Exploring the Austrian Alps
If you were to describe a summer vacation, majority would describe hot weather while sat on white sandy beaches and swimming in crystal clear waters. But what if I told you there was something which could better this, something which could provide relaxation, entertainment, warmth and crystal clear waters … the Austrian Alps!
I’ve been to Austria in winter for a few ski seasons and loved the chocolate box towns, the friendly nature and laid back approach. The mountains were just the icing on the cake.
But in spring, everything takes a different turn. The mountains sit formidably in the background amidst lush picturesque meadows! You can’t help but stop and catch your breath. But it’s so much more than just views and quaint villages.
What can you expect to find in Austria?
I could go on forever!
The mountains provide an abundance of entertainment.
Since we have been here we have cycled alongside rivers, walked up mountains, sat by lakes, played in parks (& not just ordinary swings and slides – they have imagination here), screeched our way down downhill mountain biking tracks, sat by pools and just sat and breathed it all in!
Austria is all about the outdoors and enjoying what is in front of you. However, it can prove to be a little expensive, especially when enjoying all the activities on offer.
What is the weather like
Like a true Manxie I like to talk about the weather! Prior to arriving in Austria, the weather forecast was not looking good. Every day had rain forecast. But we didn’t have time on our hands to avoid it, and bit like a holiday, once you are booked you just have to make the most of it.
However, we have hardly had a drop of rain since being here for just less than a week. Things aren’t always as they seem. Even I’ve been surprised at how warm it is here!
We’ve had one grey, rainy full day. The rest of the time we’ve found that the clouds build throughout the day and eventually burst during late afternoon/early evening. Sometimes it’s just a little burst, sometimes it lasts for longer.
But it’s not been a drenching and won’t stop you.
It’s true the weather can be a factor and whilst Austria is an outdoor adventure playground, there are indoor activities to be found. There are castles, museums and caves to explore as well as indoor public pools. But don’t let the weather put you off. Sometimes it’s just as enjoyable to get out there and enjoy a hike in the forest.
While at home in the Isle of Man, we have enjoyed many a day in the plantations where trees provide ample cover.
For the most though, we have enjoyed very warm weather during the day and cool weather in the evenings – which makes sleeping in a motorhome comfortable!
What to do on a budget in Austria
- Use your legs – get out and walk the many trails around Austria. Each substantial town has a tourist information centre. However, so far we have used Google maps to get an idea of trails but not yet bought or used a trail map for an area as everything is so well marked (including estimated times).
- Two wheels – cycling is the best way by far to explore the valley areas. There are very good cycle links around the Salzburger area. If you don’t have the means to bring your own bike, then I suggest you hire a bike. Nowadays there are electric bikes on offer to help take you even further! If you are a little more adventerous then you go in search of the bike parks, the one we visited was Leogang bike park. You ideally need a suspension bike to enjoy the trails (as Ethan learned).
- Cooling off – if you don’t have a pool facility at your hotel/campsite, there are plenty of public swimming pools. Most have slides, different size pools and crystal clear water. In addition, there is usually grass areas to play games or a small park attached.
- Local transport – accessibility, especially in the Salzburg area, is easy with regular buses and train links to key areas. There’s no need to book in advance.
- Parks – there is so much green space and with that comes lots of parks and play areas. Again, google maps has been invaluable in providing information on where to go and what to do. Sometimes, you stumble on a park when you least expect it. For example, we have found 2 of the best parks at the mid stations of Fieberbrunn (Timoks Alm) and Leogang (Water Sensory Park). Both provided entertainment for a number of hours! Granted you needed to pay the cable car ride up (unless you planned to walk), but as the parks are free it could be worth it.
Now comes the interesting part…
Austrian Savings cards
We had read, before we arrived, something about a Joker card you receive for free when staying at local hinterglemm/Salbaach area. This card provides you with either free or discounted access to many attractions within the Salzburger Land. This particular card runs from 10th May, to 28th October but is only valid for the period of your stay. This includes unlimited access to cable cars, swimming pools, playgrounds, buses etc…
For us though, we were staying at Aires and generally moving around so didn’t have the opportunity to make use of this. Plus, for places such as Leogang the offer is only valid for 1 run per day so you need to assess how this would work for you.
There are other alternatives (which we have only found out since arriving) is a Salzburg card. They are valid from 24 hrs and cost EUR28 for adults and EUR 14 for children (age 6-15).
Alternatively, if you are staying within the area for a long period there is a 6 day card for EUR 66 for adults and EUR 33 for children. With this card comes a book (It’s not a small book!) with around 188 different attractions that you can access for FREE!
Obviously, you need to do the maths but if you plan to be active then this would pay for itself. Even on a budget we found that using cable cars with the kids was a blessing some days! Go to www.salzburgerland.com for more information and ideas on what to do.
When to go
We have arrived in May, and for the most part there is a lot to keep you entertained. However, the season doesn’t really start until June, July & August. Therefore, if you plan to arrived before peak season check what is open and what is closed. There are several cable cars to take you up the mountain, which is a great help for little ones or tired legs! However, only a few are open at this time of year.
As I mentioned above the weather is a little mixed at the moment but very warm and more than manageable with the infrequent showers we have experienced so far. But don’t be under any illusions, it does get we so be prepared for rain and adapt.
Austria is definitely a place I will come back to. It’s super family friendly with easy access and plenty to do for children of all ages!
So far we have only made it as far as Salzburgerland region and will definitely come back for more! There’s just so much to see and do. It’s been like a reset button for me – I love it!