A shimmering expanse of silvery waters with a backdrop of distant Alps, Chiemsee is often referred to as the Bavarian Sea. Sheer size alone would justify the claim, for the lake covers eighty square kilometres and is tidal. But its origins also make the tag appropriate, for Chiemsee is a remnant of the primeval Thetis Sea which once covered half of Europe. In summer, it’s a magnet for active tourism, notably sailing; in winter, much of the lake freezes over, particularly at the placid southern end. The lake’s most famous attraction is Ludwig II’s Schloss on the island of Herrenchiemsee, an extravagant (and unfinished) attempt to re-create the palace of Versailles in a Bavarian setting. The best place to stay for exploring Chiemsee is the spirited lakeside town of Prien; it’s connected by rail to the mountain resort of Aschau im Chiemgau to the south, which makes an excellent base for hiking across the border into Austria.