If you aren’t already ensconced in a deep love affair with the lakes of Austria, these stunningly beautiful pictures might just tip you over the edge. In this landlocked country, mountainous peaks and forested hillsides truly dominate the landscape. It’s only when you take a bird’s eye view that the sheer number of lakes in Austria becomes evident, dotted amongst the mountain peaks like tiny sparkling gems. Formed over millions of years in the depressions left behind by shifting glacial formations, these charming bodies of water provide a welcome relief to hikers in the hot summer months. From shades of crystal clear turquoise, to enchanting emeralds and cerulean green, make the trip and you’ll encounter hues of aquamarine you never knew existed. Here are some of our favourite lakeside escapes in Austria.
Figure 1: Collage of photos of Austria’s prettiest lakes. Snow capped peaks with dramatic edges mirrored in crystal blue water. Credits: Pixabay/12019/Julius_silver
Figure 2: Take a seat and gaze at Lake Traunsee, surrounded by lush forests and steep mountains. Credit: Tuku/Pixabay
You’ll find Traunsee in the Salzkammergut region of Austria, reaching 191 metres at the maximum depth of the lake. In the nearby village of Traunkirchen, you can hike to the top of Johannesberg (Mount St John), where there is a chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist overlooking the lake, first mentioned in documents from the 14th century.
Figure 3: Map showing the location of Traunsee, near Salzburg. Image credit, Google Maps
Figure 4: The stillness and tranquillity of Lake Plansee. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Many of Austria’s lakes are so clean that you could theoretically drink their waters. Lake Plansee is no exception. Nestled between the ridges of the Zwiesel and Spieβberg mountains, it’s a perfect destination for swimming and relaxing. In the mood for something a little more adventurous? Try out scuba diving at one of the highly reputable dive shops and see how many of the lake’s extremely diverse range of fish you can spot. If you want to admire the lake from all angles and snap some incredible pictures, take the 4.2 mile hiking path from Plansee round to the upper lake - Heiterwanger See.
Figure 5: Map showing the location of Lake Plansee, near the Zugspitze mountain and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Credit: Google Maps
Lake Achensee in Tyrol
Figure 6: Lake Achensee in Tyrol with its extremely clear, turquoise green water. Credit: Pixabay/Lohrelei
Nicknamed the fjord of the Alps due to the steep mountain faces, which seem to shoot directly upwards out of the lake, this is a lakeside destination which embodies sheer Austrian scenic perfection. A popular place for sailing, windsurfing, boating and swimming, the lake is surrounded by hiking trails. You may even spot ibex, marmots, or chamois mountain goats. A popular hike is from Pertisau to the Gaisalm restaurant. It’s 4km each way and you can reward your efforts with coffee and cake.
Figure 7: Map showing the location of Lake Achensee in Tyrol, near the Brandenburg Alps. Credit: Google Maps
Figure 8: Lake Salfein. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Reflected in Lake Salfein, the Kalkkögel mountains with their jagged peaks provide for some incredible mirror image shots. There’s a popular hike to view this lake which starts in Grinzens. Walk the dirt trail from the car park next to the Sendersbach stream (there’s a small charge to use to the dirt road to the car park). Hike 4km up, taking in the ever-changing views.
Figure 9: Map showing the location of Lake Salfein. Credit: Google Maps
Figure 10: Bathers splashing about in the waters of Lake Weissensee in summer. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This lake is not only enchantingly beautiful in summer, but in winter it offers some pretty incredible opportunities for winter sports. Come the colder months, it magically transforms into Europe’s largest natural ice rink. There’s also a huge range of winter trails for snow-shoeing. Perhaps the most unique winter sport on offer is ice diving, where brave scuba divers venture underneath the ice to discover an eerily quiet, freezing underwater world. You may even see ice skaters traversing the frozen lake above as you dive under the ice.
Figure 11: Diver under the ice at Lake Weissensee. Credit: Facebook/Tauchbasis Yachtdiver Weissensee
If ice diving sounds a bit chilly, visit in the summer to enjoy sports like water-skiing and try out some of the 200km worth of marked hiking trails in the vicinity of the lake. These range from level walks to steep, rocky summit ascents.
Figure 12: Map showing the location of Lake Weissensee, to the west of Klagenfurt. Credit: Google Maps
Figure 13: Erlaufsee, surrounded by forest. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
On the border between the regions of Stryia and Lower Austria, this dreamy mountain lake lies at 827 metres altitude. You’ll find sandy beaches and sunbathing lawns in the summer, along with boat trips and water sports. For a great hike, start from the idyllic location of Ötscherdorf Lackenhof and follow the marked hiking trail over the Riffelsattel. There’s a hut where you can have a picnic or pause to rest. The path finally emerges by the Seewirt Inn on the shores of Lake Erlaufsee.
Figure 14: Map showing the location of Erlaufsee. Credit: Google Maps
Figure 15: Charming town of Hallstatt with traditional wooden houses overlooking the lake. Credit: ArvidO/Pixabay
The quaint little town of Hallstatt peeks out across Lake Hallstatt. A UNESCO world heritage site near Salzburg, it’s popular with international tourists. Activities here include boating on the lake, swimming and diving. Visit the world’s oldest salt mine nearby, which can trace its beginnings back a staggering 7,000 years. At the mine you can travel by funicular to a 360-metre-high viewing platform above Lake Hallstatt.
Figure 16: Map showing the location of Hallstatt Lake. Credit: Google Maps