Best walks, hikes and treks in Austria [View list of walks]
This wonderfully varied country has a horde of superlative walks, in mountainous regions of exceptional beauty, especially along the borders with Switzerland and Italy. Austria’s Alps have apparently inexhaustible horns and towers, glaciers, lakes, gorgeous high meadows and deep, green valleys. Wonderful. Austria has wonderful scenery beyond the main Alpine mass, be it its Northern Limestone Alps such as the mighty Dachstein, or the Wienerwald, the gentle, wooded hills west of Vienna.
Austria has centuries of rich and complex history at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire, and thus of Europe. Vienna, its capital, has monuments and grandeur to match. It had a bloody first half of the 20th Century, then a quiet time having narrowly escaped the hug of the Russian bear.
Austria has numerous delightful cities and towns, from the Baroque delights of Saltzburg to the charms of Hallstatt, to the sport-haven of Innsbruck.
While Austria was scarcely at the heart of the Enlightenment, so it didn’t develop world-class intellectual and artistic life until the late C19 – think Klimt, Schiele and Freud – it has nurtured some of the world’s greatest musical talent, from Mozart to the Strausses.
You will eat and drink well here, be it a glass of gruner veltliner in a country inn or a beer in a Saltzburg brewery.
So, Austria has things to fascinate everyone, children included. The variety of travel and tours you can make in Austria is as a result huge. We tell you about walking below, but have a look here for a huge selection of the Austria travel, tours, holidays and activities available.
Walking, hiking and trekking in Austria
Austria is one of the world's great walking countries. Most of the finest areas are around the high Alpine ridges to the west and south which form the country's borders with Switzerland and Italy, and indeed Slovenia. There are, though, also marvellous regions such as the Dachstein which are part of the Northern Limestone Alps or otherwise further "inland".
It is hard to say which of the (ranges) along the border are the best, as they all have their special features. The Hohe Tauern have the country's biggest mountains, the Glockner group. The Stubai Alps are famously beautiful. The (Otztal) have the biggest concentration of glaciers. Why do we only get one lifetime?
One of the weird features of the Alps is that it has a northern limestone range to mirror the Dolomites in the south, and they must indeed have once been near neighbours before those violent young interlopers the (crystalline) Alps forced their way up as the tectonic plates collided. This has produced the marvellous Dachstein and Kaisergebirge ranges.
In between the high border mountains and the limestonery are some fine walking mountains, including the Schladminger Tauern and the Kutzbuhl Alps.
Those who prefer gentler landscape can find their tastebuds tickled by the foothills and the rolling countryside in the east, including the romantic Wienerwald, the wooded hills west of Vienna.
There are 10 Austrian long-distance hiking trails, which are less well known than you might expect. They cross mountain ranges but also pass through gentler regions. They sometimes coincide with European long distance trails. These trails are demanding, and can include glaciers and scrambling.
Its mountain huts are one of Austria’s glories, with more than 1,000 of them across the country, usually in superb or at the least very pretty and charming locations. They provide good food as well as comfortable sleeping, from dormitories to double or family rooms. There are a lot of famous multi-day hut-to-hut walks, and you can devise your own in most areas, to suit your tastes and capacities. You just need to look at maps and guidebooks and salivate. Note, though, that you often need to book ahead, especially in the popular months. The contact details of huts in a number of the best areas are in the Cicerone books.
On which subject, Cicerone has a series of very good books about walking in Austria’s mountains. View on Amazon.
The weather is generally good for late spring to mid Autumn, but the highlands are serious mountains with a lot of rainfall and …er…mountain weather, so come prepared, including to be flexible with your plans.
So, walking, hiking and trekking tours and holidays in Austria are so varied that everyone’s taste and energy levels can be met. Walking in Austria isn’t just for hard-nuts, although there is plenty to get their juices flowing. The lazy and youngsters alike will be enthralled by what it offers.
See the list below for a (currently incomplete – please give us your recommendations!) list of the best walks, treks and hikes in Austria. Various of these are in our world’s Top 100 list.
Famous walking regions include:
While it is invidious to try to compare such splendours, the finest regions, from west to east along the borders with Switzerland and Italy, are probably:
- the Rätikon Alps
- the Silvretta Alps
- The Otztal have the biggest concentration of glaciers.
- the Zillertal Alps
- the Hohe Tauern, which have the country's biggest mountains, the Glockner group, including the dramatic Grossglockner, ranked the second most prominent peak in the Alps – ie, it sits higher above its surroundings. Other massifs include the glacier-shrouded Venediger group.
- the Karawanken
Inland from the high border mountains are some exceptional walking areas, including:
- The marvellous northern limestone Dachstein and Kaisergebirge ranges.
- The Salzkammergut, a UNESCO listed lakeland area in northern Austria with marvellous, varied landscapes. There are plenty of well-marked trails.
- the Schladminger Tauern and the Kitzbühler Alps.
- The Wienerwald, the wooded hills west of Vienna.