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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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 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.
Situated 9km from Strobl at an altitude of 715m, Schwarzensee makes for a perfect day outing with conventional or e-bikes, which can be rented in Strobl from Sport Girbl. This picturesque and isolated swimming lake has a couple of small restaurants, including Alm-Stadl Schwarzensee, which serves delicious smoked lake trout.
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.