Lake Hallstatt

The Pearl of Austria

by and

From the first time I saw an image of Lake Hallstatt I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I could feel the almost eerie calm of the deep dark water and when I closed my eyes I could envision myself there floating in the middle of the lake on a boat in the windless quiet. A place where fairy tales are born... a prince riding along the river’s edge in search of his lost princess. At least that is what my mind conjured up as I dreamed about this place. There is something magical in the images of Lake Hallstatt that captured my soul and this is how it got on our list of places to visit in Europe.

Hallstatt was the site of an early Iron Age culture from 800 to 400 BC, which is known as the Hallstatt Era. Hallstatt is considered to be the oldest still-inhabited village in Europe. In addition to its ancient history, Hallstatt is wedged between sheer mountains and Hallstatter See and is self labeled as the “Pearl of Austria”.

The village of Hallstatt itself is very touristy with shops and restaurants that attract tour buses each day during the season. Obertraun, the village on the east side of the lake is far less touristy and a weekend destination for those living in cities like Munich or Vienna. It’s homes adorned with flowers in the window boxes and neatly stacked piles of wood ready to burn sitting next to most of the village homes. A small number of local restaurants with hearty Austrian food and your favorite mass of beer. There are only a few ways in by road and there is also train service from Vienna or Salzburg. The train station is on the eastern side of the lake which requires train arriving passengers to take a ferry across to the village of Hallstatt.

There are numerous things to do in the area. We rented a cabin in Obertraun for our stay which was both modern and rustic with all of the amenities that we needed and views of the mountains that we will never forget.

Interesting Facts about Lake Hallstatt

Travel Tile The following are a few facts that we found to be interesting, hope you find them to be the same for you.

  • Lake Hallstatt is a lake in the Salzkammergut area of Austria and is named after Hallstatt, a small market town on the lake, famous for its salt mining since prehistoric times and the starting point of the world's oldest and still working industrial pipeline – for brine to Bad Ischl (since 1596) and further to Ebensee. Until the 19th century, it was only possible to reach Hallstatt Village via boat or narrow trails.
  • Lake Hallstatt surface area is approximately 3.30 square miles and its maximum depth is 125 metres. It is a popular destination for tourists, especially scuba divers. The lake's primary inflow source is the Traun River.
  • Salt has been mined in & around the Salzwelten Salt Mines for over 7,000 years and the entire area is part of the UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut.
  • It’s A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Hallstatt Village has an annual visitation of over one million people - but mostly in the summer
Where is Lake Hallstatt       Map

Lake Hallstatt is 310 kilometers southwest from the Vienna International Airport (via the S-6 autobahn), and 70 kilometers southeast of Salzburg. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains (The Dachstein massif) and the entire area is scenic. Click the map link above to view the Google Map.

A look at the map will show you that there are 3 possible vehicle routes to get to Lake Hallstatt, ie;

  1. Depart the Vienna International Airport and head west on the E-60 / A-1 a drive of 318 kilometers.
  2. Take the S-6 south, a drive of 301 kilometers and this is the route that we took.
  3. Or take the E-60 west to route 25 and go south to the 117 / 146 / 145 to Obertraun. This is a drive of 315 kilometers.

You could consider going to Hallstatt via train; From either Salzburg or Vienna you would take an Austrian National OBB train to Attnang-Puchheim where you would then transfer to the local REX train toward Hallstatt. The Attnang-Puchheim train station is 50 minutes from Salzburg and 135 minutes from Vienna. We did not see any auto rental places in the village, so without a car you would have difficulty getting around the area!

