From up above, Austria looks like a giant patchwork quilt of greens; straight lines form perfectly neat pockets of trees and grass. Every now and then you’ll see a little pool of vivid turquoise, as though someone has spilt their drink. The Austrian lakes spanning most of Salzburg (a major city in Austria) and a bit more are known as Salzkammergut. It’s the place to go for unspoilt, natural beauty. Think mighty mountains, picturesque views and buckets of clean, crisp fresh air. Oh and of course clean, clear lakes that you could drink straight from (or so I’m told).
If you get the chance to visit (and why wouldn’t you with such affordable flights from the UK?), a few notable spots should definitely be included on your itinerary:
Mondsee: Jäger, Weddings and Moon Laking
Tourists from all over the world (quite literally) flock to this quiet town. Supposedly every year 3,000 of them just visit Austria to see the church where the famous Sound of Music wedding took place. Despite what they think, it’s not a church so to speak. It’s actually a basilica (a church with special privelges), St Michael’s Basilika to be exact.
Never one for the film or religion for that matter, Mondsee is worth visiting for another reason (or two). Firstly, to view the Basilica’s Jägermeister collection. Local volunteers collect the used miniature Jäger bottles, wash them and then fill them with holy water. At least they look like Jäger bottles and that’s what our host proclaims! You can buy a bottle for a small donation when you next visit.
Forget moon lighting, it’s all about moon laking (that’s a thing, right?). The best reason to visit Mondsee though is to see the Moon Lake. *Swoon* It’s ever such a romantic name, and in person, it doesn’t lose any of that charm. One of the largest lakes in Austria, you can enjoy the views of the hills and mountains reflected in the impressively clear waters. Locals sit on the wooden boardwalk, dipping their toes in the refreshing lake. The trees sway in the gentle breeze. Ah, it really is the perfect place to spend a summery day. The more adventurous can entertain themselves with local water sports.
The Ruins Wartenfels: Stamina and Serenity
A short drive away, you’ll find a popular spot for hiking. You won’t necessarily need your walking boots, but don your trainers and enjoy the walk up the hill to the old Roman ruins. It’ll take you about thirty minutes, depending on how hard you find the steeper bits. Your work will be rewarded with panoramic views. Tall firs cover the hillside, breaking momentarily so that you can glimpse the snow capped mountain in the distance. A turn to the other side and you’ll be able to see the famous lakes. If you’re feeling energetic and up for a challenge go for the extra forty-five minute steep hike to the very top of the peak. Sunrise or sunset is the best time for photo worthy opportunities.
St. Wolfgang: Cobbles and Charm
Enjoy a boat ride across the lake (you can even take your bike on the boat) to reach the cute village of St. Wolfgang. With cafes fringing the water’s edge and old cobblestone lanes, it really is an adorable spot for an afternoon stroll. Grab your lunch to go and head straight up to the fifteenth century church – it’s a tiny village so you can’t miss it. As you walk round to the church entrance, you’ll spy a wall and some arched windows that overlook the lake. They provide the most perfect window seat for you to enjoy your lunch al fresco.
Gmunden: A Floating Castle
Walk the wooden bridge to the island castle. A uniquely shaped building that looks as if it is floating, Seeschloss Orth is 400 years old. Surrounded by the twinkling water and powerful mountain views, you’ll feel super special if you opt to eat lunch in the restaurant. Serving the best food, especially the vegetarian risotto, it really is worth it. If you’re really lucky the chef might even take you out on his speed boat, or failing that you might get a taste of local Austrian life by witnessing a wedding party. Seeschloss Orth hosts 380 weddings per year from guests all over the world. It is partly due to the exposure gained from a TV wedding that was filmed here and partly due to the sheer beauty and excitement of the venue itself.
Although you can easily get a direct, cheap and cheerful flight from the UK to Salzburg (via easyJet or RyanAir), flying into Vienna and then transferring to Salzburg on a propeller plane will allow you to enjoy a different side of Austria. Flying lower than the typical aeroplanes, you’ll see this European country from way up above. You’ll really appreciate the patchwork views.
Once you’re safely in Salzburg you can tour the Salzkammergut region very easily. From cog railway trains to cable cars, and boats to toboggan runs, it really is a fun and romantic area to travel. You can hire a bike (including an electric bike) to easily and enjoyably cycle through the villages.
A big thanks to the Austrian Tourism Board (as well as the regional ones) and Headwater Holidays for hosting my cycling trip in Austria. To view ready-made cycling packages, including one that includes these stops and more just click here for more details. I’ll be sharing a few more of my Austrian recommendations in the next few weeks so keep a look out.
Have you been to Austria before or is this something you’d like to do? I’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions about this region or trip, please feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you. X