Historically speaking the Salzkammergut is the name given to the land to the east of Salzburg, from Attersee in the north down to the Dachstein mountains in the south.
The name refers to the salt mines that were located in the area 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
- Dachstein - Salzkammergut
- Bad Ischl
Combine the beautiful landscape with the fascinating history and architecture of the area (the Dachstein- Salzkammergut area around Hallstatt became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997), and the thermal waters where you can soak your aching legs after a long days hiking, the area makes a wonderful destination for a walking holiday in Austria, easily accessible from Salzburg.
Here in no particular order are our top ten reasons to visit 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 fairy-tale village on the short 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.
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.
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.