Salzburg’s location on Germany’s boarder in the eastern Alps makes it an ideal location from which to explore the surrounding Austrian and German countryside. Day trips from Salzburg offer cultural experience, a history that dates back to the Middle Ages and Austria’s Imperial years, and endless outdoor recreation opportunities. Explore the region’s alpine lakes, enjoy hiking in the summer months, and Nordic or Alpine skiing once snow falls.
1.Werfen Ice Cave
Werfen is the world’s largest ice cave, and among Salzburg’s most popular destinations. The cave was unknown until the late 19th century when it was first explored by Anton von Posselt-Czorich. Although he wrote about his findings, the cave was forgotten again until after World War I. In the 1920’s a lodge was built in the region making in-depth exploration possible. Today, the cave is accessed by cable car and tours are made easier by railings, stairways and planks. Visitors should still expect to climb an altitude of approximately 500 feet once inside the cave. Ice inside the alpine limestone cave is formed as water seeps through cracks and freezes into unique shapes.
Eishöhlenstraße 30, A-5450 Werfen, Austria, Phone: +43-0-64-68-52-48
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The Lichtenstein gorge is among the longest and deepest gorges in the Austrian Alps. Located in the province of Salzburg, the gorge has been open to visitors since 1875 with several wooden footpaths and bridges aiding accessibility. Boardwalks take visitors between the 1,000-foot high cliff walls alongside the water which has slowly carved this ravine over 10 million years. Enjoy breathtaking waterfalls, lush moss-covered stones, and rainbows created by the mix of sunlight and mist. After a rock fall in the summer of 2017, the gorge boardwalks were reconstructed to provide for a sustainable and safe experience. It reopens in the fall of 2019.
St. Johann im Pongau, Austria
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Germany’s Rupertus Therme is a spa and family resort surrounding a natural salty hot springs, which makes its way to the surface through the Austrian Alps, naturally brined and rich in trace elements and minerals. The 90 to 104 degree waters are naturally healing. Visitors soak to reduce inflammation, nourish the skin, relax their muscles and soothe their joints. Pools are distributed into several thermal baths both indoors and out. The indoor spa is fronted by floor to ceiling glass panels for an exceptional view of the surrounding mountains. The spa gets its name from St. Rupert, patron saint of salt miners and salt mines.
Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 21, 83435 Bad Reichenhall, Germany, Phone: +49-8-65-17-62-20
The medieval Hohenwerfen fortress is located in Salzburg’s Pongau region. At the peak of a hill overlooking the Salzach valley is the castle, built between 1075 and 1078 for the Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg as a strategic military base. Over the years it has been used as a residence, hunting retreat, prison and military training camp. The castle is currently open to the public as a museum, and offers an extensive collection of weapons among other historical displays. Visitors can enjoy an on-site tavern, and tour the adjacent museum of falconry at the attached regional falconry center. The historic center offers daily flight shows with falcons, eagles, vultures and other local birds of prey.
Burgstraße 2, 5450 Werfen, Austria, Phone: +43-64-68-76-03
5.Hallein Salt Mine
A visit to the Hallein Salt Mine is a journey into a thousands year old history of geology, mining, and culture. The natural resource of salt altered the history of Austria significantly, as it was mined and traded like gold, particularly in the Salzburg region, which is named in honor of this “white gold.” Travel underground aboard a mining train, explore miles of subterranean tunnels, and learn of the history of salt and the miners from your professional guide. The Hallein Salt Mine was the first in Salzburg to open to the public and offers an unparalleled underground adventure.
Ramsaustraße 3, 5422 Bad Dürrnberg, Austria, Phone: +43-0-6-13-22-00-85-11
6.Berchtesgaden Old Town
Located in the Bavarian Alps on the German side of the Austrian border, Berchtesgaden is a rural town with a history dating back 500 years to salt mining in the region, through the Nazi era, and as the site of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, his alpine retreat just south of town. Strolling through Old Town one can see the Rococo city center, 12th century monastery, royal palace and aristocratic homes. Enjoy local Bavarian music and dance at any of the outdoor cafes. Stroll through the market in the town square, and visit the local salt mines, which began operating in the 16th century.
