Make a splash in Austria this summer

The magic of water. It soothes mind and body, keeps you cool in hot weather, helps with blood circulation and has low impact on joints. With less resistance, you can work your body harder. Not only is water great for keeping joints limber, it tones muscles, cleanses skin and strengthens lungs and heart. Austria, with its abundance of lakes and rivers, offers everything from gentle lakeside dips to extreme white-water swimming – and all in bountiful nature and stunning surroundings...

Wild swimming

Discover the health benefits of wild swimming. It’s not surprising it’s becoming more and more popular – and not just in the summer months. Swimming eases muscle tension, body pain and inflammation. It boosts the immune system and improves circulation and metabolism. It also contributes to mental wellbeing, reducing stress and anxiety and raising energy levels. Connecting with the wild swimming community and nature in the outdoors further contributes to good mental health. With thousands of lakes in Austria and hundreds of kilometres of rivers, wild swimming is possible just about everywhere in the country.

Here are some of the best spots for wild swimming…

1. Achensee, Tirol

A glacial lake, Achensee was carved out of the Alps more than 20,000 years ago. Just 45 minutes from Innsbruck, it’s the largest lake in the Tirol and one of the most beautiful. As a mountain lake, the water barely pushes above 20°C. It makes for an invigorating swim in breathtaking alpine scenery, and for the dedicated cold water swimmer you can join the annual New Year’s Day plunge. Surrounded by sandy beaches and meadows, on hot summer days swimming can be combined with lakeside relaxation.

2. Attersee, Upper Austria

The aqua-blue Attersee is known for its pure water. Surrounded by pretty shoreline resorts, hills and mountains, the lake is a great choice for outdoor swimming. In summer the water can reach temperatures up to 25°C. For convenience and comfort there are plenty of public swimming areas with sunbathing lawns, cafes and piers.

3. The Danube, Vienna

Escape the bustle of the city and head for the mighty Danube. The Old Danube offers waterside and boathouse bars, decking, sun loungers and piers. Expect a party vibe. The Gänsehäufel area has two kilometres of beaches, playgrounds and cafes.  You can even hire your very own floating island. If you prefer a quieter swim, make your way to the New Danube and find a grassy spot away from the crowds. The Lobau area, part of the Donau-Auen National Park, has a completely different feel with its nature-filled ponds and creeks. It’s a place of peace and tranquillity.

4. Lake Constance, Vorarlberg

The 27-kilometre stretch of Austria’s Lake Constance (Bodensee) from Lochau to Gaissau is a swimmer’s paradise with its easy access paths, promenades, lawns, bathing pavilions, piers and waterside cafes. The lively resort of Bregenz boasts a large beach, with indoor and outdoor pools but you can find any number of quiet pebble beaches along the waterside.

5. Wolfgangsee, Upper Austria and Salzburgerland

Surrounded by the Salzkammergut mountains, including the soaring Schafberg, the lake straddles the regions of Upper Austria and Salzburgerland and is easily accessed by bus from Salzburg. Around the lake there are numerous beaches and public bathing spots, while many hotels and guest houses boast their own private beach. Check out the bathing areas of Wolfgangsee’s charming waterside settlements – particularly St Wolfgang, Stobl and St Gilgen.

Photo credits: Achensee Tourismus; Österreich Werbung, Julius Silver; Österreich Werbung, Georg Popp; Österreich Werbung, Luke Nagler; Shutterstock

A spotlight on: white water swimming

If you enjoy the thrill of white-water kayaking, why not crank it up a notch and try white water swimming? This is very much a case of ‘having to go with the flow’. Surge through the foaming water of a wild alpine river, loop around rocks and tumble through rapids.  Where better to try out this challenging sport than in Lechtal with its soaring mountains, deep-sided gorges and frothing waters.

Stop. Imagine you're in Austria...

We teamed up with Inghams to give you a taste of the incredible adventures waiting for you in Austria...

Diving

The sub-aquatic world of scuba diving is a place of silent retreat – somewhere to escape the noise and distraction of the terrestrial world and become absorbed in the here-and-now. Underwater, your body feels weightless and the dim, cloudy waterscape has a dream-like quality. The vivid blue-green waters of Attersee in the Salzkammergut – the lake district of the Salzburg region – is a diver’s paradise. The underwater explorer feels simultaneously in their element and out of their element in this ethereal underworld of marine plants, underwater forests and manmade wrecks. Shoals of fish swim among the rocks and vegetation: perch, pike, eels, trout, burbot and Arctic Char. Among the natural marine life and manmade wrecks, curious constructions have been deliberately buried beneath the surface of the lake – an underwater museum that pays homage to pre-historic pile dwellings – or stilt houses.  For dive schools, check out Austrian Divers at Unterach or Tauchschule Underpressure at Weyregg. Gasthaus Pension zur Nixe organises diving courses and equipment, is able to refill tanks and has a drying room.

Here are some of Attersee’s fascinating dive sites...

1. BMW Dixi

The car wreck lies only a few metres beneath the surface of the lake, making it a great dive for beginners at Unterach. A proper old-timer, the wreck is thought to be a BMW Dixi, a German car similar to the Austin that was in production between 1929 and 1931. At 13 metres you come to an old dinghy. Look out for pike, salmon and rainbow trout.

2. Dixi at Alexenau, Weyregg

Take the plunge at the dive site of Dixi on the east shore of Attersee to explore a sunken reconstructed pile dwelling, typical of the raised houses that were built over the wetlands of alpine countries thousands of years ago. There’s a badly damaged boat at 12 metres, good for beginners, while another wreck lies at 22 metres for more advanced divers – the sailing boat called Dixi.

