Austria offers incredible outdoor activities and there is a huge range of things to do both during the summer and winter seasons. Simply hiking or walking along some of the Alpine trails can be exhilarating. However, more adventurous outdoor activities are readily available for all ages and ability levels. Austria has hosted the Olympic Games three times, and this means there are world-class sporting facilities, many of which are open to the public.
For skaters, taking a turn around the Olympiaworld Ice Stadium in Innsbruck is simply incredible. The stadium complex is actually made up of three ice skating rinks. A turn around the Olympic speed skating oval can also be amazing, but this opportunity is only open to experienced skaters. Lessons are available upon request.
Ever wondered what bobsledding is like? Well, head over to the Olympic bobsled track in Igls. Riders can shoot down the 1,270 meter long track in less than a minute – there is nothing like traveling at the speed of light to really get the adrenaline pumping! The track is open during both the summer and winter months, so no matter when you come you can feel the wind in your face. During the summer, the blades on the sleds are replaced by wheels.
Explore one of the oldest salt caves in the world in Hallein, near Salzburg. A tour of the Salzwelten will take visitors underground and includes a train ride, a boat ride and a trek. A small train takes visitors to the depth of the mine and then slides down a long wooden slide, just like miners did in the old days to learn about how salt has been mined for over 7,000 years. Underground, visitors will actually cross the border into Germany (no passport required!).
Another fantastic underground tour is available at the incredible Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves in Werfen. The caves are over 30 miles in length and are filled with naturally-formed ice sculptures. Using head lamps, visitors are taken into the depths of the caves for a 1 hour and 30 minute tour. The amazing ice structures and running water (in summer only) create a wonderfully unique atmosphere. The caves are open between May and October, and even during the summer months can be very cold. Sturdy footwear is recommended when visiting the ice caves.
One of the most popular things to do in Austria is white-water rafting, and some of Europe’s best white water can be found here. There are plenty of rivers, but the best are considered to be the Imster Schlucht, Ötztaler Ache, and River Inn. Experienced rafters from all over the world come to Austria to try their hand at some of these runs. Whether you’re a beginner or have experience, seek out Wiggi Rafting or Outdoorplanet for a fun white-water rafting trip.
Mountain climbing tours offered by Glocknerprofi include scaling Grossglockner and overnight stays at various huts. However, this peak is not for the inexperienced climber. Although not very high compared to other mountains, the Grossglockner is Austria’s highest peak, at 3,797 m. With a 40 degree slope ascent and the skill required to traverse glaciers, even experienced climbers should look to hire a guide. The best times to climb the mountain are between July and September.
The Austrian countryside is well-suited to cycling, and bicycle tours have become a popular activity. Although there are many cycling paths, one of the more popular routes to follow hugs the Danube. This route takes visitors alongside the majestic European river, past castles, vineyards, and quaint villages. There are plenty of places to stop along the way, and there is always the option to jump on a train or bus if you run out of steam. Radtouren organizes bike tours in Austria for visitors.
Hiking is also a popular pastime in Austria, and there are trails for every ability level. One of the most popular and not too strenuous hikes is the 4.5 mile Zirbenweg Trail, which can be easily accessed from Innsbruck. This alpine trail takes hikers to heights of 6,500 feet, where spectacular views of the surrounding areas can be admired. It is possible to do this route without a guide, although tour operators are readily available through Alpintouren.
No winter trip to Austria would be complete without trying out one or more of the amazing skiing options. Austria is known for its excellent snow and glaciers. Even if you are not a skier, head to the slopes for snow shoeing, cross country skiing or even sunbathing at the top of the mountain accessible via a quick gondola ride. The top three ski destinations are the Arlberg (which includes Lech, St. Anton, and Zürs), Kitzbühl, and the Stubai Glacier. For ski guides and instructors in St. Anton, seek out Piste to Powder Mountain Guides.