The beautiful lakes of Austria
Images of intense blue lakes and beautiful green and white mountains are some of the first things that come to mind when one thinks of Austria; without forgotting the cultural appealing of its cities and the relaxing atmosphere of its towns. The best places to relax in Austria tend to be close to the beautiful lakes of the country, many of which are systematically grouped in the Salzkammergut region; the Lake District to the east of Salzburg. The towns surrounding the lakes have an incredibly distinctive charm and have unique and exciting stories and I cannot avoid sharing them with you.
Understandably within anyone’s travel bucket list, Hallstatt is a UNESCO heritage site with such international appeal that China’s tourism office built a 1:1 scale replica in the central province of Henan. The original village of Hallstatt has attracted much interest in East Asia since its use as a backdrop in the Korean drama “Spring Waltz”, and it is not difficult to understand why it was chosen to play this role. Hallstatt has on one side steep mountains and in the other side the Lake Hallstatt; The various buildings overlooking the lake make Hallstatt one of the most instagram-photogenic places in Austria.
The village is perhaps the brightest jewel in the crown of the Salzkammergut region. The oldest town in Austria, Hallstatt is not only famous for its natural and artificial beauties, but also for its three millennia of old salt mining operations. The surrounding mountains are steeped in a salty history that can be explored by a cable car that ends on a viewing platform from which the glorious Alpine beauty of the Salzkammergut opens itself to your eyes.
A glance in a north-western direction will reveal the green and vibrant hills surrounding Lake Wolfgang and at their feet, the pretty town of St. Wolfgang. The Stadtpfarrkirche (church) stands proudly in the middle of the city with the numerous shops and houses that run along the lakeside promenade. The SchafbernBahn railway offers gorgeous views of the peaks and canals of the numerous mountains around the turquoise waters of the lake and, while the steepest railway in the country, contains several moments of gradual ascension as it winds through tall pines and perfect green pastures of historic farmland of the Wolfgang lake.
St. Wolfgang is an important center of activity and many come here to literally immerse themselves in the wide range of water sports options. With some of the warmer waters in the Salzkammergut region (in summer 24 degrees are always guaranteed), it is fair to say that the lake is the place to be. Swimming, sailing, jet skiing, snorkeling and scuba diving are absolutely popular here, but there are many other alternatives that do not include water, such as cycling, climbing, paragliding or hiking around this green paradise.
Where to Stay
The Romantik Hotel Im Weissen Rössl is a hotel with a long tradition, which has been run by the same family for a long time and which has reached the fifth generation of the Peter family. Being a romantic hotel, it offers wellbeing and numerous moments of indulgence at all levels, in addition to traditional and captivating Austrian hospitality. The Romantik Hotel Im Weissen Rössl offers a fantastic panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding mountains and is undoubtedly one of the most legendary and famous hotels in Austria. The 91 rooms are all elegant, modern and furnished in a traditional style. All the decorations in the rooms are individual and special as well as traditional and all carefully selected, following a very specific line of thought, that of timeless elegance. In the Seerestaurant or Romantik Kaiserterrasse you will be spoiled with regional specialties and exclusive cuisine.
The 1.500 sqm SPA with the Rösslpool and the heated 30°C pool is a focal point of the Romantik Hotel Im Weissen Rössl‘s class. This incredible Spa is the right place to indulge in a spa treatment or a relaxing massage. The spa includes a floating whirlpool, a heated swimming pool in the lake, a Turkish bath, a solarium, a fitness room and a relaxation room with a panoramic view of the lake.
There are some quieter options on Lake Wolfgang; for example on western side St. Gilgen and on eastern side Strobl. Both cities are only one bicycle ride from the center of St. Wolfgang and are so popular with hikers circling around the perimeter of the lake, stopping at its many beaches along the way. Upon arrival at St. Gilgen, visitors are greeted by a lovely town square from which you can begin your trek along the Pilgrim’s Way, to get to the Falkenstein chapel; a small church hidden in the rocky wall.
Strobl is known above all for its slopes and for the Nordic ski facilities, very appreciated during the winter period when the attention for sports is more directed to the mountains than to the lake. There is a lot to see and do here in the summer, including a toboggan run and a wide range of water sports; you can also join one of the many ups and downs, go on board the lake cruisers, visit the natural beach for sunbathing or take the bus to reach the beautiful Salzburg, with its Renaissance gardens, the Baroque palaces and the oldest outdoor theater in Europe.
Directly north of Lake Wolfgang is a lake that, despite the English translation of “Moon Lake”, has the shape of a seahorse. Lake Mondsee is the sporty brother of Lake Wolfgang, with temperatures that can reach the 27°C, which means that sailing and kitesurfing are popular activities here. The lake and its main city were given the name of “Lake of the Moon” by the Duke Odilo who, while out hunting, was lost and was able to estimate his position only after the full moon began to light the water of the lake (so says the legend).
The city of Mondsee on the northwestern edge of the lake is dominated by the grandeur of The Collegiate Church of St Michael, which was the protagonist of the marriage of Mary and Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. The beauty of the basilica combined with the gorgeous mountain scenery and the calm turquoise waters make Mondsee an extremely charming and popular wedding destination.
Outside the Salzkammergut Region
Bregenzer Festspiele 2018 “Carmen”
Lakes become much rarer outside the Salzkammergut region, but there is a well-defined gem in the western “tail” of Austria; Lake Constance, a lake of such dimension that three countries claim different parts of it. Lake Constance is by far the largest in Austria, but the borders of Austria embrace only a small part of it, while Switzerland claims the south-western side and Germany has its own part to the north. Despite having only 10% of the coastline, Austria makes good use of its portion with one of the country’s most iconic cultural events, the Bregenz Opera, the extraordinary show on the lake staged during the Bregenzer Festspiele, an incredible artistic event which is held in July and August every year.