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Five Austrian destinations you can reach by train to escape the heat

With Austria reaching increasingly high temperatures, here are some places you can reach by train to cool down.

waterfall beautiful place in Styria, Austria nature
There are many beautiful places that you can reach in Austria by train to escape the city heat (© TV Haus-Aich-Goessenberg_Raffal)

Summers in Austria are likely to get even hotter as extreme weather becomes the norm worldwide, and experts are talking about temperatures eventually reaching (and surpassing) the 40C mark.

While the entire country is on high alert for high temperatures, there are a few regions that tend to keep milder temperatures – at least in comparison.

They also happen to be beautiful places with good connections to the train and public transport services.

READ ALSO: Five European cities you can reach from Austria in less than five hours by train

Here are five destinations in Austria that you can reach by train to escape the heat of the summer season.

Sonnblick, Hohe Tauern

The alpine mountain range goes through Salzburg, Carinthia, and East Tyrol and contains some of the most spectacular landscapes. Some of its highest peaks, including the Sonnblick summit, reach 3,106 meters of altitude.

The mountain is a popular destination throughout the year, with ski tourers coming in winter and mountaineers arriving in the summer. Even during the worst of July’s heat wave, temperatures didn’t go over 26C in the valley and usually stayed around 15C to 20C.

Nearest railway station: Taxenbach – Rauris, ca. 15 km from Rauris’ town centre.

Here you can find more information about the area.

Lungau Salzburg Austria mountains and trekking

The Lungau region has many beautiful treks in nature (©Ferienregion Salzburger Lungau)

St. Michael im Lungau, Salzburg

This lovely market town located in Salzbrug is a major winter destination for skiing but also offers excellent hiking and tour possibilities during the summer.

While it’s not as cold as the peak alps, the temperatures there are usually a few degrees lower than in other regions.

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

For example, while most of Austria saw 30C to 35C during the July heat wave, the thermometer didn’t go over 30C in the town. Still hot, but not as unbearable and considering the city is surrounded by nature, with hiking treks, rivers and lakes to cool off, it’s a great alternative to the scorching heat of the bigger cities.

Nearest railway stations: Unzmarkt (for those coming from the east and south) and Bischofshofen or Radstadt (if you are arriving from the north).

Here you can find more information about the area.

Semmering, between Lower Austria and Styria

The mountainous region is known as the ski resort of the Viennese. During summer, temperatures in the Hirschenkogel mountain (1,340m high) usually don’t exceed 20C.

In the valley, though, they can get higher, but it’s easy to cool off in the woods or the tree park, mountain carts and bike park, for example.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna

Nearest railway station: Semmering train station.

Here you can find more information about the area.

Climbing the mountains in the Dachstein region give you a chance to cool down in high altitudes and see fantastic views (© Peter Burgstaller / Schladming-Dachstein.at)

Ramsau am Dachstein, Styria

This small town is near the Dachstein mountains and because of its location and elevation, temperatures tend to be some degrees cooler than in surrounding areas. Average temperatures during summer are 20C, but heat waves can bring that up, so be mindful of the weather forecast.

READ ALSO: Heatwave: Nine of the coolest places in Austria

Still, the region is a trendy tourist destination with alpine pastures, beautiful lookout points and many mountain huts.

It’s also easy to get to the Dachstein glacier, in Salzkammergut, where there are literal ice caves for people to get out of the blazing sun and seek refuge in subzero temperatures.

Nearest railway station: Schladming (and there are trains with direct connections from Graz, Innsbruck, and Vienna).

Here you can find more information about the area.

Vienna

The capital may be a hotspot for some heat, but it also has been doing extensive work to counter the effects of climate change. The city has numerous swimming spots (from beaches in the different areas on the Danube to public pools), water fountains and cooling water sprays all over the Austrian capital.

Additionally, its many museums and famous cafes are air-conditioned, and you can enjoy some quiet time in the cool shade while eating a sacher torte, for example.

READ ALSO: Vienna’s free ‘cooling centre’ lets you avoid Austria’s stifling heat

If things get really bad, you can take a trip to the south pole and visit the penguins at Schönbrunn Zoo, which is always a lovely event. On the worst heat wave days, the Red Cross sets up a cooling centre with shade, air conditioning, and plenty of water.

Nearest railway station: the Vienna Central Station, though you can also arrive through other stations, such as Westbahnhof or Meidling, for example.

