When you think of the Alps, your mind probably wanders to the French or Italian Alps (the Dolomites) and their well-known ski destinations. When booking your Alp ski trip, you may not consider Austria. However, the Austrian Alps cover a large proportion of Austria. With so many beautiful landscapes, this comes as no surprise that most Austrian’s favourite pastimes of hiking, skiing and snowboarding take place in this beautiful mountain region.
So, should you add the Austrian Alps to your travel bucket list? Read on to find out more! 🙂
Pssst… To us, Austrian Alps are one of the top places to visit in Austria! 😉
Where are the Austrian Alps?
The Alps cover an incredible 80,000 square miles and feature in eleven countries. However, arguably only Austria and Switzerland can be considered truly ‘alpine’.
The Austrian Alps covers around 62% of Austria’s total area and Austria has the most significant total area of the Alps with a 28.7% share. The area of the Austrian Alps is also known as the Central Eastern Alps.
The Austrian Alps cover the south-westerly area of Austria and stretches east as far as Graz and north-east but stop just short of Vienna.
How were the Austrian Alps formed?
Incredibly, the Alps first began their formation 220 million years ago when the continental crust Pangea split to form two continents, known as Laurasia and Gondwanaland, complete with the Tethys sea in the middle.
Then, 135 million years ago, a slip-strike fault between plates occurred which create a wedge while the sedimentary rocks from the base were subducted back into the earth’s mantle.
Thirty-four million years ago, the tectonic plates of Africa and Europe pushed against each other, pushing the rocks up. The plate movement created a fold which caused the creation of the Alps mountain range, with a fold that reached up to 4000m high.
How tall are the Alps in Austria?
The tallest part of the Alps in Austria is the Grossglockner Mountain. The Grossglockner stands at 12,461 feet or 3798 metres tall. It is followed closely by Wildspitze, which is 3770 metres high and Weisskugel which is 3739 metres tall.
There are over 150 mountain summits in Austria that are over 3150 metres. However, Grossglockner is the highest point in the Austrian Alps and the whole of Austria itself.
How to get to the Austrian Alps?
The Austrian Alps from Salzburg:
As Salzburg is perched on the edge of the Alps, you can enjoy truly breath-taking mountain views from the city. While public transport is an excellent option in Salzburg, if you want to have day trips to the mountains, it is well worth using a car.
You can also get the bus to places such as Berchtesgaden and Konigsee, which are great for access to the mountains. There is also a train service to Zell am See.
The Austrian Alps from Innsbruck:
Innsbruck is known as the capital of the Alps, so is a great location to get to know the heart of the Alps. At the city outskirts, you can reach the mountain ski slopes of the Alps by cable car.
If you like hiking, in the centre of Innsbruck there is the Patscherkofel Cable Car which can take you to the mountain trails.
The Austrian Alps from Germany:
If you want to travel via public transport, there are several trains you can get to Alpine cities in Austria.
As the Alps cover such a large proportion of Austria, it is best to work out precisely where you want to visit and then to look for rail, road and air links to get to the nearest big Austrian town or city from Germany.
Can you see the Alps from Vienna?
While the Alps do not quite reach into Vienna, from certain parts of the city outskirts, you can see the Alps although it may not provide a truly Alpine experience.
However, to experience the Alps in all their glory from Vienna you can take a day trip into the mountains.
Schneeberg, Simmering and Rax are all Alpine mountain resorts you can visit on a day trip or weekend trip from Vienna as they are all within an 80km radius from the city.
How to get around in the Alps?
For flexibility and ease of exploring as much of the Alps as possible, a car is usually the best mode of transport. However, if you prefer public transport, then the train network in Austria is excellent and enables you to access different parts of the Alps with ease.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful views of the mountains from the comfort of your train carriage.
All of the major cities in Austria have airports too such as Linz, Graz, Innsbruck and Salzburg, which make it easy to explore as much of Alps as possible.
Is it worth visiting the Austrian Alps in summer?
Absolutely! Unless you want to visit the Austrian Alps specifically to ski, then there are lots of reasons to visit the Austrian Alps in the summer.
Summer in Austria generally brings lovely weather with an average temperature of 25oC, with plenty of blue skies, sunshine and crisp mountain air. In spring and summer, you’ll see the beautiful Alpine flowers begin to show, and the whole area looks green and lush.
The summer activities in the Austrian Alps include sightseeing of the beautiful towns and Alpine villages. For more adventure, there is plenty of cycling, hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking as well as horse riding, paragliding and ziplining. The Austrian lakes are also home to many activities from SUP to swimming, water skiing and wakeboarding.
Whether you want to relax in a spa while enjoying the view or are fuelling your adrenaline junkie side, the Austrian Alps in the summer have something for everyone.
Where to go in the Austrian Alps for ski?
Filzmoos is a pretty mountain village in the state of Salzburg. It offers a compact ski resort which means it is ideal for families, and there are plenty of slope options that serve beginners and children right through to the advanced skier.
