It’s been a while since I’ve visited Austria. Beautiful countryside, beautiful cities, beautiful weather(ish), beautiful, beautiful, beautiful in general. This trip was to a little town in SalzburgerLand: Kaprun, for a week of high altitude, walking and … more than a few surprises.
SalzburgerLand is quite close to the German/Liechtenstein border, a tiny fraction of the area also bordering Italy – Austria, lovingly landlocked, shares its border with 8 other countries in case you didn’t know – and Kaprun is wedged in the heart of it.
We flew into Salzburg airport, greeted by warm evening sunshine and clear blue skies for our shuttle to the hotel. Mum is very much a fan of inclusive holidays since we’re all perpetually indecisive about food, so we were on a package deal with Thomson Lakes & Mountains. I think that hints that this post is going to be much more like the earlier parts of Slovenia than my Rome travel diary. To be honest, mum made a fab decision. Kaprun is pretty small and finding places to eat would’ve been quite limited unless we were staying self catered or prepared to travel into nearby Zell almost every night for dinner, so half board was definitely the easiest choice. Our hotel, the SportKristall, had a fab catering staff, so none of us were complaining.
Our hotel also gave us a the Kaprun activity card for free, which saved us about 70 Euros each, and meant that all our activities for the week were vastly reduced in price – if not free – and our spending was minimised to lunch, bus fares, and other smaller attractions.
Our first full day was one with absolutely cloudless skies, so we decided that this was probably the best day to go up to the highest peak of the area: the Kitzsteinhorn at 3029m. To get to the summit we had to hop on a bus, drive to the first cable car, take another two cable car lifts (sharing with summer skiers), a short ride on the smallest section of vernacular I’ve ever seen, with some stairs thrown in there too for good measure. But the views were totally worth it. It was a liiitle bit chilly, so our walking staple of overtrousers definitely went on over shorts, but the views. The views.
We decided that we’d have a look through the national park tunnels (cold, so cold) which took us to the platform advertised on most of the posters – it makes you feel like you are literally walking in the clouds because the floor is glass. It was honestly wonderful and really refreshing after months cooped up inside because of uni. And we got to catch some Alpen horn performances as part of a music festival, plus slip slip slide (read: fall, in my case) down a snow bank back to the chair lifts for some lunch and corgi petting.
Not that there are corgis there all the time to pet. One just happened to be up the mountain at the time we were and I REALLY LOVE CORGIS. He was super cute. We also chose to walk down from the third set of chairlifts to the second because the weather was still beautiful and the trail looked quite nice. Not sure if it was a massive mistake or not, because the views (again) were stunning but I got terrible sunburn on my forearms. Fab.
Zell (or Zell am See) is a larger town really close to Kaprun with a beautiful lake in the centre. We spent quite a lot of our time wandering around a looking at everything, including the lake itself, as well as using it for a base to get other lifts up to the mountains. The day we decided to do the circular boat trip round was probably the hottest of our stay, so naturally we decided to spend a large part of that walking around the top half of the lake after our boat ride… to catch a different boat back across the lake. Zell is really pretty, its got some wonderfully old buildings.
High altitude reservoirs~
Not one of the high altitude reservoirs we were after… this one is on the walk down the kitzsteinhorn from day 1!
I honestly have NO PHOTOS of this day, as there was really nothing much to see, which is really really sad. The SalzburgerLand area of Austria has this fab network of high altitude reservoirs and dams that produce masses of hydroelectric power that were constructed during the Second World War – so there’s so much history. And the day we chose to go it was misty AF, drizzly, and I literally could not see 5 metres in front of me let alone out across mountains and onto man made lakes. The only consolation was the fact I managed to hatch two eggs and catch some more pokemon on the walk across the dams. Sigh.
