Escape to the mountains

Unwind with these meditative experiences among nature in Austria...

Find peace and solitude in the Austrian Alps. Stride out into the mountains and enjoy the freedom of its wide-open spaces. Forget your worries and focus on the flow of mountain, valley and forest. Breathe deep, feel your muscles loosen and your mind relax. Live in this moment.

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Take some time to escape every day life and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Austria by watching our live cam, nestled among nature at Forsthofgut Naturhotel.

Join in with a yoga festival

Video credit: Mountain Yoga Festival St Anton

Namaste! Tucked into the Tirolean Alps you’ll find the ski resort of St Anton am Arlberg, now making a name for itself internationally with its September yoga festival. St Anton is the perfect location for a celebration of yoga, mindfulness and nature. Feel grounded by the timeless Arlberg Massif and cradled by the soothing burble of the Rosanna River.

Yoga is known for its many health benefits. It alleviates stress, improves health, mood, sleep and energy levels.  Head through hay meadows with your yoga instructor.  Feel your feet and body rooted to the earth as you climb. Roll out your mat and allow the tension to flow out of your body as you relax into the warm-ups. Through the discipline of yoga, you’ll develop strength, balance and flexibility in the raw beauty of the Arlberg.

Nature, yoga, expert instruction, joyous human connection, good food and music is all part of the St Anton festival experience.

Image credit: St Anton am Arlberg/Teresa Arias

Join in with a yoga class...

"Yoga and Nature are a natural match, there is nothing more natural than yoga, nature is fluid and flowing, so is yoga"
Sigrid Pichler, yoga instructor

Find quiet in the city

In Austria’s busy cities, you’ll find unexpected places of serene beauty, ideal for quiet contemplation. Here are just three of them...

Mönchsberg, the monks’ mountain of calm above Salzburg

As if the old town of Salzburg on the River Salzach isn’t saturated enough with magnificent baroque architecture and Mozart heritage, Mönchsberg boasts a cluster of historic castles and medieval towers combined with aerial views of the city and the mountains of Berchtesgaden and Salzkammergut beyond.  Take refuge in this oasis of green, criss-crossed with quiet footpaths surrounding the complex of fortifications.  

Ride the lift, or even better, climb the quiet pathways to the top and enjoy the lull of church bells and views to a miniature Salzburg laid out below you like a 3D map. On the heights, diverge from the main paths to explore a peaceful hinterland of woodlands and meadows, its silence broken only by birdsong. Finish with a visit to the Salzburg Museum of Modern Art, then rest up at the adjoining Restaurant M32, with its panoramic sun terrace.

Museum Quarter of Vienna in the world’s greenest city

On the edge of Vienna’s historic inner city, you’ll find the MuseumsQuartier, a centre of art, design, dance, history and culture. Within this redeveloped imperial stable complex of resplendent Baroque and contemporary architecture, you’ll find an unexpected sanctuary of calm and contemplation. Lose yourself in the energy, colours, textures, playfulness and creativity of the Austrian greats such as Klimt and Schiele in the modern art galleries of Kunsthalle Wien, mumok and Leopold Museum. The uncluttered spaces, with their clean lines and white walls, challenge, quieten and stimulate all at once.

Outside, courtyards are dotted with brightly coloured reclining seating. Stroll through the plaza, relax by the water feature and enjoy a beer outside one of the museum restaurants, bars or cafés and watch the world go by. Nearby, you’ll find many of Vienna’s most beautiful green spaces and gardens: Maria-Theresien-Platz, Volksgarten, Heldenplatz and Burggarten, and beyond that the vineyards of Kahlenberg and green lung of the Danube.

Eggenberg Palace in Graz, a city oasis

Graz, Austria’s second largest city, capital of Styria, European City of Culture and UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by tranquil hills and forests and basks in its mild climate. Once you’ve wandered the old town with its Baroque and Renaissance castles, museums and churches, take the tram to Eggenberg. The turreted palace is an astronomical and mathematical delight: 365 windows, 52 in the 24 rooms of the Piano Nobile; 31 rooms on each floor and 24 opulent state rooms, all reflecting the Gregorian calendar. The Planetary Room with its sumptuous wall-and-ceiling paintings depicts planets, the moon and the associated Greek mythology. Relax in the tranquillity of the English rose garden, the more formal Planetary Garden and the Master’s Garden with its wooden pavilion and lily pond. Have a picnic in the leafy parkland, where peacocks and deer roam freely, or enjoy coffee and cakes at the Café Pavilion.

