Accessible Adventures: What to do with a spare day near Salzburg, Austria

It isn’t always possible to spend weeks on end exploring an area; sometimes you only have a day or two. It might be that you’re passing through on the way to somewhere else or in town for something special. There are so many opportunities to make the most of what is in an area, but sometimes if you’re only there for a short amount of time, you wouldn’t even know half of what is there just waiting to be explored. Achievable, accessible adventure is about creating opportunities where possible.  

In this series, we’ve put together our ultimate, quick and easy to follow must do’s in some of the world’s most incredible locations. 

Endless views in the Hochkönig region

Endless views in the Hochkönig region

Salzburg is close to the border with Germany. The city has a beautifully preserved historical center and was actually the birthplace of Mozart. It is also the gateway to the Austrian and German Alps, being well under two hours by car to many of the world’s most incredible mountaineering, hiking and adventure pursuits with unrivalled skiing and winter sports to boot in the colder months of the year. If you find yourself in Salzburg, an easy and quick journey by car can transport you into another world of amazing and challenging adventures. 

We have spent a lot of time in Austria and the German Alps and have found ourselves endlessly wanting to return as much as possible, because there are so many amazing hikes and landscapes to be taken in. If you’re a glutton for punishment, there are also plenty of hills and mountains that will give you a run for your money and test your fitness, making you work for the views you get! 

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This guide will provide you with potential options, and please note it isn’t possible to do every single one of these in a day. You’ll most likely just find yourself wondering when you can book a trip to head back for a longer adventure. 

  

Idea One: drive to Hochkönig for a mountain adventure 

Drive time from Salzburg: roughly 1 hour (77km) to Mülhbach am Hochkönig 

The options for skiing in winter in the Hochkönig region are incredible.

The options for skiing in winter in the Hochkönig region are incredible.

Head to the village of Mühlbach where you’ll find it very easy to find the tourism information center. You’ll probably note, we usually provide hiking and trail maps for all of the hikes we suggest, but it simply isn’t needed for this area. We’d advise you to have a base map downloaded for the area just for your peace of mind and navigation. However, a quick visit to the tourism information center and you’ll be leaving armed with detailed maps and information on the area and what hiking options are available to you for all different levels of expereince. We have found the hiking in Austria to be incredibly well signposted; you’ll notice route numbers on white and red striped signs which are all structured in the same way in the region – any maps that are provided from the visitor center will be easy to follow. 

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There is so much to explore and see in this area, some of our favorite hikes start from the Arthurhaus which is up in the Hochkönig mountains. The Arthurhaus is a great base to have something to eat at a traditional cabin and many of the hiking routes in the are start from here. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there are also some fantastic via ferrata routes on these mountains, information of which can be found in the information center in town.

It is also worth noting that this area, due to its altitude, gets a significant snowfall each and every year. The hiking routes can really only be attempted in Summer and Autumn conditions. If visiting off season, it is still worth visiting the information center for some ideas on what is possible, and they will be able to guide you with current weather conditions in the mountains. If you’re visiting in the height of winter and skiing is your thing, there are a wealth of lifts and runs throughout the area. From downhill to cross-country, the options are absolutely endless with incredible views. There are also plenty of snowshoeing routes to be found. 

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Idea Two: drive to Berchtesgaden, take the boat on lake Königssee to St Bartholomew’s church and see the Eiskapelle then take a scenic drive along the Rossfeldpanoramastrasse 

Drive time from Salzburg: roughly 40 minutes (26km) to Berchtesgaden

Berchtesgaden National Park is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in Germany, where it is possible to have some incredible adventures. Housing big mountains, beautiful alpine lakes and hidden ice chapels, it makes for a really wonderful experience. 

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Drive to Schönau am Königssee where you’ll park up and walk down to catch the boat across the lake to the church to begin your hike to the Eiskapelle. Once you’ve bought your ticket, you’ll wait in line – in the summer months, there seems to be quite an endless stream of boats to take you across the water, and in quieter times, there is a boat roughly once every 30 minutes. The boat ride in its own right is a really fun experience, with lots of information on the way, beautiful views and some good German humor in the mix as you make your way across the lake to the church. You’ll want to have your camera in hand as you head over; the mountains surrounding you are truly jaw dropping. The journey itself takes about 35 minutes. 

The beautiful views just before the Eiskapelle.

The beautiful views just before the Eiskapelle.

Once you arrive, you’ll see a whole selection of signs that have different hiking routes marked on them, you want to take the one for the Eiskapelle. The hike to this spectacular glacial cave located at the foot of the Watzmann Mountain is well worth the effort and would say it is rated as easy if you have a moderate level of fitness. This hike is best suited to Summer and Autumn and if you plan to visit at any other time, it is best to ring the tourism info office to find out if there are any risks of avalanche etc. The Eiskapelle is marked on maps, after a while (once you’ve come out of the forest and are a little way up a stony track which is gaining height as you walk) you’ll encounter a sign saying that the trail is no longer maintained. None the less, the trail should be fairly easy to follow, and this will take you right up to the Eiskapelle. Please note, that if you are doing this hike earlier in the year, snow cover may not allow you to see this, or be able to go inside. If you can though, it is well worth it and an amazing experience. Once you’re done, head back to the boat – but be sure to make sure you make the last one which is before 5pm, which is why we’d suggest setting off earlier in the day to make sure you allow yourself enough time to enjoy. With photo stops, leaving yourself 3 hours to enjoy this hike is really going to give you enough time and realistically get back in time. 

One of the many sunsets we’ve taken in from the Rossfeldpanoramastrasse.

One of the many sunsets we’ve taken in from the Rossfeldpanoramastrasse.

If visiting in winter, it is still possible to take the boat, and it is also still possible to do some winter walking in the area but it is best to speak to the tourism office about your visit to work out what would be best for you depending on the current conditions. 

The number of the Tourist Information of Schönau a. Königssee is:  +49-8652-1760

After you’ve arrived back on dry land and headed to your car, the Rossfeldpanoramastrasse is only a short drive away at only 20 or so minutes’ drive (and 20km). Please note that this is a toll road and you’ll need to pay to drive along at the toll booth at either end – this was 8 Euros the last time we were along the road, please ring the tourism information center to find current prices. 

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It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, the views along this road are always spectacular. In winter, you’ll be transported to an incredible snow-covered wonderland and in summer, alpine views stretch for miles and miles from the high vantage points and stop offs along the way. This road makes for a spectacular experience towards sunset and you’ll be stopping often to marvel at the view. It is also possible to take many of the hiking routes from the roadside and parking bays, so if you have time, be sure to explore the area. In winter, it is also possible to travel along the road, and there is some great skiing and cross-country routes to be had here. Please speak to the tourism information center for up to date routes and maps. 

It is so easy to make the most of even a short visit to a place, and we hope that our ideas really work as a starting point for you to realize what is out there and plan some of your own adventures. There is one thing we’re absolutely certain of, you’ll want to return for a much longer adventure when you see just what there is to see and do and experience in this incredible area of Europe. 

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