The Austrian Alps: 7 Best Places To See

Austria is one of the most exciting places I have visited and the Austrian Alps are just as much adventure as relaxation.

The Austrian Alps have a variety of adventures that will keep you occupied during summer and winter. I visited a few different destinations in the Austrian Alps and I loved all of them. Here are some of the best places to see.

mountain scenery in the Austrian Alps

Nassfeld, Austria

The Nassfeld is well known as a ski resort in Kårnten (Carinthia in English), Austria’s most southern state. It is near the Italian border.  With 110km of ski tracks, 1000km of hiking trails and 950km of cycling trails, it is an adventurers paradise.

The gondola in the Nassfeld provides you with a gorgeous view

Many of the trails are reached from the Milleniumsbahn, a gondola that whisks you up high into the mountains so that you already have amazing views from the start of your hike. If you stay at the  Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Carinzia you will receive a +Card which gives you a free gondola ride.

Make sure to try the Summer Rodelbahn, which is, in essence, a summer sled.  In this case, it’s a 2 km track where you can reach speeds of up to 40km/hr! There are a couple of different options and courses depending on your abilities and even a course designed for kids, so it’s very family-friendly.

Where to Stay When You Go to the Nassfeld

Grossarl 

Grossarl is located just 86 km south of Salzburg or 205 km if you’re coming from Munich, it’s a perfect weekend getaway in the Austrian Alps.

It’s the ultimate travel destination if you’re seeking active relaxation – my favorite type of relaxation. It offers a mix of activity, in this case, hiking, but with spa time and time to relax as well.

We visited Grossarl in mid-September. Fall is a fantastic time to visit. 

Grossarl offers an incredible 400 km of signposted hiking trails, many leading to one of the 40 or so mountain huts. 

The hikes are easily accessible from your hotel. The hotel that we stayed at, Berg-Leben Grossarl Hotel, had lovely owners that were happy to advise us on their favorite hikes.

We tried a few different hikes including the Shuhflicker which is a ridge walk that culminates in a mountain peak with beautiful views. We also hiked to the Saukarkopf, one of the most beloved mountains in Grossarl. 

Shruns: Snowshoeing in the Austrian Alps

I found out about Schruns, in the Austrian Alps by accident.  I was itching to get in a weekend of snowshoeing but really didn’t know where to go that was reasonably close to Stuttgart, where I was living.

Schruns is a small village of 3800 people in Vorarlberg in western Austria.  It’s surrounded by mountains and lies 500 km west of Vienna and ~250km south of Stuttgart. You’ll need a car to get around easily. 

 

Snowshoeing is not very popular in Europe but luckily Schruns has a good selection of snowshoe trails and “winterwanderrouten” (winter hiking trails). The lady at the tourist office was good enough to recommend two snowshoeing trails. You should also be advised that the hiking trails are only accessible with snowshoes.

Travel Tip: If you’re looking for good routes to snowshoe or take part in other winter activities, ask the locals. I have discovered some great places this way.

We did the Bartholomäberg region, just a few kilometers from Schruns.  A good portion of the hike takes you past cottages and across roads.

Travel Tip: Always make sure to have some food in case the mountain huts are closed which happens during off-seasons. 

The next day, we found ourselves at the Silbertal Ski Area, just a short drive from Schruns. Our chosen trail started at the bottom of a downhill ski run.  We cautiously trekked up the side of the trail. The first viewpoint overlooked the mountain and had a small valley before leading up another mountain range.  Spectacular! At one portion of the trail, we had to wade through knee-deep snow as there was no path.

Breaking trail on Silbertal was hard work, but I loved every minute of it!
Breaking trail on Silbertal was hard work, but I loved every minute of it!

Know Before You Go Snowshoeing in The Austrian Alps

  • Due to its relatively low elevation, it’s a good idea to check the Snow Report before you go. 
  • For more info see the Montafon Tourist Info Site. 
  • You can pick up the free “Aktivkarte Winter” in English, “Winter Activities Map”.  The map is only available in German.
  • It’s useful and relatively easy to use even if you don’t speak German. You may also get lucky as we did with the tourism information lady being a skier.
  • Check Booking.com. I always use this site when booking my accommodations.

Stuiben Waterfall

Fortunately, Stuiben Waterfall was near the Aqua Dome where we were staying and they even arranged our own private guide to visit it.  The hiking path up the waterfall is incredibly well designed.

 There are several viewing platforms along the way, providing the best vantage points of the waterfall.  Hiking to the top of the waterfall takes less than an hour and puts you just over 300m elevation gain on a gradual path.  

Just past the waterfall, there’s the Stuiben Restaurant which makes a great rest stop if you’ve worked up an appetite.

The more adventurous can even climb up Stuiben Falls. Not only do you climb up alongside the 150m waterfall, but you actually cross it near the top on a wire cable. This looks like pure adrenalin! 

Know Before You Visit Stuiben Waterfall:

  • We visited Stuiben Waterfall with a guide, but it’s very well-marked, so it’s easy to visit on your own.
  • We also stopped by the Archaeological Open-Air Park, which is en route to the waterfall.  The open-air museum shows what life was like in prehistoric times.  It’s more suited to children than to adults.
  • The climb up Stuiben Waterfall is considered easy in that it’s not technical so if you are familiar with Klettersteig (climbing along ropes while in a harness) you could do this on your own.  If not, you can arrange a guided tour in Umhausen.  
  • Travel tip:  Most stores are closed on Sundays. We tried to find a place to rent climbing harnesses on Sunday morning but they were all closed, so get your gear on Saturday.
  • There are so many great hikes in the Ötztal that you should stay for several days.  
  • If you like waterfalls, also be sure to check out Krimml Waterfall – it’s Austria’s highest waterfall!

