and exploring. Enjoy how the light changes the color of the water and watch the boats bring back the last visitors from Salet and St. Bartholomä.