In 2014 Austria received a whopping 25 million tourists. Admittingly, Austria is a major winter destination, but the alpine country’s summer attractions are drawing 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.
Within its 83,879 km² (32,386 sq. mi – slightly larger than Scotland, or a little smaller than the US state Maine) territory Austria possess a huge variety of landscapes. From its highest point, the Grossglockner 3798 m to its lowest point at 114 m 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.
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. Taking time to get off the Autobahn or highspeed train, and instead use your feet or a bicycle will reward you. Because, only then you can really appreciate everything that the country has on offer.
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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.
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.
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.
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 enjoy the country. For example, believe or not, from the 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.
The first stop on my winter tour through Austria by train was Zillertal, Tyrol. After a few days in wonderful Vienna I was looking forward to hitting the slopes. Late February the winter had taken a firm hold on the Austrian Alps and there was snow in abundance. Chilly but great fun The skiing conditions […]
Wandering in the Alps is not restricted to narrow and steep trails in the mountains. There are also plenty of great tours for those who simply want a leisurely hike, for those who no longer are too steady on their feet or if you have small children. Moreover, even though the trip mostly follows a […]
The Bucklige Welt region in the south-eastern corner of Lower Austria is characterized by a very hilly landscape. Hence the name, that means something like “world of bumps” in German. This is the eastern most end of the Alps, that extends through Austria. From here, the flat Pannonian plains dominate the landscape far into Hungary. […]
A trip around the Bregenzerwald in Vorarlberg can be far more than just hiking in wonderful nature. You should also enjoy local culinary delights and let the distinctive artistic expressions that you find everywhere in the region, in both architecture and art, be part of your experience. Furthermore, the region has flourished as a go-to […]
These amazing constructions are not only historical and architectural gems but also offer visitors a variety of activities. Whether they are in state, private, clerical or company ownership, the castles, palaces and monasteries are often open to the public. A few castles and palaces are still private homes and therefor completely off limits to the […]
Obsessed with stunning views I love hiking in Austria. Add to that magnificent nature and crisp fresh air – well, then you have the recipe for a brilliant day out in the Austrian Alps. The Speierck (2411 m / 7919 ft) in the holiday region Lungau offers an easy to medium level half-day hike. Cable […]