Vistas of spectacular snowcapped mountains, rampaging rivers and might water falls, deep gorges and dark forests, of rolling hills and sparkling blue lakes, and of the peaceful Danube, that provide the most familiar images of Austria. Certainly Austria’s scenic beauty is unsurpassed by any country in Europe, but there is so much more to this complex and interesting country.
The history and culture of Europe has been deeply intertwined with that of Austria. From Roman domination to the Crusades, through the Hapsburg dynasty, to the Austro-Hungarian empire and the start of World War I, Austria has controlled and affected much of eastern Europe. Her contribution to architecture has been great, from the many royal castles that dot the countryside, to the magnificent baroque churches and cathedrals, from little villages to the larger cities such as Vienna and Salzburg; there is no lack of culture to absorb or sights to experience. Schubert, Hayden, Mozart, and many other musical genii have made Austria the center of classical music. Austria’s geographical position in the center of Europe has given her a rich and varied cuisine. The first European coffee houses are to be found in Vienna. Her café’s and pastry shops produce some of Europe’s tastiest and delectable treats.
With so many small roads and bike paths covering Austria, this is an ideal country to visit by bicycle and tandem. The constant scenic splendor is the focus of our tour; yet it is not so much a tour of destinations as it is a continual exposure with each pedal stroke and each footstep, to the beauty, the history, the people and the culture. Riding west from Vienna, our tour explores the vineyard-covered hills, sprinkled with castles and churches along the Danube; then we head south through the region of lakes nestled amongst some of the most majestic mountain peaks in Europe, to Austria’s gem of a city, Salzburg. Finally, we ride east through the alpine hills, valleys, and gorges of the eastern Alps, returning to Vienna.
JUNE 13 - BADEN BEI WIEN
We’ll meet you at the Vienna airport and take you to our start hotel in Baden. You’ll have the remainder of the day to relax, get settled, assemble your bike, explore the village, or just take a nap. Our get-acquainted dinner is at our hotel tonight, followed by an overview of the tour.
For early arrivals, there is a tram from Baden to the center of Vienna where one can spend a full day, and only scratch the surface of this amazing city. For those who would prefer to stretch their legs to help shed the jet lag, there are many roads to explore winding thru the Wiener Wald (Viennese Forest). On the early arrival map the dashes represent 37 miles of cycling . But there are many ways to explore this region so feel free to make your own route.
JUNE 14 - TULLN 35MI, 1300FT OR 56MI, 2500FT OR 64MI, 4000FT
Immediately upon leaving Baden and the surrounding vineyards, we enter the hilly wooded country of the Wienerwald (Viennese Forest). Most of the day will be spent meandering along shaded winding roads, through tiny villages nestled in the valleys. Even though we are just a few kilometers west of Vienna, the Wienerwald retains a peaceful, uncrowded character. The small but beautiful mountains we are cycling through are the eastern terminus of the mighty Alps chain, which stretch through Switzerland, down through France and Italy, and finally disappear into the Mediterranean Sea. In Heiligenkreuz, be sure to check out the Cistercian abbey, perhaps the best example of Romanesque-Gothic architecture in Austria. We exit the wooded hills to the north through the flat farmland to the charming town of Tulln, sitting on the banks of the Danube River.
JUNE 15 - MELK 47MI, 500FT OR 51MI, 2300FT
The ‘blue’ Danube is certainly one of Europe’s most important rivers, being the major waterway for much of Eastern Europe and is the second longest (behind the Volga). The section from Krems to Melk, called the Wachau, is considered the most beautiful stretch of the entire river. A quick 25 miles in the morning bring us to Krems and a major pastry or lunch stop. Just up river is Durnstein, the prettiest village along the river and made famous by the legend of King Richard the Lion Hearted; it was in Durnstein where he was held captive in the castle dungeon for many years. We will have the opportunity to see many churches and castles on today’s ride, including the fortified church of St Michael, the castle of Hinternaus in Spitz, the huge fortress at Aggstein, as well as Schloss (castle) Schjonbuhel, and most important, the amazing baroque abbey of Stift Melk. It is advisable to arrive early in Melk, since it will take an hour or two to explore the Abbey, considered the most famous of all baroque architecture. The village is also quaint, with a beautiful town square, many little stores and pastry and coffee shops.
