What To Do Near Hallstatt; Winter in Austria’s Salzkammergut

Check out what's waiting for you in the Winter Wonderland of the Salzkammergut Region, including the famous Hallstatt and so much more!

Maybe you’ve heard of Hallstatt, or seen photos of the picturesque town, but have you heard of the other beautiful places to explore in the Salzkammergut Region?

If you’re looking to travel to a region that seems like it only exists in fairy tales, you’ve stumbled into the right place. This post will go over everything that is waiting for you in Austria’s Salzkammergut Region, where idyllic towns are built on serene lakes tucked into the Austrian alps. 

This post will cover some of the hidden gems in the Salzkammergut including beautiful towns, hikes and lakes, cultural events, and how to navigate through the region. Check out what lies within Austria’s hidden gem of the Salzkammergut; a winter wonderland.

Iconic view of Hallstatt, Austria with a blue sky and clouds overhead
Hallstatt, Austria

Table of Contents

What is the Salzkammergut?

The Salzkammergut is a resort region that spans east of Salzburg mostly in Upper Austria. The area encompasses over 70 lakes, and 58 municipalities, and is home to 14 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage events! The name Salzkammergut translates to ‘salt domain‘, which provides a glimpse of the history that has sparked prosperity in the region for the many cultures that have existed here, nestled among the mountains. 

The Salzkammergut is not an administrative region and has no distinct boundaries, but rather a loosely defined region that encompasses the history of the salt mines and the beautiful landscape that lies within. This region is a perfect destination at any time of year. 

You can dive into the glassy alpine lakes, hike in old-growth forests with panoramic views, and get a taste of authentic Austrian cuisine and culture! Check out this interactive map of the region.

The Salzkammergut starts in Salzburg, check out this One Day Itinerary for Salzburg

Towns of the Salzkammergut


The most well-known place in the Salzkammergut is the picturesque town of Hallstatt. It is nestled in between a lake and the base of a 1,030-meter mountain, where salt deposits have made this town a central mining location for thousands of years. 

Evidence of people living and mining in Hallstatt dates back to 5,000 BC. You can tour the Salzwelten Hallstatt, the world’s oldest salt mine, which was first created 7,000 years ago! If you don’t want to pay the cost to tour the mine, be sure to hike to the top of Salzberg mountain and check out the views from the Hallstatt Skywalkfree in the offseason!

Hallstatt is a part of the Hallstatt-Dachstein UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and since its official title in 1997, tourism has exploded! The town has a population of only 780 residents, but in the peak season experiences up to 30,000 tourists per day

This town is so iconic that there is even a replication in the southeast of China. But be aware, this Austrian location is not a museum, these are people’s homes! Do not fly drones, be destructive, or enter any of the private residences (unfortunately this is overlooked by too many people). 

This town is definitely idyllic, but wow is it touristy. Even during the off-peak times of the year, it was madness! If you’re in the region, it is 100% worth the trip to walk around the town of Hallstatt, but don’t overlook the neighboring towns that carry the same beauty!

Woman standing looking out over a snow covered Halstatt

Photo by Matt Hennessy

Bad Ischl

Bad Ischl is a historic town involving the long-reigning Emporer/King of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1848-1916, Franz Joseph I. He and his political affiliates would escape Vienna’s summer heat in to enjoy the tranquility of Bad Ischl, where they made decisions that would impact the world… such as the start of WWI

There are numerous museums highlighting the history and life of Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth (“Sisi”), and of the salt industry that dominated the region’s economy for centuries.

Bad Ischl was historically a healing town where people around Europe would go to soak in the salty water to recover from their ailments. Today, you can have a similar healing experience at the Eurotherm Spa in Bad Ischl. The adults-only sauna section has numerous different sauna styles including salt-inhalation, wet-saunas, infrared, and a cold plunge. 

The spa is located right in the quaint village, where you’ll hear horse-drawn carriages strolling the streets during the winter season. 

Once you cross over the Traun River, head to Casino Keller – a historic beer cellar with phenomenal authentic Austrian brews. Here you can meet the owner, Bernhard who will walk you through the history that lies beneath the building. 

While in Bad Ischl, you cannot miss a ride up the Katrin Cable Car, where you will see an incredible 360-degree view, tons of hiking trails to explore, and a perfect way to finish the day with a cappuccino and some Kaiserschmarrn at Katrin Berggasthof. 

Bad Goisern

On your way to Hallstatt from Bad Ischl, you’ll pass through a beautiful town called Bad Goisern. This town is often missed since everyone is hustling to get to Hallstatt, but you’ll miss so much beauty if you don’t take a moment to stop! 

This town has a rich history tied with the salt mine of Hallstatt and of traditional craftsmanship.While visiting Bad Goisern, take some time to walk the historical streets and get a feel for what life would have been like over the past few centuries. 

Make sure to stop into the Carina Saponetta Soap shop to meet the wonderful owner and get a taste of the history that fills these cobblestone streets!

The traditional town of Bad Goisern is a great destination in the Salzkammergut
Bad Goisern, Austria

Saint Wolfgang

Saint Wolfgang is a town on the lake of Wolfgansee, where the sun strikes the south-facing town for most of the day (a treat especially in the winter months). This town is a gem to stroll around to see the impressive detailing of the Austrian architecture or see the views from high above the town! 

Here, you can take a 35-minute ride on the SchafbergBahn cog railway to the summit of Schafberg mountain. This is the steepest railway in Austria, but the views are incredible. In the summer, this town turns into a summer-resort mecca with boating, kite-surfing, and fishing. 

Image from Five Treasures


Along the free bus route (discussed below), you can get to the town of Gosau, where winter sports enthusiasts and hikers come together to take in the beauty that surrounds Gosau. 

