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A Thrillseeker’s Guide to Experiencing Austria

Adventure Travel Austria

It also contains a whole spectrum of opportunities beyond Vienna, the usual starting point for many travelers who target Austria. If you’re a thrillseeker, you might not want to go to Austria without considering these options.

A toboggan run through the Alps.

A quintessential and timeless alpine experience, a toboggan run in the mountains is an easy way to cut right to the chase when it comes to what Austria has to offer. Although there are quite a few terrific toboggan runs throughout the country, one of the classics happens to be in Biberwier, a gorgeous little mountain town in Western Austria. The Biberwier run is the longest in the state of Tyrol, letting adventurers wind through 1,300 meters of track that snakes through the snow-capped mountains and green countryside.
Although the area also has excellent winter options as well, the summer toboggan run is a fantastic option from the spring all the way through the early part of the fall. The run is also perfectly tailored for a wide range of different adventure-based appetites, as the toboggan (sled) can whip down the mountain at a breakneck speed, or slow down for a nice leisurely slide through the countryside. That’s why Biberwier happens to be perfect for both thrillseekers and families, and everyone in between.
Like many areas in Austria that have toboggan runs, the hiking surrounding Biberwier is also outstanding, and it’s a great little place to experience a bit of authentic, small-town Austria when you’re not cruising downhill on a sled. And for winter travelers, the brilliant, snow-coated countryside makes winter tobogganing a great way to see the alps and let your lungs mingle with air that is about as crisp and clean as it comes.

Austrian biking—possibilities for everyone.

From the novice to the pro, Austria caters to many adventure levels when it comes to biking, one of the very best ways to see Austria. For anyone hoping to work up a sweat but not get carried away biking up mountains, renting an e-bike (electric bike) can be the perfect companion that lets you focus mostly on the scenery. E-bikes are specially made to give you a little boost, but they still will require effort and are not to be confused with the motorized bikes that take all the fun out of it.
One possible way to have a great e-biking—or just mountain-biking—experience is to hop on the trail surrounding Lake Piburg, a lake so clear that it’s known as the “mirror of Tyrol.” The trail shows off stunning views from high above the lake before descending to the shore, where it’s easy to launch boating, swimming, or fishing excursions. Located in the stunning Otztal Valley, Piburg is also known for being on the warm side for an alpine lake, making it ideal for taking a memorable swim at the base of the alps.
While trails like Lake Piburg offer a more tranquil experience, it’s also very easy to ratchet it up a notch by doing a downhill-biking adventure in different locations throughout the Otztal Valley. At Bike Republic Solden, there are more than 20 different trails that cater to various skill levels, but all require a stomach for at least a few thrills. For the very adventurous (or the casually insane), some of the top trails are internationally known among biking enthusiasts, which is why you need to make sure you’re up for the challenge and understand the skill-level required before choosing the right trail.

Don’t overthink it: hiking is unreal in Austria.

Not everyone is up for the more niche adventures that you’re able to experience in Austria, which is why you can’t go wrong with simply dusting off your best hiking shoes/boots and getting ready for some alpine eye candy. The country is littered with outstanding hikes that showcase the natural Austrian beauty. On the trail above Zell am See-Kaprun (known as Pinzgauer Spaziergang), you’ll spend up to six hours picking your way along a mountain plateau so spectacular you’ll think the scenery below you is airbrushed. If you’re ready for a day strolling through pristine Austrian wilderness, it’s hard to top a trail that lets you keep an eye on the snow-dusted Kitzbühel Alps, a tremendous glacier (Kitzsteinhorn), and the sunshine glimmering off the enormous Lake Zell, where picturesque villages huddle around the deep blue water.
You can also go well-beyond an afternoon hike. For those with serious stamina and hiking ambition, the 280km Eagle Walk has 24 stages between St. Johann and St. Anton am Arlberg and will challenge even the most seasoned hikers. It also has scenery every bit as sensational as you might expect. For everyone else, there are plenty of low to midgrade hikes as well, including family-friendly options like the Wildpark Aurach just outside Kitzbühel. More than 1,000 meters above sea-level, the Wildpark Aurach not only has the visual element but allows guests to see a spectacular array of different animals in their natural environment, from yaks and lynxes to ibexes and wild boar.
While many of the best trails are in central or Western Austria, those who are only making it to Vienna on their travels also have some great hiking possibilities as well. The areas around Vienna have plenty of different trails, and many of the best run right alongside the world-famous Danube River, like the majestic Hermannskogel trail.