JUNE 16 -STEYR 64MI, 4500FT OR 67MI, 3000FT
Today, both of our routes leave the Danube and head into the low hills to the south. The easier route follows a bike path along the Danube to Sarling, while the harder route hits the hills directly out of Melk. This area is not famous for its beauty, something that is entirely unfair. We’ll see mostly farmlands and grazing cattle, with rolling green hills, little romantic villages, and quiet roads – all very pastoral. There will be splendid views and sweeping downhill runs from beautiful ridges, winding river valleys, shaded forest roads; all in all, some of the best mellow riding of the tour. Steyr is an interesting town and deserves some exploring, if only to find a good bierstube or hofbrauhaus for a cold stein of beer.
JUNE 17 - GMUNDEN 52MI, 3500FT
We leave Steyr heading south, with the Enns River on our left and beautiful rolling green hills on our right. Certainly a mellow ride to begin with, but eventually we do have to climb a number of these hills with the reward of some very nice twisting descents. We call these Swiss rollers, but anywhere else they would be called serious climbs. The long route includes an out and back up the Almtal, a scenic valley, to the Almsee. The climb is gradual with plenty of gorgeous sights for distraction, and well worth the extra effort (adds up to 24 miles and 1300 feet). We have quietly entered into the higher mountains of the Salzkammergut, and the scenery just gets better as we approach our destination city of Gmunden, nestled beneath towering peaks on the shores of the Traunsee.
JUNE 18 - MONDSEE 54MI, 2000FT
The combination of steep mountains and blue lakes makes for great scenery and awesome views, and for today’s ride, that is exactly what we have. We start with a climb (optional) up the Gmundnerburg, directly above town, for the views of the Traunsee and the near-vertical mountains on the other side. We descend back to the Traunsee and the beautiful village of Traunkirchen. In Bad Ischel, after lunch, we can visit the world famous pastry shop, Café Zauner. Nearby, in the picturesque village of St Wolfgang, sitting beneath the cliffs of the Schafberg, we have the option of taking a small ferry across the lake, or cycling around (9 miles extra). Above St Gilgen, the hills are alive with the sound of music, at least during the filming of the ‘Sound of Music’. The Mondsee is the warmest of the lakes in the Salzkammergut and will most certainly be beckoning us to enjoy a refreshing swim at the end of our ride.
JUNE 19 - MONDSEE 38MI, 2500FT
Today can be a total rest day, go nowhere but the nearest café or the beach and do nothing but relax. Since our up coming chances to visit Salzburg will be too few and too short, one option for today is to take a bus to Salzburg, and see as much as possible. We will be in the area for the next few days, and the riding is so enjoyable that no matter what route you choose, you can’t go wrong. For today, if you would prefer an easy bike ride, the loop route is quite exceptional. We pass by five small lakes, farmhouses, rolling hills, tiny villages, and countless good views. This is an easy ride and everyone should be back in time to enjoy relaxing in Mondsee.
JUNE 20 - BERCHTESGADEN 38MI, 1600FT OR 39MI, 3500FT, OR 47MI, 5500FT
Salzburg can easily be declared one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It has often been described as a Baroque city extraordinaire, exemplified by the architecture of the many beautiful buildings. Salzburg has a great musical heritage, and is the hometown of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as well as the home of the Von Trapp “Sound of Music” family. There are many wonderful shops, restaurants, and cafes; there are museums, churches, music festivals; and there is an impressive castle overlooking the city. One day is certainly not enough to fully appreciate this wonderful city, but we are only passing through on our way to another fabulous destination, Berchtesgaden, nestled high in the German Alps. Our longer ‘scenic’ route is just that, very beautiful, as we wind over meadow topped hills, around small lakes through forests and little villages. However the best is saved for last. As we climb over the steep hills to Berchtesgaden we have the option of riding the famous ring road, the Rossfeld Höhenring-Strasse. This road follows the ridgeline and has steep dropoffs on both sides adding 8miles and 2000 feet of climbing. Just past the top, on a small dirt road there is a small hut / restaurant that serves great beer, cheese and bread.
JUNE 21 - BERCHTESGADEN VARIOUS ACTIVITIES OR LOOP RIDES
Berchtesgaden was closed off from most of the world for centuries because the residents were essentially slaves to the land owners. As a result true cottage industries developed as a means for earning income from selling crafts to traveling merchants. Most notable are the brightly colored wooden boxes made by hand, even to this day. The town museum depicts the lives of the slave workers. The nearby salt mines are definitely worth a visit. Hitler’s 50th birthday present, the nearby Eagle’s Nest, affords spectacular vistas of the surrounding lands. This mountain top residence is a big tourist attraction, reached only by bus, but everyone should visit this spectacular place if possible. Amid all this history is one of the most beautiful spots in Europe and if you have the legs for it, there are plenty of cycling routes, and some of the best hiking in Germany. Eagles nest : For a great history lesson, take the bus (only) to the Eagles Nest, Hitler’s hideaway. The setting is spectacular, the views are magnificent, and the history of its construction and occupation is most interesting. Then on the way back to Berchtesgaden, stop at Obersalzberg and visit the Museum there:
Dokumentation Obersalzberg: A permanent exhibition on the history of Obersalzberg and the Nazi dictatorship. This is very informative and very well done. Last permitted entrance to the exhibit is at 4pm; you should plan on about 2hrs to comfortably make the tour.