Things to Do in Lake Hallstatt
  • Rent a bike and ride the Obertraun Bicycle Trail
  • Take the DachStein Giant Ice Cave tour
  • Visit the Five Fingers viewing platform Mount Krippenstein
  • Rent a boat & tour the Hallstätter See
  • Sunbath and take a swim at Obertraun Beach
  • Ferry across the lake to Obertraun
  • Enjoy Austrian food & beer at a local restaurant
  • Kick back and enjoy the views
  • Hiking in the Dachstein Salzkammergut
  • Visit the Hallstatt Salt World and Skywalk
  • Explore Hallstatt's Old Town and Market Square
  • Visit the old resort town of Admont
  • Visit the Dachstein Suspension Bridge
How we drove to Lake Hallstatt from Vienna International Airport
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
 Some Useful Tips 

Mapping Apps: Most Apps will direct you to drive west on the Austrian A20/E60 and then head south on the 145 to Hallstatt village. This is obviously one way to go, but it is mostly flat land autobahn and is somewhat boring until you get into the mountains on the 145. We decided to take the southerly route by driving west on the Austrian A-4 autobahn to the S-6 where we headed south to the A-9. This took us northwest & just west of Stainach we exited onto the Austrian route 145 (Salzkammergut Strasse). At Esselbach, we exited onto the westbound Koppenstrasse which brought us into Obertraun. The Koppenstrasse rolls through some incredible mountains & forests, and sometimes had the appearance of a bicycle path!

It is worth noting that the route we took was not only very scenic, but that it was faster than attempting to drive "around" the lake to reach the western side first. Our goal was Obertraun where our cabin rental was located, which means that we wanted to arrive on the eastern side of the lake.

Driving in Austria: Drivers are disciplined and even though the autobahn (Bundesstraßen) speeds are faster than here in the USA, drivers are very cautious about lane changes and passing. As in Germany, the autobahn left lane is for passing only and not for cruising! The maximum speed limit in Austria is 130 kilometers per hour (not quite 81 miles per hour) and adherence to that speed limit is enforced.

Vignette Requirements: Since 1997, the use of all Autobahnen and Schnellstraßen requires the purchase of a vignette (toll sticker) for passenger cars up to 3.5 tonnes or a GO-Box (electronic toll system) for trucks and buses. Your rental car company may, or may not, have already equipped your rental car with a vignette. Be sure to inquire, or you will possibly be ticketed. Note further that "speed cameras" are to be found in various locations throughout Austria.

It is still important to have a mapping system (we used our cell phone) but be prepared with a paper map backup if you find yourself out of cell tower range. Because the area we were headed to is mountainous, we knew that cell phone coverage could become erratic in various locations.

Village Parking Warning: There are two public parking lots at the southern end of the village (Parkplatz P1 and P2) and these two lots fill very quickly in tourist season. Many people park along the Hallstätter See shore on the shoulder of the highway that leads from the village to Obertraun. On this same highway there is another parking area named Parkplatz "Landbettler" and Parkplatz P3 is a little closer to the village on that highway, but P3 is intended only for buses & motor homes. No cars are allowed in the village unless you live or work there. Yes, this can be an issue and the only method to deal with it is to arrive at the village early! We arrived at 7:30AM and Parkplatz P1 and P2 were both already full.

Where we rented: We decided that we wanted to be as close as possible to the lake and Hallstatt village, because we did not want to have to traverse the crowds around the village! We selected to rent a cabin in the Obertraun area; the area is super quiet; the cabin was surrounded by small farms and guest houses and there was just no noise to be heard. An occasional train would come by, but the trains there are all electric, so all you heard was the clacking of the train wheels.

Area Specifics: Please bear in mind that even though I have titled this section as "Lake Hallstatt", we were actually staying across the east side of the lake in Obertraun. Less crowded, less expensive, has it's own beach, and it has some very nice bicycle trails that you can use to pedal around the lake. As you can see in the following images, we had rented a cabin very similar to our own cabin in Lake Anna. The view from the deck in back of this cabin was stunning, you can see the cable car system that goes all the way up to the Five Fingers Mountain.

From our cabin to Hallstatt Village was a quick drive of 5 kilometers around the southern side of the lake on Hallstättersee Landesstraße. As described above, we then had our choice of parking areas.

Exploring Lake Hallstatt
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Lake Hallstatt Village

It looks like a 'living postcard', pretty from just about every possible angle. This was the farthest north spot we walked to in the village, and we noticed this "lookout point" where we could look back along the lakeside at the village.

You have probably seen this view if you have ever seen any Lake Hallstatt images, which was another reason we felt we had to get this picture! This is almost at the northern end of the village, and off in the distance the shore line you can see is where we parked.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Cabin Exterior View

Really nice sized, quiet and comfortable. We made really good use of that great patio area! Cold beers and an awesome view of the mountains.