Canyoning and rafting.

It’s also extremely easy to fold hiking into other activities in Austria, particularly for those who enjoy some of the other athletic possibilities awaiting in the mountains. Less than an hour’s drive from Innsbruck, the Lake Achensee region is renowned for being the perfect getaway for thrillseekers thanks to the lovely spread of options at any point of the year. While the skiing there is breathtaking in the winter, it’s also a summer haven complete with river rafting, tubing, canyoning, and much more.
The rafting and tubing experiences can be fantastic, although scaling down scenic gorges (canyoning) is the type of activity that is great for adventurers ready to push themselves just a little bit. Once you have on your wetsuit, a helmet and a harness, local tour guides will help teach newcomers the art of rappelling down a rocky gorge, often right alongside gushing waterfalls. For the more advanced, most local tour companies offer more difficult canyoning experiences that are intense enough to satisfy the veteran adventure-traveler.
Great rafting options are also prevalent throughout the rest of the country as well, particularly near Zell am See-Kaprun and Salzburg. With Austria offering rafting for Class II beginners all the way to the experts who take on Class V courses, the rafting experiences available in Austria compare favorably to any other country in Europe.

More than just Vienna.

Given the apparent charm of Vienna and host of things to do there, it can be easy for many travelers to target the Austrian capital and overlook the other treasures awaiting elsewhere. While you can still absolutely find plenty of adventurous activities both inside and outside the city limits of Vienna, thrillseekers looking to capitalize on Austria’s offerings are only a train ride away from a host of once-in-a-lifetime adventures. With options for everyone and countless chances to mingle with stunning landscapes along the way, it’s not hard to figure out why Austria remains a world-class travel destination for those seeking a wide variety of different experiences.

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Don’t Leave Austria Without Seeing These Sights

Stunning lakeside villages plucked from fairytales, modern city centers filled with architectural wonders, internationally known museums, and rich history. Mountain-hugging Alpine roads and river cruises that you won’t want to leave. With its geographical advantages and series of beautiful towns and cities, Austria is perfect for both the seasoned explorer and those looking for a quiet and luxurious holiday. Although it’s hard to get a country like Austria wrong, here is a guide to help ensure that you get it right.

Vienna Must-Sees

Historic center of Vienna: A UNESCO World Heritage site loaded with baroque castles and sprawling gardens, the centerpiece of Vienna has been an important European staple for centuries and retains its ageless charm in the current age. Originally a medieval settlement, Vienna became a critical hot spot for classical music thanks to icons like Mozart, Beethoven, and Johann Strauss (I and II), and today it remains a gathering place for travelers from all over the world. You don’t have to be a classical music buff to enjoy the city center either. Whether by foot, bike or Segway, it’s easy to be dazzled by buildings like the Stephansdom, Hofburg, and the extremely famous State Opera House, or simply relax at one of the many cafes lining the streets. From the city center, it’s also a breeze to get around the rest of Vienna via the S-train, U-Bahm (underground metro) or city bus.
Viennese museums: You may not be able to pronounce the Kunsthistorisches Museum, but you’ll likely find yourself marveling at 5,000 years of artwork packed into one of the most famous art museums in the world. User-friendly and an incredible building in its own right, the Kunsthistorisches is well worth dealing with the crowds that can build up during the peak times of the year. At the Natural History Museum, visitors inspect a terrific dinosaur exhibit, are awed by a world-class planetarium, and experience a rolling set of other acclaimed exhibits. Architectural enthusiasts will also want to check out the Belvedere Palace Museum for even more eye candy.
Palaces and gardens: When the weather is good, you’ll have a hard time beating the sights of Schonbrunner Gardens, arguably the greatest public park in Austria. Intricate water fountains, miles of green space, and colorful flowers fill a visitor’s vision, and a famous maze also makes for a fun stop (as well as a great photo opportunity). The Imperial Palace of Hofburg, meanwhile, is a window into the Viennese past, as it has been an important government center since the 13th century and is the working residence of the current President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen.
Also try: The Vienna Zoo, Albertina (art museum), St. Peter’s Church, Rathaus, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral are all worth researching before heading to Vienna. One of the very best ways to see Vienna is also a Danube River Cruise that takes you right through the heart of the city.

