If you’re on the hunt for an interesting alternative to a well-trodden capital city, Austria’s second city, Salzburg, could be just the place for you.
Recent research from American Express tells us that experiencing the many sights and sounds of a local area makes holiday makers’ trips that bit more memorable. So when in Salzburg, why not venture a short distance outside of the city and discover some of the breath-taking sites and adventure activities that the area has to offer? We’ve put together a list of our favourites to give you a head start!
1. Werfen Ice Caves
First discovered at the end of the nineteenth century, the Werfen Ice Caves are the largest and arguably the most impressive alpine cave system in the world - the caverns extending 40km inside the mountain. Inside the caves are stunning ice sculptures formed from snow melting on the mountain and penetrating the cave walls where the water freezes once again. A trip to the caves lasts about three hours in total, as you can also enjoy the views from stunning hike and cable car up to them.
For a truly unforgettable experience, visit the ice caves in August, when they are transformed into an exclusive concert hall. Musicians of all genres flock from far and wide to play at this unique venue. The magical atmosphere and astonishing acoustics are sure to give you goose-bumps.
Hiking: the Großvenediger Mountain
The Großvenediger Mountain is Austria’s fourth highest mountain at 3,666m above sea level. It offers magnificent climbing and hiking paths, including the ‘Umbalfälle’ path - known as the Water Show Trail. This unique trail travels along the River Isel (one of the last unspoiled glacial streams in the world) as it weaves through the valley, cascading over the rocks and creating impressive waterfalls.
Don’t fancy the walk? The Austrian Alps also has a fantastic selection of paragliding sites, most of which are equipped with convenient cable car access. Try a glide down from Schmittenhohe and enjoy panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and the infamous Pinzgau Ridgeway.
Diving in the Salzkammergut lakes
Forget the Great Barrier Reef – for diving enthusiasts, the crystal clear, freshwater Salzkammergut lakes are guaranteed to take your breath away. Strict environmental regulations have resulted in Austria’s lakes being among the cleanest and purest in Europe which means they are teeming with life; from perch, pike and catfish, to freshwater sponge, crayfish and freshwater medusas. The picturesque lakes also offer divers a unique opportunity to discover WWII artefacts buried deep within the waters amongst the underwater forests.
Five Fingers Viewing Platform
For those who aren’t shy of heights, check out the Five Fingers Viewing Platform, one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the Alps. The Five Fingers Platform sits at the peak of the Dachstein mountain range and offering breath-taking views of the stunning Salzkammergut lakes and Hallstat region. Each finger has its own individual design; one features a trampoline to symbolise the freedom of the mountains, one is equipped with a telescope and another is made entirely out of glass for thrill seekers! The platform juts out over a sheer 400m drop and the fingers are illuminated every night until midnight, making them visible from far and wide.
Hallstatt and Altausee Salt Mine
Take a day trip from Salzburg to the village of Hallstatt, a World Heritage Site with a rich cultural heritage. Here you can visit the world’s oldest salt mine and follow the trail of the ‘Man in Salt’. The trail gets its name from the dark discovery made by three miners back in 1734, when they discovered the prehistoric corpse of a man (believed to have been a victim of an accident in the mine way back in 1000 BC!) perfectly preserved within the salt.
Mining in Hallstatt dates back to 5000 BC and visitors can take a panoramic railway up the mountain to explore the mines, slide from one level of the mine to another and see an impressive sound and light show at the historic salt lake situated in the mines.
Amex Insider Alex Zane is taking a sneak peek behind the scenes of some of Europe’s most popular destinations, uncovering hidden gems and telling you a few things you might not already know. Visit youtube.com/AmericanExpressUK to watch Alex get more insider information from other exciting destinations
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