Ettal Abbey is one of three main sights all clustered together along the German Alpine Road route.
It is just along the road from the favourite tourist destination of Oberammergau, with its Passion Play theatre, and Linderhof Castle, one of King Ludwig's architectural flights of fancy, is only a short drive away down the Graswang valley.
The scenic location and the places of interest around make the small village a good option for a break for those driving from west to east along the Alpine Road and, for such a small place, Ettal has a good choice of hotel accommodation.
The abbey itself is not as old as some, being founded by the Emperor Ludwig ("Ludwig the Bavarian") in the 14th century. At the time the emperor had been excommunicated by the Pope because of his military adventures in Italy.
The legend of the foundation says that a 'grey monk' appeared to the emperor at a time of need and promised him safe passage back to Bavaria if he would honour the Virgin Mary in a place called 'the Ampferang'. When Ludwig promised to do so, the monk gave him a statue of Mary to place in the building.
On his safe return to Bavaria, Ludwig asked a hunter in present-day Garmisch-Partenkirchen if he knew of this location. The hunter took him up into the alpine forests some miles from Garmisch and, in what is now Ettal, his horse knelt three times in one location, signalling that this was where the building should take place.
In fact, an abbey was a place of administration and learning in the Middle Ages and the location was far more likely to have been to secure the southern edges of Ludwig's rule and to control the trade route coming over the Alps.
Be that as it may, the Benedictine abbey survived through the centuries and started to bloom in the 17th and 18th centuries with an increase in pilgrimages to the area. Many of the buildings were burnt in a fire in the mid-18th century and the current appearance is of the Baroque style of that period.
Like other Bavarian religious institutions, it was secularised during the Napoleonic era. The Benedictine order took control of the buildings once more at the start of the 20th century.
The current basilica buildings can be visited and the abbey is also well-known for its beer production and for a variety of herbal liqueurs that it produces.