Looking for a bike tour of Austria? Want something a little less “known” than Lake Constance or the Danube cycle path? How about heading to Austria’s lake district, known as the Salzkammergut region?

The Salzkammergut is one of Austria’s most beautiful regions; a land of Alpine lakes, imposing mountains and pretty spa towns. It’s a gorgeous place to spend a week or two and by bike you can really get under the skin of it all.

In this article, we speak to John Vincent who has cycle toured extensively in Europe and rates the Salzkammergut within the top three places he’s ever ridden.

In this article he shares his tips for bike touring in Austria’s Salzkammergut, including the itinerary John and his wife rode, tips for where to stay and attractions. While they rode e-bikes, this route is of course suited to regular bikes too (gravel or hybrid bikes might be the best choice since there are short sections of compact gravel). Enjoy!

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What is the Salzkammergut?

The Salzkammergut is a stunning region of Austria. It’s known as the Austrian lake district, and is home to more than 30 lakes. As well ask lakes you’ll find picturesque valleys, rolling hills, and rugged mountain ranges that reach up to nearly 3,000 metres.

Much of this area remains untouched, and even in the more popular parts like Wolfgangsee and Mondsee, you can find secluded spots where pristine waters tempt you to hop into the water, especially after a long ride.

The historians out there might be interested to note that the Salzkammergut is where Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph chose to holiday almost every summer of his 68 year reign, between 1848 and 1916; and as the man who ruled the sprawling Hasburg domains, he would have had the pick of where to holiday!

Parts of the region were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Where is the Salzkammergut?

Salzkammergut lies in north-central Austria, to the east of Salzburg. Some of the main towns in the Salzkammergut include Bad Ausee, the former centre of the Salzkammergut, and Bad Ischl.

The World Heritage Site includes the towns Hallstatt, Obertraun, Gosau and Bad Goisern. They all boast lots of charm.

On the map below, you can see Salzburg marked with a red dot and to the right of it, the lakes and towns of Bad Ischl and Bad Aussee.

Map of Austria showing Salzburg

Why bike tour in Austria’s Salzkammergut?

The Salzkammergut is a scenic and delightful part of Austria to bike tour, whether you have a few days or several weeks.

As well as the stunning Alpine scenery, other push factors towards spending a cycling holiday in this part of Austria include the fact there are lots of small towns and villages, which makes refuelling and route planning pretty easy. Also useful is the fact that cycling is popular in Austria and so many of the hotels happily cater to cyclists.

Cycling in this region is also flexible; you can visit as many or as few of the lakes and towns as time and interest allow, all beginning and ending in the convenient and beautiful hub of Salzburg.

Planning a Salzkammergut bike tour route

How much time do you need on a Salzkammergut bike tour?

Beyond the time spent in Salzburg, a comprehensive bike tour visiting the majority of the lakes of the Salzkammergut, would require at least one week. If shorter day rides or layover days were spent visiting the major tourist sites, you might want to allow up to two weeks. Being a resort area, there are many attractions to visit along the way, from palaces to spas, caves to mountain top trains, lakes to swim in and mountain trails to climb. It can be much more than a bike tour if you want it to be!

Of course, you can do it more quickly if you visit less lakes and attractions.

Either way, most cycle tours would normally begin and end in Salzburg.

Cycleways and roads

The cycling routes through the Salzkammergut are a combination of paved cycleways and roads, with some stretches of compact gravel, connecting the beautiful lakes, towns and attractions. Based on my experience cycling in Europe, I would rate them as excellent.

For beginners there are trails and roads along and around the lakes’ shorelines.

You do often have to bike over hills to get between lakes, which can be more challenging. For those looking for even more challenging routes one can also bike up into the mountains themselves. In short, there are routes for everyone in the Salzkammergut.

You’ll get an idea of the surfaces as you read through this article, but here are some photos depicting the sorts of surface to expect.

Our Salzkammergut bike tour itinerary

Salzburg

Salzburg is a major tourist destination and has many attractions. It’s worth considering a walking tour of the town and perhaps a warm up ride before heading off to the Salzkammergut.

Points of interest

  • Visit Mozart’s birthplace
  • Fortress Hohensalzburg
  • Walk or cycle to the film sites for the Sound of Music

Where to stay in Salzburg

Hotel Heffterhof
A medium sized hotel in a quiet area about two kilometres from the centre of town.

