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Anyone who is talking about Austria and especially about the Austrian mountain regions is always talking about Salzburg, Tyrol or Vorarlberg. Far too few, however, know the beauty of the Upper Austrian mountain region in the Salzkammergut, but this region has a lot to offer in terms of landscape. The mountains may not be as high as in other regions of Austria, but the mountain lakes with the reflections of the peaks are at least as impressive as the well-known regions in Austria. Therefore I have a little road trip suggestion for my favourite region in Upper Austria.
Road trip through the Salzkammergut
And off we go – with my road trip suggestion through the Salzkammergut. If you really want to take your time, you can definitely spend a few days here.
Short explanation in the beginning: See means lake in german
Traunsee, Gmunden & Traunkirchen
One of my absolute favourite places in the whole world is the first stop on our road trip in the Salzkammergut. We start at the beautiful Traunsee with a view of the not very high but impressive Traunstein. Since the Traunsee is easily accessible from the Upper Austrian capital Linz, it has become a small recreational area for many people from the cities and surrounding areas. I also spend a lot of time here in summer, especially on the surrounding mountains. The most popular hiking route in the region is the one up the Sonnstein. The biggest village at the Traunsee is Gmunden. Gmunden is a great destination, especially for children. I have many great childhood memories of the region’s playgrounds and ice cream shops. If you want to go high up and don’t want to go on one of the hiking trails, you can take the cable car up to the Grünberg. Traunkirchen is a small, sleepy village with a beautifully situated church, which is a good place to take photos.
Those who want to hike the Traunstein need a lot of fitness and power, as even though the mountain only measures 1691m height, one has to gain a lot of altitude on a steep stretch. Unfortunately, meanwhile, many hikers have lost their lives at the Traunstein, due to the ascent and hardly any embankment that could cushion a fall, repeatedely some serious accidents happen here.
One of my favourite lakes in autumn is the Langbathsee, which is somewhat remote in a valley. It’s so beautiful in autumn when it’s starting to be indian summer up here. Here you can walk from the front to the rear Langbathsee. The lake is one of the clearest and worth a walk.
On the way to our next stop you can make a small stop in the imperial town of Bad Ischl. Here you can explore the imperial villa, or just take a walk or have lunch.
Hallstättersee and world famous Hallstatt
Lake Hallstatt with the famous town of Hallstatt is an international tourist magnet. Hallstatt is meanwhile familiar with the term overtourism, as here, one had to limit the number of buses that are allowed to come daily, as the place was overcrowded with (mainly Asian) tourists. The overtourism is, on one hand, quite annoying, but Hallstatt is nevertheless a charming little village at the Lake Hallstatt that is beautifully embedded in the mountains. Fun Fact: In China they are so enthusiastic about Hallstatt that the village has been copied there (really copied, they even measured the bricks in the original town). Crazy, right?
Salt mine in Hallstatt. In the mountain in the village of Hallstatt you can find the oldest salt mine in the world. Here you can easily take the train up and then explore the salt worlds. This excursion is especially exciting for children, when they go downhill on the slide in the salt mine.
Best viewpoint from the top on Hallstatt is from the entrance of the saltmine. You can either hike there (around 1 hour, uphill) or go by train.
Photo tip: Sunset in Hallstatt isn’t a good choice because the surrounding mountains shield the sun. But it is still worthwhile to be on the way rather in the late afternoon, because the light is most beautiful there. The famous photo place is at the end of the village. But why not try different perspectives?
By the way, I took all these pictures with my camera equipment while travelling.
Dachstein & Krippenstein
The Dachstein is my favourite mountain, for whatever reason. The view of the summit and the Hallstätter Glacier in front of it gives me a feeling of peace and magic, which is why I always like to come back to the region and am happy everywhere when I can see the glacier at the foot of the Dachstein. That’s why a trip to the Krippenstein or the high Dachstein is always on my list. The Krippenstein, from which you can see the glacier of the Dachstein, can easily be explored by cable car (but also, unfortunately, not really cheap with nearly 40 euros per ticket) not far from the place Hallstatt. Many hikes with a fantastic panorama lead along there. Those who prefer to go to the Dachstein glacier itself can do this from the place Ramsau in the Austrian province Styria, as the province Upper Austria unfortunately has to share the highest peak of Upper Austria with Styria. To this day, Upper Austrians and Styrians still argue about who really owns the summit.
The most magical place in the whole world. I can still remember the first time I visited Lake Gosausee to do a via ferrata. When I caught my first glimpse of Lake Gosausee, I was speechless. At that time, the lake was still an insider tip, but in the meantime, mainly because of the famous via ferrata with the stairs to heaven, it unfortunately is not anymore. The lake has lost some of its magic, but if you catch the right time, where there are hardly any tourists, or if you walk around the lake far enough, you can still enjoy the silence. By the way, here you can see it in its full glory – my beloved Dachstein.
Wolfgangsee & Schafberg
The Wolfgangsee has always been one of my grandparents’ favourite destinations and I know why. The towns of St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang and Strobl are in the best location with a perfect view of a beautiful lake.
One of the most striking peaks in Austria is next to the Wolfgangsee – and it’s not the Schafberg peak itself, but the peak of the Spinnerin as seen from the Schafberg. The view from the Schafberg summit is definitely tremendous – in all directions you can see the lakes from Upper Austria and Salzburg. Hiking enthusiasts can take the approx. 3-hour hike up to the summit, while those who want to take it easy can take the Schafberg cable car up to the top. Arriving at the top you get a somehow amusing picture – next to the mostly perfectly equipped and meanwhile sweaty and partly exhausted hikers you find ladies in slippers or high heels, perfectly made up for their excursion.
But never mind, I have experienced both sides by now and every time it was a great experience, especially because I took the trip up the Schafberg with my dear grandparents. The trip a few months before my grandfather died will always remain in my memory.
Anyone who wants to take the Schafbergbahn, will find the details here.
Now we have to cross the state borders, because we are off to Salzburg. The Fuschlsee in Salzburg became very famous when an energy drink manufacturer opened an office here. But for excursion fans the region offers a lot.
Popular hikes at Fuschlsee are the Schober (especially at sunrise or sunset) or the Faistenauer Schafberg and the Loibersbacher Höhe. I can also recommend the hike to the Gruberalm, especially for families. If you are keen on reading more about these places, I do offer german blogposts about them.
On my roadtrip adventure we are now heading north again, back towards Linz, from Fuschlsee to Mondsee. The Mondsee is always the area for me, when I am driving on the “Autobahn” from the south, that I am now “at home” again. The dragon wall “Drachenwand” is famous here. The steeply sloping wall (see picture left) is famous among hikers and especially among via ferrata fans. The via ferrata to the Drachenwand unfortunately is completely overcrowded at the weekend, but still one of the most beautiful ones we have in Austria. If you want to be undisturbed here, you have to be out and about during the week, early in the morning or late in the evening. If you follow the Mondsee along the north shore, you will reach the next destination, the Attersee.
Last but not least – we continue with the Caribbean of Upper Austria, the Attersee. The lake is especially popular in summer with bathers and divers, because there are many beautiful baths, jetties and small places where you can let your legs dangle in the water. In addition, the water is so clear that divers are virtually in paradise. Because of the cold of the lake, however, diving here is not easy.
There are also some very well known hiking trails, especially the trail to the Schoberstein, from where you can continue on to Mahdlgupf, Brennerin and Hochleckenhaus. The via ferrata at Mahdlgupf is also very popular. It is very strenuous and requires a lot of physical fitness. Unfortunately, both the via ferrata at Mahdlgupf and the hiking trail at Schoberstein are completely overcrowded at weekends, so it makes sense to be out and about during the week. The sunset at Schoberstein is very popular, but you should not underestimate the last meters in the dark.
A less known, but super nice hiking trail leads along the western shore of the lake – it is the west hiking trail, which I explored 2 years ago in summer.
The best time for exploring the Salzkammergut
For those who want to go on a hiking tour in the Salzkammergut, I would recommend to not head for the lakes in high summer. At this time they are very crowded, as many inhabitants from the surrounding regions go to the lake for a bathing tour. Therefore, it is rather recommended to visit the lakes in spring or autumn. As the mountains in the region are rather low, most destinations (with the exception of the Dachstein) can still be visited in late autumn.
If you want to come to the region for a swim, you should definitely come in summer, as the lakes only become halfway pleasantly warm in the middle of summer.
Getting around in the Salzkammergut
The region Salzkammergut is possible to travel by public transport, but it is difficult to do so. I always travel here by car, because I find many small places on the way that I would miss on the bus. But there are many places that have a train station, Gmunden or Hallstatt for example and in the regions you can travel a lot by bus. In many places there are also boats, for example at the Wolfgangsee or at the Hallstättersee. Alternatively, one can also make use of completely guided tours, specially for tourists who did not arrive by car, this can be a possibility.