Burgenland is the youngest of Austria’s provinces, arising after the collapse of the Austrian empire at the end of WWI. It’s named for the ‘burg’ suffix of the four western Hungarian district names at that time – Pressburg (Bratislava), Wieselburg (Moson), Ödenburg (Soporn) and Eisenburg (Vasvär).
The Danube Valley
The Danube, which enters Lower Austria from the west near Ybbs and exits in the east near Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital, carves a picturesque path through the province’s hills and fields. Austria’s most spectacular section of the Danube is the dramatic stretch of river between Krems an der Donau and Melk, known as the Wachau.
Klagenfurt is not an urban centre that's comparable with Graz or Vienna; it walks a very fine line between being Austria’s boondocks capital and a playground for a partying set. It’s an enjoyable, sunny city, however, that offers easy access to lakeside villages on and around the beautiful Wörthersee.
Heading north from Graz the landscape of Styria begins to change; gentle hills and flat pastures are replaced by jagged mountains, virgin forests, deep valleys and cold, clear mountain streams. This is also the region’s industrial heartland, home to the Steirische Eisenstrasse (Styrian Iron Road), where for centuries iron mining was the backbone of the economy.
What a view! Ah yes, the locals proudly agree, Bregenz does indeed have the loveliest of views: before you the Bodensee, Europe’s third-largest lake, spreads out like a liquid mirror; behind you the Pfänder (1064m) climbs to the Alps; to the right you see Germany, to the left the faint outline of Switzerland. Just wow.
Sandwiched between the Tuxer Voralpen and the Kitzbüheler Alpen, the Zillertal (Ziller Valley) is storybook Tyrol. A steam train chugs through the broad valley, passing fertile farmland and wooded mountains, and affording snatched glimpses of snowy peaks and the fast-flowing Ziller River.
Ask an Austrian to rattle off the top ski resorts in the country, and Kitzbühel will invariably make the grade. Ever since Franz Reisch slipped on skis and whizzed down the slopes of Kitzbüheler Horn way back in 1893, so christening the first alpine ski run in Austria, Kitzbühel has carved out its reputation as one of Europe's foremost ski resorts.
The pleasantly green and rolling Traunviertel is a great place to abandon the map for a few days. This stretch of Upper Austria is less about sightseeing and more about easing into country life – whether hiking in the hills, sampling homemade Most in the apple orchards or bedding down in a rambling Vierkanthof farmhouse.
The main attractions of Western Carinthia are Millstatt with its serene and pretty lake for swimming and boating, and its abbey and famous music festival; Spittal an der Drau, with its stately Renaissance palace and pretty, floral park; and the remote and beautiful Weissensee.
The Dolomites rise like an amphitheatre around Lienz, which straddles the Isel and Drau Rivers and lies just 40km north of Italy. Those same arresting river and mountain views welcomed the Romans, who settled here some 2000 years ago and whose legacy is explored at medieval castle Schloss Bruck and archaeological site Aguntum.
The Hallstätter See, set among sharply rising mountains at an altitude of 508m in the Southern Salzkammergut, is one of the prettiest and most accessible lakes in the region. It offers some of the best hiking and swimming in summer, good skiing in winter, and a fascinating insight into the cultural history of the region any time of year.
Zell am See
Zell am See is an instant heart-stealer with its bluer-than-blue lake (Zeller See), pocket-sized centre studded with brightly painted chalets, and the snowcapped peaks of the Hohe Tauern that lift your gaze to postcard heaven. You can dive into the lake and cycle its leafy shores, hike and ski in the mountains and drive high on the Grossglockner Road.
St Anton am Arlberg
Once upon a time St Anton was but a sleepy village, defined by the falling and melting of snow and the coming and going of cattle, until one day the locals beheld the virgin powder on their doorstep and discovered their happy-ever-after… In 1901 the resort founded the first ski club in the Alps and downhill skiing was born, so if ever the ski bug is going to bite you it will .