The Pearl of Austria - Lake Hallstatt
From the first time I saw an image of Lake Hallstatt I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I could feel the almost eerie calm of the deep dark water and when I closed my eyes I could envision myself there floating in the middle of the lake on a boat in the windless quiet. A place where fairy tales are born... a prince riding along the river’s edge in search of his lost princess. At least that is what my mind conjured up as I dreamed about this place. There is something magical in the images of Lake Hallstatt that captured my soul and this is how it got on our list of places to visit in Europe.
Hallstatt was the site of an early Iron Age culture from 800 to 400 BC, which is known as the Hallstatt Era. Hallstatt is considered to be the oldest still-inhabited village in Europe. In addition to its ancient history, Hallstatt is wedged between sheer mountains and Hallstatter See and is self labeled as the “Pearl of Austria”.
The village of Hallstatt itself is very touristy with shops and restaurants that attract tour buses each day during the season. Obertraun, the village across the lake is less touristy and a weekend destination for those living in cities like Munich or Vienna. It’s homes adorned with flowers in the window boxes and neatly stacked piles of wood ready to burn sitting next to most of the village homes. A small number of local restaurants with hearty Austrian food and your favorite mass of beer. There are only a few ways in by road and there is also train service from Vienna or Salzburg. The train station is on the eastern side of the lake which requires train arriving passengers to take a ferry across to the village of Hallstatt.
There are numerous things to do in the area. We rented a cabin in Obertraun for our stay which was both modern and rustic with all of the amenities that we needed and views of the mountains that we will never forget.
Lake Hallstatt village
It looks like a 'living postcard', pretty from just
about every possible angle. This was the farthest north spot we walked to in the
village, and we noticed this "lookout point" where we could look back along
the lakeside at the village.
You have probably seen this view if you have ever seen any Lake Hallstatt images, which was another reason we felt we had to get this picture! This is almost at the northern end of the village, and off in the distance the shore line you can see is where we parked.
Cabin Exterior View
Really nice sized, quiet and comfortable. We made really good use of that
great patio area! Cold beers and an awesome view of the mountains.
There were several other cabins near ours, and a farm was on the northern side of the cabin. Yet we never saw anybody, nor heard any noise.
Cabin Interior View
It had everything we needed to make our stay comfortable; small kitchen
but fully equipped, small washing machine, dishwasher and even a small TV.
The best thing of all about this cabin, was that it had a good air conditioner and since it was very hot each day, it felt great to be able to come home and enjoy a bit of cool air!
Our Rental Cabin View
This is the view from the cabin we rented in Obertraun. Five Fingers is the mountain to the right, and the Dachstein Krippenstein cable car is in the center of this image.
Obertraun Bicycle Trail
Click here for trail information. It was hot that morning, and because there were so many steep hills, we stopped for a drink of water. The bicycle route going north from Obertraun is a really nice trail, with it's own bridges. This trail is also known as "Eastern Shore Cycle Path" and is just one section of the Salzkammergut Cycle Way which passes through this "Land with 76 Lakes", and covers a total of 184 kilometers.
Hot Day to Ride
Most of the bicycle trail went through heavily forested areas like this, occasionally the
trail would parallel the lake and we frequently had great views of the lake and the village.
As we proceeded north, we crossed bridges and cross trails and the occasional steep set of hills which were challenging on such a hot day. We had originally intended to ride to the next village, but we used so much water that we had to change our plans and return earlier than planned.
You can see in this picture how sweaty I am? The bikes we rented were not great road bikes, so pedal effort was high and when you combine high temperatures with high pedal effort, you get sweaty results!
Village Marktplatz Area
Very few side streets in the village, this is the Marktplatz with a pretty fountain and shops. We were there early in the day, and most shops were not yet open. By the time we departed the village, everything was in full swing driven by the number of tourists that had arrived.
Dachstein Giant Ice Cave Entrance
Our visit to the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave required a drive from Obertraun to their
parking lot, where we jumped onboard the cable car. This brings you to the mid-point
station where you get off the cable car and follow the sign up the mountain side
to the ice cave entrance.
The proper Austrian name for the ice cave is "Dachstein Riesen-Eishöhle" and the cable car is "Dachstein Krippensteinbahn 1". The "one" designates the cable car from the parking lot to the ice caves and of course "2" designates the cable car from the ice cave area to the top of Five Fingers.
Into the Ice Cave
Click here to read more about the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave. See how everyone is dressed? It is seriously cold inside, yet outside it is hot & muggy, so the cold felt very good. When I said "seriously cold inside" I meant every word, everything inside is frozen solid ice and the temperature descends quickly the farther you go into the cave.
The Pre-Tour Lecture
This is our Dachstein Ice Cave tour group, marching along the trail listening to our
tour guide describe what we are seeing. This was early in the tour, the really icy part
of the cave is further ahead of us.
We had not yet begun to realize how cold the cave was going to get, but we soon found out!
This picture demonstrates how cold it is inside the cave, everywhere you look is solid ice and the temperature was near 30 degrees farenheit.
As our tour group descended deeper & deeper into the ice cave, it felt like we had somehow gone to the North Pole - ice covered every square inch!
The End of our Ice Cave Tour
I'm not sure whether we are all admiring the beautiful view of the lake, or perhaps we are all just thawing out after being inside the ice cave? In either event, the view was stunning and everybody stopped for a few minutes to remove their heavier clothing because it was much warmer outside!
