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How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

The Alps is a nature-lovers playground - and not just during the winter months. Here are some top tips about how to make the most of the Austrian mountains in the summer.

How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local
Exploring the Austrian Alps can be even better in the summer. (Photo by Robert Pügner / Pexels).

Most people think about visiting the Austrian Alps in the winter for adventures in the snow, but summertime in the mountains is just as fun.

In fact, The Local’s Hayley Maguire – a Tyrol resident – argues that life in the mountains is even better in the summer with plenty of warm weather to enjoy the great outdoors.

So for anyone planning a trip to the Austrian Alps this spring and summer, here’s how to make the most of it. 

FOR MEMBERS: Seven things that might surprise you when travelling in Austria

Discover wildlife

When exploring the Alps in Austria you are never far from wildlife like deer, mountains goats and eagles, but they often like to hide away from people.

Instead, Toni Krainz, originally from Ireland, recommends visiting a wildlife park, like the Wildpark in Aurach, Tyrol. 

Toni, who lives in St Johann in Tyrol, said: “I always take people to the Wildpark to see the deer and other animals, especially when there are kids visiting. People always love visiting the park – it’s so beautiful there.”

The Wildpark has more than 200 species of animals, including deer, lynx, wild boar and marmots, as well as panoramic views across the Kitzbühel Alps.

Ticket prices for 2022 are €9.50 for people aged 14-plus and €6 for children. Entry is free for children up to the age of five.

Embrace competitive golf

Like in most countries, golf is an expensive hobby in Austria, but there is a way to get involved without it costing a fortune.

Cara Saunders, originally from Scotland but now a resident in Tyrol, recommends anyone interested in playing golf to sign up to the Strawberry Tour.

The Strawberry Tour is a type of membership that allows people to play at various golf courses across the alps by only paying the tournament fee, instead of the green fee (price of entry to the course).

The cost of the tour card is €49 and grants entry to around 800 tournaments in Austria. Both beginners and more advanced players can join.

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Go hiking

For people that love to explore the mountains by foot, the Austrian Alps is the place to go.

A top recommendation is the Salzburger Almenweg, which was labelled as the best hut-to-hut walk in Austria by Lonely Planet. This hike is around 350km and takes approximately one month to complete all 31 stages. Scenes from The Sound of Music were also filmed in the area giving hikers a chance to reenact the famous scene of Maria skipping through the meadows.

Another long distance hike is the Adlerweg (Eagle’s Trail) that can take up to four weeks to complete. The trail traverses classic alpine landscapes from St Johann to St Anton am Arlberg. The best time to hike this route is between June and September when the trails are snow-free and the huts are open.

For a day hike, Clare Woolner, from Manchester in the UK, recommends a trail from Zell am See to Saalbach, called the Pinzgauer Spaziergang Trail. The 17km route takes hikers across the top of the Schmittenhöhe at 2,081 metres above sea level, with the option to reach the start and end points with a gondola.

Then there is Vorarlberg – Austria’s most western province and least explored region. It’s also home to the Radsattel Circuit, a day hike in the Silvretta Alps of moderate difficulty. This hike is not for the faint hearted with its steep, zigzagging ascents, but it’s a chance to explore a part of Austria that is still quite wild.

St Johann resident Emma Barr recommends anyone in the Kufstein or Kitzbühel districts of Tyrol to take advantage of the free KaiserJet bus service that transports people to the start or end point of hiking trails.

Emma said: “You can walk across the top of the mountains from Ellmau to Söll and then get the KaiserJet bus back to Ellmau. It’s a stunning walk.”

The KaiserJet connects the Tyrolean villages of Ellmau, Going, Scheffau and Söll with cable car stations, lakes and the Kaiserbad – a fitness centre with an open air pool. The summer KaiserJet service runs from mid-May to the end of October.

READ MORE: Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria

Cool off by swimming 

It’s easy to enjoy outdoor swimming in the Alps during the summer months as many towns have public outdoor pools. Unfortunately, there is almost always an entry fee to pay but most operators also offer season passes, as well as day, week and monthly tickets to help save money.

But if swimming in a public pool is not your thing, then consider heading to an alpine lake for a refreshing dip in one of the many natural lakes in the Austrian mountains.

For a breathtaking bathing spot visit Hintersteinersee in the Wilder Kaiser National Park in Tyrol. The crystal clear water is freezing (it was created in the last ice age) but on a hot day it’s a great way to cool off and be surrounded by nature.

