The Ice Caves – the impressive journey up to the Salzburger Land “Eisriesenwelt” is quite an experience in itself, as the caves’ entrance can only be reached by cable car. Located at 1,641m/5,384ft above the valley floor, with views down towards Werfen and its castle, it is possible to drive part of the way there (if you don’t mind the rather steep incline) – or you can take the bus. Departures from opposite Werfen’s train station are frequent. Bus drivers sell a combined ticket which includes bus, cable car and caves entrance.

The bus takes you as far as possible uphill, terminating at the car park at the road’s end. From there it’s an additional walk up to the cable car station, which takes around 10 minutes. The only way to view the caves is on a tour, which lasts about 1 hour, 15 minutes. The tour leads through some spectacular ice formations and snakes through some narrow passageways before emerging into breathtaking galleries with awesome ice formations. It does get pretty cold in there so be sure to pack some warm clothing and a jacket.

Hohenwerfen Fortress – the imposing silhouette of the Hohenwerfen fortress lies perched on a rocky outcrop, a 15-minute walk north from the centre of Werfen. With a long history of fires, destruction and rebuilding, the fortress has metamorphosised considerably over the years since it was first constructed to provide protection from Bavarian invasions in the 11th century.

Guided tours are offered, starting at the impressive inner courtyard to the chapel, where Gothic fresco fragments depicting the Apocalypse are preserved. It then advances through state rooms and a torture chamber before reaching the belfry, which is a fantastic place to take in the incredible views across the Salzach Valley.

There are also daily falconry displays at the fortress.

Saalbach Hinterglemm – Saalbach and the neighbouring village of Hinterglemm are nestled in the glorious countryside of the scenic Glemm valley. This area is well set up for walkers, with over 400km/249mi worth of waymarked paths. The traditional villages offer a wide range of shopping and eateries. There is a special hiker’s bus which connects with local villages and other popular areas across the valley and it even travels as far as Zell am See. Saalbach can make a useful base for day trips to Salzburg and the Grossglockner mountain range.

Gasteinertal Valley – located to the west of St. Johann im Pongau, the Gasteinertal Valley is a veritable paradise for walkers. It was first developed as a centre for tourism early in the nineteenth century, when the hot springs of Badgastein – the valley’s main centre – drew in crowds of wealthy Central Europeans, who were keen to sample the waters’ restorative qualities. Badgastein remains one of Austria’s most fascinating resorts, with a rather grand collection of old-world hotels catering to an eclectic clientele of outdoor enthusiasts and health spa patients. Lower down in the valley, the spa town Bad Hofgastein is a more contemporary option, while neighbouring Dorfgastein has no spa, and seems rather small and rural in comparison. All three towns make a good base for exploring the mountains.

Bad Hofgastein – the attractive village of Bad Hofgastein enjoys a tranquil setting in the Gastein Valley. Originally a market town, the cobbled streets lead you around a number of cosy cafes selling delicious cakes, quaint craft shops and the pretty village church. Take a stroll through the village’s Kurpark, a little oasis next to the wonderful Alpen Therme – the spa centre where therapeutic thermal waters fill the pools. On either side of the village, waymarked paths will lead you through woodland and up into the mountains, where you can enjoy some lovely views of the valley below.

Jump onto the summer lifts to go even higher and marvel at the glaciers and rolling mountain meadows. There is a wide range of walking trails up here to suit all abilities. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including golden eagles, vultures and marmots.

Lake Fuschl – the shingle beaches and secluded bays of idyllic Lake Fuschlsee slope gently towards crystal-clear waters, sheltered by pine-clad hills. Located in the heart of a Nature Reserve, the Lake is a very relaxing stop-off point. Fuschl also boasts several excellent eateries where you can sample some local specialties, and in summer the town plays host to a number of open-air concerts. For those seeking even more culture, the baroque city of Salzburg lies just 25 minutes away.

There are many walks to choose from in and around Fuschl. The best one to start off with is the 11.8km/7.3mi circuit of the lovely lake.

St. Gilgen (Lake Wolfgangsee) – fresco painted buildings, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants characterise this pleasant village. From here you can also take a cable car to the top of the Zwölferhorn mountain (1,522m/4,993ft), to enjoy some of the finest views in the whole of the region.

St Gilgen calls itself “Mozart Village”, as this was the place where Wolfgang Amadeus’ mother was born. However, perhaps surprisingly, the great man himself never visited. Nevertheless, the village is proud of this connection and has a museum dedicated to the musical virtuoso. The village’s love of music is also evident by its own brass band which regularly holds concerts during summer evenings.

City of Salzburg – Salzburg is very picturesquely sheltered by surrounding Alpine peaks and straddles the Salzach River near the border with Germany. The name Mozart is, of course, synonymous with Salzburg. His birthplace is today a virtual museum exhibiting details of his life and music. The Salzburg that everyone knows and loves was largely built in the late 16th and early 17th century, which is what gives the city its special flair and truly genuine ambience.

The vibrant Old Town, on the south bank of the river and oozing with charm, is a Baroque masterpiece of churches, plazas, courtyards, fountains and cobblestone alleys – enough to admit that there are many more reasons to visit the “City of Music” than its famous son…

There is another reason why Salzburg is synonymous with musical achievements. In 1964, the hills of Salzburg were alive with the creation of one of the world’s best-loved movies, The Sound of Music.

As a World Cultural Heritage Site, Salzburg offers visitors a tantalising blend of history, culture and architecture. The city enjoys a wonderful setting on the banks of the river Salzach, surrounded by the glorious alpine scenery of the Austrian Alps. The attractions here are numerous, including the cathedral, monastery, castle, gardens and various museums – all of which are easily accessed on foot.

