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Austria

Austria© Harald Anzinger / Travanto

Austria - A hiking and winter sports paradise

Austria is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe and offers perfect conditions for tourism in summer as well as in winter. Every county of the alpine republic is full of natural beauty and lively culture. The largest extension of the country is the east-west extension with 575 kilometers. More than half of the country is mountain area, split in Central Alps, Tauern, Limestone Alps and Wienerwald (Vienna woods). Along the Danube river there are wide lowlands, in the southern part of Styria the landscape reminds of Tuscany, what gives it the second name “Styrian Tuscany”. The highest mountain on Austrian land is the Großglockner with 3,789 meters. The mountains are the touristic “flagship” of Austria as there are numerous winter sports areas and during summer there are countless opportunities for hiking and climbing. At warm temperatures, tourism takes place at the numerous lakes in Carinthia and Salzkammergut.

Regarding the climate there are large fluctuations within the country as the east is influenced by the continental climate, whereas the climate at the western part has an Atlantic impact. Despite small distances there can be drastic climate differences. The main alpine ridge forms a climate divide.

Lower Austria is seen as the granary of the country. Beside fruits and vegetables there is also a lot of wine growing. In the Wachau region many wine village invite to a relaxing stay. Outside of Vienna, the Neusiedler Lake is a popular holiday destination. South of the city there are many other resorts. Not only in Vienna, but also in Salzburg, the former residence of the Royal Archbishops, the charm of Emperor times becomes alive. The large number of Baroque buildings and the famous Getreidegasse with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth are world famous. The Salzkammergut with its countless lakes is a popular destination during summer.

Tyrol is the heart of the alpine republic and offers many highlights, like the sights in the town of Innsbruck or the skiing circus of Kitzbühel. The Vorarlberg region is very popular due to its proximity to Germany and its variety in nature between the Rhine Valley and the High Alps. Another important touristic region is Carinthia, especially during summer at the Wörthersee and Millstättersee Lakes. The Großglockner High Alpine Road is a tourist magnet as well. The “Green Heart” of Austria is Styria as the region is full of fruit orchards and vineyards. Furthermore, the winter sport region Schladming-Dachstein and the thermal springs in the hill-landscape of Eastern Styria count many tourists every year.

Vacation Rentals and Holiday Homes in Austria

Austria© Christl Giselbrecht / Travanto

Regions in Austria

Carinthia
Carinthia is the most southern county of Austria and is located in a bowl with the river Drau, surrounded by mountains. Due to its location south of the main alpine ridge the climate is mild and sunny. The lakes in Carinthia are perfect places for water sports as they can reach a temperature of 25 Degrees. In the north, Carinthia is screened by the High Tauern. The highest mountain is the Großglockner with 3,789 meters. At its foot you find the largest glacier of the Alps, the Pasterze. More than half of Carinthia is covered by woods. One of the most famous sights is the Großglockner High Alpine Road that leads to the alpine village Heiligenblut. Carinthia is mainly visited during summer due to its numerous lakes. However, there are also some popular winter sports areas, like the ones in Naßfeld or at the Katschberg mountain. The metropolis Klagenfurt impresses its visitors with great architecture, like the cathedral, the Country House Klagenfurt or the Lindwurm-Fountain. A very famous building is also then pilgrim chapel Maria Wörth at the Wörthersee Lake.

Salzburg
The county of Salzburg is located between the Alpine Foothills in the north and the High Tauern in the south. In the east it borders on the scenically Dachstein region. Regarding the landscape, the county of Salzburg can be separated in five areas: Flachgau, Tennengau, Pinzgau, Pongau and Lungau. The historic and economic importance of the county has its origin in the provincial capital Salzburg. The local Archbishops guided the region for many centuries. Today the Mozart-Town still plays an important role for the cultural development of Central Austria. The Festival-Town with its Baroque buildings and famous Mozart locations is the touristic center of the county. Worth a visit is also the Salzkammergut region, especially the Wolfgangsee Lake with the traditional hotel “Weißes Rössl” (White Horse), the Schafberg mountain, as well as the spa resorts Bad Ischl and Bad Aussee. Other places of interest in the county of Salzburg are the salt-town Hallein, the idyllic Fuscher Valley and the impressive Krimmler Waterfalls.

