Arrive at the airport for your flight to Munich. We transfer by coach to the historic centre of Salzburg, staying three nights, with breakfast and dinner, at the four-star Hotel Stadtkrug. Situated below the Kaupziner monastery, it served as an inn during medieval times. Mozart lived just a few minutes’ walk away, and the enthusiastic owner is certain the composer would have been a patron. The roof terrace is a wonderful place for a drink as you absorb Salzburg’s glorious skyline.
Characterised by its resplendent horse-drawn carriages, Salzburg is a sophisticated jewel surrounded by a magnificent alpine backdrop. After breakfast, our guide leads us through its maze of cobbled streets, pointing out the hidden gems. Above everything stands one of Europe’s largest stone fortresses, the Hohensalzburg, dating back to the 11th century. You’re free to enjoy the afternoon as you wish. The old town boasts architecture dating from the medieval period to the 18th century. A must for horticultural fans is the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, while those with a passion for Mozart may wish to visit the home where he was born, at 9 Getreidegasse. More claims to fame are made for the locations that became famous after featuring in the Oscar-winning film, The Sound of Music. Or perhaps you’ll prefer a stroll along the banks of River Salzach, maybe pausing at a café.
After breakfast we take a scenic drive towards St Wolfgang, with mountains and forest stretching in all directions. With its maze of 15th-century buildings, St Wolfgang can lay claim to being among the prettiest villages in Europe. We offer a choice of walks exploring the area. Easy walk Duration: 2.5 hours (3.9 miles) Altitude gain: 530 feet Terrain: wooden promenade and graded tracks Our easy walk begins in Strobl, a charming resort located on the eastern shore of Wolfgang Lake. The village’s Baroque church stands out among its elegant black-and-white buildings. As we follow the promenade that hugs the looking-glass lake around the forested mountain of Bürglstein, the view that unfolds before us will take your breath away. The path gently curves uphill before leading us to St Wolfgang. Moderate walk Duration:3.5 hours (5.2 miles) Altitude gain: 910 feet Terrain: graded tracks and pavement Our moderate walk begins on the western shore of Wolfgang Lake in St Gilgen, a beautiful monochrome affair with stunning views. We follow the lakefront promenade and ascend through the woods to Falkenstein Church. Built into the face of the mountain, Falkenstein is a veritable sanctuary with a healing spring, caves, rocks and carved crosses. Our descent to the lake is steep at times, but the views are marvellous. Once we reach the lake, it’s an easy stroll along the shore to St Wolfgang. After our walk, the rest of the day is free in St Wolfgang. The Gothic church has for centuries been an important pilgrimage site, so why not go inside to admire the altar’s visual riches? You may wish to take the steam-hauled rack railway up Schafberg mountain. With a summit reaching almost 6,000 feet, it offers spellbinding views across the entire Salzkammergut.
Leaving Salzburg, we take a short drive to enjoy the 17th-century majesty of Hellbrunn Palace. A favoured destination for emperors, it features rooms decorated in a variety of themes, such as a Chinese Room with hand-painted wallpaper; others were specially designed to create the ideal acoustics for performing musicians. A local guide takes us on a tour of their famous ‘trick fountains’, which stop and start to catch visitors unaware. We then ascend into the High Alps, where we stay four nights, with breakfast and dinner, at the excellent four-star Hotel Das Alpenhaus. Located in the small village of Kaprun, at the heart of the spectacular Zell am See region, this modern hotel nestles at the foot of the Kitzsteinhorn and the dramatic Grossglockner mountain – Austria’s highest at 12,461 feet.
After breakfast, we follow a winding road through woodland and pastures into an ever-narrowing valley, revealing the Krimml Waterfalls. This amazing three-tiered series of waterfalls tumbles almost 1,300 feet, fed by glacial meltwater. A national park ranger will guide you on today’s walk. Easy walk Duration: 2 hours (3 miles) Altitude gain: 874 feet Terrain: well-maintained footpaths On our easy route, we walk alongside mighty Krimml to the intermediate observation point for stunning views of the waterfalls. The trail is very well-maintained but steep in places, with plenty of viewing points along the way, which are ideal for a brief rest. Moderate walk Duration: 3 hours (4.1 miles) Altitude gain: 1457 feet Terrain: well-maintained footpaths For those keen on reaching the summit, we continue our steep ascent along the serpentine trail all the way to the top. It’s a fairly challenging but very satisfying walk, as experiencing the magnificent views from the top is certainly one of life’s unforgettable moments. The national park ranger will be on hand to offer their own unique perspective on the flora, fauna and geology of the area.
Today is free for you to spend as you please. Perhaps a ride on the cable car up the Kitzsteinhorn, a 10,500-foot peak in the High Tauern range. You may prefer to stroll around the village of Kaprun, catch up on some reading or visit nearby Lake Zell. Nestling on the lakeshore, the town of Zell am See has a delightful centre and waterfront promenade. You could opt for a cruise on a steamer to view the local birdlife and see the villages on the far side of the lake.
Today we pass along one of Europe’s oldest alpine routes as another chapter in our journey unfolds: the Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria. Bronze Age artefacts and Roman statues found here prove traders have passed this way for at least 3,000 years. The route evolved into a 17th-century trail before the present Grossglockner High Alpine Road opened less than a century ago. The road offers vistas of glaciers, rugged valleys and mountains – each a natural masterpiece. You have a choice of an easy walk or a more challenging one today. Whichever you choose, you’ll be surrounded by some of Austria’s highest peaks, which are snow-capped all year round. Easy walk Duration: 2.5 hours (3.5 miles) Altitude gain: 783 feet Terrain: well-maintained trail Our easy walk begins at the ‘Emperor’s Viewpoint’, which affords spectacular views of the Grossglockner and the Pasterze glacier below. We follow the Gamsgrubenweg, a well-maintained trail that runs high above the glacier and takes us through a series of tunnels. Installations using light, sound and space tell the fascinating story of the glacier’s origins. At the end, we reach the conservation area of Wasserfallwinkel. Moderate walk Duration: 3 hours (3.7 miles) Altitude gain: 1399 feet Terrain: well-maintained, uneven and sometimes steep alpine trails For the more energetic, we follow part of the Alpe-Adria-Trail which winds through some of the most beautiful alpine landscapes. We enjoy views of the green valley, surrounded by snowy peaks, before descending to the pristine waters of the Margaritze Reservoir. Every step gives us another majestic viewpoint and as we cross the moraine carved over time by glaciers, we’re reminded of the sheer power of nature. We ascend to the snout or very end of the Pasterze, Austria’s longest glacier. After time to soak up the scenery, we walk up to the ‘Emperor’s Viewpoint’ for more dramatic vistas.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.