I, too, took the Panorama "Sound of Music" tour on my first visit to Salzburg in May 2012. Despite the mild negatives I will explain later, I'm truly glad I took the tour. The biggest selling point is that you don't have to worry about how to get from place to place. But, some of the information that was given was NOT correct!?!? Our guide was very charming and had worked with some of the original von Trapp children, so he definitely had a legitimate "Sound of Music" connection. So, oddly, WHY would he be telling his tour groups things that are not true? We had a stop on the road on the far side of the lake at Schloss Leopoldskron and he pointed out the horse-headed statues and the "lake gate" of the Schloss telling us that was the site used to film the portions of the film that took place there. Close, but not accurate. The Schloss at that time wanted too much money for the film crew to use that exact location, so that plan fell through. But, the Schloss DID allow filming on the property next door, where the Meierhof is today. Even today, there are the steps down into the lake, and a sidewalk leading to them, just as they were in the film. The horse-headed statues and the gate were replicated by the art production team of the film, as was the terrace where the Captain and Elsa have lemonade. So, the actual filming location for those scenes were approximately 100 yards to the left of the spot he indicated. He also told us the road we were on is where the von Trapp children and Maria were seen hanging from the trees. This, too, is inaccurate. That scene was filmed in the Mondsee area.
At any rate, I so loved my (too brief) visit to Salzburg that I promised myself that "one day" I would return. Thankfully, that "one day" turned out to be the same time (May) the very next year - last year!! This time, tough, I would go it totally on my own. As before, I visited many sites the tour did not include: Nonnberg Abbey (the tour only pointed to it driving by), Winkler Terrace ("Do-Re-Mi"), Schloss Frohnburg (the front of the von Trapp villa which, again, the tour only pointed to while driving past), and the tree-lined allee that leads to it ("I Have Confidence"), the Horse Bath, and a tour of the "Rocky Riding School" where "Edelweiss" is sung before the von Trapps escape for the hills. I rented a car and was able to experience the absolute highlight of ALL highlights - actually going ONTO the famous meadow where Julie sings the title song!!! On the drive to it, you go past a church that was used in the opening credits of the film - a small church mounted on a rocky bluff. I was also able to visit the "other" famous meadow, where "Do-Re-Mi" begins. Both sites are private property, and while I did search out the owner for THE meadow, no one was home. So, I went ahead and walked up to it. The "Do-Re-Mi" meadow has an electric fence around it, so while I was able to see it, and the mountains from the perspective of the film, I wasn't able to actually walk into it. Still, a site so magnificent words fail to do it justice.
It's looking like I will be making my THIRD visit this coming July. This time, I will go to the site at the end of the film where the von Trapps cross over the mountaintop to freedom. I can't wait!! So, end of story, taking the tour has some mild advantages, but I can not stress enough the profound advantage that doing your OWN tour brings!