3. Hinkelsteine, Steinbach

Hinkelstein is German for menhir, a pre-historic standing stone. Surrounding three menhirs, found between 18 and 32 metres beneath the water’s surface, three life-sized carved figures represent the people of the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages. Suitable for experienced divers. 

4. Nussdorf Hausboot

Here you’ll find 111 posts representing the 111 pile dwelling settlements chosen from over 1000 sites (five of them in Austria) by UNESCO and listed in 2011. These other-worldly algae-covered posts rise from the lake’s bed like a forest of tree stumps, underwater information boards providing information on the lives of the pile dwellers. Nearby, at a depth of 10 metres, you’ll also discover the wreck of an old boathouse, some of its contents scattered in and around the site. Truly atmospheric.

5. Wandl, Unterach

Wandl is a flooded basin formed by a glacier, a mysterious underworld of sunken trees. A platform at eight metres is great for trainee divers and an old battered jeep lies at an easily accessed 12 metres. Further down a slanted slope is tangled with rocks, roots and tree trunks. Deeper still, a huge boulder drops from 20 to 35 metres, where eels lurk. It’s an exciting dive for both beginners and more advanced divers.

Photo credits: TVB Attersee-Attergau, Angelika Neuhofer

Canoeing and kayaking

Pootle along the shores of one of the Salzkammergut lakes in a sturdy canoe or sit-on-top Kayak, allowing yourself to drift on the water. Shore up on a lakeside beach, have a picnic, sunbathe and take a swim. Prefer something more challenging? Try a multi-day canoe trip along one of Austria’s great rivers – a proper adventure in nature – or throw yourself into a daring-do escapade through the frothing water of a mountain gorge. Negotiate the underground mines beneath Petzen mountain, emerging at an atmospheric underground lake. In Austria, there’s something for all levels of experience and expertise – from beginner to thrill-seeker. While canoeing and kayaking are low-impact sports, they improve fitness and flexibility. Paddle work - whether it’s with the single bladed canoe paddle or double-bladed kayak paddle – strengthens the muscles of the upper body, the back, arms, shoulders and chest.

Here are some of the best places in Austria for a paddle...

1. Relax on the Old Danube, Vienna

Experience a different perspective of Austria’s capital and take a canoe trip along the Old Danube – perfect on summer days when the streets of Vienna are hot and tiring. You can rent boats from the Kayak Centre in Moissigasse next to Gänsehäufel on the Danube island, instruction included.

2. Hit the Drava Paddle Trail, Carinthia

For a longer adventure join a three-day guided tour on the River Drava. After exploring the picturesque town of Villach, gently float downstream to Rosegg Power Station on your first day, a distance of 15km.  On the second day paddle 25km from Rosegg to Ferlach, with a short portage to pass Feistritz Power Station. With a similar distance on day three, paddle through Völkermarkt reservoir before being delivered to Lake Klopein – one of Austria’s warmest alpine lakes – and the end of the trip. The canoe tour can be done with or without a guide.

3. Paddle through an underground grotto

For something different, paddle through the labyrinth of mineshafts hidden deep in the mountain of Petzen. The tour starts at St Kanzian on Lake Klopein, where a shuttle bus takes you to the mining museum at  Mežica in Slovenia. From here the pit railway takes you into the depths of the mountain on the Slovenian side and the start of your underground watery adventure. Your guide will regale you with tales of life in the mountain, give you the chance to experience a miner’s snack and escort you through the flooded tunnels with just the light of a headtorch to show you the way.

4. Chill out on Lake Hallstatt

Head out into the crystal-clear waters of Lake Hallstatt for a relaxing half day on the water. The gentle ripple of water, the rhythmic rotation of your paddle and the surrounding landscapes of woodlands, meadows, bays and mountains all contribute to the feeling of relaxation.

5. Crash through the Salzach

For the experienced kayaker, enjoy the thrills and spills of the Salzach in Lower Austria. Learn how to ‘boof’ through eddies, ‘creek’ through rocky, low-level white water and perfect your eskimo roll. On the river you will conquer 46 separate drops up to three metres in height, finishing at the five-metre-high Laussa Falls. This is one for adrenalin junkies and skilled kayakers.

Photo copyrights: Österreich Werbung, Willfried Gredler-Oxenbauer; Nationalpark Hohe Tauern Kärnten, Wolfgang Handler; Achensee Tourismus; Österreich Werbung, Sebastian Stiphout; Flachau Tourismus, Markus Berger

After something more relaxing?
Try SUP yoga

What could be more relaxing than a combination of water, nature and yoga? Swap the yoga mat for a stand-up paddleboard. As you gently float downstream or drift cross a lake with ducks, geese and swans, the yoga exercises help you develop core strength and balance. It may seem counter-intuitive to try difficult balancing exercises on an unstable paddleboard – threatening to topple you into a lake or river – but the flow of water compliments the flow of yoga movements. Relax and focus on the exercises, feel the tensions in your body fall away and your mind relax. The effort needed to stay on the paddleboard requires a great deal of focus – and requires you to stay fully concentrated on the moment, a great de-stresser. Try SUP yoga in Zell am See Kaprun or on the Mattsee near Salzburg, one of the warmest bathing lakes in the Salzkammergut.

Photo copyright: Achensee Tourismus

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