83471 Berchtesgaden, Germany
7.Dachstein Ice Caves
Austria’s Dachstein Ice Caves have been thoroughly modernized with a light show, rope bridge and giant animated cave bears, yet offer one of the most accessible looks at the thousands year old natural cave structure, formed as water seeped through limestone cracks and froze. Tours begin above ground with a twenty minute walk to the cave’s entrance, and continue underground with a 50 minute guided journey. Keep in mind that cave temperatures stay steady below freezing at approximately 29 degrees. Warm up after the tour by browsing the exhibits at the adjacent museum, where you’ll learn about the area’s geological history and the impact of climate change.
Winkl 34, 4831 Obertraun am Hallstättersee, Austria, Phone: +43-5-01-40
8.Dürnstein and Weissenkirchen
Austria’s Wachau Valley is home to over 200 heurige, local family-owned vineyards who make small batch wines from grapes grown and processed on site. The hilltop villages of Durnstein and Weissenkirchen are just two of these countryside locales which overlook valleys of grapevines and the Danube River. Cycling tours take guests from one town to the next to sample wines, enjoy small bites and the enchanting rural scenery. The mostly white wines are low yield and small batch, governed by regulations that allow service only of wines made on the land. With only three heurige open at a time in each town, no two trips to the region are alike.
Wachau Valley, Austria
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Austria’s Gosau Lake is a small alpine lake at the foot of the Dachstein, the second tallest mountain the Northern Limestone Alps. From the lake’s shores are spectacular views of the Dachstein glacier, rising high above the valley. The mountain lake is the perfect place to cool down after a summer or autumn hike, and itself a popular destination for sight seeing, mountain and valley views. In addition to swimming, visitors can rent a boat to explore the glacial lake, dive in its crystal clear waters, or adventure through the fixed rope rock climb at the water’s edge. The World Heritage Region is easily accessed from the nearby town of Hallstatt.
Vorderer Gosausee, 4825, Austria
Hallstatt is a small alpine town in Austria’s Northern Limestone Alps. The region’s natural beauty surrounds Lake Hallstatt at the base of the Dachstein glacier. In addition to the salt mines, from which the region’s prosperity was born, the area is known for artisanal crafts such as hat-making, shoe-making, wood working and upholstery. See the history of the handmade at Hand.Werk.Haus, a museum dedicated to local crafts. Enjoy a meal at the Steegwirt restaurant, which has been serving the local specialty of freshwater fish since the 16th century. Ferries cross the lake to connect several of the regional hamlets.
Innsbruck is the capital city of Austria’s state of Tyrol. The town is known for its historic Imperial architecture, which stands alongside modern buildings such as Zaha Hadid’s futuristic Nordkette Cable Car, which takes visitors from Innsbruck to Nordkette Mountain for sightseeing and skiing. Visit Innsbruck’s Imperial Palace at the center of the old town, tour the Cathedral of St. James, and see the famous “Golden Roof” made of over 2,600 gilded copper tiles over 500 years ago. Take the cable care to the Alpenzoo, one of the highest elevation zoos in Europe and home to several endangered alpine species.
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Kaprun is a ski resort area in Salzburg, and among the most consistent glacier ski areas adjacent to the city. Originally a mining village, Kaprun now sustains on tourist dollars and was among the first of Austria’s major glacial ski resort projects. The world’s highest cable car pylon is located at this site, and takes guests to an elevation of over 2,500 feet on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier. Skiing is available for all abilities and surrounds a village style resort. The entire area is part of the Zell am See ski area, but offers a less crowded and more local experience.
Germany’s Lake Konigsee is often referred to as the country’s most beautiful alpine lake. Certainly the cleanest and deepest lake, it is located just south of Berchtesgaden, the famous alpine ski area known as the site of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. The area has long been a site of outdoor recreation, whether Bavarian royalty hunting in the region, Eva Braun sunbathing on the shores of the lake, or Hitler boating on his trips to the region. While the sheer rock faces rising from the shoreline prevent one from hiking the perimeter, you can tour the lake via electric boat, with stops at the mountain towns of Salet and St. Bartholoma.