Styria (Steiermark)
In terms of area, Styria is the second largest county in Austria. It offers high alpine landscapes, like the northern Alpine Massif at the Salzkammergut or the hilly Alp Foothills, as well as valleys, forests and soft hill-landscapes. In the Hungarian Lowlands you even find wide steppe-like landscapes. Between the lowest point in Bad Radkersburg and the Dachstein Massif there is an altitude difference of 2,800 meters. The name “Steiermark” has its origin in the town “Steyr” which is part of Upper Austria today. The highest number of over-nigh-stays in the county Styria count the provincial capital Graz and the surrounding area, the Styrian Salzkammergut and the winter sports region Schladming-Dachstein. In the eastern part of Styria there are numerous castles, amongst others the mighty Riegersburg. Natural beauties of Styria are the Lur-Grottos or the waterfalls the Gesäuse National Park between Hieflau and Admont.

Tyrol (Tirol)
The county Tyrol got its name from the main castle of the Earls of Tirol in Meran. In terms of landscape the county is marked by the mountain chain of the Alps. The highest point is the Ortler with 3,905 meters. Numerous clichés of the alpine republic are connected to Tyrol, like the freedom fighter Andreas Hofer, the Bergisel of Innsbruck, yodellers, traditional costumes, deep forests and scenic alps. The county in the heart of the Alps is the most popular holiday destination throughout the year. A paradise for hiking and climbing are the Kaiser Mountains, the Karwendel Mountains or the Lienzer Dolomites. The lakes Walchsee, Achensee or Plansee offer perfect bathing conditions. The alcove balcony “Prunkerker” Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) in Innsbruck is one of the most important sights in Austria. Another worth-seeing attraction are the skiing-jumps at the Bergisel, where important ski-jumping competitions are taking place. In the town of Kitzbühel slopes and ski-bars are popular venues. Natural highlights offer the valleys Gurgltal, Lechtal and Tuxer Tal.

Vorarlberg
The so-called “Ländle” is the most western and second smallest county in Austria. In the north the Vorarlberg region Bregenz Forest borders on Germany, in the west the county runs along the Alpine-Rhine and in the south the regions Rätikon and Silvretta border on Switzerland. In the south-west, the principality Lichtenstein borders on Vorarlberg and in the east, Arlberg and the Verwall-Group form a natural border to North-Tyrol. With its valleys, grasslands, rivers, clear mountain lakes and flowered meadows up to its promenades at the Lake Constance, the region has a very special charm. The Arlberg mountain with its central places Lech and Zürs is a popular winter sports region. A famous place for climbing is the Zimba. Impressive natural spectacles can be discovered in the canyons Rappenlochschlucht and Schaufelschlucht. The Kleinwalsertal forms a political enclave and is only accessible via the town of Oberstdorf in Bavaria, Germany. Full of cultural highlights are the old towns of Bludenz, Bregenz and Feldkirch. Worldwide famous is the Bregenz Festival that takes place on the Lake Constance stage.

Vienna
Vienna is an Austrian county and federal capital of the country at the same time. Greater Vienna counts 2.6 million habitants, what is one quarter of the whole population of Austria. Today, Vienna is well known as congress and conference location. As imperial capital and residence of the Habsburgs, Vienna possesses an important cultural heritage. The old town and the Schönbrunn castle are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Vienna is located at the north-eastern foothills of the Alps and is the most densely populated county in Austria. The Danube river in the urban area reaches a width of 280 meters. Approximately half of Vienna’s catchment area is green land which is mainly used for agriculture. The center of Vienna is the Stephans-Square with the Stephans Cathedral, the most important Gothic building in Austria. The southern church tower “Steffl” is symbol of Vienna. Close to the cathedral there are many other important sights, like the Hofburg, the State Opera, the Archbishop Palace and the Dominican Church. The Big Wheel at the amusement park “Prater” offers the best view of the Danube-Town.

© Sofie Dittmer / Travanto

Winter sports in Austria

Glaciers, high mountains, beautiful surroundings, snow and sunshine en masse - Austria is an ideal winter holiday destination for all skiers, snowboarders, ice skaters, snow shoe hikers, tobogganers or simply anyone wishing to enjoy the cold season to the fullest. This country is tightly packed with splendid ski resorts that can be easily reached by car, train or bus within no time from Vienna, Innsbruck and many other cities. Remarkable about Austrian ski resorts is the fact that these charming Alpine villages have all successfully managed to preserve their authentic character. Instead of huge purpose-built apartment blocks, you will find rustic chalets, sweet family-run hotels and chic design hotels. Many accommodations enjoy direct access to the pistes that are generally very well groomed and equipped with efficient snowmaking facilities and ultramodern ski lifts. These interconnect the single ski villages to form vast areas with hundreds of kilometres of skiable slopes and runs of all difficulty levels. Moreover, the prices are reasonable, the locals welcoming and friendly, the cuisine and après-ski excellent.

