5 New Road Trip Itineraries for the Pyrenees17.07.2017
The Hautes-Pyrenees region of France have worked with Huesca area of Spain to create a series of five new 3,...
Ask most people what springs to mind when they think of Salzburg and it could be Mozart, perhaps The Sound of Music, and even more likely the capital of one of Austria’s best winter sports regions.
But the truth is that in summer this stunning city, laced with history and culture and located right next to the mountains, is the perfect place to enjoy a fabulous mix of a city break while spending some time hiking, mountain biking and perhaps even doing a little paddle boarding on one of the lakes, all in the one visit.
The region that surrounds Salzburg is known, simply enough, as SalzburgerLand. It’s an incredible region with more than 3,000 walking trails to explore, for example – altogether adding up to some 7,000km of hiking paths.
There’s water everywhere too of course, in the form of innumerable lakes and rivers, so whether you want to paddle on a lake or fish in it, ride the white water down a fast-flowing mountain river, marvel over a magnificent waterfall or just relax in a thermal spa, the choices are almost limitless.
There’s also a timeless connection to nature in SalzburgerLand. Within the main summer season which stretches from May to October there is a special “Almsommer” (Alpine Summer) when the mountain huts are all open and the cattle are up on the mountain. This season lasts approximately 100 days each year, this year with its official launch on 17 June 2018.
The 100 days isn’t just some marketing concept either; it’s the time from the ancient practice of the region’s farmers driving mountain cattle up onto the mountain pastures to graze at the very end of spring time to when they’re brought back down to the valley at the very start of autumn in late September.
It’s difficult to think of a more beautiful and refreshing hiking destination than SalzburgerLand, a natural paradise of stunning mountain peaks and crystal-clear lakes where you feel your soul being cleansed as soon as you arrive in the midst of it all.
For hikers there are thousands of miles of well-maintained, clearly marked hiking trails to enjoy, with the added bonus that there are 170 certified Alpine Summer huts located throughout the region. Once summer accommodation for cattle, they’re now converted into comfortable restaurants and overnight lodgings where you can take a break from your labours and enjoy some local speciality, no doubt made to an old recipe, handed down through the generations, and created with only locally sourced ingredients. Yum!
You can enjoy everything from an easy half-day walk on a gentle valley or meadow path to the most demanding multi-day hikes taking you up into the mountains.
One of the most famous multi-day hikes is the 350km-long Salzburger Almenweg trail, which weaves its way through meadows and forests of the Pongau region with waterfalls and mountains aplenty to gaze at along the way and lots of those fabulous mountain huts to rest in en route too. The good news is that if 350km sounds way too daunting you can instead tackle just one or two of the 31 individual segments this hike can be divided down into.
If you like the thought of looking down on creation but don’t like the thought of hiking up to the viewpoint, the good news is that there are many chairlifts, gondolas and cable cars that can take the strain on the uphill stretches so you can just amble downhill all the way.
Of course, you don’t have to walk. Cycling and mountain biking are big in SalzburgerLand with thousands of kilometres of trails to explore across the area, including exciting, lift-accessed downhill mountain biking runs if you’re feeling brave.
As you would expect it’s not just well-maintained and signposted routes you can find but also dozens of special bike hotels and biking B&Bs, complete with every biking extra you might need on site.
SalzburgerLand has also embraced e-biking big time – again with hundreds of places to hire e-bikes and lots and lots of places to charge them up. To make it easier to keep track the area has created a number of “e-biking regions”. Bike region Lungau, for example, has around 500km of biking routes, 150 e-bikes available to hire and almost 100 points where you can charge your bike up – and that’s just one region.
Water is a big feature of SalzburgerLand with more than 180 lakes, and some of the biggest and best in the Salzkammergut, the Salzburg Lake District, just a short way away from the city.
Some of the best known and most beautiful include the Fuschlsee, Wolfgangsee, Obertrumersee and Lake Zell, but there are many more.
Running into these lakes are rivers, streams and waterfalls in all shapes and sizes, right up to the incredible Krimml Waterfalls, which fall a total of 380m over three stages – the biggest drop in Central Europe.
The opportunities for watery pleasure are almost endless – from just taking in the view or spending a leisurely day fishing, boating or open-air swimming in the crystal-clear, drinking-water-quality lakes to getting a little more active, perhaps SUPing or water skiing on a lake or joining a group for some white-water rafting or canoeing.
Let’s not forget that water can be warming too. SalzburgerLand is rich in thermal springs, and there are plenty of spa baths where you can indulge in a soak as well as pamper yourself with a spa treatment.
While we’ve been enthusing about the many natural wonders of SalzburgerLand, let’s not forget that Salzburg itself is a sensational spot for a city break.
