Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Austria is famous for many things: mountain scenery, ornate palaces, classical music and, well, The Sound of Music. But many overlook its beautiful lakes.

I’d admired lakes from afar, softly framed by frozen snow. I’d seen them blur past windows and windscreens and snapped them from cobbled lanes and cloistered churches.

But until my summer’s sojourn through Austria by bicycle, I’d never thought of them as the best place to travel to for a sun splashed day out.

The loss was all mine.

What makes Austria’s lakes great

Lakes are for picnic baskets along grassy shores and for leaping from wooden decking with carefree abandon!

(Or, in self conscious old age, climbing down a purpose built ladder until you’re sure the water isn’t too cold.)

In short, it’s a day at the beach without the sand, surf and waves. A calmer, clearer, cooler way to dip out of the blazing sun.

And the lakes of Salzkammergut offer a bonus strange thrill too: floating in their clear, cool blue, I realised I was actually swimming in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Austrian summer months are all about bathing, scuba diving, paddleboarding, canoeing, boating and cruising. Visitors come from all over the world to dip their toes in the crystal-clear water and enjoy the, frankly, luxurious atmosphere of the nearby resorts.

Starting with December, Austria dresses for winter, welcoming tourists with snow-powdered mountains and massive frozen bodies of water. You can snowshoe or ski the pristine mountain areas and take ice skates to the lakes.

If you’ve decided to spend your next holiday visiting some of the most beautiful lakes in the world or simply want to know where you can enjoy a few days sunbathing in Austria, then this is the list for you.

The Most Beautiful Lakes in Austria

Neusiedler See

Neusiedler See

This steppe lake has an average depth of only 1 meter (3.3 feet), so it is perfect for beginner swimmers or simple bathers. Its shallow waters make it practically useless for yachts and other large motorised boats, making it all the more relaxing for everyone else.

It’s the inland lake with the highest bird diversity in Europe, a plus for birdwatchers. It’s also surrounded by some of the best vineyards in Austria, which helps to provide a holiday vibe. Bikers will also love this area for its long routes across meadowy land to the old city of Rust and its surrounding vineyards.

Fun fact: even though Neusiedl is one of the largest bodies of water in the country, it has disappeared hundreds of times since its formation between 14,000 and 18,000 years ago.

beautiful lakes in Austria Achensee

Achensee

Known as the ‘Sea of Tirol’ due to its large, 6.8-square-kilometre surface, Lake Achensee is an ideal destination for water sports and leisure activities. This 133-metre-deep mountain lake with crystal-clear water is surrounded by the stunning peaks of the Karwendel Mountains and Brandenberg Alps. It offers excellent opportunities for windsurfers and sailors in the summer.

Scuba divers also love it for its excellent water quality, even at minus 10 metres.

You’ll find plenty of sunbathing spots around the calm waters, a series of resorts for those who want to pamper themselves, and many trails around the KarWendel National Park nature reserve.

The ‘Fjord of the Alps’, as the area is known, awaits winter tourists with picturesque mountains, cosy huts and beautiful ski trails, but no winter sports can be performed directly on the Achensee Lake. It’s so vast and deep that it doesn’t fully freeze.

Water sports and swimming holidays in Zell am See-Kaprun

Zeller See

If you want to spend a perfect summer day far from the heat of the big cities, Lake Zell offers a gorgeous panorama of the Alps and has some of the clearest waters you can find near Salzburg.

Boating is a popular activity, along with surfing and paddleboarding (you can join a beginner’s course right on the beach), with many visitors choosing to admire the grandeur of the Alps from an electric boat.

Sun worshippers will love the three lidos around the lake, equipped with sunbathing lawns, diving towers, and slides that take you into the refreshingly cool water.

Small and with an average depth, Zeller See freezes completely in the winter, attracting both tourists and locals interested in cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating.

beautiful lakes in Austria Hallstattersee

Hallstatter See

Lake Hallstadt is a tremendously popular tourist destination in Austria, partly because of the UNESCO World Heritage Site town on its shores. The picturesque Hallstadt attracts visitors all year round with its narrow cobblestone streets and 16th-century traditional Austrian architecture. It becomes one of the liveliest places in the Salzkammergut region during the hot summer days when tourists head for the lake to escape the high temperatures in the city.

The most popular water activities on Hallstätter See are canoeing and kayaking, but the place is also perfect for swimming or scuba diving. For those who want to explore the surrounding area by water, you can take a ferry ride in an ancient wooden boats.

As winter arrives and Hallstadt starts dressing for the holidays with giant Christmas trees and a Christmas market, this area becomes a magical wonderland. The lake freezes just a bit close to the shores, so it cannot be used for winter sports, but it is worth visiting for the sense of atmosphere.

Weissensee

Weissensee

Lake Weissensee is one of the few places in Austria where you can swim in drinkable water. It is surrounded by an idyllic landscape formed by green mountains on both sides and perfect turquoise waters.

Although it is a glacial lake, sometimes the water temperature reaches 25 degrees, making it more welcoming for swimming. It is one of the best places for cliff jumping or wakeboarding, but canoeing, water skiing, and surfing are also popular activities.

Many tourists find sailing on the lake a relaxing and rewarding activity, while others prefer to rent cabins on the shores that offer private access to the beach. Thanks to the lake’s elevation above sea level, it enjoys many sunny days over the year.

Winter sees Weissensee covered with a 40-centimetre-thick ice blanket, turning it into one of the biggest frozen water surfaces in Europe. Suffice to say, you will find plenty of winter activities available here once the temperatures drop low enough.

beautiful lakes in Austria Wolfgangsee

Wolfgangsee

Spreading across three charming villages in Upper Austria and Salzburg (St. Gilgen, Strobl and St. Wolfgang), Lake Wolfgang has a laissez-faire feel that keeps drawing people back every year. Like Weissensee, it has drinking water quality and is a perfect spot for water skiing and beach relaxation.

