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Photograph: TUI Lakes & Mountains | Zell am See, Austria
Photograph: TUI Lakes & Mountains | Zell am See, Austria

Six must-see destinations in Austria

Sparkling alpine lakes, bucket-list mountain views and super-cute villages: it’s high time you explored the gorgeous lakes and mountains of Austria in the warmer months

Written by Time Out. Paid for by TUI Lakes & Mountains
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When you think of Austria, there’s a good chance that your mind turns to The Sound of Music, historic castles, and snow-covered peaks. But Austria isn’t just an amazing holiday destination for one season per year. In fact, once all the white stuff has melted away, those same hills are alive with all the things you could possibly want from a dreamy summer holiday. Whether you’re on the hunt for the perfect getaway with friends or a relaxing romantic trip with a healthy dose of adventure, there’s something for everyone in Austria.

And if you want to take things to the next level? Booking with TUI Lakes & Mountains lets you leave the ordinary behind with its range of hand-picked hotels and awesome excursions; we’re talking everything from tasty tours sampling local delicacies to jaw-dropping mountain day trips.

Here are the six spots that should be on any adventurer’s bucket list.

For a landlocked country, you might not think it’s possible to get your beach fix in Austria. Well, you’d be wrong, as the gorgeous lakeside locations of Seespitz, Thumersbach and the Zell am See lido – all surrounding Lake Zell – prove. Sure, there’s no sand, but that in itself has its own upside as you’re not going to be finding little grains of the stuff in your bags long after returning home. Once you’ve soaked in some amazing lakeside views, it’s time to take the Schmittenhöhebahn cable car up to Elizabeth Chapel at its peak before returning back to town to try some traditional Austrian fare at Restaurant Steinerwirt. If you’re there between May and September, make sure you pick up tasty treats from the local market. Want to venture further afield? There’s a handy train station in Zell am See.

Where to stay: Hotel Stadt Wien.

The Tyrol valley town of Mayrhofen has plenty on offer, whether you want to head into the neighbouring mountains or just stick to strolls along the river Ziller that runs through its centre. If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, the dazzling Krimml Waterfalls should be at the top of your to-do list; at 380m, they’re the tallest in the whole of Austria, and the wall of spray they create is said to even have healing powers. For the full experience, set off up the 4km trail that winds its way from the waterfalls’ base to their top and drink in the amazing views from their summit. All that walking will leave you with an appetite, so be sure to stop by the Erlebnissennerei dairy to watch the cheesemakers in action and sample some of their super fresh produce.

Tired out from just reading about all that activity? Treat yourself to a day of hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas at the Hotel Sport & Spa Strass, handily bookable through TUI Lakes & Mountains. 

Where to stay: Hotel Sport & Spa Strass.

Another lakeside location, the spa town of Millstatt is famous for its cobbled streets, medieval church, and colourful frescoes that date back to the fifteenth century. If you’re more into your watersports than world-renowned wall art, then Strandbad Ertl on Lake Millstatt has everything from e-boats to stand-up paddleboards for hire. Come the evening, head to Marchetti’s Lake Bar where you can watch the sun go down while enjoying a nightcap.

No trip to Millstatt is complete without a visit to the Millstatt Bathhouse and its numerous pools and treatments (organised by TUI Lakes & Mountains) – it is a spa town, after all.

Where to stay: Hotel Forelle

Flanked by the dramatic backdrop of the Hohe Salve and Wilder Kaiser mountains, a stay in the Tyrolean village of Söll will rejuvenate your soul. Start your holiday by dipping into the picturesque man-made lake Ahornsee Söll.   

To truly immerse yourself though, you’ll want to head up into the mountains with the Hiker’s Experience Pass – a cable car ticket that opens up 700km of signed hiking trails and views of 70 mountains that reach over 3,000m elevation; local highlights include the Moorsee lake or the chocolate box village of Scheffau.

Want a stress-free way of experiencing some of Austria’s lesser-known highlights? Book yourself onto TUI Lakes & Mountains’ epic guided tour, called ‘Hidden treasures of the Austrian Tyrol’, and sample historical sights like the town of Kufstein and paddle in Thiersee – one of the country’s best bathing lakes. Alternatively, select the ‘Grossglockner scenic tour’ which leaves from Söll and lets you admire the summit of Austria’s highest mountain from the sun terrace. 

Where to stay: Hotel Mödlinger

During summer, this alpine resort town is as perfect for a family-friendly holiday as it is in winter. A short journey west will take you to Baumzipfelweg and its network of treetop walks, but if you prefer to keep your feet on terra firma, you can learn all about local history and culture at Saalbach’s Homestead Museum. Make sure you look out for Eric Ruprachter’s wooden sculptures. Save some money during your visit by investing in a Joker Card, which grants you free entry to a number of local attractions and unlimited cable car trips – ideal if little legs get too tired when walking in the mountains. 

If you've got a soft spot for The Sound of Music, then you can't stay so close to Salzburg (which is just under two hours' drive away) without booking the Original Sound of Music Tour with TUI Lakes & Mountains. You'll explore the film's iconic locations on a guided bus tour, including the gardens where 'Do-Re-Mi' was filmed and the famous church at Mondsee where the wedding took place.

Where to stay: Hotel Saalbacher Hof

Kitzbühel might be one of the world’s most exclusive ski resorts, but once the snow has melted away for the season, the medieval town centre’s wealth of amenities makes it the perfect place to base yourself for exploring. In terms of outdoor activities, the Panorama Loop Trail and Hahnenkamm ridge walk are both accessible from Kitzbühel’s centre, while bathing opportunities in the sparkling Schwarzee lake are only a short bus ride away. For the full Austrian experience, grab a table at Huberbraü Stüberl and sample Tyrolean specialities that can be washed down with some home-brewed beer.

To make the most of your stay, bag yourself a Kitzbühel Alpen Summer Card. Granting access to 36 summer lifts across the area and discounts on a number of attractions, it’s the most affordable way to truly experience this corner of Tyrol.

Where to stay: Hotel Tiefenbrunner 1810

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