The Salzkammergut, Austria’s lake district, features a spectacular series of lakes and mountains. You can get a feel for the area on a day-trip from Salzburg to St Wolfgang, or on a “Sound of Music tour”, but if you want to hike, mountain bike or just chill out, head to a lakeside campsite or B&B for a few days’ relaxation – picture-perfect Hallstatt is a good choice.
A single train line runs north–south from Attnang-Puchheim via Bad Ischl (one of the region’s main towns) and Hallstatt to Stainach Irdning (every two hours; 2hr 5min), with connections from Salzburg and Linz at Attnang-Puchheim and from Graz at Stainach Irdning. But buses are generally quicker, with Bad Ischl a useful hub for connections. Hourly bus #150 between Salzburg and Bad Ischl (1hr 35min) runs east along the southern shore of the Wolfgangsee; for St Wolfgang change at Strobl for connecting bus #546 (approx hourly; 15min).
The jewel of the Salzkammergut is HALLSTATT, which clings to the base of precipitous cliffs on the shores of the Hallstättersee, 20km south of Bad Ischl. With towering peaks and a pristine lake, this is a stunning setting in which to hike, swim or rent a boat. Arriving by train is an atmospheric and evocative experience; the station is on the opposite side of the lake from the village, and the ferry, which meets all incoming trains, gives truly dramatic views.
The pretty little village of ST WOLFGANG, on the north shore of Wolfgangsee, is undeniably picturesque, though it can get crowded in summer, and provides a good taster of the region, particularly if you take the vintage train to the top of the Schafberg peak (May–Oct 9.20am–3.30pm; last descent 5.05pm; €34 return; to avoid queuing, reserve a seat on t 06 13 82 23 20, wschafbergbahn.at) from a station on the western edge of town.
In town, the Pfarrkirche, above the lakeshore, houses a high altar, an extravagantly pinnacled structure 12m in height, completed between 1471 and 1481. It features brightly gilded scenes of the Coronation of the Virgin flanked by scenes from the life of St Wolfgang.