In medieval times the alpine lands were owned by the bishops of Freising and the abbots of Ettal Abbey. In 1803, when the clerical states of Germany were dissolved, the region was acquired by Bavaria.
The district is located in the Bavarian Alps and includes the highest mountain of Germany, the Zugspitze (2962 m). The highest peaks are grouped along the Austrian border, where the mountain ridges of the Wettersteingebirge and the Karwendelgebirge rise. Between them the Isar river runs northwards. North of these ridges there is a valley housing the tourist resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The valley together with the surrounding mountains is called the Werdenfelser Land. Further north the ridges of the Ammergebirge and the Estergebirge rise, which are still over 2000 m high. In the northernmost parts of the district there is alpine uplands (about 600 m high). Here the Staffelsee is located, a lake of 8 km².
Coat of arms
The coat of arms displays:
a lion with the head of a griffin, being the symbol of Steingaden Abbey
a portrait of Corbinianus, the patron saint of the city of Freising
the white and blue checked pattern of Bavaria
Towns and municipalities
The district includes no towns. All places have the status of municipalities.