Peruse the Fairytale Village of Hallstatt

No matter when you go to Austria, a trip to the upper region to take in the sights of Hallstatt is well worth your time. One of the earliest areas settled by Celtic tribes during the Iron Age, Hallstatt of today is a quaint village hugging a tranquil Alpine lake (Hallstatter See) and filled with local shops, restaurants, and sightseeing opportunities. With the Alps hovering just behind the classically designed buildings lining the lakefront, Hallstatt has a timeless beauty that helped make it another of Austria’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. Although it’s perfect for pure relaxation, adventurers can also head up more than 1,000 feet to the Hallstatt Skyway for unforgettable views of the village and the Alps.

A Journey to Salzburg

Salzburger Altstadt (Old Town Salzburg): Vienna is the more famous of cities, but the birthplace of Mozart is every bit Vienna’s rival when it comes to beauty and culture. Everywhere you turn is a sensational piece of architecture or a neighborhood with old world charm, with cobbled side streets and all kinds of small shops and eateries to enjoy.
Salzburg Fortress: Dating to the 11th century, the Salzburg Fortress is a medieval palace on the outskirts of the city that is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. Complete with concerts featuring famous classical works and opportunities to explore the grounds, the fortress continues to be one of the most popular hot spots in the city.
Untersburg: The best place to see Salzburg is actually from Untersburg, a massif in the Berchtesgaden Alps just outside the city that sits along the German-Austria border. A 10-minute cable car can take you up the mountain, where you’ll have panoramic views of Salzburg and the towering Alps that fill in the backdrop of the city.
Also worth checking out: The Salzburg Cathedral is a domed wonder that is known for its unique design and for being where Mozart was baptized. Hellbrunn Castle is another palace grounds with impeccable buildings, well-kept gardens, and waterfalls that make it a great spot for a leisurely stroll on a sunny day.

Melk, Innsbruck, and One of the Most Scenic Mountain Roads in the Alps

It might be a little tough to include Melk and Innsbruck if you have a fairly limited amount of time in Austria, but they also make perfect additions for an extended trip. Less than an hour from Vienna by rail, Melk’s Abbey has a collection of impressive gardens and courtyards to go along with a beautiful main building sitting atop a hill overlooking the Danube. The monks on the premises are also known for making wine and the abbey is often incorporated into Danube River cruises.
In Innsbruck, the Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen is a tramway that takes you soaring through the Alps for spectacular mountain views that have few peers anywhere in Europe. If you’re a skier or snowboarder, the tram is also the perfect way to get in the mood to go cruising down the mountain. For those who can’t get enough mountain views, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is an absolute knockout that takes you right through the Alps in western Austria.

When to Go and How to Get Around

Austria can be an amazing place no matter the time of year, depending on what you’re looking for. Those who love seeing winter wonderlands will likely be awed by seeing Vienna, Salzburg, and the highlights of Austria covered in a dusting of snow, but spring and summer remain the go-to parts of the year for most visitors. With lush gardens, beautiful waterfalls, and many places to stretch your legs throughout the mainstays of Austria, it’s very easy to plan and enjoy a trip during the warmer weather months. For anyone looking to make trips away from the main draws of Austria, winter weather can also quickly complicate a trip.
The good news is that Vienna and Salzburg are both perfect launching points thanks to the easy access by train and other means of transportation. Vienna, in particular, is incredibly simple to reach through a variety of major European cities by train and its international airport provides plenty of options for those looking to fly directly into Austria. Cruising along the Danube River to Vienna is also an unbeatable way to reach the Austrian capital from cities like Munich or Budapest, and Salzburg is a quick two hours down the rail from Vienna. From either Salzburg or Vienna, there are also plenty of worthwhile day trips accessible through train, bus, or private shuttle.