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10 reasons to hike the Salzkammergut

March 9, 2023

Easily accessible from Salzburg, the Salzkammergut region in Austria is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with its crystal-clear lakes, rugged mountains, and picturesque alpine meadows. Scenes from the Sound of Music were filmed in the area.

The area lies to the east of Salzburg, from Attersee in the north down to the Dachstein mountains in the south. Its name refers to the salt mines that were located here and belonged to the Habsburg monarchy. These days it is known as the Tourismusregion Salzkammergut with more defined borders, subdivided into 8 smaller areas:

  • Ausseerland - Salzkammergut
  • Wolfgangsee
  • Dachstein - Salzkammergut
  • Traunsee-Almtal
  • Attersee-Attergau
  • Bad Ischl
  • Mondsee-Irrsee
  • Fuschlsee



Here, in no particular order, are our top ten reasons to pack your hiking boots and head to the Salzkammergut:

1 – It's Austria’s Lake District

With well over 50 lakes in total, the area offers some of the loveliest scenery in Austria, with crystal clear lakes, Alpine meadows and soaring peaks and there are trails galore to satisfy the most avid hikers. Lake Hallstatt is the most well-known, but the other large lakes, Wofgangsee, Traunsee, Atterssee, Mondsee and Fuschlsee are all popular destinations with locals and weekenders.


2 – Rich history

Rather than being an obscure outpost of the Hapsburg Empire, the area was an important hub of cultural life, with Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Sisi holidaying at their villa (known as the Kaiservilla) in Bad Ischl every summer for over 60 years.

Other European royals and aristrocrats were also drawn to the area, as were famous artists and composers, including the painter Gustav Klimt who regularly spent summers on Attersee, where you can find the Klimt centre and the Artist’s trail.

3 – Thermal spas

The presence of the thermal brine baths in the area, thought to have restorative properties, has made it popular with holidaymakers since the 19th century.

The Eurothermen spa resort in the lovely town of Bad Ischl is a great place to sooth aching legs after a few days hiking. The spa offers a brine pool and cave and eight different saunas and steam rooms as well as a number of massage and beauty treatments to make you feel like new.

4 – World class hiking

There is a vast network of hiking trails across the Salzkammergut, ranging from easy, fairly flat walks to some more challenging Alpine routes over uneven ground.

The long-distance Berge Seen trail, launched in 2017, covers 350km over 20 clearly marked stages in a loop around the area, the longest of which is 26km.

If you don’t fancy clocking up 15-20km per day on foot on average, then there are plenty of bus routes to take you where you need to go.

5 – The view from above...

The Krippenstein 5 fingers viewing platform at Obertraun offers spectacular views over the entire Salzkammergut area on a clear day. One has a glass floor so you can feel as if you are suspended in mid-air – not ideal for those with a fear of heights!

If you’re feeling particularly fearless hit the long ‘ladder to heaven’ in Gosau, a 40m ladder over a 700m deep gorge on the Donnerkogel via ferrara – for experienced climbers only!


6 - ...and below

The three Dachstein caves offer the chance to explore the area from the inside out, the huge Dachstein ice cave, the impressive Mammut cave and the youngest Koppenbrüllerhöhle cave all have marked trails for guided tours so you can learn about how they were formed.

You can also visit the oldest salt mine in the world at Hallstatt (which dates back around 7,000 years to the late bronze age) where you can learn about the history of the trade in ‘white gold’ as it was known.

7 - Hallstatt

This fairytale village on the shore of Lake Hallstatt is rumoured to have inspired the town of Arendelle in the hit Disney film Frozen, and has attracted hordes of daytrippers as a result. It is therefore perhaps best explored early in the morning or towards mid-late afternoon in order to avoid the coach parties that fill the streets during the day over the summer, you will be rewarded with some quintessentially Austrian architecture in a truly magical setting. The Dachstein-Salzkammergut area around Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site


8 – Hit the rails

The Schafberg railway is a steam train that takes you from Wolfgangsee up to the 1783m summit of mount Schafberg that has been running since 1893. Used by daytrippers and hikers alike it offers a unique experience and beautiful views as you climb from the lake shore up to the top of a mountain.

9 – Get paddling

Take a day off from the hiking trails and hit one of the many lakes instead by canoe, kayak or paddleboard. A wonderfully serene way to explore some of the larger lakes like the Halstattersee or Wolfgangsee.

10 – Mountain huts

To truly experience walking in the Austrian Alps, an overnight stay in a mountain hut is a must. Waking up early to seen dawn over the Alps is a very special experience, and the hospitality is superb.

Bonus reason:

11 - Thermal spas

The area is home to a number of hot springs, and there's nothing like wallowing in the thermal waters after a day's hiking. The largest spa is the EurothermenResort in Bad Ischl. In keeping with the history of the area, there's also a brine grotto designed to benefit the resipratory system. 



If you would like to explore the area for yourself, check out our 4 and 7-night self-guided walking tours with accommodation, luggage transfers, and all materials you need for a fantastic walking holiday in the Salzkammergut.




We also offer a great 7-night multi-activity holiday including canoeing, cycling and a night in a mountain hut.



Any questions? Drop us a line, we’re on hand to answer any questions you may have when planning a walking holiday in Europe.


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