Unwind in the Alps: 5 ways to relax and reconnect in Austria

Get ready to relax in Austria. Lose yourself in pine forests, kayak through canyons, wild swim in glacial-fed lakes, feast on fresh regional food and much more

Helen Moat
01 June 2022
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Austria Travel

Get ready to relax in Austria. Lose yourself in pine forests, kayak through canyons, wild swim in glacial-fed lakes and feast on fresh regional food. When darkness falls, gaze up at the stars, unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with nature. Here are just five ways you can recharge your batteries.

1. Bathe in a forest

Karin Kropik is the founder of Embrace Life and offers tours to people who want to get back to nature (Oesterreich Werbung/Filmspektakel)

Explore the vast forests of Austria and observe how your breathing slows, your heartbeat steadies and your anxieties melt away as you focus on the present. Forest bathing has been linked with improved sleep, lowering blood pressure and boosting energy levels.

Vienna-based Karin Kropik of Embrace Life offers a slower travel experience in Austria, one that celebrates the healing power of nature. “You can direct your gaze at the different colours and shapes, or at the details of a leaf or the structure of a branch,” she says. “I find it deeply satisfying and rewarding to consciously observe these little things.”

Karin isn’t the only person offering relaxing tours in Austria, and over in the  Damüls in Vorarlberg, you can experience a three-to-four-hour waldbaden (forest bathing) excursion. Visits take place every Tuesday between June and September. Alternatively, join a fasting week at Natur Resort Maria Waldrast, which lies above the beautiful mountain valley of Wipptal at 1,638m above sea level. Their varied programme includes forest bathing and other ways to relax.

2. Get closer to water

The Salzkammergut is Austria’s Lake District (Österreich Werbung/ Harald Eisenberger)

Austria is a country of rivers and lakes. The Salzkammergut, near Salzburg, is Austria’s Lake District. Surrounded by mountains, the waters glisten turquoise here. It’s a great place to swim, dive, canoe, kayak or take a leisurely cruise. Crashing through the turbulent waters of a narrow canyon, you’re in the moment, focused on staying afloat. The past and future cease to exist. Worries are forgotten.

As with forest bathing, being surrounded by water can have healing qualities. Wild swimming tones muscles, cleanses the skin and gives focus. The quiet tinkle of the meandering River Inn or the invigorating spray of the cascading Krimml Falls in SalzburgerLand can help to both revive and still the mind.

“In nature, I feel like I’m recharging my batteries,” Karin Kropik observes. “My nervous system bounces back into balance, and I find inner peace and recognise what is important to me in that moment.”

3. Find calm in the cities

Enjoy the paths of Mönchsberg above Salzburg (Oesterreich Werbung/ Daniel Ordelt)

Austrian cities are known for their ‘green lungs’. Consider the ancient trees and flower meadows of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, the historic gardens of Schloss Eggenberg in Graz or the woodland paths of Mönchsberg above Salzburg.

Surrounding the heart of the capital is the leafy boulevard of the Vienna Ring Road, echoing the green of the many city parks, woodlands and gardens. The dreamy meadows of Schafberg in Vienna’s 17th District offer a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the cityscape. Here, green woodland trees, bright wildflower meadows and orchard blossoms splash the Schafberg uplands with colour all throughout spring and summer. “That place gives me a feeling of security, paired with infinite space,” Karin enthuses.

But you don’t have to go far to find greenery in Vienna. Edging the historic inner city, lush Stadtpark is surrounded by imposing baroque buildings, the Wiental Canal slicing through its heart. This is a place to picnic, practise yoga or sunbathe on the lawns.

4. Refuel with fresh food

Clara Tippelt is the owner of the Almgasthaus Boscheben on Patscherkofel mountain (Oesterreich Werbung /Raphael Sturm)

Austria has great farmers’ markets, ranging from the Salzburger Schranne to the Bio-Markt Freyung in Vienna, while its restaurants serve up delicious dishes made with fresh local produce. Potato goulash, Tiroler gröstl (similar  to bubble and squeak) and sweet and savoury dumplings are the stuff of pure comfort food. Meanwhile, Kaiserschmarrn pancakes are literally fit for a king. And then there’s the cakes!

At Boscheben Alpine Lodge on the Patscherkofel, Innsbruck’s local mountain, owner Clara serves up regional dishes in beautiful surroundings. She (like the majority of huts) focuses on regional and simple food. The menu is  small as everything has to be carried up with a material ropeway.

For something completely different, take a ‘shopping’ tour with donkeys in Pöllau in Styria. On this slow journey through the Pöllau Valley Nature Park, ‘shopping’ takes the form of a visit to Apfelschmiede organic farm, where you’ll see the production of its orchard fruits, and riding into the main square of Pöllau village to pick up picnic ingredients. This is slow-food travel at its finest and most relaxing.

5. Go stargazing

Altenmarkt Zauchensee is an open-air observatory (Altenmarkt Zauchensee Tourismus)

Visit Attersee-Traunsee, home to Austria’s first Dark Sky Park, to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way. Enjoy some of Europe’s darkest skies at Gesäuse National Park and follow the path of the moon at Altenmarkt Zauchensee, an open-air observatory in SalzburgerLand.

What could be more romantic than sleeping under the stars? In Austria’s remote mountainous regions, you can camp out in the pure, clear night air. It’s perfect for stargazing. Alternatively, why not watch the light show from the ‘bivouac’ at Radura al Lago in Carinthia. This is not bivouacking as we know it, but a soft bed inside a glass-fronted hut overlooking the water of Millstättersee, combining stargazing with luxury.

To get even closer to nature, spend the night in Ramenai Treehouse in Upper Austria. You might even catch a meteor shower before they haul up your breakfast on a cable in the morning.

In the words of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “Forget, forget and let’s just live this now; how the stars, when it clears, pierce the night sky.”

What are you waiting for? 

Discover more of Austria now by heading over to the official website. 

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