Salzburg Old Town is a place of beautiful old buildings, enticing cafes and restaurants, open-air squares lined with boutiques – in short, it’s a place that it’s a pleasure just to wander around.
But the wonders of nature are never far away even in the city centre when you’re in Salzburg. There are many public gardens across the city in bloom, probably the most famous being the flowers of the Mirabell Garden.
There’s plenty of water to enjoy in the city too including open-air swimming pools, such as the Leopoldskroner Bad, the AYA and the Volksgarden swimming pool, which are all within walking distance of the Old Town.
You can hike up to the castle above the city or take the Mönchsberg funicular where a 30-second journey will elevate you 60m, giving you unrivalled panoramic views across the city and out to those many natural treasures of SalzburgerLand beyond.
It can add to the fun of a SalzburgerLand summer holiday if you time your visit so that you can attend one of the numerous festivals taking place in the region all through the summer season.
There are, literally, hundreds more festivals in SalzburgerLand once the season begins. Here’s a choice selection:
Out of Bounds Festival, Leogang
Europe’s bike park season gets off to a flying start (literally) with this thrilling event featuring high-speed downhills and amazing tricks to wow participants and spectators alike.
AlmFlower Festival, Filzmoos
The winter ski slopes are now covered in colourful blooming alpine flowers at the Oberhofalm. There’s live music and the Filzmoos Whipcrackers demonstrate their skills.
Alpine Herbs, Uttendorf/Weißsee
Find out about mountain and meadow herbs and their uses in the kitchen and for herbal remedies. There’s also home-made herb tea and lemonade to taste.
Gastein Valley, Adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships
Some of Europe’s and the world’s best runners will be in SalzburgerLand for this top-class trail running event at the very start of summer.
Solstice Fire on the Asitz, Leogang
Solstice fires lit on the mountain tops are a big thing in SalzburgerLand. At 10pm you can watch the burning of the fires along the mountain chains of the Leoganger Steinberge and the Steinernen Meer over a radius of 360°.
This year’s Stoabergmarsch24, a 24-hour hike between Tirol and Salzburg for hardcore hikers, takes place from 23 to 24 June 2018.
Alpine Summer Start in SalzburgerLand, Trattenbachalm in Neukirchen on the Grossvenediger Mountain
The opening of the Alpine Summer in late June (as described above) is celebrated by guests and locals alike with the start of the hiking season with music and a hearty alpine snack.
Stretch your stuff high on the mountains for a mystical enrichment of mind and body in a glorious location.
Culinary 3-Mountains Tour with E-Bikes, Altenmarkt im Pongau
Explore the three landmark mountains around Altenmarkt on e-bikes and visit three different restaurants with local specialities.
21 July–31 August: Salzburg Festival
Running from late July then right through August, the most significant cultural event in Salzburg features around 180 operas, concerts, readings and theatre performances each year, including the famous “Jedermann” (Everyman) on the Cathedral Square.
22 July: Sunrise Ascent with the Gamskogelbahn, Altenmarkt-Zauchensee
It’s a 4.45am start to see the sunrise in the mountains, but well worth the effort with a hearty alpine breakfast in the Gamskogel hut.
11–12 August: Celtic Days, Uttendorf/Weißsee
Learn about and try out the (very) old ways of forging, dyeing, weaving, bead making and many other Celtic crafts.
15 August: Cheese Festival, Zell am See
The traditional cheese festival at the Tödlingalm includes big cheese enjoyment with entertainment provided by the Family Gruber.
24–27 August: Jazz Festival, Saalfelden
If you love jazz you’ll already know that the famous festival in Saalfelden has been THE place to be each August for more than 30 years. If you don’t yet realise you love jazz perhaps this is the summer to find out?
9 September: Eddy Merckx Classic
Ride side by side with the cycling legend Eddy Merckx (if you can keep up) in this cycling race that’s in a class of its own through the Fuschlsee region and the Salzburg Lake District.
Having read so far you’ll know that you’re spoilt for choice during summer in SalzburgerLand with literally hundreds of different activity options to try. To make them all easier to access it’s well worth investing in the SalzburgerLand Card. Available in 6- or 12-day versions it’s a handy little tool which provides the holder with free or reduced entry to 190 attractions and events across the region including thermal spas, mountain festivals, cable cars, bathing lakes, museums, castles, scenic train rides and much, much more.
British Airways offers regular, direct flights from London Gatwick to Salzburg. Choose from great-value hand-baggage-only fares, or why not treat yourself and travel in style in Club Europe (Business), which includes lounge access and food and drink on board. Tickets cost from only £37 each way, including all taxes. Book at ba.com/Salzburg
More information: salzburgerland.com/en/
All Images – © SalzburgerLand Tourismus
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