There were several other cabins near ours, and a farm was on the northern side of the cabin. Yet we never saw anybody, nor heard any noise. This area is quite a way from the typical touristy areas, so we never saw anyone that wasn't a local.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Cabin Interior View

The cabin had everything we needed to make our stay comfortable; small kitchen but fully equipped, small washing machine, dishwasher and even a small TV.

The best thing of all about this cabin, was that it had a good air conditioner and since it was very hot each day (the heat wave was in full swing), it felt great to be able to come home and enjoy a bit of cool air!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Our Rental Cabin View

This is the view from the cabin we rented in Obertraun. Five Fingers is the mountain to the right, and the Dachstein Krippenstein cable car is in the center of this image.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Obertraun Bicycle Trail

It was hot that morning, and because there were so many steep hills, we stopped for a drink of water. The bicycle route going north from Obertraun is a really nice trail, with it's own bridges. This trail is also known as "Eastern Shore Cycle Path" and is just one section of the Salzkammergut Cycle Way which passes through this "Land with 76 Lakes", and covers a total of 184 kilometers.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Hot Day to Ride

Most of the bicycle trail went through heavily forested areas like this, occasionally the trail would parallel the lake and we frequently had great views of the lake and the village.

As we proceeded north, we crossed bridges and cross trails and the occasional steep set of hills which were challenging on such a hot day. We had originally intended to ride to the next village, but we used so much water that we had to change our plans and return earlier than planned.

You can see in this picture how sweaty I am? The bikes we rented were not great road bikes, so our pedal effort was high and when you combine high temperatures with high pedal effort, you get sweaty results!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Lake Hallstatt Village Main Street

There is only one main street in Lake Hallstatt village, and no cars allowed unless you live here, so walking about is easy. Lake is on the right as we walked north into the village. It is unlikely that you could get lost in this village! We were there early to where a lot of the shops were not yet open, but since our goal was to explore the village and the lake views, we didn't mind. Once we had walked as far north as possible & turned around, some shops were open on our way back through the vilage.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Evangelische Pfarrkirche (Evangelical Parish Church)

Found this picturesque church at the northern end of the village, with the Heritage Cafe & bar on the right side. Doesn't this village look like something that Disney would have created?

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Village Marktplatz Area

Very few side streets in this village, this is the Marktplatz with a pretty fountain and shops. We were there early in the day, and most shops were not yet open. By the time we departed the village, everything was in full swing driven by the number of tourists that had arrived.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Hallstatt Village Houses Decorations

Like we said previously, the entire village is like a living postcard. This is a typical Austrian home, with numerous flowers in window flower beds. Note that the first floor is a set of shops, the floors above are where the shop owners live.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Muhlbach Waterfall

The houses in the village march up the hill behind the village, and at the top of this hill is the salt mine. You get these unique views as you hike through the village, you must be looking about you constantly, as these kinds of photogenic scenes are everywhere!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Quickest way across the Lake

There were docks in a number of areas in the village, and these people had just departed the dock area we were about to arrive at. Not sure if they were a private party in a boat, or whether this boat was taking people across the lake to Obertraun Beach.
The Railroad station is on the eastern side of the lake as well, so this boat could have been either going to pickup train passengers, or taking passengers to the train station.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Hallstatt Village from Obertraun Beach

The mountain arises immediately behind the village and the Salt Mine is located 800 meters above the village.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Our Cabin Rental Neighbor

Our neighbors next our rental cabin have made keen preparations for winter and it is no doubt a safe bet that they are ready for the cold! This kind of "winter preparedness" was to be seen throughout the area, as the permanent residents made sure they had a good supply of firewood for the next winter.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Hallstatt Village from the Obertraun Trail

We took this picture during our bicycle ride on the Obertraun trail going north along the eastern side of the lake. Since the bicycle trail was parallel to the lake for a few miles, the views of the Hallstatt village were constant!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Lak view from Obertraun Beach

This is another view of Lake Hallstatt from Obertraun Beach, where the Village of Hallstatt is just to the left in this picture. The lake was very chilly as it is fed from mountain runoff water via the Traun River - but as you can see - it was very tranquil.
Water temperatures typically do not exceed 73 degrees farenheit, so a swim in that kind of environment is better than a cup of coffee!

