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TRAVEL

The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

From lakes framed by breathtaking mountains to ink blue waters, Austria has some of the cleanest and most beautiful swimming spots in Europe. 

People make their way in pedal boats on the Old Danube (Alte Donnau), a subsidiary of the Danube river, in Vienna, Austria  (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
People make their way in pedal boats on the Old Danube (Alte Donnau), a subsidiary of the Danube river, in Vienna, Austria (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

There are hundreds of lakes in Austria where you can splash around.

Water quality in the alpine state is also the second highest quality in Europe according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) list published on Tuesday. 

READ MORE: Austria’s beaches ‘second cleanest in Europe’. 

Here are some of the best places to relax and take a dip in Austria. 

Achensee

The largest lake in Tyrol is the Achensee a mountain lake with cool, clean water. It is sometimes dubbed “Tyrol’s ocean”.

The lake is located in the Karwendel nature reserve.

You can paddleboard, windsurf, sail or dive as well as swim here – the average water temperature is around 19°C (66°F) in summer.

Achensee, also known as Tyrol's ocean. Photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash
Achensee, also known as Tyrol’s ocean. Photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash

Neusiedler See 

Neusiedler See, also known as Lake Neusiedl is a shallow lake in Burgenland, reaching only around one metre deep. The steppe lake is surrounded by reeds and meadows.

There are more species of birds here than at any other inland lake in Europe. Drinking local wine in lake taverns is also an option for visitors, as is cycling.

Be careful not to go too far as it is possible to cross the Hungarian border if you make your way around the lake in its entirety. 

Windsurfing is possible at Neusiedler See. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Altausseer See

In the middle of the Styrian Salzkammergut lies the Altausseer See, which is particularly known for its crystal clear water with its dark blue colour, giving it the name the “dark blue inkwell”.

Bathing is usually possible from late spring to autumn.

An excursion boat moves along on Lake Attersee (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

Attersee

Beloved by Austria’s most famous artist Gustav Klimt, Attersee is a beautiful glacier lake located in the Upper Austrian Salzkammergut.

The water is exceptionally pure and clear, with visibility under water for up to 25 meters. In addition, the water heats up to 25 °C in summer. The Attersee-Bädercard gives you access to seven bathing beaches.

Wörthersee

The largest and most famous lake in Carinthia is the Wörthersee , which lies between Villach and Klagenfurt. It is also one of the warmest alpine lakes due to the low water flow and the sheltered location.

The water is often over 25°C in summer and can even reach 28°C. There are numerous bathing beaches around the lake, including some nudist bathing areas. There are also hip beach bars and restaurants to visit. 

River Danube 

Even if you are stuck in Austria’s most urban city, Vienna, there are still many opportunities to swim in the River Danube. 

The EEA pointed out in its report that in recent years there has been a great deal of effort in Vienna to improve water quality here.

There are river beaches along the Danube Island (Donau Insel), just outside Vienna in Donaualtarm Greifenstein, and the Copa Kagrana sand beach near Uno City, which has cocktail bars and snack options.

The Old Danube (Alte Donau) is also great for a dip or a chance to try out paddle boarding or rowing.

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WEATHER

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.

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