The rain set in from Tuesday, absolutely thundering down, and we have a habit of exploring gorges in the rain, though this was our Thursday stop. Kaprun has the Sigmund-thun gorge, which is a wonderful network of wooden walkways suspended along the sides. It comes super close to a couple of the waterfalls – if you saw my snapchat story of that day then you’ll know how fun I found that (it was… interesting trying to protect electrical equipment at all costs). Thankfully the weather brightened up enough for us to dry out on our walk to the cable cars we’d got on our first day, where we came across this really weird water system thing. Clearly man-made but very pretty. The surprise of the entire trip came on this day, we decided to go back up the Kitzsteinhorn on the cable cars because my little sister was enamoured with the fact that it had snowed overnight. About 30cm of fresh snow was sitting waiting on the mountaintops. I was not prepared for snow. Summer holidays do not include snow.
The summer skiers were loving it though.
Kaprun Automobile Museum
Underneath the SportKristall is a collection of fabulous old automobiles, from the really old models you only see in films, to army vehicles, bubble cars, part of an old venicular carriage and a raleigh car. The four halls are filled, and all the motors are in really good condition, it was really interesting to see how cars have evolved from being absolutely massive to micro to what we have today.
more mountains, cable cars and chairlifts.
In and around Kaprun and Zell there are a number of cable cars that will take you up quite a few of the mountains in the area. I’m terrible at remembering names and specific areas, but the city express cable car in Zell will take you up a to a nice interactive walk (there are activities along the way), which in turn brings you to one of the only active chair lifts in the summer season. Most of the lifts are shut due to the fact they only really take you up to ski runs and mountain cafes or bars rather than walking trails that are actually safe to walk on. You can also see how the ski runs are maintained as you soar over the workers heads which was quite interesting. I’ve yet to actually go skiing on anything other than dry or indoor slopes so to see the entire area at winter would be something.
Hiking bus from Kaprun
We had quite a bit of time on our last day before flying home, so we decided to take the hiking bus that leaves from the carpark by the entrance to the summer toboggan (didn’t get a chance to go on that as it was ~10euros a go…) up to one of the lower peaks on the same range as the Kitzsteinhorn. The most beautiful pup was at the top greeting people, and you could see both the route the bus takes and the walks we’d done on previous days on one side, and the whole of the valley where Kaprun and Zell sit on the other. We chose to walk the side that would take us back to civilisation rather than the places we’d been earlier in the week, and came face to face with that mountains herd of cows for our troubles. Cowbells are loud, man. Do the cows get annoyed by them??? Or do they just learn to drown it out the same way we do with flight paths and sirens??? Asking the real questions here. There was only one accident (me) on the way down, otherwise the trail was pretty tame and we made it back to Kaprun for some lunch, a quick repack, and plenty of time for our transfer back to the airport.
Some of Kaprun
I hope the photos of beautiful Austrian countryside make up for what feels to be a post that lacks a little? My mum really enjoys walking holidays over beach or cities because they’re quiet (and good for you), but the weather really wasn’t on our side from Tuesday till the day we left, really. It’s such a shame because some of the views would have been wonderful in the crisp clear sunshine of our first and second days…. It wasn’t prime conditions for taking the big camera out all the time so I have a lot of footage that I’m editing to upload soon.
Tips for travelling to Kaprun:
– try and get a hotel that includes the Kaprun card – it lets you go on a lot of the chairlifts/cable cars for free, reduces entry into most of the attractions in the area, and lets you use the buses for 1euro each. The card itself is … not cheap.
– the weather patterns in summer are sunshine/thunderstorms. If you see clouds rolling in you have about half an hour till the rain arrives.
– kaprun is a very long town, so hotels might not be anywhere near bus stops or points of pick up for certain activities. That makes for very peaceful hotels in very pretty locations, but anywhere from 5 or 10 minutes to walk to the supermarket or a bus stop.
– while the thomson (pub) quizzes are expensive (ours was 3euros per person…) they are a laugh and you can win things. which is always nice considering the 22kg baggage allowance.