You’ll spend your seven nights in the Lake District in just three hotels (or just one or two hotels are possible). On most days, you’ll make day excursions and have options for both bicycling and hiking. On some days, you can go part of the way by ship or historic railway. This tour can be adapted easily based on your preferences for daily distance, number of days, level of difficulty and other preferences.
Day 1: Unterach. Land at Mozart Airport in Salzburg and transfer by van (about 30 minutes) to Unterach in the Salzburg Lake District. You'll spend your first four nights based at the Hotel zum Anker in Unterach, a village on the Attersee, Austria's largest lake. It's a narrow lake about 13 miles long with a shoreline of 29 miles with azure water plied by steamships that leave from a dock by our hotel. What's most stunning perhaps is the view from Unterach straight south to the Höllengebirg (Hell Mountains), which turn red during sunrise and sunset. To the north, the Alps start with green, rolling foothills that surround dozens of lakes.
From here, you can make day excursions (hiking and/or biking) to some of the region's scenic and cultural highlights. Or just stay in Unterach and explore the village or relax on the hotel's private beach. Sailing, SCUBA diving, windsurfing, parasailing and golf are also available. You’ll be welcomed with a special Austrian dinner by the staffs of the Hotel zum Anker and Donauradfreunde (Danube Bike Friends) Bike Tours. Dinner will be followed by an orientation of the different tours and options available through the week, as the exact program will depend on weather and your preferences.
Day 2: Unterach. You ride along the Attersee to the Mondsee (“Moon Lake”) and follow the southern shore. On your first day of riding, the scenery is stunning as your route takes us past lofty mountains and crystal lakes and through lush, emerald forests. In St. Lorenz, you tour the early eighteenth-century Filial Church with its marble altars and wooden carvings. You might wish to climb up the Dragon's Wall, a mountain cliff with a giant hole.
According to legend, a dragon lived in the wall and fell in love with the a beautiful young maiden from the village. When the dragon tried to steal her away, she was heavier than he thought, and the two fell from the sky and crashed into the wall, leaving the hole. The legend probably lost some romance in the translation. In the town of Mondsee, you stop to look at the baroque castle before heading to the northern shore and back to Unterach.
Day 3: Unterach. In the morning, you take your bikes aboard ship at the dock in front of your hotel and take a scenic cruise down the Attersee to Weyregg, a small village with about 1,500 inhabitants. Tourism had its birth in Weyregg almost 2,000 years ago, when wealthy Romans came to take advantage of its perpetually sunny location. Some of their villas were uncovered recently.
Today, there are more modern villas (along with 17th-century homes and farmhouses), but you can see mosaics from Roman times on display in a local school. After a look around town, you ride into a nearby valley and stop for lunch at a small vineyard. You return by bike along the lake to Unterach. In the afternoon, you can leave from your hotel for a short hike near Unterach. If you want a more challenging day-hike rather than cycle today, there's a popular trail along the Attersee that covers 22 miles and takes a full day to cover.
Day 4: Unterach. It's waterfall day! You start the day with a three-hour hike into the Burggrabenklamm Canyon with its 60-foot waterfall that plunges into a natural pool. You return to Unterach for your bikes and continue with a 12-mile bike ride into the Weissenbach Valley, topped off with a 45-minute hike to the 150-foot-high Nixenfall cascades. A bicycle tour elsewhere in the region can be scheduled instead.
Day 5: Unterach - Altmünster. Your next overnight is in Altmünster, a picturesque village on Traunsee Lake. Your ride there takes you along the lakefront and through a nature reserve with waterfalls pouring over towering cliffs. When you reach Gmunden, the former “Imperial City of Salt”—with its rich history, lively lakefront and Italian flair—you stop to see how traditional ceramics and pottery are made (or enjoy a few hours in a famous spa). You continue along the shores of the idyllic Traunsee to the village of Altmünster, a cozy town snug between the lake and alpine foothills, where you'll relax and spend the night.
Day 6: Altmünster - Bad Goisern. You travel first by boat from Altmünster along the Traunsee to the village of Ebensee, in the heart of one of Austria's most popular hiking areas. One easy route follows a marked hiking path past waterfalls to the Gasslhöhle, a stalactite cave. Another option gives you a head start with a cable car to the Feuerkogel plateau with its panorama of the village, the lake and the Totesgebirge Mountains. You continue along the Traun River to Bad Ischl, a charming spa town that was the summer home of the Hapsburg emperors. The town lies on a peninsula formed by two rivers and the Wolfgangsee (Lake Wolfgang).
It's a truly magnificent resort that still shows signs of its wealthy history—not least of all in the Kaiservilla, the former imperial residence. Much of the town is beautifully preserved in the style of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Hikers can head from the lakefront to the top of the Katrinalm, a 4,500-foot summit with a view to the Dachstein range, the Traunsee and to Hallstatt Lake (which we'll visit the next day). Hikers can either start at the Traun River in Bad Ischl and climb to the Katrinalm or get a head-start by cable car. A flat path leads from the cable car summit station through a nature reserve. You spend the next two nights in nearby Bad Goisern, a hillside village overlooking the Traun Valley.
Day 7: Bad Goisern. You travel with your bikes by train toward the medieval market town of Bad Aussee, which gets you past the worst of the elevation for a bike tour around three small lakes hidden in the mountains. You first reach the Grundlsee, an idyllic lake at the foot of the Totesgebirge Mountains in the heart of green forest. Just two tiny villages lie along its 4-mile length. From the smaller village, Gössl, you can start a two-hour hike to the remote Toplitzsee and Kammersee lakes.
You return to Bad Goisern with an extended stop in the village of Hallstatt, perhaps one of the most picturesque places in the region, if not all of Austria. The medieval town, which has the rare distinction of being designated by UNESCO as both a World Cultural Heritage Site and World Nature Site, lies on a spit of land jutting into the lake from the base of the Dachstein Mountains. Houses crowd onto the land and up steep hillside. The parish church is famous both for its sixteenth-century altar and for its charnel house with painted skulls.
Day 8: Bad Goisern - Salzburg. During the morning, you’ll hike and take the cable car to the Dachsteiner Eishöhle, one of the largest ice caves in the world (almost as big as Werfen). You continue your hike along the southern side of of Hallstatt Lake. In the afternoon, you transfer to Salzburg for departure or extra nights.
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