Salzburg: There is convenient bus service to Salzburg where one could easily spend the next three days and still have plenty to see and do.
There are plenty of other options including hiking, boat rides cable cars and even bike riding.
JUNE 22 - BAD AUSEE 51MI, 4000FT OR 60MI, 4500FT
Today we head deeper into the Salzkammergut, and the rolling green hills give way to forests, deep valleys and large imposing mountains. This will be some of the most beautiful mountain and lake scenery yet, as we pass by a couple of the famous Salzkammergut lakes, including the stunningly beautiful Hallstatter See. The villages are smaller and more rural, but still very charming. If there is one which most deserves to be on a post card, it is Hallstatt. This mostly Baroque village clings precariously to the steep mountain slopes on the edge of the Hallstatter See. Shortly after this wonderful village, we face the most daunting obstacle of the entire tour, a 1 k climb of 14%, followed by 500 meters of 23%. Luckily it is short and walking is permitted; and after this effort, we get to blast down hill. The longer route takes a side trip to the Gausausee (9 miles and 500ft extra). Beneath the cliffs of the Dachstein range, this lake is considered the most beautiful of the many lakes in this region. Bad Aussee is another quaint spa town, and relaxing here will not be difficult after the day’s ride.
JUNE 23 - ADMONT 47MI, 1700FT OR 71 MI, 5000FT
We stay in the mountains the entire day, but most of the route will be in the Enns River valley, so the ride will be somewhat mellow. It will be the tiny side roads and cute little villages with their churches, restaurants and pastry shops that will define today’s ride. At the start of the day, the very scenic ride around the Grundlsee adds 10 miles, and no elevation, but most important it is one of the prettiest lakes on the tour. The Salzastrausee road is closed to traffic so is worth the extra miles. The harder route explores a couple of hidden mountain valleys and a small pass with a great descent. Once in Admont, treat yourself a visit of the Gothic cathedral, the Stift Admont. The more recently constructed abbey library is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in the world.
JUNE 24 - MARIAZELL 61MI, 3000FT
East of Admont is the Steiermark region, a rugged mountainous area with deep, heavily forested valleys. The rock faces of these mountains provide some of the best climbing in Austria. Immediately upon leaving Admont we enter the
Gesause gorge beneath the steep mountains of the Eienerzer Alpen. The route then follows the Salza River valley all the way to Mariazell. This is a very gentle climb (37 miles.1000ft), and very scenic, following the high rocky peaks of the Hochswab range. Mariazell is on one of the pilgrimage villages and has an incredible church. Be sure to visit it and do a little exploring, then enjoy an ice cream or pastry at the famous restaurant (be sure to check out the bathrooms).
JUNE 25 - SEMMERING 57MI, 4000FT
Today’s ride is much like yesterday’s, high mountains, forested hills, cute villages, gradual climbs and descents on beautiful roads following winding river valleys. We start the day rambling up a small valley beneath the forested hills, occasionally busting out into rolling meadows, dotted with the occasional farm. The middle part of the day is cycling down the Murz River, 25km of gentle downhill. The final climb is on small winding roads, sometimes following the famous Semmering railway. Another option is to actually take the train to the top. Our ‘grand’ hotel at the Semmering Pass has a wonderful setting and will be a great place to relax, (they have a great spa).
JUNE 26 - BADEN 50MI, 3000FT
Again a wonderful day of riding, with great views and sweeping descents, cute villages and tall churches, pastries and coffee, and of course easy climbs. After the winding descent from the Semmering, our first gradual climb is up the deep gorge, Höllental, or Hells Valley. From here it is a series of pretty valleys, punctuated by gentle climbs . Soak in the beauty, for this is the last day. Take another look at the vineyards, the mountains, the lovely creeks, and the forests. Breathe in once more and when we arrive in Baden in the afternoon, take another stroll through town, order a “café mélange” and enjoy the essence of Austria, for you will want to return.
JUNE 27 - DEPARTURE
We’ll take you to the airport for your journey home or onward.