Zell am See & Kaprun – Zell am See is one of Austria’s prettiest resorts – and deservedly popular with tourists. Enviably located on the shores of Lake Zell, the village is right next to the Hohe Tauern National Park and the Grossglockner mountain range, making it a perfect base for hikers. The historic town centre is blissfully traffic-free and there is a wide choice of shops, restaurants and bars. Outdoors enthusiasts arrive en masse during the summer months as it provides an ideal base for exploring the area and even for day trips across the border into Germany.

Hikers and ramblers of all abilities will be delighted by the opportunities for walking in Zell am See.

Imagine the beauty of waking up to find the morning sun shimmering across an Alpine lake. At Zell am See-Kaprun, the water is a joy to behold. First up, there’s the majestic Lake Zell, and then thousands of metres above, the glacier and year-round snowfields of the Kitzsteinhorn mountain.

The lake’s water is so pure, you can drink it. It’s also surprisingly warm, with temperatures up to a positively Mediterranean 24°C in the summer. However, the best way to appreciate a dip in the lake is to conquer one of the surrounding mountains. At 3,203m/10,509ft, Mt. Kitzsteinhorn near Kaprun reaches lofty heights. The summit can be reached using a series of cable cars or alternatively a mountain funicular railway (Gletscherbahnen Kaprun). There is a viewing platform on the roof of the top station, at 3,035m/9,957ft above sea level. The view from here is something to behold, with a 360° panorama of 30 peaks including Austria’s highest mountain, the mass of ice and rock that is Mt. Grossglockner.

Lake Zell is great for both swimming and waterskiing. If you take a well-deserved dip in the pool to cool off after a hike, you can look up in disbelief to see just how high you climbed! Another day trip worth doing is a visit to the Krimmler Falls, Europe’s highest waterfall. Appearing to burst forth from amid thick forest, the water pummels down a series of giant steps for some 380 metres/1247feet.

If you are a cyclist, biker or motoring enthusiast, then chances are you will know all about the Grossglockner Alpine Road. This legendary route winds through a series of hairpin bends up to an altitude of 2,504m/8,215ft through Austria’s highest mountain massif.

Other “must-sees”? Even if you’re not an avid hiker, the one walk you must do is  the Alexander Enzinger Way. And if it’s history and culture you’re after, then the Imperial-era Sissi Chapel above Zell am See-Kaprun, dedicated to the Hapsburg Empress Elisabeth, will most certainly impress you.

St. Johann im Pongau – this is the main town of the Pongau, an area stretching from Bischofshofen in the north to the mouth of the Gasteinertal in the southwest, and characterised by lush alpine pastures.

St. Johann im Pongau is one of Austria’s most popular areas for activity holidays, all year round. During the winter months, it is an excellent ski resort, drawing crowds from across Europe. When the snow has melted, the slopes make for ideal walking territory.

History & Culture

Salzburg has been the region’s major centre since Roman times, when it was formerly a town named Iuvavum.

In 696 AD, the first Christian kingdom in this part of Austria was established by St. Rupert. With every century which passed, the successive archbishops of Salzburg gradually became more powerful, which resulted in them being granted the rather grand titles “Princes of the Holy Roman Empire”.

It was Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (1578-1612), one of Salzburg’s most influential archbishops, who spearheaded the baroque reconstruction of the city, and was effectively responsible for the many beautiful buildings which are still present today. Following a dispute over salt with the powerful Bavarian rulers, he was imprisoned and died in custody.

Another archbishop, Paris Lodron (1619-1653), helped to keep the city shielded from the Europe-wide destruction caused by the Thirty Years War.

A century later, it was the War of the Austrian Succession and Salzburg remained neutral, but the province’s power was gradually weakening and during the Napoleonic War, Salzburg fell into the hands of France and Bavaria.

In 1816, following Napoleon’s defeat and the provision of adequate compensation to Bavaria at the Congress of Vienna, Salzburg was returned to Austria (aside from ‘Rupertigau’, in the north west, which remained Bavarian). In 1849 the Duchy of Salzburg was established as part of the Austrian Empire and, after 1866, Austria-Hungary.

Once World War I ended, in 1918, the Duchy of Salzburg was dissolved and the state of Salzburg was created. It was initially a part of German Austria, until the Allied powers declared it part of the First Republic of Austria.

Following a referendum in 1938, Salzburg and all Austrian territory was handed over to the German Reich.

Once Germany was defeated in 1945, Allies occupied the land and it became recognised as independent territory, occupied and ruled by the USA.

In 1955 Austria was declared independent of the Allies and Salzburg was named as one of the federal states of the second Republic of Austria (Republik Österreich).

Geography, Flora & Fauna

You’ll be sure to spot the Alpine Ibex, Capra ibex, a species of wild goat that inhabits Alpine mountains across Europe. They are distinguished by their huge, curved horns. Once under threat, the Ibex is now breeding again. As excellent climbers, they tend to settle in the steep, rocky areas above alpine forests at elevations of around 2,000 – 4,600 metres (6,500–15,000 feet).

Also indigenous to the Alps is the marmot, a rodent related to the squirrel. They live in burrows, often within piles of rocks and hibernate during the winter months. Marmots are loud creatures, communicating with one another in a distinctive whistle, particularly when they are alarmed. They feed on vegetation, including grasses, mosses, berries and flowers.

In terms of winged fauna, golden eagles, vultures and an array of colourful butterflies can all be spotted in this region.

The meadows of Salzburger Land become a carpet of brightly coloured flowers between June and September. The species have evolved to cope with the harsh conditions: long roots are robust in strong winds, the bright colours attract insects and encourage pollination and their leaves are designed to protect against frost and dehydration.