Winter sport fans, could you wish for more?
With more than 80 ski resorts and 3,000 kilometres of pistes, Tyrol in western Austria is a true ski paradise and one of the top winter sport destinations in Europe. Some of Austria's largest ski areas are located here, for instance Ski Arlberg, SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental, Zillertal Arena and Kitzbühel/Kirchberg. The latter is particularly famous for the Hahnenkamm Race that has been taking place in Kitzbühel since 1931 and if you can sum up enough courage, you can even race down the legendary Streif yourself! Throughout the season, ski and snowboard competitions are also held at Sölden, the largest ski resort in the Ötztal valley, where snow is guaranteed from October until May due to its location on two glaciers. However, after a long day out in the snow, your day is far from being over – now it's party time! Après-ski in Tyrol is legendary and vibrant and in places like Mayrhofen, Ischgl and St Anton am Arlberg the crowd doesn't stop celebrating until the sun starts rising over the majestic peaks of the Tyrolean Alps!

Ski amadé is one of Austria's largest interconnected ski areas and spans five ski regions and 25 ski resorts in the Salzburger Land and Styria. This means that with one single ski pass you can access 270 lifts and enormous 760 kilometres of pistes! From challenging World Cup pistes to wide and gentle slopes, deep snow terrain, exciting snowparks and perfectly groomed cross-country ski trails - everybody will find his perfect run at Ski amadé. Another fabulous ski area in the state of Salzburg is the Ski Circus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leongang that unites these three ski resorts. It features 200 kilometres of versatile slopes that are ideal for beginners and intermediates, snow trails with sharp bends and jumps for pros, a flood-lit slope, various tobbogan runs, over 100 kilometres of winter hiking trails as well as countless huts and snow bars providing splendid après-ski entertainment.

The ski area Silvretta Montafon lies in the south of Voralberg and is one of the largest ski areas in the Alps. The village of Schruns-Tschagguns in the heart of the ski area is the best starting point to reach the surrounding mountains which are covered in a 140 kilometre long network of perfectly maintained pistes. With countless powder runs across diverse terrain, this ski area is a dream for all free riders, while various speed and racing runs and particularly the "Black Scorpions" - seven extremely steep downhill runs – are guaranteed to raise your adrenaline level.

Carinthia is another great destination to spend unforgettable ski holidays in Austria. The country's southernmost state is home to numerous ski resorts and Nassfeld is even among Austria's top ten. This scenic ski area is blessed with plenty of snow, sunshine and spectacular panorama views. Some of its runs take you straight into neighbouring Italy. A special highlight enjoyed by young and old alike is night skiing on one of the Alp's longest floodlit runs. After completing the 2.2 kilometres, stop by at one of Nassfeld's cosy huts, warm yourself up with some hot Jagatee and gain new strengths for your next day in the snow with some hearty Carinthian meal!

Culinary delights of Austria

From hearty meat dishes to sweet pastries, in Austria you will find everything your taste buds crave - and everything is oh so delicious! Austrians are true gourmets and they are proud of their diverse cuisine, which is the result of an excellent fusion of different styles that came from Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic (particularly Bohemia). However, the cooking traditions of the south eastern European countries which once formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had an even greater impact on the Austrian food culture. When chefs in Vienna started to incorporate these new flavours into traditional local recipes, the Viennese cuisine was born. It is often regarded as the classical Austrian cuisine, although each region has its own distinctive dishes, which are as tasty and mouth-watering as the capital city's most famous specialities. Let's indulge in some absolutely irresistible Austrian culinary delights from all corners of the country. Guten Appetit!

Soups
Soups are often served as a starter and especially the broth-based type is very popular in Austria. These clear soups are usually enriched with fresh herbs, vegetables, soup pearls or different types of dumplings made from meat (e.g. liver) or semolina (Griessnockerl). Even pancakes cut into thin strips can be added as an "upgrade" and this is exactly how this speciality called Flädlesuppe (in the rest of Austria it is called Frittatensuppe) from Voralberg is made.

Meat and fish
Meat is a staple food in Austria and vegetarians will have a hard time when eating out in Austria as most main courses are meat dishes. Beef, pork and poultry are the most consumed meats, although the Austrians don't disdain game either. Besides the famous Wiener Schnitzel, Tafelspitz is an Austrian meat specialty that is highly recommended. This boiled beef also originated in Vienna but it is served throughout the country, especially on Sundays, traditionally with potatoes and horseradish sauce. If you rather prefer meat to be prepared differently, try gulash, a spicy meat stew adopted from Hungary, roast pork (Schweinsbraten) with thick gravy or Backhendl, which is chicken dredged in flour and breadcrumbs and then pan-fried until golden brown and crispy. Despite Austria being a landlocked country, even fish finds its way onto Austrian plates, especially the local freshwater species like trout, char, zander and carp.

