One of our favourite regions in Austria in summer is Salzburgerland. Most of this small region is made up of rugged mountains with friendly alpine pastures and numerous, beautiful waterfalls. In the flatter north you will find one of our favourite cities in Austria, Salzburg.
We have been to the alpine part of Salzburgerland before. But our visit to the Kaprun area at the end of June 2020 was extra special. It was our first real holiday in a European country since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this blog, you will find our suggestions for a wonderful summer holiday in this beautiful part of the Alps.
Piesendorf, our central base in Salzburgerland
Salzburgerland is one of the smaller regions in Austria. Still, the distances between the various places of interest are quite vast. That’s why we were looking for a nice central base. We ended up in the quiet, typically Austrian village of Piesendorf. From here, we could quickly reach highlights such as the waterfalls of Krimml and the area around the Großglockner (the highest mountain in Austria).
Piesendorf is a small, picturesque, authentic Austrian village. It is perfectly situated between Zell am See and Kaprun. Ideal for winter sports enthusiasts as the perfect bus service takes you to the various, beautiful ski resorts in no time. But for us, Piesendorf was also an ideal base in summer. We didn’t fancy staying in one of the many chalet-style hotels in Zell am See and Kaprun. These are nowadays lifeless and deserted.
We found shelter at Haus Piesendorf, a lodge with 9 comfortable flats owned by a Dutch couple who also speak English. Owners Marco and Susan, who also own some other chalets in the area, welcomed us. They took the time to tell us which sights we should see.
Sights not to be missed in Salzburgerland
Salzburgerland has much to offer for young and old in all seasons. In this blog, we take you to some fantastic sights for the summer.
The waterfalls of Krimml
One of the absolute highlights in the Salzburg region was our hike to the Krimml waterfalls. These are the highest waterfalls in Europe! Especially in the summer months, the water volume of the 380-metre-high waterfall is truly spectacular!
The hike starts at the information centre at the foot of the waterfalls. From here, a very passable path leads to the foot of the lowest waterfall. From there, you can climb more than 4 kilometres to the viewpoint at the highest waterfall. That may seem a lot, but it is easy to do, thanks to the fantastically well-constructed, wide path. Along the route, there are many wooden platforms right next to the waterfalls. The views are always impressive. We loved the climb through the beautiful forest so much that we kept taking pictures!
The information centre is easy to reach from the village or from the nearby car park. Signs indicate that you have to pay 5 euros for parking. When we were there, there was nobody to collect the parking fee. We spent the money halfway down the slope on a lovely cool drink on a sunny terrace. From here we had a beautiful view of Krimml and the beautiful landscape of Salzburg. More information can be found on the Wasserwelten Krimml website.
Touring the Grossglockner panorama route
The Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse is a must-see for the best views in Austria. This panoramic route winds for 48 kilometres through the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park. The route offers numerous hairpin bends, great viewpoints, exhibitions and many hiking opportunities. For an impressive 360-degree view of the Edelweißspitze, you can take a side road. This iconic peak is surrounded by more than 30 mountains over 3000 metres in height. Definitely worth it!
The end point of this route is the visitor centre Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe. Here you have a fantastic view of the almost 3800-metre-high Grossglockner. This highest mountain in Austria is also home to the country’s longest glacier, the Pasterze. The visitor centre has some interesting exhibitions. From here you can also go to the Swarovski Viewpoint where you might see ibex!
In addition, you can go with a park ranger (free of charge) along the Gamsgruben path to the Wasserfallwinkel. It is a wide path with little difference in incline. The two-hour walk through the spectacular landscape is therefore quite manageable. During the hike, the park ranger will inform you about the special flora and fauna.
Another 2.5-hour hike is to the Pasterze Glacier. We would like to do this hike during our next visit to Salzburgerland.
Access to the toll road is 37 euros per vehicle (in 2020). Not cheap, we think, but more than worth it. You can easily spend a full day here. And the interesting exhibitions and the Gamsgruben walk with the park ranger are included in the price. More information can be found on the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse website.
On another website, we found detailed information about the two hikes that can be done from the visitor centre.
The alpine part of Salzburgerland is particularly good for hiking and multi-day treks. But go to the Zeller See if you just want to relax for a day. This lake near Zell am See measures 4 by 1.5 kilometres. Especially on a sunny summer day, it is a wonderful place to relax.
During a relaxing day, we can also enjoy ourselves with a good book on the e-Reader. If you want more, the Zeller See also offers good opportunities for swimming, thanks to its crystal-clear water. There are several beaches where this is possible. Examples are Strandbad Thumersbach, Strandbad Maishofen, Strandbad Erlberg, Strandbad Zell am See and Strandbad Seespitz. But apart from swimming, you can even dive! We didn’t do it ourselves but if you would like to do a guided mountain dive, you can do so at the Tauchschule Zell am See. The diving centre charges reasonable prices.
The mountain lake lies at 700 metres above sea level. Yet it can get pretty warm on a summer’s day. Rent a whisper boat if you want to cool down without going into the water. The wind usually makes it pleasant to be on the water. Wear sunscreen because of the sun’s reflection on the water! You can hire a boat at Hutter Simon and Berger Rüdiger. By the way, at the lake there are also water sports centres where you can go stand-up paddling. Super fun experience, although we found it quite difficult to keep our balance in the beginning.
There are also several restaurants or cafés with terraces by the lake. Here, apart from the view of the beautiful mountain lake, you can enjoy a drink and a snack. Examples include Beachclub Zell am See, Seensucht and Beachclub Thumersbach.
Activities in Salzburgerland
For active over 50s like ourselves, there is a lot to do in Salzburgerland. Sitting still is not an option here. Most tourists come here in the summer for hiking. Since the arrival of e-mtb’s (mountain bikes with pedal support), the region is also popular with mountain bikers.
The possibilities for hiking in Salzburgerland are numerous. It is therefore impossible to describe them all in this blog. We ourselves went on some walks in the surroundings of Piesendorf and Schüttbach, as well as further in the National Park Hohe Tauern and the waterfalls of Krimml. We simply cannot get enough of the wonderful fresh air, the landscape and the fantastic views!
In Hohe Tauern alone, hikers can be delighted for weeks on end. With an area of more than 1,850 km2, it is the largest nature reserve in the Alps. The Park has no fewer than 266 mountain peaks above 3,000 metres and almost 350 glaciers. You will also find many waterfalls and loads of mountain lakes. In addition, there are over 10,000 animal species! We have already mentioned the walks at the visitor centre of the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse but also consider a walk through the Rauriser Urwald. Or the hike from Hollersbachtal to Kratzenbergsee, the largest mountain lake in the national park.
On the Zell am See – Kaprun website you will find an interactive map of a total of 89 signposted walks. On the map you can easily indicate your preferences for a walk. For example, an easy hike or one at high altitude along the snowy mountain peaks. You can also indicate on the map whether you want to have mountain huts along the route. Nice to rest and enjoy a delicious snack.
The real hiking pros naturally go on multi-day hikes in Austria. We haven’t done that ourselves but we have heard from some fervent hikers that these hikes are indeed popular.
One of the famous hikes is the almost 75-kilometres-long Köningsweg. This is a four-day hike across several alpine meadows. The imposing Hochkönig massif serves as a backdrop. An even more well-known, much longer walking tour is the 350-kilometre Salzburger Almenweg. On this route, you will pass no fewer than 120 mountain huts where you can enjoy local delicacies.
Our accommodation in Piesendorf tipped us off to a third famous walking tour. They mentioned the 100-km-long gorge walk (Route der Klammen). Think of steep rock faces, splashing waterfalls and wildly flowing streams. But Salzburgerland has many more gorges. The owner of our flat wrote two nice, interesting blogs about 5 other gorges. Be inspired to visit at least one of those 5 gorges. For example, the Liechtensteinklamm, or the Kitzlochklamm, the Sigmund Thun Klamm, the Seisenbergklamm or Vorderkaserklamm.
As avid golfers, we also played a round of golf at the Zell am See-Kaprun Golf Club. There are no fewer than two 18-hole golf courses with catchy names such as “Kitzsteinhorn” and “Schmittenhöhe”. Neatly maintained and certainly not easy due to the many water features and doglegs! Good course management is a must here. The only downside of the course was the high green fee. But the phenomenal view of, among others, the Kitzsteinhorn made up for it.
The Zell am See-Kaprun Golf Club is only one of 16 golf courses in Salzburgerland. We think it is one of the most beautiful in the alpine part of this region. Another course where we played a bit longer ago is Golfclub Gut Brandlhof. This course is situated just north of Zell am See. Very nice in itself and fairly close to the steep mountain sides. We found the greens a bit less attractive at the time and the provincial road caused some noise pollution. All in all, it was nice to play there.
If you want to play golf several times in Salzburgerland, consider ordering the Golf Tour Card. With this card you can get a lot of discount on green fees.
Nordic walking and running
Even runners like myself have been thought of in Salzburgerland. In our accommodation, there was a complete booklet with 21 routes in the area for Nordic walking, running or trail running. They varied from easy and short to difficult and/or long. The ideal thing about these routes is that they are also suitable for normal walking. The signs along the route that tell you which way to go are perfect. You can also find the routes on the website of Zell am See – Kaprun.
By the way, I went for the 6.4-km ‘Schüttbach Challenge’ but it was too challenging for me. Next time, I want to do the easy ‘Zeller See Runde’ route around the lake.
Practicalities for a stay in Salzburgerland
Best travel time
The best time for a summer holiday in the alpine part of Salzburgerland is from June to August. In the valleys, it can get quite warm then. But higher up in the mountains, the temperatures are particularly pleasant. Be prepared for a sudden change of weather and regular rainy days. July is also the best month for admiring large waterfalls.
Transportation within the region
Austria has an excellent rail and bus network. Nevertheless, we recommend you to go to a central location in Salzburgerland with your own car or rental car. In our example, this was our base in Piesendorf. From here, you can still use public transport, if desired.
Another fantastic and sporty alternative for the car in Salzburgerland is the e-bike. This type of bicycle with pedal support has gained popularity especially in the alpine part of the region. This is understandable, because what could be more delightful than moving through the beautiful landscape in the open air? There are now more than 7,000 kilometres of cycling routes. Apart from the short distances in the immediate vicinity, you can also go on larger bicycle tours lasting several days. You then sleep in hotels that have been specially equipped for cyclists. Let the Salzburgerland website inspire you to make one of the suggested cycling tours!
There is no lack of accommodation in Salzburgerland. You can find hotels, flats, holiday homes, pensions, chalets, holiday farms, bed & breakfasts, lodges, country houses, luxury tents, and so on. Our advice is to let yourself be guided by what you want to do during your holiday.
For instance, you can go on beautiful multi-day hikes where you spend the night in mountain huts. There are even formulas where you only carry a small daypack with provisions during the walk. Your main luggage will then be brought to you at your next accommodation. Or you can book a package holiday for your cycling holiday and spend the night in cycling hotels.
For us, a flat in a central location in Salzburgerland was the most ideal. We were free to go wherever we wanted. On the day itself, we decided what we would do or where we would go. We chose the picturesque village of Piesendorf as our base. There is also plenty of accommodation here. We ended up at Haus Piesendorf, which is run by a friendly and helpful English-speaking Dutch couple.