There is also a 16km cross country ski run too. The beauty of Filzmoos is the ski runs right back into the resort for total convenience.
The village has many luxury hotels to unwind in as well as lots of restaurants to enjoy gastronomic delights.
In the state of Tyrol and the Tyrolean Alps, St Anton is the perfect place for ski and relaxation. St Anton is regularly rated as one of the top ski resorts in the Alps with over 200km of off-piste routes and 340km of slopes. The town is bustling with luxury chalets, hotels and fine dining.
With the challenge of the slopes, St Anton is best for intermediate and advanced skiers. However, there are some nursery slopes at the base too.
Alpbach is in the Tyrol state and is regularly voted as the most beautiful Alpine village thanks to the beautiful flowers of the region and the typical Alpine architecture.
There are three ski lifts in Alpbach which covers 145km on ski runs. There are also 20km of cross-country ski trails. Other winter activities in Alpbach include tobogganing, winter hiking and paragliding.
Perched on the banks of the river Lech, the mountain village resort is in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg. It is a popular resort for royalty and celebrities thanks to the luxury hotels and chalets available as well as the many gastronomic delights. However, the biggest draw for Lech is the ski terrain which suits intermediates and above complete with lots of exciting variations on the slopes.
Lech shares its resort with the nearby village of Zürs, so connections across the ski area are perfect which is ideal if you want to explore the whole Arlberg ski region and the 305km of pistes it has to offer.
Top things to do in the Austrian Alps:
Walking and hiking
The Austrian Alps are home to truly magnificent scenery, and there is no better way to explore the Alps than through roaming across the many trekking trails or hiking up to the top of the mountain peaks. The Austrian Alps are one of the best places to hike in Europe!
From comfortable lakeside walks to mountain climbs there is something for every hiking style and ability. One of the most popular trails in the Austrian Alps is the Eagle Walk; a long-distance trail covering 413km over the heart of the beautiful Alps. This makes for a great walking holiday.
Austrians love their cars, and with incredible roads that traverse through the Austrian mountains, it is easy to see why. Of course, driving is dangerous in the winter due to icy conditions and avalanches. However, a road trip in the summer through the Austrian Alps is an unforgettable experience.
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a must for the bucket list as it’s one of the most scenic road trips in Europe! It offers sensational views and covers 48km with altitudes reaching 2500m. On the route, you’ll have information points, viewpoints and exhibitions.
Visiting fairy-tale towns
The Austrian Alps are home to so many enchanting fairy-tale towns and villages that are impossible not to fall in love with. For example, there is Kitzbugel which is a small mediaeval town that looks straight out of a fairy-tale complete with a stunning Alpine Flower Garden in summer.
Similarly, Feldkirch offers fairy-tale charm with its dazzling turquoise river and beautifully lush mountain backdrop and a town full of beautiful and narrow cobbled streets.
Austrian Alps top towns and villages:
As the fourth largest city in Austria, Salzburg has plenty to see and do. Most notably the 11th-century Fortress Hohensalzburg which perches high above the city or the charming Mirabell Palace which features beautifully manicured 17th-century gardens.
There is also the magnificent Salzburg Cathedral and the Schloss Hellbrunn castle, which makes the city a perfect place for a weekend getaway!
Complete with traditional pastel-coloured buildings, Innsbruck is full of colour and life. Sitting perfectly in the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck is surrounded by snow-capped mountains with the river running through the centre of the city.
Innsbruck offers cable cars to the peaks, and ski jumps too. However, the history and architecture of the town make it perfect for simply exploring on foot.
Nestled on the banks of a lake, Hallstatt has beautiful waterside views complete with snowy mountaintops in the background. The beautiful town itself features charming pastel houses and traditional architecture.
Wherever you go in Hallstatt, it always offers picture-postcard views. Many tourists say, that Hallstatt is one of the most romantic places in Europe!
Unusual places to visit in the Austrian Alps:
In the Salzkammergut Mountains, a great activity is to take the rack railway to Schafberg. The railway is the steepest steam cog railway in Austria and has been in operation since 1893. Starting in Wolfgang, the leisurely 35-minute journey covers a 1,190-metre ascent in just 5.85km.
At the summit top which is 1783metres, you can enjoy 360-degree panoramas covering the beautiful lakes below and the Alps that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
Stairway to nothingness Dachstein
If you have a strong nerve, then the stairway to nothingness is a great way to challenge your bravery and enjoy some unforgettable views in the process. The stairway to nothingness is a just 14 narrow steps down to a glass platform where you are suspended high in the valley of the mountains. It really is one of the most unique places in Europe!
The platform is vertigo-inducing, but it does offer stunning views of the mountains and Dachstein glacier below on a clear day. In clouds, it really does feel like it is a stairway into the unknown!
The Kebema Panoramabrücke is an incredible suspension bridge that offers truly spectacular views. The bridge sits high above Lake Schlegeis and makes for beautiful photographs.
There is a lovely, but short hike to get to the bridge which makes the views even more worthwhile. For Instagram, it is a must-visit!
Articles you may like: