A Fairy-Tale Road Trip through Austria's Villages
Austria is hardly a hidden gem. Still, for some reason, most people forget there is much more to it than Vienna and its famous attractions, and even going on a solo trip here has many benefits. To be frank, if I hadn't married an Austrian a couple of years ago, I probably wouldn't be writing this story now. But the fact that most of this small mountainous country still hasn't been brought into the spotlight might just be what made my fairy-tale road trip through Austria's villages possible and that much more magical. And although it probably seems counterintuitive to tell the whole world about something you wish would remain somewhat under the radar, I firmly believe these places deserve to be heard of. So, without further ado, here are some of the most enchanting places this country has to offer.
My fairy-tale road trip through Austria's villages started in the most obvious place - Hallstatt. This tiny yet incredibly picturesque town, situated on Hallstatt Lake and surrounded by Salzkammergut mountains, is a textbook example of idyll and diversity.
Active vacationers can explore cave and salt mines, go on a lake cruise, hike, cycle - you name it! On the other hand, those who prefer a more relaxing approach can spend hours roaming around the market square or exploring the cobbled streets that house 16th-century buildings and charming pastel facades. Whichever route you decide to take, make sure to bring some comfy shoes as cars are not allowed in this village.
After a magical 48 hours in Hallstatt, my partner and I headed to St. Gilgen, a much less crowded yet equally beautiful town just outside of beautiful Salzburg. To be honest, I didn't think anything could come close to the perfection of Hallstatt, but I was wrong. St. Gilgen, or Mozart Village, located on Lake Wolfgang, offers all the beauty without steep prices and crowds of tourists. Charming wooden houses, small shops, and traditional restaurants are all over the place. For stunning views, make sure to go on a cable car ride to the top of the Zwölferhorn mountain. And if you need a little something extra - boat rides and water sports on the lake are available too! Ex
Our next stop, an hour and a half away from St. Gilgen, was the spa and ski town of Bad Gastein. Once again, my expectations were exceeded. Aside from the obviously fantastic skiing, here you can recharge in rejuvenating thermal spring waters, marvel at the Belle Epoque architecture, or pretend to be a royal in one of the luxurious hotels. Tranquil hiking and biking trails are also excellent ways to relax and have fun in Bad Gastein. Oh, and did I mention there is a waterfall flowing through the center of the village? Austria truly never ceases to surprise you.
Zell am See
Zell am See, a medieval town located on Lake Zell, was a place I was especially excited about. I've heard plenty about its clear water, mountain views, and idyllic scenery, and I was eager to experience all the beauty first-hand. Indeed, I was not disappointed.
This charming village is a genuine playground for winter sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. The warm, traditional atmosphere is incredibly family-friendly, and it's almost impossible not to feel content here, and even decide to relocate to this small town. Whether you want to explore the surrounding area by hiking or cycling or stroll up and down the lake promenade, Zell am See surely won't leave you indifferent.
Parting with Zell am See was not easy. Luckily, Kufstein, our next stop, was almost like an extension of the previous. It seems as though it's impossible for me to get enough of charming villages filled with cozy traditional houses and picture-perfect squares.
What sets this town apart from the others is the impressive medieval Kufstein Fortress, which is its main attraction. To make things even more exciting, you can reach it via a cable car! Once you get there, you'll be able to see the world's largest outdoor organ dedicated to soldiers who died during World War I.
The last stop on our road trip through Austria's villages was the ski resort town of Alpbach. Once voted the most beautiful village in Austria, Alpbach is the perfect place for a relaxing or active holiday in summer and winter.
The year-round easy-going atmosphere can be felt in the restaurants and bars where you can try traditional Austrian dishes. After a hearty meal, you can burn those calories by walking, hiking, or even paragliding in summer or skiing and snowboarding in winter. However you decide to spend your days in this gorgeous town, know that you will be surrounded by stunning nature and views at all times.
If you go
- Planning a road trip through Austria's villages? Make sure to obtain proof of COVID vaccination or recovery. This will allow you to enter hotels, restaurants, markets, interesting museums, etc. Also, note that face masks are mandatory in most enclosed spaces.
- If you are visiting from afar and planning to stay for more than a couple of days (which you absolutely should), it might be smart to rent a storage unit for your valuables. Ensuring the safety of your belongings during long trips will provide you with the peace of mind necessary for fully indulging in new sensations and experiences.
- Christmas time in Austria is out of this world, but it does get pretty cold, especially in mountain towns and villages. Make sure to pack a lot of warm layers and drive carefully if you intend to rent a car!
As you can see, Austria has a lot to offer to anyone who enjoys exploring new places. With our ideas for a fairy-tale road trip through Austria’s villages, you will surely make the most of your trip. Good luck and remember to have fun!
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