Dumplings
Knödel form an integral part of the Austrian cuisine. These versatile balls can be made from potatoes, old bread rolls or yeast dough. They can be savoury or sweet, served as a side dish or as a main meal by themselves like the bacon dumplings from Tyrol.

Sweet dishes
The Austrian cuisine is also famous for its large variety of sweet dishes and many of them are enjoyed as main meal, rather than a dessert. So, if you like neither meat nor fish, you can always resort to one of these "Schmankerl": Marillenknödel from Lower Austria or Kletzennudeln from Carinthia. As the name suggests, Marillenknödel are dumplings and this particular variety is made from semolina/curd cheese dough and filled with apricots (Marillen), topped with roasted breadcrumbs. In contrast, Nudeln are in general little pasta dough "pouches" filled with meat, cheese etc. In the case of the Kletzennudeln, they are filled with minced dried pear, seasoned with honey and cinnamon. Simply delicious!

Desserts, cakes and coffee
These sweet dishes are quite filling but you still must try one the following heavenly desserts. Alongside with Kaiserschmarrn, Apfelstrudel, which are both famous far beyond the country's borders, Salzburger Nockerl belong to the legendary Austrian desserts. This sweet baked soufflé certainly tastes best in Salzburg, the city where it was invented in the 17th century. Even the recipe for Sachertorte, a delicious Viennese chocolate cake, is more than 100 years old. Enjoy a piece of it in one of Vienna's chic coffee houses and wash down with some freshly brewed coffee - but make sure you know exactly what coffee you would like to order as there's no such simple thing as "just a cuppa". There are at least a dozen different types that all have unusual names: Kleiner Brauner, Großer Schwarzer, Melange, Kapuziner, Einspänner…Coffee in Austria is a science in its own right that is definitely worth studying!

Following the footsteps of famous personalities in Austria

From emperors to artists, authors and athletes right through to scientists and freedom fighters – Austria has been home to famous personalities from all walks of life throughout all ages. It is a fact that many of them lived and worked in Austria a long time ago, but even when visiting this country's beautiful cities and picturesque villages today, you will still walk the same streets and stroll across the same places as those famous Austrian figures who did not only leave a mark on their country but even made world history.

Our first famous personality is a royal lady who lived in the 19th century but you will quickly notice that her spirit is still omnipresent when visiting Vienna, Austria's capital city, where she lived together with her husband in the Imperial Palace (Hofburg). This magnificent building is located in the heart of Vienna's Old Town and it houses the extensive Silver Collection and a museum dedicated to Her Majesty. It displays hundreds of her personal objects including dresses and even the original weapon she was assassinated with in 1898. Absolutely worth seeing are the splendid Imperial Apartments, which are still equipped with the authentic furniture and fittings and will give you precious insight in what daily life was like in the Habsburg Empire for Emperor Franz Josef I and his wife Elisabeth "Sisi", Empress of Austria.

Besides generations of monarchs, there are countless internationally famous characters who called Vienna their home. Sigmund Freud, for instance. Or Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Friedensreich Hundertwasser. At the Sigmund Freud Museum, which is housed in Freud's original residence, you will delve deep into the famous psychologist's mind, while at the Belvedere Gallery you can marvel at Klimt's and Kokoschka's legendary artworks, including "The Kiss" and "Tiger Lion". If you are, however, more fascinated by Hundertwasser's vibrant colours and vivid shapes, then go and see his masterpieces at the Hundertwasser Museum (Kunst Haus Wien) and visit the nearby Hundertwasser House, which, with its unusual and colourful façade, is definitely one of Vienna's architectural highlights.

If you love classical music, Salzburg is the place to visit and everything here will remind you about Mozart, this city's most famous son. "Woferl", as the Austrians lovingly call one of their most famous composers, was born and raised here in the middle of the 18th century. The house where Wolfgang Amadeus spent his childhood still stands on the same spot in the Getreidegasse 9. It is now a museum and on three floors visitors will learn everything about this musical genius, his family, his life and his works. Besides the Mozart Geburtshaus, there is another Mozart museum in Salzburg, the Mozart Wohnhaus, where Mozart lived for eight years before moving to Vienna. The museum focuses on his musical work and his social life in Salzburg and special exhibitions, talks and concerts are held on a regular basis.

Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler, another two world famous composers, also spent a lot of time in Austria, particularly on the lovely Wörthersee in Carinthia, although none of them was native to this region – Brahms was from Hamburg and Mahler came from Bohemia. Nonetheless, this picturesque lake and its beautiful surroundings inspired some of their greatest compositions and if you would like to learn more about their lives and immerse yourself in their music, you should visit the Brahms museum in Pörtschach and Mahler's lakeside villa and "Komponierhäuschen" in Maiernigg.