One of the largest ski resorts in the Salzkammergut, Dachstein West is located in this town, but just past the resort, you will find yourself immersed in the remote natural setting surrounding Lake Gosausee. 

The photo on the left is what you see when you get to the lake, which has a hiking trail that circulates the water that can be done in about an hour. But, if you’re a bit more adventurous, you can take a 9-mile hike back to Hintersee, a lake at the base of Hoher Dachstein – the king of mountains in the region. 

Gousausee lake with a reflection of Hoher Dachstein looming in the background
Hoher Dachstein across Gosausee
Hiking from Gosausee to Hintersee is a perfect destination in the Salzkammergut
Base of Hoher Dachstein

Other Towns in the Salzkammergut

The world is so big, and we just can’t see it all! However, there are over 50 towns within the Salzkammergut, and some of them are definitely worth noting if you can fit it into your plans! 

Ebensee is located on the south end of the Traunsee lake, north of Bad Ischl. Like much of the region, there is an ancient connection to the salt industry, with beautiful hikes on steep mountains and WWII history

Gmunden is located opposite Ebensee on the far side of Traunsee lake. Here you can summit the ‘Guardian of the Salzkammergut’, Traunstein Mountain, or stroll around the town center and explore the castle in the lake! 

Obertraun is located opposite of Hallstatt on Hallstatter See, meaning you get a unique view of the iconic mountain town, best viewed from the ‘5 Fingers‘ observation deck. Obertraun is also home to Upper Austria’s longest on-piste run at Dachstein Krippenstein for the skiers. This resort is less touristy and crowded, and a dream for free-ride enthusiasts! Find it on the map below!

Bad Ausee is located in Styria, just east of Obertraun. It is the cultural and economic center for the Styrian region, where fresh water is connected in every direction. This town has serene botanical gardens and seems relaxed and peaceful if you’re looking for a retreat. 

Skiing in the Salzkammergut

Although there is evidence of people using skis over 4,000 years ago, the downhill alpine ski style that we all know and love was started by Austrian native Mathias Zdarksy in the late 19th century. Mountain skiing originated right here in Austria, and today there are over 700 places to hit the slopes in Austria alone! 

While in the Salzkammergut, the best place to ski is definitely within the Dachstein West Ski Region. This isn’t just any resort, this includes 8 separate locations around the region, and if you get at least a 1.5-day pass, you can get access to ALL of them with the same ticket! 

Dachstein West has over 160 km of on-piste runs, with over 70 lifts and cable cars so you can ski all around this panoramic scenery. Their website has updated weather conditions, webcams, and currently open runs and lifts so you can plan your days of skiing in advance! 

Dachstein West ski region map to highlight the best places in the Salzkammergut
Image from Dachstein West Ski Region Website

Winter Guest Card

While visiting the Salzkammergut, be sure to get a Winter Guest Card to get discounts on many of the attractions around. This card is free with at least a 3-night stay in the region and will be provided by your host, or one can be purchased for only 4.50 EUR from a local Tourist Office. Children under 15 do not need a card to reap these rewards!

The winter card gets users up to 25% off the top attractions there are to do in the Salzkammergut, including numerous museums in the region, a day trip up the Katrin Cable Car, ice skating in Gmunden, Snowshoe rentals, Salzwelten tours, and plenty of family-friendly activities. 

For a full list of discounts included in the Salzkammergut Winter Card, check it out: Here
You can find other informational brochures and up-to-date offerings on the Salzkammergut website

Local Events

The Salzkammergut is a cultural hub of Austria with many events and traditions around to see. It’s no surprise that it has over 14 UNESCO intangible world heritage events and traditions of which you can be a part. 

Check out the Salzkammergut Tourist website to see what’s happening during the time of your stay!

The Salzkammergut is hosting the 2024 European Capital of Culture, with the main location in Bad Ischl. Consider this when planning your trip to this stunning region, and learn about the traditional clothing, music, dance, and cuisine that is cherished by the locals. 

Glockler Event in Ebensee is a cultural event in the Salzkammergut
Glockler Event in Ebensee, Austria
Three hot air balloons lit up at night while tethered to the ground
Gosau Balloon Festival

Transport in the Salzkammergut

For anyone staying in the region for a few days, make sure to grab your Winter Guest Card discussed above! Not only does it have awesome discounts and access to local attractions, but it gets you free transport within the main part of the region. Anytime the cable cars are running, you can hop on bus 542 or 543, show the driver your guest card or photo, and skip the payment! Since this is a Free Ski Bus, it is only in the areas around the Dachstein West Ski region, but that’s where most of the fun is anyways so plan accordingly! There is an extensive rail system within the Salzkammergut, mostly operated by OBB rail company. Tickets can be purchased on their website for a cheaper price than booking at the station.

No matter where you’re looking to explore, the Salzburg Verkehr website will be your best tool to help plan the journey. 

Summary - Hidden Gems in the Austrian Salzkammergut [Beyond Hallstatt]

The Salzkammergut is a lesser-known place in the world. Filled with picturesque alpine lakes, and surrounded by impressive mountains, it’s the quaint and elegant towns that made me fall in love. The region has a long-standing history as a cultural hub in Central Europe, with influence from every direction. 

Whether you’re an extreme sports enthusiast, a family looking for a relaxing vacation, or a solo traveler looking for an enriching experience off the beaten path, the Salzkammergut in Austria has everything for every type of traveler. There is so much to explore in this area beyond the same phone that every tourist gets in Hallstatt (yes, I got it too). 

The Salzkammergut needs to be on your travel bucket list, perfect to visit any time of year!

What other destinations are on your bucket list? Find your Travel Inspiration here. 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

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