What we liked:

  • Great buffet for breakfast and dinner.
  • Bike storage and helpful staff helped with bike adjustments

Salzburg to Mondsee

Option 1 (direct route)

It is an easy direct 33 kilometre paved ride from Salzburg to Mondsee on combined cycleways and roads with 460 metres of easy climbing. Once out of town the route takes you through the rolling countryside. It is not a particularly scenic route however. We recommend the Salzburg to Mondsee Alternate route below, which is much more scenic.

After arriving in Mondsee, for an extended ride the same day, or perhaps the next day, the additional 24 kilometres around Lake Mondsee itself is worth doing, again on cycleways and roads, with one section of unpaved gravel.

Option 2: alternative route

Heading north east out of Salzburg, an alternative route, a bit longer, takes you to lakes Mattsee and Irrsee before reaching Mondsee. It is 56 kilometres long with 680 metres of climbing on mostly paved roads and cycleways. This route is much more scenic than the shorter direct route discussed above. This route passes through rolling countryside with a few climbs; but also alongside two lakes.

After arriving in Mondsee, if you wish to tour the area another day, the bike paths around and along Lake Mondsee are an easy and very pretty half day ride. The remaining half of the day can be spent touring the city or spending time by the lake.

Points of interest

  • Almeida Park with associated beach and lake activities.
  • Basilika St. Michael, the film site for the Sound of Music marriage scene.

Where to stay in Mondsee

Golf Drachenwand Mondsee

Things we liked:

  • Nice resort even for non-golfers
  • Large rooms
  • Great breakfast and dining available
  • Reasonably priced
  • Bike storage

Things to be aware of:

  • Out of town

Mondsee to Gmunden

The route from Mondsee to Gmunden begins with a lovely, scenic, easy ride along the shores of both Lake Mondsee and Lake Attersee.

This is followed by the first real climb over hills between lakes to the town of Gmunden on Lake Traunsee. The climb between the lakes provides some nice vistas over the countryside. The route is predominately on paved roads and streets with a climb of 590 metres.

Points of interest

Grunberg Cable Car
Seeschloss Ort
Traunsee Lake Attractions

Where to stay in Gmunden

Hotel Magerl

Things we liked:

  • Great breakfast
  • Dining available
  • Reasonably priced
  • Bike storage
  • Nice indoor pool

Things to be aware of:

  • Out of town

Gmunden to Bad Ischl

The route from Gmunden to Bad Ischl is a relatively short, scenic, flat ride of 36 kilometres along the Traunsee shoreline and Traun River on mostly paved cycleways and roads. The shoreline route along the lake is easy and spectacular, albeit along the main road.

Being a short ride for the day, a side trip with a bit of climbing to Vorderer Langbathsee lake adds 240 metres of climbing along a road to the lake.

The last leg of the route into Bad Ischl follows the Traun River on a packed gravel cycleway.

Points of interest

  • Kaiser Villa
  • Salzkammergut Thermal Spa
  • Bad Ischl Flea Market

Where to stay in Bad Ischl

Hotel Goldener Ochs

Things we liked:

  • Great breakfast
  • Dining available
  • Reasonably priced
  • Nice rooms, some with balconies, some river views
  • Bike storage

Things to be aware of:

  • You might find better dining in town

Bad Ischl to Hallstatt


The most direct route from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt is only 20 kilometres with 180 metres of climbing (route here). A somewhat longer route of 54 kilometres with a total of 960 metres of climbing includes a side tour to Lakes Altaussee and Grundlsee (this is the route in the Komoot file above).

Both the short and long routes are nearly all paved, and the majority are along roads, with the last stretch on a gravel cycle path.

Hallstatt is a small town situated along Lake Hallstattersee, a major tourist attraction within the Salzkammergut. It was declared one of the World Heritage Sites in Austria by UNESCO in 1997. If you are going to take a lay day or two, this is certainly one of the best towns in the Salzkammergut to do it. There are many attractions.

Beyond a tour of the town itself, there are a number of attractions nearby from a tour of an ice cave to the oldest salt mine in the world dating from prehistoric times and a funicular ride to a skywalk.

Points of interest

  • Hallstatt Skywalk
  • Salzwelten Hallstatt
  • Hallstatt Ice Caves

Where to stay in Hallstatt

Being a popular tourist town, accommodations in Hallstatt can be relatively expensive. The town of Obertraun, only three kilometres away, is both less crowded and less expensive. It has a park and beach for swimming as well. We stayed there in Haus Hepi, run by a lovely British couple.