Schönau am Königssee, Bavaria, Germany
14.Lungau Ski Region
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The Lungau Ski Region is comprised of the ski areas Katschberg-Aineck and Großeck-Speiereck. Both Alpine and Nordic skiers and snowboarders enjoy the trails and backcountry ski areas. Eight family-friendly ski resorts for all levels are accessed by over 60 high-speed lifts and cable cars. The Katschberg Ski Resort is among the highest rated and offers over 40 miles of trails across two peaks. The highest peaks are found in the Großeck-Speiereck resort, at approximately 2,400 feet. At the Obertauern resort apres-ski is a main focus, and accommodations have direct access to slopes and lifts. Skiers can enter the resort at any point from the famous Tauernrunde circuit.
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Austria’s Melk Abbey is a Benedictine Abbey built on a rocky outcropping overlooking the Danube River. Founded in the 11th century, the abbey that stands today is a Baroque masterpiece built in the 18th century. It features a library full of medieval manuscripts, a collection of musical manuscripts and frescoes by the Baroque Austrian painter Paul Troger, and is the burial site for several members of Austria’s first royal family. Visits include the abbey museum, marble hall, balcony, imperial corridor, imperial staircase and special exhibits. The abbey is surrounded by a park and Baroque Garden with pavilion. Worship services take place on Sundays and holidays.
Abt-Berthold-Dietmayr-Str. 1 - A 3390 Melk, Austria, Phone: +43-6-76 / 3-31-58-69
The German city of Munich offers a culturally and historically rich day trip from Salzburg. Visit the grand Nymphenburg Palace, a Baroque 17th century palace that was once a summer destination for Bavarian monarchs. At the city’s center is the New Town Hall, among Munich’s most distinctive landmarks. Built in the late 1800’s, the neo-gothic tower hosts a famous Glockenspiel that rings three times daily. From atop the 150-foot tall tower, enjoy views of Munich and the surrounding countryside. In the cellar below is the famous Ratskeller restaurant, in operation since the mid 19th century. Oktoberfest is the world’s largest fair and Munich’s top event.
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Neuschwanstein is a fairy-tale like castle built in the 19th century in the Romanesque Revival style. The castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in honor of the German composer Richard Wagner. Thus, several of the castle’s motifs favor themes from Wagner’s operas. While based on a romantic ideal of the Middle Ages, the castle was decidedly modern and features many luxuries that were new at the time, such as running hot water in all rooms, an electric call system for summoning servants, and indoor plumbing. The king, who was famously shy, lived in the castle in most part as a recluse until his death in 1886. Six weeks later, the castle was opened to the public.
Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany, Phone: +49-83-62-93-08-30
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Oberndorf is a small German town in the Black Forest region that is well known today as the home of the Heckler & Koch firearms manufacturers. The picturesque German town has long been the center of machine manufacturing, and has been producing firearms since 1811. Today, Heckler & Kock is its largest employer and a quite controversial one. The company has single-handedly landed Germany in the third spot of the world’s largest arms exporters, and in 2014, it was assumed Heckler & Koch weapons killed over 114 people worldwide each day. Oberndorf is home to a small military museum and is known for its traditional Karneval festivals.
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19.Ramsau am Dachstein
Ramsau am Dachstein is a resort in the Schladming-Dachstein region of Austria, located on a plateau at an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet. The plateau itself is divided into several regions comprised of grassy meadows, crystal clean alpine streams, and small hamlets surrounded by the dramatic mountain peaks of the Dachstein glacier. Perfect as a base-camp for a Styrian mountain holiday, Ramsau am Dachstein offers hiking, skiing and rock climbing. Considered one of the premier Nordic ski destinations, over 130 miles of cross-country skiing loops offer something for athletes of all levels. In the summer, ski lifts serve hikers and climbers exploring the Dachstein, Styria’s tallest peak.
