Nestled in Austria’s Salzkammergut Lake Region – between the edge of Hallstätter See and the towering Dachstein mountains – is the town of Hallstatt one of Austria’s oldest and most likely most photographed village in the region. Its 16th-century Alpine houses cast shimmering reflections onto the calm waters of the lake with towering mountains on all sides. Accessible only by boat or mountain trail, the lakeside town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is also home to almost 800 residents. Towards the west, a trail leads hikers to the Echern Valley famous for its glacial potholes and Waldbackstrub Waterfall.
For centuries, the village has benefitted from a very sought-after commodity below the surface of the earth: salt. The Hallstatt mines – Salzwelten – is possibly the world’s oldest salt mines with a subterranean salt lake. Connected via a funicular railway, it is said to have been discovered as early as the 15th century and was used until modern times as the most important location for mining in the region. A particular feature here is the “Man in Salt”, a corpse that was discovered in 1734, perfectly preserved with his tools.
At an elevation of 1,677 ft above sea level, the Lake Hallstatt is about 125 meters deep and connects three other small towns. People come to admire the lake from the top, swim in its clear water, or take a boat ride as part of discovering the history of Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut surroundings.
The Dachstein Skywalk, located at an altitude of about 2,700 meters, allows visitors to see over Austria to Slovenia and the Czech Republic on a good day. Voted as one of the highest suspension bridge in Austria, this viewing platform is completely made of glass.
A short cable car ride, plus a 20 minutes walk brings you to the entrance to the Dachstein ice cave. An organised tour of the cave lasting one hour shows you the natural wonders of the ice forms and the man-made ice sculptors including the Grais Castle, Parsifal Cathedral, and the Tristian Cathedral. Annually, more than 150,000 people visit this natural wonder of the alps.