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

Do you know any great spots to cool off during Austrian heat? Let us know in the comment section below or send us an email at [email protected]

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The six most spectacular train trips in Austria

With its mountain peaks and crystal-clear lakes, Austria has more than its fair share of stunning scenery to fall in love with. And travelling by train can give you the chance to take the views in properly without any distractions. Here are Austria's most scenic train routes.

The six most spectacular train trips in Austria

Semmering rail line in winter

You’ll get epic views whether you travel in summer or winter, but the snow adds to the romanticism. Photo by Miroslav Volek on flickr.

Semmering Railway
Built between 1848 and 1854, the 41-kilometre-long Semmerling line was made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1998 and it’s easy to see why: it runs through some jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery between the mountain towns of Semmering and Gloggnitz. It was a huge technical achievement for its time, not least because of the hefty gradient of the line. It was also the first European mountain railway to have a standard gauge track.

You’ll see glorious mountains, obviously, plus huge viaducts – 16 of them, if you’re counting – and 15 tunnels, including one whopping 1,430-metre-long one, and over 100 bridges, as well as plenty of lush forests and deep valleys.

semmeringbahn.at

Mariazeller Bahn

Clear skies are made for scenic train rides. Photo by flightlog on Flickr

Mariazell Railway
Remember we mentioned gauges above? Well, the Mariazell Railway is a narrow-gauge route – built like that because it was a difficult terrain for trains to cross. Running from St Pölten in Lower Austria to Mariazell in Styria, at 84km-long, it’s Austria’s longest narrow-gauge line.

The mountain section (Bergstrecke) of the line is the most picturesque. Get on at Laubenbachmühle where this starts and enjoy the train’s climb to its peak of 892m above sea level in Gösing where you’ll have gorgeous panoramic views and a glimpse of the 1,893-metre-high Ötscher mountain. Stay on board to see viaducts, reservoirs and deep gorges, in particular glimpses of the wild Erlauf gorge.

Want to really make the most of those views? Book a panorama carriage, which gives you super-comfy seats and unobstructed views of the scenery unfolding as the train trundles along. 

mariazellerbahn.at

Perfect peaks and lush valleys await. Photo by Schnitzel_bank on Flickr

Arlberg Railway

The Arlberg raiway is one of Europe’s highest – it climbs to 1,310 metres above sea level at its highest point. It goes up at a fair tilt, too and is one of the steepest passenger lines out there.

Connecting Innsbruck and Bludenz (on the Swiss border), it’s the only east-west mountain line in Austria. Visual delights include the Tyrolean Trisanna Bridge near the hilltop castle Wiesberg, snow-peaked mountains, the 6.6-mile-long Arlberg tunnel, and verdant valleys and forests at the Arlsberg pass  – go at sunset/sunrise and look to your right for the best views.

arlbergbahn.at

Schafberg Railway

There are – unsurprisingly – a lot of steep railways in Austria and this one is no exception. This is the steepest steam cog-railway in the country and has been running between St Wolfgang in Salzkammergut up to the 1,783-metre Schafberg mountain since 1893.  

It’s a gorgeous journey up the mountain with the views getting better and better the higher you go. At the top, you’ll have (weather-permitting) clear views over Salzkammergut’s glittering lakes, as well as the soaring peaks of neighbouring mountain ranges, such as the Höllengebirge.

schafbergbahn.at/

Tauern Railway
If you’re heading to Venice by train, then this is the most scenic route to take and it’s worth the trip in its own right, too. You’ll pass stunning valleys and gorges as the line winds its way up the High Tauern mountain range of the Central Eastern Alps.

The best views are on the right-hand side of the train when you’re heading in this direction, so try to get a window seat if you can.

oebb.at

Are you even in Austria if your train doesn’t pass a field of cows? Photo by Schnitzel_bank on Flickr.

Zillertal Railway
There’s always something rather romantic about travelling by steam train and the traditional Zillertal locomotive with its wooden carriages is no exception. It putters gently by the side of the Ziller river along the 32-kilometre stretch between the towns of Jenbach and Mayrhofen, giving you ample opportunity to take in the views as you pass picture-perfect villages and gorgeous valleys surrounded by mountains. 

If you’ve got your heart set on the romanticism of steam trains, make sure you check which train you’re getting as the steam-powered engine doesn’t run as frequently as the faster diesel one. If you haven’t pre-booked, get there early to make sure you get a seat as it can get very busy.
zillerbahn.at

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