Stretching out 12km but just 1.5km wide, the Millstätter See is second in size in Carinthia after the Wörthersee. It was gouged out during the ice age about 30,000 years ago, and today is studded with a handful of small towns. Millstatt on the north shore and Seeboden at the western end are the most important.
More low-key than Hallstatt, this broad settlement offers great access to the Dachstein caves. It’s also a good starting point for hikes around the lake, or more strenuous treks up to the caves themselves and beyond through alpine meadows. Signs from the train station point the way to the cable-car station and ice caves.
The genteel lakeside village of Millstatt lies 10km east of Spittal an der Drau on the northern shore. It got its name from Emperor Domition, an early Christian convert who tossed mille statuae (1000 heathen statues) into the lake. A gaunt and crazed-looking sculpture of the emperor stands in the lake, portrayed in the act of consigning a Venus to a watery grave.
Zell am Ziller
Scenically located at the foot of knife-edge Reichenspitze (3303m), Zell am Ziller is a former goldmining centre. There’s now less sparkle and more swoosh about this rural and deeply traditional little village, with its fine skiing and thrilling 7.5km floodlit toboggan run.
Waldviertel & Weinviertel
Forming a broad swath across Lower Austria north of the Danube, the undervisited Waldviertel (Woods Quarter) begins near Krems and the Kamptal in the east (the latter borders the largely agricultural and winemaking region, the Weinviertel or ‘Wine Quarter’) and ends at the Czech border in the north and west.
Middle & Southern Burgenland
Heading south, the flat expanse of the Neusiedler See is soon forgotten as you enter an undulating landscape replete with lush hills, forested glens and castles that rise up in the distance. It’s a region often overlooked by visitors and a place where life is still very much connected to the land; the influence of long-resident Hungarian and Croatian settlers can be felt here.
Situated deep in the Ennstal (Enns Valley) in western Styria at the foot of the glacial Dachsteingebirge (Dachstein Mountains), Schladming is a winter ski resort that in summer also offers glacier skiing and snowboarding, easy access to hiking trails, white-water rafting on the Enns River and excellent mountain biking.
The ease of access to St Gilgen, 29km from Salzburg, makes this town very popular for day trippers, but it has also grown in recent years because of its very scenic setting. Along with quieter Strobl, it’s a good base for lake water sports, and is not quite as crowded as St Wolfgang.
Seefeld sits high on a south-facing plateau, ringed by the rugged limestone peaks of the Wetterstein and Karwendel Alps. While most Tyrolean resorts are crazy about downhill, Seefeld’s first love is Langlauf (cross-country skiing), and fans of the sports flock here to skate and glide along 279km of prepared trails in winter.
St Wolfgang is a charming town situated on the steep banks of the Wolfgangsee. Although its streets can get clogged with visitors during the day, things usually settle down by early evening, which is the best time for a tranquil stroll along the forested lakeshore past the gently creaking wooden boathouses.
A real crash-bang spectacle, the 380m-high, three-tier Krimmler Wasserfälle, Europe’s highest waterfall, is the thunderous centrepiece of this tiny village. Those who look beyond the falls find even more to like about Krimml – gorgeous alpine scenery, fine mountain walks and farmstays that are great for tiptoeing back to nature for a few days.
One of the single-most striking images on the Grossglockner Road is Heiligenblut, the needle-thin spire of its pilgrimage church framed by the glaciated summit of Grossglockner. The village’s iconic scenery and easily accessible mountains lure skiers, hikers and camera-toting tourists.
The Montafon’s pristine wilderness and potent schnapps had Ernest Hemingway in raptures when he wintered here in 1925 and 1926, skiing in blissful solitude and penning The Sun Also Rises. Silhouetted by the glaciated Silvretta range and crowned by the 3312m arrow of Piz Buin, the valley remains one of the most serene and unspoilt in the Austrian Alps.