Doing some Bavarian mountain hiking (or just looking) and a trip to the Eagle’s Nest are two popular day trips from Salzburg. But the Austrian region here has a number of interesting possibilities, beyond the typical. Consider spending an extra night in Salzburg and arranging a one or two day car rental if you want to go exploring one or two of these gems.
Hallstatt and the Ice Caves
Visit one of the oldest cities in Europe, Hallstatt (first recorded settlement is from 5000 BC) and enjoy not only a quaint Alpine village but cool down with a visit to some ice caves.
The Dachstein ice caves are one of the few places in the world where ice caves can be visited year round. The first section of the cave was discovered in 1910 and since the Dachstein cable car opened in 1951, reaching the cave is an easy add-on to wandering Hallstatt. The ice is formed from water seeping in through small cracks. Some meltage does occur in the summer, but the constant cycle of freezing and melting means the glorious ice structures remain and evolve. If you are up for it (literally) visit the 5 Fingers viewing platform while you are at Dachstein. One of the best views in the Alps, the platform offers gorgeous views from five different platforms. 5 Fingers is typically only open from roughly May-October.
Berchtesgaden and the Salt Mine
From ice to salt, there’s a lot of interesting things below the ground. Just over the border in Germany, the charming town of Berchtesgaden has been around since the 1100’s and offers visitors shopping, viewing and beer drinking opportunities. The Bräeustüeberl beer hall is especially recommended. However, hit the beer hall after visiting the salt mine. This mine is the reason the town exists, and is easily accessible from Berchtesgarden. Dating back to 1517, there’s an underground lake here and you can even slide down the historic miners’ slides – better experienced beer-free. If you don’t mind foregoing the salt mine, we also offer this is as a group day trip from Salzburg.
Großglockner Hochalpenstraße Road
Would you believe this is Austria’s second favorite tourist attraction, after Vienna’s Schonnbrun Palace? That’s what the Austrian tourism folks say and hardy drivers are rewarded with a visit to one of the highest mountains in Europe, and the highest in Austria. The road ends at Pasterze, Austria’s longest glacier. The best thing about the road is that it allows you to drive straight up to the glacier next to Großglockner Mountain versus taking a big long Alpine hike necessary with other area mountains.
Located within Hohe Tauren National Park, the road is lined with unique flora, fauna and rock formations supported by the mountain and glacier. There’s a fee to traverse the road, which was built in the early 1930s to combat unemployment and increase tourism in the area. The road is typically only open May-September, and bring a coat!
List of illustrations:
Dachstein Ice Caves – brenda via Creative Commons on Flickr
Berchtesgaden Salt Mine – Jose Rodriguez via Creative Commons on Flickr
Großglockner – Sang yun Lee via Creative Commons on Flickr