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.
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.
Mountains huddle conspiratorially around the snow-sure slopes of the rugged Arlberg region, one of Austria’s top ski destinations. The best-known villages are picture-postcard Lech (1450m) and its smaller twin Zürs (1716m), 6km south.
Theatrically set amid the jagged limestone spires of the Dachstein massif, rolling pastures and the aptly named Bischofsmütze (Bishop’s Mitre) peaks – Filzmoos is quite the alpine idyll. Despite some wonderful hiking and skiing, the resort’s out-of-the-way location deters the masses and the village has kept its rural charm and family-friendly atmosphere.
Velden enjoys a reputation as the Wörthersee’s top nightlife resort and is also the venue of various high-adrenaline sports events on summer weekends. It’s a brash, lively place packed with a strange combination of young and beautiful people nursing cocktails, and parties of old-age pensioners nibbling ice cream. Veldener Tourismus can advise on accommodation and information.
Ehrwald’s crowning glory is the glaciated 2962m Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak, straddling the Austro-German border. From the crest there’s a magnificent panorama of the main Tyrolean mountain ranges, as well as the Bavarian Alps and Mt Säntis in Switzerland. North of Zugspitze is Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s most popular ski resort.
One of the single-most striking images on the Grossglockner Rd 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.
Söll is a well-known ski resort 10km south of Kufstein. Once a favourite of boozy, boisterous visitors in the 1980s, the resort has successfully reinvented itself and is now a family-oriented place with myriad outdoor activities. The tourist office, in the centre of the village, provides information on activities and will help you find accommodation.
Faaker See & Ossiacher See
Villach is blessed with two major lakes nearby with low-key summer resorts. Both the Faaker See, situated 6km east of Villach and close to the Karawanken Range, and the Ossiacher See, 4km to the northeast, provide plenty of camping, boating and swimming opportunities. Above Annenheim and providing a backdrop to the Ossiacher See is Gerlitzen (1909m), a popular ski area.
The Mostviertel, in Lower Austria’s southwestern corner, takes its name from apple cider which is produced and consumed in the area. By Lower Austrian standards, the landscape is spectacular, with the eastern Alps ever-present in its southern reaches. It’s largely ignored by international tourists and is certainly an area off the beaten track.
Tiny Pörtschach is the most exclusive of all Wörthersee resorts, with a distinctive tree-lined peninsula and a sumptuously curving bay on either side where society figures live it up. Contact Pörtschach Information for information on (often expensive) hotels and activities.
Sleepy little Mauterndorf has fairy-tale appeal, its narrow streets dotted with candy-coloured houses and fountains. While the surrounding high moors and exposed bluffs are set up for walking and skiing, its remote setting in the Lungau region keeps things quiet. The village centrepiece is medieval Burg Mauterndorf.
Around Bad Gastein
Stepping 3.5km south of Bad Gastein, you reach the unassuming village of Böckstein, whose medieval gold mine has been reinvented as a much-celebrated health centre, the Gasteiner Heilstollen. Visitors board a small train at the Gasteiner Heilstollen that chugs 2km into the depths of Radhausberg mountain, where you absorb the healing radon vapours.
Low-key Radstadt has an attractively walled town centre, with round turrets and a Stadtpfarrkirche (town parish church) that is a pot-pourri of Gothic and Romanesque elements. Most people, however, come for the varied skiing and snowboarding. The resort is part of the vast Ski Amadé arena, covered by a single ski pass and interconnected by ultramodern lifts and free ski buses.
It’s a bizarre feeling to slip out of sandals and into skis in midsummer, but that’s precisely what draws people to the Stubai Glacier. Just 40km south of Innsbruck, the glacier is a year-round skiing magnet with more than 100km of wide, snow-sure pistes that are great for cruising and intermediate skiing. Summer skiing is limited to between 2900m and 3300m.