In july, I am going to spend 8 nights in Bavaria/ Tirol. What should I do and see, and where should I sleep? I'm going to go from Zurich to Munich and back. I want to have some fun, maybe go to a castle, and get a taste of the culture. I am renting a car.
I prefer Garmsich-Partenkirchen as a Bavarian home base. It's located in a gorgeous valley below the region's highest peak (the Zugspitze), its location is fairly central among the Bavarian Alps, it has s great small town ambience, but enough beer halls and restaurants to keep the choices varied, it is convenient to all sorts of outdoor activities, etc... Can't say enough good things about the town. My second choice as a homebase would be Mittenwald, just down the road.
You must go see Neuschwanstein and Hohenswangau! Neuschwanstein is the castle in the movie Chitti Chitti Bang Bang. The area is beautiful. There are Gasthauses at the base now so you can spend the night. We did, and the area was beautiful under the stars.
Oh, one question before I make more recommendations... are you renting a car (recommended for southern Bavaria)? A lot of people on this website recommend staying in Fussen, near Neuschwanstein. I would only second that recommendation if your primary reason for visiting Bavaria was seeing Ludwig's castles and you have no rental car. Otherwise, there are much better options available.
You don't indicate how you are traveling. In that area with fewer train routes, cars and buses get you a lot more views.
If it's just one place you want to visit, then pick a charming town with services and plenty of relaxation. Coming from Zürich, you have several good choices (and I would not put Garmisch among them, unless you don't feel comfortable outside of American culture). On the Bavarian side, Mittenwald, Füssen in the Schwangau (Neuschwanstein), and the Kleinwalsertal are delightful. But if you are more mobile, head to Bayrischzell or Reit im Winkl - these are towns full of authentic Bavarian flavor. The rugged Alpine stage sets off entrancing local color.
On the Austrian side, Lech is popular, but I vote for the Stubai Valley just south of Innsbruck. Or for a train trip to the Achensee with Pertisau as your vacation stop.
Add to the list the Partnachklamm if you are up for a gorgeous hike through a river gorge. It really is spectacular. If I recall correctly (mind you, this is from 20 years ago), as you are facing the olympic ski jumps at Garmisch, there is a road to the right. You walk down the road and eventually come to the entrance to the river gorge. Probably not a good idea to rely on my memory, though. :-)
Funny. I've spent 6-8 weeks in So. Bavaria since 2000, and never needed a car. I saw everything I wanted to see and saved a bunch of money by using trains and buses. It does take a little research to find the schedules, but its worth it for the savings.
... the above site contains the Bavarian vacation pictures of Tom and Luann. They would help me make up my mind, maybe yours too.
... Gute Reise! ... P