Five Fingers Cable Car
The mid-point station is where the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave is located, this is the final cable car up to the top. Not everyone went to the top as some families were only interested in the ice cave. We felt we had to partake of the entire experience, as we might never get back here!
The Valley below Five Fingers
Once you reach the top of Five Fingers and exit the cable car, the observation platform is approximately a 1.5 kilometer walk. Along the way, the views of the lake and the valley below are amazing. As you can see in this picture, the cable car continues onward (Dachstein Krippensteinbahn 3) to a ski area named Gjaid Alm.
Quickest way across the Lake
There were docks in a number of areas in the village, and these people had just departed
the dock area we were about to arrive at. Not sure if they were a private party in a boat, or
whether this boat was taking people across the lake to Obertraun Beach.
The Railroad station is on the eastern side of the lake as well, so this boat could have been either going to pickup train passengers, or taking passengers to the train station.
Gasthof Hollwirt in Obertraun, Austria
This is a
family owned & operated restaurant, with outdoor seating and with a menu that is
incredible. Their beer selection was quite good, included Weiss Bier, and the
service we received was top-notch. We had some of our favourite German dishes
there, and wound up eating several dinners as the food was excellent!
This is their outside seating area, which on a nice day was an excellent place to enjoy a cold beer! In fact on nice days at meal times, it is going to get crowded because this is a popular place to eat & drink.
If you are ever in this part of Austria, do yourself a favor and try to have a meal here and you will be glad you did.
For more "meal details" click here to read my TripAdvisor review of this restaurant.
Seecafé Obertraun am Hallstätter See
This restaurant is located on
the Obertraun Beach with a stunning view of the Lake and Hallstatt village on the
western side of the lake. We spent some time on the Obertraun Beach, for example,
after our bike ride we came back to the beach to soak away our tired leg muscles
(the Lake is incredibly cold for a Floridian!). At approximately 40 degrees farenheit the
lake water was quite a bit better than caffeine!
You cannot see it in this picture, but the bicycle trail we followed to get to the Obertraun Bicycle Trail is behind the Seecafé.
Warning: Due to its proximity to Obertraun Beach & because there are very few places to eat or get a snack nearby, this restaurant can get seriously crowded when the weather is nice!
Our Cabin Rental Neighbor
Our neighbors next our rental cabin have made keen preparations for winter and it is no doubt a safe bet that they are ready for the cold! This kind of "winter preparedness" was to be seen throughout the area, as the permanent residents made sure they had a good supply of firewood for the next winter.
In image #1 we had walked through the village as far north as allowed, and had stopped at one of the lake over-looks to admire the view.
Image #2 was taken during our bicycle ride on the Obertraun trail going north along the lake. Since the bicycle trail was parallel to the lake for a few miles, the views of the Lake Hallstatt village were constant!
Lake view from Obertraun Beach
This is another view of Lake Hallstatt from Obertraun Beach, where the Village of Hallstatt
is just to the left in this picture. The lake was very chilly as it is fed from mountain
runoff water via the Traun River - but as you can see - it was very tranquil.
Water temperatures typically do not exceed 73 degrees farenheit, so a swim in that kind of environment is better than a cup of coffee!
As you can see on this page, we saw a lot of the area and had a huge amount of fun exploring, however, we did not manage to see or do everything that can be found in Lake Hallstatt. Below are some good links for you, however a Google Search would give you the ability to access even more information.
2017 Europe Trip Overview & Guide
This was easily the most ambitiious trip we had ever taken; Seven
countries, 5,400 kilometers and we had a great time in each location.
Click here to read more about this trip.
Copenhagen, Denmark: Copenhagen had not been a part of our original trip plans, because we
were able to obtain such a good flight deal from United Airlines, we decided
to spend a few days there to explore the city.
Click here to read more about Copenhagen.
Oslo, Norway: Although we did not have much time in Oslo, we managed to complete a whirl-wind
exploration of the city and even the surrounding area.
Click here to read more about Oslo.
Norway in a Nutshell Tour: This is easily the most scenic train ride we have ever taken; Oslo to Flam via
train, Fjord Ferry to Gudvangen, Tour Bus to Voss and a final train ride into
Click here to read more about the Norway in a Nutshell Tour.
Bergen, Norway: Many people think of Norway as "the frozen north", with year-round snow and dismal cold. In
fact, Bergen’s temperate climate is very mild.
Click here to read more about Bergen.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: The city of Amsterdam had been on our "bucket list" for a long time, we have
flown through there, but never spent any time there,
Click here to read more about Amsterdam.
Bruges, Belgium: As neither of us had ever been to Belgium, we had no idea of what to expect, but
we were nicely surprised at what an enjoyable city Bruges was.
Click here to read more about Bruges.
Lake Hallstatt, Austria: After an exciting drive from Vienna on the autobahn and then through the
Salzkammergut Mountains on back roads that we thought might
really be logging trails, we reached Obertraun tired, hungry and ready to explore!
Click here to read more about Lake Hallstatt.
Grindelwald, Switzerland: Grindelwald is 660 kilometers from Lake Hallstatt, and the route we drove took
us through some very scenic mountains; alpine meadows, steep uphills, tight
corners and steep downhills.
Click here to read more about Grindelwald.
Lake Como, Italy: Our last visit to Italy had been in 2007, and as we researched destinations for this
trip, we realized that we wanted to re-visit Italy in the Lake Como region.
Click here to read more about Lake Como.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.
Note: All images on this page are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.