Ramsauerstraße 756, A-8970 Schladming, Phone: +43-3-68-72-33-10
The Seisenburg Gorge is just one of the Saalachtal Natural Wonders in Austria’s Salzburgerland. The natural wonder is a massive rock formation with a human history dating back over 12,000 years. It has been a tourist destination since 1831 when woodcutters built a path 2,000 foot long through the gorge. The gorge is the gateway to the Weissbach Nature Park and while the gorge itself can be explored in just under an hour, it serves as the starting point for several longer trails. For a dramatic and unique gorge experience join the once-weekly evening torch lit walk with live music.
Unterweißbach 36, A-5093 Weißbach, Austria, Phone: +43-0-65-82-83-52
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Austria’s Salzkammergut region is located between Salzburg and Styria in Upper Austria. The area is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and small villages with a distinctive culture, architecture and cuisine. The UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site dates back to early salt mining in the region, which made the area prosperous, and attracted the nation’s elite who built spa towns, resorts, and hunting cabins. Ambitious travelers cycle or hike from one lake to the next with stopovers in each village. Towns in the Wolfgansee region are the most popular, while Hallstatt is the oldest. In Schafbergbahn you’ll see the church where the wedding was filmed in the Sound of Music.
Salzkammergut Region, Austria
Vienna is Austria’s capital city, and is located on the banks of the Danube River in the east. Vienna was home to Beethoven and Mozart and has a rich cultural history. Historical sites include Imperial Palaces such as Schonbrunn, the summer residence of the royal Habsburg family. The 3-mile long Ringstrasse is a main street of Imperial architecture, and where you’ll find the State Opera, Parliament and Natural History Musuem. More than 100 museums house some of the world’ most important art collections, and the works of Austrian painters such as Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Voted Europe’s ‘most livable city,’ contemporary Vienna offers ease of transportation, excellent food and pleasant outdoor spaces.
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Wolfgansee Lake is among the most popular tourist destinations in Austria’s natural wonder, the Salzkammergut region. Also referred to as Lake Wolfgang, the area offers culture, history and miles of outdoor recreation among the crystal clear lakes, valleys and surrounding mountains. Enjoy a meal at Im Weissen Rössl, the iconic 500-year old hotel on the shores of the lake. The inn boasts a heated swimming pool within the lake itself. St. Wolfgang village dates back to the middle ages. Stroll past historic homes and quaint shops. Take a boat ride across the lake from village to village aboard a 19th century steam ship. Hike into the hills above from some of Austria’s best views.
St. Wolfgang, Austria
23 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Salzburg, Austria
- Werfen Ice Cave, Photo: Scirocco340/stock.adobe.com
- Lichtensteinklamm, Photo: serkat Photography/stock.adobe.com
- Rupertus Therme, Photo: C. Strom/stock.adobe.com
- Hohenwerfen Castle, Photo: saiko3p/stock.adobe.com
- Hallein Salt Mine, Photo: LevT/stock.adobe.com
- Berchtesgaden Old Town, Photo: PROMA/stock.adobe.com
- Dachstein Ice Caves, Photo: Jrg/stock.adobe.com
- Dürnstein and Weissenkirchen, Photo: pure-life-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Gosau Lake, Photo: shaiith/stock.adobe.com
- Hallstatt, Photo: saiko3p/stock.adobe.com
- Innsbruck, Photo: saiko3p/stock.adobe.com
- Kaprun, Photo: Nikolai Korzhov/stock.adobe.com
- Konigsee, Photo: moserwork/stock.adobe.com
- Lungau Ski Region, Photo: Flaviu Boerescu/stock.adobe.com
- Melk Abbey, Photo: Zechal/stock.adobe.com
- Munich, Photo: darchy/stock.adobe.com
- Neuschwanstein, Photo: alesinya7/stock.adobe.com
- Oberndorf, Photo: Schlesier/stock.adobe.com
- Ramsau am Dachstein, Photo: Ralph/stock.adobe.com
- Saalachtaler Naturgewalten, Photo: lexpixelart/stock.adobe.com
- Salzkammergut Region, Photo: efesenko/stock.adobe.com
- Vienna, Photo: Mistervlad/stock.adobe.com
- Wolfgangsee Lake, Photo: saiko3p/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: saiko3p/stock.adobe.com