Our last celebrity was a real Austrian patriot and is still regarded a national hero, especially by the people of Tyrol, as he led the Tyrolean Rebellion and successfully fought the Bavarians and French armies in three battles in 1809. Unfortunately for Andreas Hofer, luck was not to last very long and after the Treaty of Schönbrunn he was captured by Napoleon's troops and executed. When spending your Austria holidays in Tyrol, you will come across countless monuments (e.g. Bergisel Innsbruck, Kavalerieberg Kufstein) commemorating this brave freedom fighter, who was actually an innkeeper and cattle dealer. Hofer's bones found final rest at the Hofkirche in Innsbruck and at the Feldherrnhalle (Museum of Military History) in Vienna you will even find his larger-than-life marble statue among all those exalted historic Austrian personalities - illustrating his importance for Austria.

Nature holidays in Austria

Mountains, glaciers, valleys, caves, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, forests, moors – Austria is undoubtedly one of Europe's loveliest corners and its breathtakingly beautiful landscapes that brim with an immensely diverse wildlife make this country an ideal holiday destination for anyone wishing to spend an active and unforgettable time in the open air. Whether your favourite outdoor activities are walking, mountain biking, swimming, skiing, climbing, fishing, surfing or horse riding – in Austria you'll be in close touch with unspoilt nature all year round and each season will enchant you with its very own wonders.

Relaxing under trees
Spring is a lovely season to visit Austria. When nature awakes after a long winter and everywhere is greening and blossoming, it is the best time to hike or cycle along the Perry Road (Moststraße) in Lower Austria. This 200 kilometre long circular route takes you through the rolling green hills, villages and towns of Austria's picturesque Mostviertel, south west of Vienna, where pear trees are cultivated in abundance for the production of juice and cider. At the end of April, when the fruit trees are in full bloom and this region is transformed into a white sea of blossoms, the locals celebrate the Spring Perry Festival. This cheerful festival is an absolute highlight in Austria's event calendar as it provides you with the unique chance to taste to your heart's content the delicious perry that this part of Austria is so famous for.

Splashing about in lakes
In June, July and August temperatures might climb well over 30 degrees and in these hot months a refreshing bathe in one of Austria's numerous lakes is a highly enjoyable summer's pleasure. For instance, Carinthia in the south east of the country is so rich in beautiful lakes that it is often referred to as "Austria's Riviera". The two largest lakes in Carinthia are the Wörthersee and the Millstätter See. The 17 kilometre long Wörthersee is also one of the most famous lakes in Austria and has featured in countless films as a scenic backdrop. Its water temperature can reach tropical 27 degrees, just like the Faaker and Klopeiner See. In contrast, the Weissensee, a mountain lake located at an altitude of 1,000 metres, heats up "just" to 24 degrees, while the Lake Ossiach is a true gem and shimmers in mysterious shades of green, like an emerald in the sun.

Discovering national parks
When the end of summer draws near, the green mountain forests turn into a colourful sea of yellow, orange and red leaves. In golden autumn the temperatures are still pleasantly warm and there are many days with plenty of sunshine, so now is the time to enjoy nature with an extended hike in one of Austria's six national parks. Having an area of 1,800 km2, the National Park Hohe Tauern is not only Austria's largest national park but also one of the largest in Europe. The park, which extends over the states Tyrol, Salzburg and Carinthia, offers more than 4,000 kilometres of walking trails and you can observe marmots, chamois, ibexes and golden eagles. Its natural spectacles are even more breath-taking and they include the Pasterze glacier at the foot of the majestic Großglockner peak, the impressive Krimml waterfalls and the Oberhauser Zirbenwald in the Defereggen Valley.

Exploring mountain worlds
Anyone travelling to Austria during the cold season will be rewarded with snow en masse that transforms the entire country into a magical winter wonderland. Skiers and snowboarders will certainly enjoy this time of year to the fullest as they can finally race down the slopes at Ischgl, Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Mayrhofen, in the Stubaital, Zillertal, Wilder Kaiser mountains or in any other popular Austrian ski resort. However, you don't necessarily need be an avid winter sports fan to experience unforgettable snow adventures in the wild. For instance, a snow shoe hiking tour or a dog sled ride will take you to the remotest corners of Austria's alpine worlds and the particularly adventurous among you, who would like to be as close as possible to nature even at night, should not sleep in a hotel, but spend a night in a real igloo village under the winter's starry sky.