For a family-friendly day at the lake, head to the Schwarzsee in Kitzbühel. This is the warmest moor lake in Tyrol and is packed with visitors during the peak summer months of July and August. Families especially like this lake for the water slides and children’s play area. There is also a section without facilities that is free to enter and is known locally as “the wild side”.

Visit mountain huts

Having lunch at a mountain hut is a must-do when exploring the alps. 

Some huts can only be reached by foot, like the rustic Gruttenhütte in the Wilder Kaiser mountains that sits at 1620 metres in the Kaisergebirge in Ellmau, Tyrol.

Whereas others, like the Pritzhütte on the Katschberg in Salzburgerland can also be reached by horse and carriage for a romantic alternative to hiking.

Then there is the Schiestlhaus, which sits at 2154m in the Hochschwab mountain range in Upper Austria. These mountains are easily accessible for people living in Vienna and there is even accommodation at the hut for people that want to stay overnight.

Top tip: always book ahead if planning to stay at a mountain hut during July and August.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

Get on your (mountain) bike

Anyone interested in downhill mountain biking should make their way to Leogang in the province of Salzburg.

Leogang has gained a reputation for being the mecca of downhill biking in Austria and the resort boasts 80km of world-class trails and facilities at the aptly-named Epic Bikepark

Leogang is also host to the UCI World Championship and World Cup line “Speedster”, as well as an annual bike festival.

But if you’re new to downhill biking and a sprawling park is too intimidating, then check out the OD Trails in Oberndorf in Tyrol for a more beginner-friendly option.

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Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria’s biggest open air festival

Austria has the largest free open-air festival in Europe, and the Donauinselfest is taking place this weekend. Here is what you need to know.

Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria's biggest open air festival

The Austrian Donauinselfest is known as the largest free open-air music festival in Europe, and it happens yearly on Vienna’s Danube island. The festival attracts around three million visitors over its three days of events and is starting on Friday in the Austrian capital.

The festival has been taking place yearly since 1983 on the 21.1-kilometre river island. This year, it has 14 different areas and 11 stages, according to the official website. Visitors can expect more than 600 hours of program.

READ ALSO: The best festivals and events to enjoy in Austria this summer

Here is what you need to know to enjoy the programme fully.

When and where is the festival?

The festival has an extensive range of events starting on Friday, June 24th, and lasting until Sunday, June 26th. It takes place on the island between the new Danube and the Danube rivers, known as the Donauinsel.

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer

It is easily accessible via the U1 (Donauinsel station) and U6 (Handelskai station) metro and there are no parking spaces available near the festival site.

Admission to the event is free.

The festival is back after the pandemic

After two years of reduced capacity and many Covid-19 restrictions, the Donauinselfest is back to (almost) normal. There is no limit to the number of visitors, no requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery from the disease, and no mask mandate.

However, the authorities have asked that people take “personal responsibility” as coronavirus infection numbers have been rising.

READ ALSO: Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

The organisers have requested people to get tested before visiting the vast festival, Vienna.at reported.

People gather on the shores of the Danube river, in Vienna during a hot sunny day and Danube Day on June 29, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN

“We ask everyone who would like to visit the Donauinselfest this year to take a PCR or rapid test in advance and thus protect themselves and others. People with symptoms are not allowed to enter the festival grounds.”, said organiser Matthias Friedrich.

Though masks are not mandatory, they are recommended on-site if it is too full of people and no social distancing is possible. Besides, there is a masks requirement to all Donauinselfest workers in indoor areas.

Watch out for what you cannot bring

There is an extensive list of things that are not allowed on the festival site. For example, visitors are not allowed to take large bags and backpacks (“A3 format”, according to the website). However, a gym bag is not considered a backpack.

Animals, including dogs, are prohibited – except for guide dogs and service dogs.

You are also not allowed to bring umbrellas, alcoholic beverages, cans, glass bottles, or drones. The list of prohibited items includes “propaganda material”, spray bottles, whistles, large or bulky objects, bicycles and skateboards, stools and chairs, food and more.

Check out the complete list here.

Danube festival

Vienna’s “Danube-island” Festival will return this weekend. (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

READ ALSO: Forecast: Austria set for high temperatures and storms throughout weekend and beyond

You can – and should – bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as temperatures are expected to be around the 30Cs over the next few days.

What kind of music is there?

The festival has several stages and a broad programme selection. The bands are usually more regional, with a significant presence of Austrian, German, and Italian bands.

You can find all sorts of music, from pop to rock, rap, and techno. There are even tribute bands like Break Free, which will play Queen’s best signs on the rock stage.

The program includes other activities as well, such as poetry slam, art stages, sport areas, and even events for families and children.

You can check the official program here.

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