A Special Hiking Tour in The Austrian Alps

hiking adventures Hohe Tauern National Park in the Austrian Alps
Hiking in the incredible Hohe Tauern National Park

MoaAlm is a holiday concept where adventures are shared and new friends are made. You will arrive as guests, but you’ll leave as friends is the promise on their website. After spending a couple of days with Barbara and Hubert, I can vouch that this is true!

MoaAlm is one of two WearActive homes – a small company that offers ‘Relaxingly Active’ holidays in Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria and on the Croatian Island of Vis. 

You engage in activities tailored to you and to your adventure level. In summer this includes hiking, mountain biking, rafting, and rock climbing to name a few. In winter guests can choose between downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking and sledding.

We did several easy trails including hiking to the Dorfertal Valley and enjoyed several trips into the Hohe Tauern National Park and got in some views of the Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak.

Climbing the Grossglockner, the tallest mountain in Austria is a top adventure in Hohe Tauern
The Grossglockner peaking out, teasing me to come back.

Know Before Your Adventure in the Austrian Alps Begins:

  • The nearest train station is in Lienz, about 30 minutes away. They will pick you up from there.
  • Notify them of food allergies in advance. I have a gluten allergy which was well accommodated, but given how remote MoaAlm is, the chef needs time to prepare.
  • Check the MoaAlm website for themed weeks or sign up for their newsletter! 
  • There are no TVs in the rooms – which I saw as a huge plus!
  • You will interact a lot with Barbara, Hubert and the other guests. If you are seeking solace away from people, or time alone with your sweetheart, you may want to choose a more traditional type hotel where you will be left alone.

Wilder Kaiser: Summer & Winter Activities 

 

I have visited Wilder Kaiser in summer and winter and I absolutely love it. This is my first option for a weekend getaway. Wilder Kaiser is conveniently located in the Tirolean Alps of Austria between Innsbruck, Munich, and Salzburg.

The Hintersteinsee (Hinterstein Lake) is perfect for swimming and hiking and summer and cross-country skiing in winter.

You can hike or e-bike to Gruberhof. The “Gruberhof” is the home of the “Bergdoktor” (alpine doctor), a popular tv show in German. Outside of filming the farm is called “Köpfing”. If your feeling ambitious you can continue up to Hohe Salve which I have snowshoed up in winter.

Hike the Asterbergsee. From the Asterbergbahn you can either take a chairlift or hike up to the Astbergsee. It’s a small lake but the views are stunning. There are a variety of paths you can do depending on how hard of a hike you’re looking for. 

 Check out Elmmau’s Summer Night. It’s held every Tuesday in the summer. Admission is free. Starting at 6:00 pm the street turns into a car-free pedestrian zone where you can shop traditional crafts. There are live bands playing music of all different types of genres so you’ll find something to your taste.

In winter On selected Monday evenings, you’ll find music mulled wine stands and a festive après-ski atmosphere. Then, at 8:30 local skiers will demonstrate their skills. You can expect synchronized skiing to music and nostalgia skiing. The night ends up with a bang that lights up the night sky with a flurry of fireworks.

I enjoyed Skiing at Skiwelt. It is one of the largest and most modern ski resorts in the world. They have some great special events like night skiing. You can even watch the sunset from Skiwelt which I highly recommend.

90 lifts at SkiWelt

Visit the ALPENIGLU – Igloo Village. Stop by for a drink, take a tour of the village or if you like to keep things cool, spend the night in the igloo hotel. 

You can also try out Moonlight Tobogganing at Söll its really fun and not just for the kids.

 

Know Before You Go To Wilder Kaiser

  • I stayed at the Gasthof Postwir  in Söll. I LOVED my stay here 
  • I’d recommend spending 5 to 7 days at Wilder Kaiser. There’s so much to do, no matter how active you want to be. 
  • The Wilder Kaiser Guest Card (free when you’re staying in Wilder Kaiser) entitles you to free public transportation between all four villages and to the start of hiking trails. 
  • The tourism board offers a varied weekly program with 12 activities and guided hikes each week. Most of these are free. Ask for the updated program at the local tourist office.
  • There are four villages that comprise Wilder Kaiser; Ellmau, Going, Scheffau and Söll. Ellmau and Söll are the largest of the four villages and the most popular with English-speaking tourists.
  • The peak season at SkiWelt is 21.12.2019 – 13.03.2020 but it’s also open pre-season: 07.12. – 20.12.2019 and post-season: 14.03. – 13.04.2020. Check the SkiWelt site for the most up-to-date information
  • Ski at SkiWelt but also get off the slopes to try snowshoeing winter hiking, and tobogganing.
  • You can get to Wilder Kaiser from Kufstein with a shuttle. The cost is €15 each way. Details here: https://www.tirol-taxi.at/en-train-station-transfers.
  • There are also shuttles to the ski lifts.

Innsbruck, The Austrian Alps

Innsbruck is a perfect place to visit if you are looking for city exploration and outdoor activities all in one. You can visit the Swarovski Crystal World, which is very artsy and probably not what you will expect. Stroll down Maria-Theresien Strasse and lose yourself in the beautiful architecture and the perfect atmosphere. 

You can marvel at the famous Golden Roof and visit the Ambras castle. Enjoy the views from the Bergisel Ski Jump and take a cable car right up to the highest peak.

The Old Town in Innsbruck, Austria is surrounded by mountains, making for a romantic setting.

Enjoy some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the Austrian Alps and in winter find the most exciting snowshoeing trails that you can think of. Don’t forget to take a ride on the Hungerburg Funicular and to get in some mountain biking. And most importantly make sure to visit a Käserei (cheese shop).

Know Before You Go To Innsbruck

The Austrian Alps were so much more than I expected. Between adventure and relaxation, it is the perfect place for everyone.

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