Image credits: Tourismus Salzburg; Popp Hackner; Shutterstock;

"Yoga and Mountains: What a combination! Some of the freshest air/prana you will ever breathe, bright blue skies, vibrant green mountains, open space, yoga practice and at night bright flickering stars looking down on us..."
Anna Welinder, yoga instructor

Meditate in ice-cold water

You prepare yourself to enter the freezing water, focusing on controlling your breathing and calming your mind. Once submerged, your heart pumps faster. You move quickly and purposely through icy temperatures. Your mind is focused on the present, the smooth movements of your arms and legs, the cold water on your skin and the rhythm of your breath. Afterwards, vigorously rubbed down with a towel, dressed in warm layers and with a hot drink inside, you realise you feel amazing; the cold water has invigorated and re-energised you.

Cold water swimming comes with a warning: it’s addictive. It boosts your immune system and gives you a natural high. It improves circulation, increases your libido and burns calories. It’s great for mental health too, lowering stress levels. Austria’s mountain-fed lakes are perfect for cold water swimming. Here are three chilly – and chilled – bathing spots.

"Nature is our source, home, and mother."
Karl Straub, yoga instructor

Berglsteinersee, Tirol – small but perfectly formed

Pines drop straight to the lake’s shore. Moss covered rocks rise out of the water and reeds whisper in the breeze. This is a place to reconnect with nature and feel whole again. The romantic mountain lake is found in the forested Brandenberg Alps of Tirol, between Kramsach and Breitenbach.  Warm up in the sun after a refreshing swim on one of the wooden platforms that dot the lakeside’s grassy meadow or stretch out on the pier overlooking the little wooden chalet on the western shore.  This tucked-away spot has a dreamy, otherworldly feel to it; the perfect location to embrace a cold-water swim and meditate.

Hintersteiner See – surrounded by wild beauty

Tucked into the Wild Kaiser Nature Reserve, Lake Hinterstein lies in a protected area of outstanding natural beauty, its origins dating back to the Ice Age. Filled by mountain meltwater, the lake rarely gets above 18°C, perfect for the cold-water swimmer. The turquoise water is crystal clear and the forests, meadows and jagged mountains that surround the lake are food for the soul. There’s a small beach lido, changing rooms, sunbathing lawns and café on the shore, but the contemplative cold-water swimmer can easily find a quiet spot to swim and meditate in solitude.

Vorderer Gosausee, Upper Austria – at one with nature under the glacier

Sheer rock faces and forested pines reflect in the glassy water of the Gosauseen, a chain of three lakes surrounded by the limestone towers of the Dachstein Mountains. Vorderer Gosausee, known as the ‘Eye of the God’ is one of the highest alpine lakes in Austria and fed by the glacial meltwaters of the mighty Dachstein. Expect a bracing dip beneath Dachstein Glacier. Swim among the minnows and rainbow trout and emerge from the fresh temperatures feeling incredibly alive. This is a place to commune with nature, breathe easy and find peace in Gosau’s restorative waters. 

Image credits: Shutterstock

“Practicing yoga in and with nature, is, to me, the most honest and organic way to connect to our true selves.”
Johanna Tschol, yoga instructor

Lose yourself in the stars

Head out into the night to a lonely spot far from the lights of any settlement. Pack a hot drink, wrap up warm and find your dark spot. Adjust your eyes to the blackness, soak in the stillness and silence, the inky shapes of forest and hill, then lift your eyes to the heavens. Get to know the constellations and its stars, follow the path of the Milky Way and watch a thrilling meteor shower. Lost in the star-flung sky, you’ll forget your worries.

Austria has recently been awarded its first International Dark Sky Park at Naturpark Attersee-Traunsee, one of only nine designations in central Europe. It offers one of the darkest terrains on the entire continent free from skyglow. Here are three other great spots for stargazing.

Image credit: Peter Oberransmayr

Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Salzburgerland

Hike, bike, horse-ride and swim by day and learn the names of the stars at night. Peer at the sky through two powerful, high-tech telescopes with the aid of an expert. Your universe will expand as your experience of the heavens overhead is enriched with new-found knowledge. Search out Venus and Saturn and learn to identify lesser-known planets. Surrounded by the mountains and meadows of Salzburgerland, you’ll find resident astronomer, Siegfried Hollinger in his observatory on the banks of Lake Zauchen most Wednesday evenings, eager to share his expertise – and all for free.