Dachstein Giant Ice Cave
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Dachstein Giant Ice Cave Entrance

Our visit to the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave required a drive from Obertraun to their parking lot, where we jumped onboard the cable car. This brings you to the mid-point station where you get off the cable car and follow the sign up the mountain side to the ice cave entrance.

The proper Austrian name for the ice cave is "Dachstein Riesen-Eishöhle" and the cable car is "Dachstein Krippensteinbahn 1". The "one" designates the cable car from the parking lot to the ice caves and of course "2" designates the cable car from the ice cave area to the top of Five Fingers.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Hiking up to the Ice Cave entrance

The cable car from valley floor up to the Ice Cave area was quick & simple, but the walk up to the ice cave entrance was very steep! Here I was admiring the fact that they had thoughtfully provided places for one to stop and catch their breath!

Warning: The walk up to the ice cave entrance is very steep, so if you are not in good condition perhaps you should not visit here.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Meanwhile in the Valley Below

During the walk up the steep hill (the Ice Caves are at 4,613 feet above sea level) to the ice cave entrance, we stopped to catch our breath and noticed that we could see the cable car station below us. That cable car in the picture is headed up to the top of Five Fingers.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Into the Ice Cave

Click here to read more about the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave. See how everyone is dressed? It is seriously cold inside, yet outside it is hot & muggy, so the cold felt very good. When I said "seriously cold inside" I meant every word, everything inside is frozen solid ice and the temperature descends quickly the farther you go into the cave.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
The Pre-Tour Lecture

This is our Dachstein Ice Cave tour group, marching along the trail listening to our tour guide describe what we are seeing. This was early in the tour, the really icy part of the cave is further ahead of us.

We had not yet begun to realize how cold the cave was going to get, but we soon found out!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Ice Everywhere!

This picture demonstrates how cold it is inside the cave, everywhere you look is solid ice and the temperature was near 30 degrees farenheit.

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Deep in the Cave

As our tour group descended deeper & deeper into the ice cave, it felt like we had somehow gone to the North Pole - ice covered every square inch!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
Ice Tunnels

There were a lot of these "ice tunnels" as we trekked further into the ice caves, not sure how they were created but they were very deep!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
The End of our Ice Cave Tour

I'm not sure whether we are all admiring the beautiful view of the lake, or perhaps we are all just thawing out after being inside the ice cave? In either event, the view was stunning and everybody stopped for a few minutes to remove their heavier clothing because it was much warmer outside!

 More Info for the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave 
  • Parking: At the Valley Station in Obertraun there is a huge free parking lot where you can leave your vehicle safely. Once you reach the Middle Station you have to walk uphill for 20 minutes to reach the entrance of the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave. Parking is free.
  • Tickets: Here is a link to where tickets can be purchased online. Prices vary based upon time of day, etc. See their page for further information.
  • Where are places to eat near the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave? Here is a link to a Google Search Results list for restaurants
  • Note: When visiting the caves (only permissible with a trained guide), they recommend that you wear robust shoes and warm clothing. Temperatures in the Ice cave rarely exceed freezing point and there is only an average temperature of -2 °C (26,6 °F).
Five Fingers Cable Car
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.

The mid-point station is where the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave is located, this is the final cable car up to the top. Not everyone went to the top as some families were only interested in the ice cave. We felt we had to partake of the entire experience, as we might never get back here!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.

Once the cable car has arrived at the top, and you have exited, you will wind your way over to the observation area via this path.

Five Fingers is southeast of Lake Hallstatt, so the village is actually around the corner of that mountain n the left center of this image. We are walking along the path to the observation platform and continuing to be amazed at the views in the areas below.

Click here to view a Google Images set for the Five Fingers area.

The Valley below Five Fingers
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.

Once you reach the top of Five Fingers and exit the cable car, the observation platform is approximately a 1.5 kilometer walk. Along the way, the views of the lake and the valley below are amazing. As you can see in this picture, the cable car continues onward (Dachstein Krippensteinbahn 3) to a ski area named Gjaid Alm.