In the summer, its serene waters fill with boats – traditional and modern – which take visitors along the gorgeous landscape. Winter, meanwhile, brings thick ice, ski enthusiasts, and a  delightful holiday vibe. With over 400 accommodations in the area and plenty of restaurants, this is a great place for the entire family.

Wörthersee - Wikipedia

Wörthersee

If you are travelling with kids, you should definitely hit Lake Wörthersee. First, it offers plenty of fun activities like slides, picnic areas and water trampolines. And second, it provides warm water and many hours of sunshine.

Wörthersee is among the warmest lakes in Austria, with a temperature of 28 degrees in the summer, which makes it ideal for paddleboarding, surfing, and swimming. It is also one of the largest lakes in Europe, so even though it attracts a lot of tourists every year, it still provides secluded areas that let’s you feel far from the crowds.

Unfortunately, you won’t see Lake Wörthersee completely frozen during the cold season, but the villages around look spectacular covered in snow, so it is still worth visiting.

Lake Constance | Lake Constance Cycle Path

Constance See

Culture lovers cannot miss Constance See, one of the most beautiful lakes in Austria, right at the foothills of the Austrian Alps, and well placed for exploring Austria’s history.

The most important city on Lake Constance is called, as expected, Constance, a university town with a lovely historic centre, lots of wine taverns, and a starting point for explorers who can just jump on a mountain bike and see the surroundings. But you’ll find it in southern Germany, rather than Austria.

In Austria, Constance runs up to Bregenz and its famous cable car that takes you to the top of the Pfänder Mountain for a million-dollar view. From there, you can cross the border to St. Gallen in Switzerland to taste the traditional ‘Olma’ sausages.

The last time Lake Constance froze was about 70 years ago, so you may never have the chance to ice skate on it. But you may be able to recognised the floating opera in Bregenz from James Bond’s latest Casino Royale.

Attersee

Attersee

Close to Salzburg, you will find Austria’s third-largest lake and a very popular tourist attraction. As it is 20 kilometres long, it doesn’t freeze in the winter, so sports during the cold season are not an option. However, summers and autumns are extremely busy at Lake Attersee, when tourists visit it for its blue waters and kitesurfing possibilities.

Unlike other lakes in Austria, it is not completely surrounded by mountains, so you can expect strong winds and pleasant sailing. The most famous wind in the area is called the Rosenwind (it translates ‘wind of the roses’) due to its regular path through the rose garden of a nearby castle. Expect to be bathed in the wonderful perfume every day of your summer trip.

beautiful lakes in Austria Traunsee

Traunsee

The deepest lake in Austria is also the best for sailing classes. It benefits from moderate winds that push the sailboats onto the blue waters, and since it is surrounded by majestic mountains, the landscape is nothing but awe-inspiring.

If you don’t want to get your feet wet, you can hire an electric boat or take the ferry to several charming villages along the lake’s shore, like Ebensee or Traunkirchen.

Nature lovers can hike the Traustein Mountain’s almost vertical walls or spend a few hours exploring the meadows around Traunsee Lake.

Plansee

Plansee is one of the most beautiful lakes in Austria and the second-largest natural lake in Tyrol. It’s a popular ice skating and skiing destination in the winter due to its relatively small surface that allows it to freeze completely. Mighty mountains surround it and good winds steer the boats in the right direction, encouraging sailors to explore the surroundings, stopping for hiking or bathing on its shores.

With amazing blue waters that allow you to see down to 15 meters underwater, this is one of the best places in Europe for scuba diving. The luxurious forests and the immense mountains reflect into the lake, creating a paradise for the visitors who stop on the shores to meditate or simply enjoy the sun.

Gruner See

A relatively small lake with a fragile ecosystem, Gruner See (or ‘Green Lake’ as it translates) is still an interesting spot, especially for scuba divers and climbers. In the winter, the lake is only 1 metre deep, so there is not too much to see here. But as spring arrives and the snow from the mountains starts to melt, it fills the lake and starts swallowing the surroundings.

Suddenly, a larger mass of water appears, extending over the benches and bridges in the natural park. Since the water is extremely clear, all the greenery that is now sunken transfers to the lake, landing it its emerald colour.

Holiday on Lake Faaker See in Austria | Hotel Karnerhof

Faaker See

Summers at Faaker See are wonderful for swimmers who can dip into its incredibly clear waters (which are also good for drinking.) It’s warm enough from June to September not to cause any cases of hypothermia and while you’ll find lots of boating and yachting taking place, you’ll also find shore based activities.

The European Bike Week takes place in September and concerts are held at the ruins of Finkenstein Castle.

Many trails are available for hikers and bikers, and the hotels are renowned for serving up traditional Austrian food in comfortable surroundings.

Winter arrives at Faaker See with snow and very low temperatures that turn the lake into an ice skater’s rink. Dee-licious.

beautiful lakes in Austria: Mondsee

Mondsee

Translated as ‘Moon Lake’, Mondsee is situated near Salzburg and is known as one of the warmest lakes in Austria (of course, by Austrian standards.) With a peak temperature of 27 degrees during the summer, canoers and windsurfers spend their weekends here.

But the area also attracts swimmers and tourists who just love to explore the lake by boat. Rising up by the water stands a large limestone mountain, with thick forests calling hikers and climbers to explore its paths.

At its base, Mondsee town offers great hotels and restaurants and a something of a fairytale atmosphere.

Source: https://www.insidethetravellab.com/

By Lala