Gesäuse National Park, Styria

Crashing waters, jagged peaks and emerald forests, Gesäuse National Park is a terrestrial dream. But look up on a clear night and you’ll also experience the wonders of its dark skies. Far away from Austria’s cities, and shielded from lights by high mountains, the air is pure and clear of skyglow. Head to the valley of Johnsbach with the lowest levels of light pollution in the whole of Austria, or the National Park Centre Willow Dome, and learn to identify the constellations. Join a night-sky photographer course or book a star-gazing event with an experienced park ranger. Best of all, experience the Perseids, a spectacular August meteor shower.

3. Grossmugl Star Walk, Lower Austria

It’s hard to imagine there’s a near perfect star-gazing spot just 35 minutes from the light-flooded Viennese capital but it’s really the case. The 1.5-kilometre trail is a free-of-charge, self-guided walk across meadows, finishing at the ancient burial mound of Leeberg Tumulus. It takes the budding astronomist on a starry journey through nine stations explaining the wonders of the night sky. On clear evenings you can observe the Milky Way with the naked eye, distinctly sprinkled across the sky, giving the town its nickname, ‘Großmugl on the Milky Way’. The permanent star installation is open year-round.

Image credits: Altenmarkt Zauchensee Tourismus; Johannes Horvath; Shutterstock

"In the mountains, I feel grounded and free; I feel connected to the world and to myself; I feel soft, strong and embraced." 
Andrina Tisi, yoga instructor

Stand at the top of a mountain

Summiting your first mountain over 3,000 metres is an unforgettable experience from meeting your guide to the lung-busting push to the top. Stepping out, nerves dissipate as you gently climb through a narrowing valley. You tune into the cry of raptor, listen to the song of a mountain stream and crunch of snow or stone beneath your boots. Climbing higher, your attention is wholly given up to the ground beneath your feet: the tumble of rockfall, ice and snow or an impossibly narrow ridge path dropping hundreds of metres. You focus on regulating your breathing and putting one step in front of the other. You feel the elemental forces of the summit, the wind and swirling cloud, and the power of the mountain chains rising and falling on a distant horizon. You marvel at the raw beauty of your surroundings. Everyday concerns fall away. The mountain is your meditation. Nothing else matters.
 

Grossvenediger
High Tauern, Central Eastern Alps

Austria’s fourth highest peak is found in High Tauern National Park, home to some of Europe’s wildest and highest mountain ranges. At its centre lies the majestic Grossvenediger – the Great Venetian.  For beginners with good fitness and endurance levels, Grossvenediger is an exciting first 3,000-plus metre climb. Join a mountain guide and lose yourself in the clouds.

Height: 3,662 metres
Elevation gain: 1,541 metres
Route: The four F graded routes (facile, easy) all meet at the upper part of the Schlatenkees glacier. The shortest, the south route from Defregger Hut takes 2-3 hours; the longest and most beautiful, the southeast route from Badener Hut requires around 5 hours.

Hintere Schwärze
 Ötztal Alps, Tirol

The border of Austria and Italy slices through Hintere Schwärze, Austria’s fifth highest peak – in Italian Cima Nera. It’s not technically difficult (ranked easy) but beginners should hire an experienced guide to lead them through the heavily crevassed glacier. The six-kilometre climb starts from the Martin-Busch-Hut and follows the lower path into the valley to a bridge that spans the Niederjochbach, a tumbling mountain stream, before heading over the foothills of the Marzellkamm ridge. From here you climb through rocky moraine and snow-covered glacier to the summit; a superb climb.

Height: 3,628 metres
Elevation gain: 1,360 metres
Route: via the Martin-Busch-Hut; approached from the west flank.

Wildspitze
Ötztal Alps, Tirol

This ten-kilometre climb on Austria’s second highest mountain is graded peu difficile – slightly difficult, but everything’s relative. Under the care of an accredited guide, beginners with strength and stamina will soon get to grips with high-altitude walking, tricky glacial terrain with hidden crevasses, steep snowfields and roped sections. Let your worries slip away as you focus on picking your way through snow and ice, rocky talus and scree slopes.  Reaching the south summit with its massive metal cross is a sensational moment, the world at your feet and the snow-topped Tirolean Alps marching across the skyline.

Height: 3,768 metres
Elevation gain: 900 metres
Route: From Breslauer Hut via the pass of Mitterkarjoch

Image credits: Shutterstock

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