Julie Franklin, Head of Agency Sales at Inghams, one of my travel suppliers, recently returned from a wonderful week in Austria, wisely having done a twin-centre holiday visiting both Saalbach and Zell am See.
Travelling as a group of girlfriends who all enjoy the outdoors but have different ideas for a holiday, this Austrian summer adventure managed to tick the boxes for all involved, and it’s not difficult to understand why.
From enchanting emerald lakes hidden between marvellous mountains to charmingly picturesque towns and cities, Austria is the ideal destination for any outdoor enthusiast wanting to revitalise the mind and body while connecting with nature. What’s not to like?
Without further ado, let me walk you through Julie’s amazing trip and everything the girls got up to in Austria. Be warned, there’s a strong likelihood that by the time you finish reading, you’ll want to book your own holiday here as soon as possible!
A real added-value feature of this holiday was the personalised ‘Joker’ resort card (free with the Inghams package), as it ended up saving the girls a fortune, giving them each access to the buses, the chairlifts and gondolas, as well as various attractions which were either completely free or had reduced entrances. Like Julie, I am rather partial to a bargain when I see one!
Hotel Saalbacher Hof, Saalbach
Staying at the fabulous Hotel Saalbacher Hof in Saalbach, Julie and friends were perfectly placed in the charming centre of this traditional resort, complete with a relaxing outdoor pool located in the hotel’s stunning gardens which Julia described as a perfect way to spend the day when they weren’t out exploring all that Saalbach has to offer.
Not knowing the area themselves at all, the girls appreciated the ‘resort ramble’ from the local representative, which was essentially a guided tour of the resort, highlighting the history of the various landmarks in Saalbach and pointing out places of interest.
As well as finding out how to get around, and knowing chairlift locations to get up into the mountains and more, it proved a most helpful introduction to the local area and irrefutably saved the group lots of time figuring things out for themselves.
For a lovely way to start the holiday and ease into the local area, Julie recommends a leisurely and scenic 45-minute walk along the Saalach riverside to Hinterglemm, the next resort along. As well as taking in the scenery, you’ll stumble across a charming wood-carving workshop where you can wander around and buy interesting pieces.
Upon arriving in Hinterglemm itself, the group enjoyed what Julie describes as the most “fantastic iced coffee and handmade ice cream” in the family-run Miksch Café Schleckena.
A quaint location all year round, Hinterglemm is known for being Austria’s biggest ski resort for the winter and has an array of options for hiking in the summer, as well as horseback riding and even mountain climbing, depending on how adventurous you are feeling.
You can also take the local bus to a place called Talschlussweg for free using the resort card, to then jump on the Noddy Train (otherwise known as End of the Valley Train – also free with the resort card - to the park area, which is perfect for adults and children alike, with high ropes, zip lines, tree top walks, and fabulous walks to mountain restaurants with stunning views.
There are two chairlifts from the resort in Saalbach, and Julie opted to take the Schattberg X-press up the mountain purely for the views. Needless to say, they weren’t left disappointed. Julie adds: “A day pass on the chairlifts would usually cost €30, so the fact we could go up for free meant that simply going up for the view alone was more than justified.”
Hotel Tirolerhof, Zell Am See
After a few glorious days in Saalbach, the group headed to Zell am See on a free, 30-minute transfer bus, taking further advantage of their resort card.
Staying at the picturesque Hotel Tirolerhof, which Julie describes as “a fabulous spa”, the girls were delighted to be so close to not only the centre of Zell, but also to the stunning lake, providing breathtaking views from the indoor pool and spa areas. Julie points out that “clothing is not an option in the spas, so you will need to have an open mind”. But with such incredible views, various steam rooms and saunas, the girls could think of nowhere they would rather be to chill out and relax.
Using the resort card once more, Julie and the girls booked one of the guided walks that took them up in a gondola to start with, a chairlift and then walked along a track on what Julie says “felt like we were at the top of the world!” And one of the best things about this guided walking tour is that the girls all had different abilities, so whilst some walked ahead a little faster and others took a slower pace, it didn’t disrupt the walk or take away from the experience at all – each of them loved it.
To end the walk on a high, the girls were rewarded with delicious food and a Radler at Franzl restaurant with unbeatable views.
No visit to an Austrian lake resort is complete without taking a dip in the lake itself! This hotel also gives free access to the lido, so the girls enjoyed a swim and a bit of time to chill. We can’t imagine there being anything like a swim in a lake surrounded by mountains.
Top tips when taking a holiday to the mountains
The weather is changeable, so be prepared for both sun and rain! Most hotels provide umbrellas.
Take good walking shoes or boots, even if you don’t think you will do major hiking, as the terrain can be rough, so don’t risk taking just trainers!
Always have a rucksack – some hotels do have these in the rooms. Great to keep your hands free, and also gives you somewhere to put your water and essentials.
Always carry a map with you in case you end up somewhere that you want to explore more.
Bring a good camera because the views are incredible.
Take advantage of other activities such as paragliding, cycling, water sports – there is a lot to do.
Find out more
I hope I’ve shown you some insight into mountain holidays and what’s on offer in Austria with Inghams. Whether you’re planning on travelling as a group of friends, with the family, as a couple, or even if you’re planning on going solo, contact me to discuss and start planning your trip.