Exploring Austria

© by Austrian National Tourist Office / Fankhauser

In 2018 Austria received a whopping 28 million tourists. Admittingly, Austria is a major winter destination, but the alpine country’s summer attractions are drawing in the crowds too.

By nature, it seems that Austria is made for travellers. Its mountains, rivers, cultural landscape all insinuate the perfect playground for outdoor activities. Add to that, a long and rich history and you got a fantastic setting for another layer of holiday activities. Austria’s numerous castles, palaces and sacred buildings, of which many are architectural gems, just beg to be visited. No wonder that the country is the 12th most visited travel destination on the planet.

Amazingly diverse

Within its 83,879 km² territory (32,386 sq. mi – slightly larger than Scotland, or a little smaller than the US state Maine) Austria holds a huge array of landscapes. From its highest point, the Grossglockner 3798 m (12.460 ft) to its lowest point at 114 m (374 ft) near Apetlon in Burgenland. Around ¾ of the country is dominated by the Alps, with only about 1/3 is lower than 500 metres (1,640 ft) above sea level. The flattest parts are found in the east, around the Neusiedler See, which lies at the edge of the Pannonian Plains. The north (parts of SalzburgerLand, Upper and Lower Austria) and the south east (Styria and Burgenland) are moderately hilly.

Compact

The size of Austria and that it’s fairly compact makes it easy to explore many parts of the country, without vesting time just to travel from A to B. Whether you are using your own transport or relying on public transport, good infrastructure allows for fast and comfortable movement. Notwithstanding, travel itself is also an important part of the experience. Reward yourself by taking time to get off the Autobahn or highspeed train, and instead use your feet or a bicycle. Because, only then you can really appreciate everything what the country has on offer.

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Sustainable tourism

When a small and mountainous country such as Austria takes on huge numbers of visitors, it will put a strain on the environment. The Austrian’s try hard to offer their visitors all the fun and adventure they ask for, and at the same time preserve their nature and culture. After all, both nature and hospitality comes in a limited supply. The development of ski resorts is putting a strain on the alpine ecosystems. However, it is not only the direct impact of tourism that concerns the Austrians. With its location in central Europe, the country suffers from the massive amount of traffic, mainly trucks, passing through.

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By road

Not only businesses profit from Austria’s excellent road network. It allows tourists to easily visit any part of the country with a minimum of hassle. Despite the Alps dominating almost the entire country, the Austrian’s have managed to thoroughly connect all parts of the country. You can choose to travel the scenic routes by using some of the may mountain passes, or the fast way through the tunnels. During the peak holiday season in August the main motorways are often congested. No problem, you also have the option of traveling overland to Austria comfortably by rail.

By rail

Austria is connected to all its neighbours by railway links. Since all its nearest neighbours are in or affiliated with the EU, the freedom of travel has resulted in close cooperation within the transport sector. Allowing tourists and local commuters to cross borders easily. Furthermore, when Deutsche Bahn (DB) closed down its night-train services a few years ago, the Austrian Federal Railway company Österreichische Bundebahn (ÖBB) took over this market. Hence, you can travel in modern sleeping cars to Austria from Germany, Switzerland and Italy with ÖBB’s Nightjet fleet.

By air

Besides the main airport Schwechat (VIE) in Vienna, there are international airports in Innsbruck, Salzburg, Klagenfurt, Graz and Linz. Austrian Airlines which is owned by German Lufthansa is the main carrier. The airports mentioned above all have good connections to German airports such as Frankfurt, making it easy to fly in from overseas. There are of course domestic flights in Austria, but for tourist there are much more scenic ways to explore the country. For example, believe or not, from the water.

By water

Austria is completely landlocked. Nonetheless, the country still has large ports and lovely promenades by the water. The main shipping traffic is found on the Danube, of which flows 350 km through Austria. Freighters are using the country’s main water way all year. While cruise ships bring tourists to ports in Vienna, Wachau and Linz mainly in summer. In Vorarlberg in the far west of Austria, the country has 28 km shoreline on Lake Constance (Europe’s third largest). From the port of Bregenz regular shipping lines connect Austria with Switzerland and Germany.

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