There are few places in the world which can rival the pristine beauty of Switzerland – Salzkammergut is one of them! Salzkammergut translates to “salt domain” and lies to the east of Salzburg all the way to the Dachstein mountains. The region is also called the Lake District as it is home to over 30 lakes nestled in between scenic hills and mountains. The geography of the region also makes it an ideal place for resorts and skiing during winters. It is also home to the iconic Hallstatt – which I’m sure a lot of you would have seen somewhere on the internet! So let’s get right into our journey!
You would need atleast 3-4 days to properly explore the region and some of the must-visit sites. To make it easier, you will need to pick a good base location. Some people prefer to stay in Salzburg and make day-trips. The upside is the connectivity from Salzburg. The downside is that you will need to make multiple trips up and down and since Salzburg is on one corner, the journeys are usually long. Another option that people choose is to stay at multiple places as you move along. We decided to go for the third option – pick an alternate base location. And we chose St. Gilgen.
As we looked at options for a good place to stay, St. Gilgen caught our eye. It was located about 30km east of Salzburg, was right on the banks of the Wolfgang lake and was also on the bus route from Salzburg to Bad Ischl which could provide us the connection to Hallstatt. Also, the town of St. Wolfang and the Schafberg peak were a boat ride away. We booked our stay at an organic farmhouse overlooking the lake – it was beautiful! Surrounded by meadows, the place looked right out of a story-book.
We had a really nice view from up there – we could see a church and the town down below, other farmhouses, mountains densely covered with trees, the giant lake and snow-capped peaks in the distance. We spent the first evening just admiring the view from there.
The sun set after 9pm – so we had plenty of time!
St. Wolfgang and Schafberg
We had a nice and simple breakfast in the cozy dining area of the farmhouse – different kinds of cheese, ham, bacon, breads, jams and fruits (most of them from the farmhouse itself). The place reminded us of the place we stayed at in the village of Rastovaca in Croatia. We walked down towards the town and the lake – there were many ducks wading about in the water. Mozart had a house here as well!
Our plan for the day was to cross the lake and get to the peak of Schaberg. Right now, the peak was covered in clouds and we couldn’t even see it! We hoped and prayed that the sun would get stronger and clear them out. At the ticket counter near the lake, we bought a combo ticket which would give us access to the ferry and the cog-wheel train. We took the 11am ferry and got down at the Schafbergbahn stop.
We decided to take the 12:50pm train to the top (giving more time to the sun to do his job) and walked along the lake to a place called Reid Falkenstein. It was a beautiful path – perfect for cycling. I hoped we could someday have enough luxury of time that we could just spend a day or two exploring the places around this lake.
We walked back to the train station for the climb up the mountain. It was an amusing sight! The cog-wheel train had its engine at the back (the engine was literally pushing up the rest of the compartments!). It began its steep climb and it got steeper as we went up (it is the steepest in the country).
We spotted the hiker’s trail – that’s what you would take if you decided to hike all the way to the top – it was equally steep and we were glad that we were on the train instead! It took about 35 mins to get to the top. We reserved our seats on the 2:45pm train back before going on to explore the peak.
Crossing our fingers earlier in the day (and delaying our climb to the top till noon) seemed to have done the trick – we got a very clear view from the top. And what a view it was! We could spot our farmhouse in St. Gilgen (it was a tiny speck in the distance). We climbed up further to the tallest point and more lakes came into view – Mondsee, Attersee and Fuchsl.
We could also spot another lake and the snowy peaks of Dachstein in the distance. It was easily one of the best views we had ever seen!
There was a nice little shop tactfully placed right there – we picked up a hot bowl of goulash (soup) and an ice-cream (no prizes for guessing who ordered what) and sat on a bench enjoying the view.
Once we were back to lake-level, we walked to St. Wolfgang town and explored it till the last ferry back at 5pm. We picked up a pulled pork semmel (a kind of burger) at a shop there – one of the best burgers we’ve had!
We’d found a nice place for dinner at St. Gilgen (Wirt am gries) where we had schnitzel, chicken with asparagus and rice and some really good chardonnay wine. It was a beautiful place with outdoor seating – the weather was nice with clear skies the entire day and Schafberg peak glinted in the distance.
This part of the trip deserves a blog of its own. You can read the entire account of how we ended up planning the most perfect and exact itinerary.
You can read our entire itinerary of Austria here.
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