Five Fingers Observation Platform
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.

Even though the hike to reach this platform was decidedly a steep downhill hike, getting here provides you with a stunning view of the valley & lake below. It is probably best to not stand on these platforms if you have a problem with heights!

A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt. To the side of the observation platform, we noticed that we could see down into the valley and see Obertraun below us. It is not easy to tell from this picture, but our rental cabin is in that group of buildings. Five Fingers is 6,916 feet above sea level so the views seemed endless - and since the valley below is at 1,683 feet above sea level we felt like we were flying!

Our Videos from Five Fingers

Youtube Video Link
We had just arrived at the Five Fingers Observation platform and we saw a parasailor flying by!

Youtube Video Link
This is the Five Fingers cable car on it's way to the top, we have just departed the Ice Caves station.

Youtube Video Link
That station we are coming up on in this video, is the Ice Cave mid-point cable car station. We were descending back down to the valley below.

If you like our videos, click here to subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

 YouTube Tip 

Click any of these images above to launch the video, then click the "square" in the lower right corner of the video to make the video appear "full screen". Once the video has completed, push your computer's "escape key" to minimize the video again.

Gasthof Hollwirt in Obertraun, Austria
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.

This is a family owned & operated restaurant, with outdoor & indoor seating and they have a menu that is incredible. Their beer selection was quite good, included Weiss Bier, and the service we received was top-notch. We had some of our favourite German dishes there, and wound up eating several dinners as the food was excellent!

The outside seating area which on a nice day was an excellent place to enjoy a cold beer! In fact on nice days at meal times, it is going to get crowded because this is a popular place to eat & drink.

If you are ever in this part of Austria, do yourself a favor and try to have a meal here and you will be glad you did. We have seen several reviews of this restaurant that were not consistent with the experiences we had, so we have no idea what took place or why. Our suggestion? Try the restaurant and see for yourself.

To visit their website click here. Please note that all of these images are the property of the Gasthof Hollwirt. Please also note further that they are a hotel as well as a good restaurant, so if you are looking for a nice place to stay where you can see the things we saw - investigate these guys.

Seecafé Obertraun am Hallstätter See
A description and images from our Trip to Lake Hallstatt.

This restaurant is located on the Obertraun Beach with a stunning view of the Lake and Hallstatt village on the western side of the lake. We spent some time on the Obertraun Beach, for example, after our bike ride we came back to the beach to soak away our tired leg muscles (the Lake is incredibly cold for a Floridian!). At approximately 40 degrees farenheit the lake water was quite a bit better than caffeine!

You cannot see it in this picture, but the bicycle trail we followed to get to the Obertraun Bicycle Trail is behind the Seecafé.

Warning: Due to its proximity to Obertraun Beach & because there are very few places to eat or get a snack nearby, this restaurant can get seriously crowded when the weather is nice!

NOTE: They still do not have a website, but there are numerous other sites that talk about them. Click here to view a Dachstein local page.

As you can see on this page, we saw a lot of the area and had a huge amount of fun exploring, however, we did not manage to see or do everything that can be found in Lake Hallstatt. Below are some good links for you, however a Google Search would give you the ability to access even more information.

  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • Lake Hallstatt History on the "Hallstatt" site
  • Lake Hallstatt Information on the "Hallstatt" site
  • 12 Top Tourist Attractions in Hallstatt on the "Planet Ware" site
  • Top 10 things to do in Lake Hallstatt on the "Big Boy Travel" site
  • Visit the World's Oldest Salt Mine
  • Google Search Results list for places to eat in Lake Hallstatt
  • Google Search Results list for accommodations in & near Lake Hallstatt
  • List of bicycle trails around Lake Hallstatt
  • Things to do & see in & around Hallstatt
  • Youtube Search Result list for "Hallstatt Austria"
  • Amazon Search Results list for "HallStatt Austria"
  • Hallstatt Activities on the "Get Your Guide" site
  • Visit our Youtube Channel
  • Our Lake Hallstatt Image Gallery
  • Lake Hallstatt Wikipedia Article
  • Google Images Set for Lake Hallstatt
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