Haus Hepi

Things we liked:

  • Great breakfast
  • Reasonably priced
  • Nice rooms
  • Very friendly and accommodating hosts

Things to be aware of:

  • Dining in town
  • Bike storage secure but outside

Hallstatt to Lake Gosausse (side trip)

Lake Vorderer Gosausee is a wonderful side trip from Hallstatt. Hallstatt to Lake Gosausee and back is a 43 kilometre round trip with an elevation gain of 530 metres of relatively modest grade on paved roadways.

There is a café/restaurant at the lake and the lake itself is pretty.

Hallstatt to Sankt Wolfgang

You can take the direct road route along the west side of Lake Hallstattersee, but the bike route along the east side looks back across the lake to Hallstatt and is more scenic. This route is 45 kilometres with an elevation gain of 450 metres on mostly paved surfaces and a bit of compact gravel with a combination of cycleways and roads. It passes through Bad Ischl, which makes for a pleasant coffee or lunch stop if desired.

Points of interest

The town of Sankt Wolfgang itself is quite picturesque, stretched out along the shores of Lake Wolfgangsee. It is also worth considering having a rest day here.

The main attraction is the Schafberg Cog Railway leading from Sankt Wolfgang to the Schafbergspitze (1,783 m). With a total length of 5.85 kilometres, it gains about 1,200 m in elevation. The views from the top of the Schafbergspitze over the Salzkammergut are impressive. You can take the train both up and down.

For the more energetic, there is a hiking trail from Sankt Wolgang to the top of the Schafbergspitze. You can hike up and take the train down or vice versa, take the train up and hike down. There is a restaurant at the top as well for drinks and/or meals. It’s not a technical walk and many people do it, but it is a relatively strenuous hike.

Where to stay in Sankt Wolfgang

Weisser Bar Hotel

Things we liked:

  • Great breakfast
  • Centrally located
  • Nice rooms with balconies
  • Bike storage

Things to be aware of:

  • Not cheap, but more economical than others

Sankt Wolfgang to Hallein

The route from Sankt Wolgang to Hallein is 61 kilometres and includes 800 metres of climbing. Most of it is paved with a few sections of unpaved cycleways.

The route we rode takes you back along the east shore and then along the west shore of Lake Wolfgangsee. It also takes you along lakes Fuschlsee, Hintersee, Wiestalsausee plus a gorge along the river Almbach. While it is a longer and more challenging day of bike touring it is very scenic.

You could continue on to Salzburg, which adds another 16km (see “Hallein to Salzburg” below) of easy riding. Or you could break the route up into two days of touring by stopping in the Hintersee area, although accommodations are limited there.

Note: it is possible to bike north out of Sankt Wolfgangsee along the east side of Lake Wolfgangsee. However, the route is steep, rough and challenging; more appropriate for those on mountain bikes than touring bikes.

Where to stay in Hallein

Pension Sommerauer

Things we liked:

  • Good breakfast
  • Nice rooms
  • Covered pool
  • Bike storage

Things to be aware of:

  • Out of town

Hallein to Salzburg

The route from Hallein to Salzburg is 16 kilometres, so short and very easy, with less than 30 metres of climbing on a packed gravel and paved cycleway. It is the last stretch of the Alpe Adria Radweg bike trail, which runs 410 kilometres from Grado on the Adriatic to Salzburg.

One reason to stay in Hallein is there are a number of accommodation options that are more economical than Salzburg. Being a short ride into Salzburg, it allows you to perhaps catch a train or flight from Salzburg on the same day.

Tips for where to stay in the Salzkammergut (for cyclists)?

There are lots of accommodation options available throughout the Salzkammergut region. Many are available through Booking.com as well as all the other online reservation sites. This makes it convenient and easy to book as you bike along, booking a day or two in advance in the off seasons, May-June and September-October.

Can you handle uncertainty?!

If the answer is yes, no problem; book as you go.

If the answer is no, you’ll need to get organised. Being a holiday resort area, during the summer months of July and August, many places fill up and advance booking may be required. Alternatively, consider using a cycling tour operator as even for a self-guided tour they will have all your accommodation booked for you as well as transfer your luggage between each pension/hotel.

Where we stayed

I’ve included information on where we stayed for each section of our route, below. Please check with the accommodation before you book in case their cyclist policies have changed.

