Quiet, staid Bad Aussee is the largest Styrian town in the southern Salzkammergut. It is close to two lakes, and convenient by rail and a walking trail to a third, the Hallstätter See. Stay in Bad Ischl, though, if you prefer a little nightlife. The train station is 1.5km south of the town centre.
With pastel-coloured houses that cast shimmering reflections onto the glassy waters of the lake and with towering mountains on all sides, Hallstatt’s beauty alone would be enough to guarantee it fame. Boats chug tranquilly across the lake from the train station to the village, situated precariously on a narrow stretch of land between mountain and shore.
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.
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.
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.
The largest lake in the Salzkammergut is flanked mostly by hills, with mountains in the south. It’s one of the less scenic and less visited of the Salzkammergut’s lakes. The tourist office in the resort of Attersee can help with accommodation and has a telephone service from May to September from 9am to 8pm.
This small lake is flanked by the impressively precipitous peaks of the Gosaukamm range (2459m). The view is good from the shoreline, and it takes a little over an hour to walk around the entire lake. The Gosaukammbahn cable car goes up to 1475m, where there are spectacular views and walking trails. One- to two-hourly Postbus services run to the lake from Bad Ischl (€6.
The attractive hamlet of Traunkirchen sits on a spit of land about halfway along the western shore of the Traunsee. It’s chiefly famous for the wooden Fischerkanzel in the Pfarrkirche. This was carved in 1753 and depicts the miracle of the fishes, with the Apostles standing in a tub-shaped boat and hauling in fish-laden nets.
Named after a local saint, this lake has two very popular resorts, St Wolfgang and St Gilgen, of which St Wolfgang is the most appealing. The third town on the lake, Strobl (population 2750), is a less remarkable but pleasant place at the start of a scenic toll road (per car and per person €3) to Postalm (1400m).
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.