Tips

As you will be touring on a bike, be careful to confirm the pension/hotel can store or at least secure your bikes for you. Some of the hotels, especially those located centrally in Salzburg do not; meaning you have to leave them locked up on the street. This happened to us in Salzburg before we came across Hotel Heffterhof, mentioned above.

The same applies throughout the Salzkammergut, although that proved to be less problematic for us than central Salzburg. Also, a few claim they will store your bikes, but sometimes that means outside, but uncovered. We were not as concerned about that so long as they were in a secure or low risk area, but of course not everyone feels the same about this.

While online sites, like Booking.com, are easy and convenient to make and confirm a reservation immediately, many pensions/hotels in the Salzkammergut do not list online. Some have their own online reservation system. Others request travellers contact them directly by email or phone. They can be found on Google Maps by searching for “Accommodations” in the area viewed. Selecting them usually provides both their phone number and website. While sometimes inconvenient and problematic, with language barriers making contact and confirming a reservation more challenging, better accommodation prices and availability can often be found than through online booking sites.

Getting to the Salzkammergut

Whether by plane, train, bus or car, Salzburg is well serviced by them all. It is the starting and ending point of any bike tour through the Salzkammergut.

Do you need a tour to cycle the Salzkammergut?

You can plan your own route and book your own accommodations, carrying your own gear or have a bike tour operator do any part or all of it for you.

Highway code and travel information

As ever, it’s a good idea to check current travel information before you book and travel. For UK visitors, the UK government travel information pages for Austria are here.

You should also read and follow Austria’s highway code.

Food in the Salzkammergut

One luxury of bike touring, even on an e-bike, is eating as much as you want, almost anyway. The Salzkammergut does not disappoint.

Breakfast

We only stay in pensions/hotels that include breakfast. In the Salzkammergut, we found these were usually full buffets.

Bakeries

If a buffet breakfast isn’t sufficient for you, or you want a coffee break with a snack along the way, the bakeries in the Salzkammergut, like most of Europe, are fantastic.

What we liked most about the bakeries in Austria was the incredible selection. Here are our recommendations for the best of the best:

  • The Linzer Torte is a classic Austrian cake we would recommend.
  • Apfelstrudel is more common and available everywhere.
  • Austria’s most famous afternoon cake with tea or coffee is Sacher Torte. We had it at the Hotel Sacher Salzburg, pricey but a real treat.

Lunch

While one can stop for lunch in one of the many small towns of the Salzkammergut, we often enjoy a picnic lunch instead. In the Salzkammergut it is easy to find a beautiful lakeside spot along the route to stop for a picnic lunch.

While it is easy to pick up some sandwiches from a bakery and fruit from a grocery store along the way, we found that our accommodation would often allow us to make lunch from the breakfast buffet, sometimes at no cost or sometimes for a small fee. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and it saves a lot of time shopping for lunch.

Happy hour

We always find that cycling all day works up a thirst. A cold beer or a glass of wine by the lake at the end of a ride does hit the spot! You will find numerous Biergartens and Weibars in the Salzkammergut.

Dinner

At the end of a cycling day, we often check into our pension/hotel, clean up, change into street clothes and treat ourselves to a nice dinner. The restaurant choices in the towns along the lakeshores in the Salzkammergut are endless, although being a tourist area sometimes pricey.

If you want to economise, consider buying dinner from a grocery store or even a meal from a takeout restaurant to eat in a park in town or by a lake.

Final thoughts on this Austria bike tour

We had an amazing time in the Salzkammergut and would thoroughly recommend a trip to anyone considering it! As mentioned in the introduction, it ranks in the top three of all the regions we have cycle toured through. Tuscany might be first, but Salzkammergut would be second, with Slovenia probably third.

I hope this article helps you discover the wonderful Salzkammergut!

What next?

Have you been on a bike tour in Austria’s Salzkammergut? If so, tell us about it in the comments below.

Looking for info on other areas of Austria? Read our Austria guide.

Want info on other great places for cycling in Europe in summer? Read our pick of the best European cycling destinations.

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John Vincent is a retired tech entrepreneur. He continues to mentor young entrepreneurs and is a guest lecturer at universities on entrepreneurship. His wife, Darlene Horne, is a retired teacher.

They are both avid cyclists. They live in British Columbia, Canada, which allows them to cycle on their conventional road bikes year around when at home.  They cycle tour on e-bikes during the spring and autumn months in Europe. Their view is that while many cyclists go on vacation to cycle, they prefer to cycle on vacation.

Last Reviewed: 09 March 2024

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