Adventure activities on a road trip through Salzburgerland, Austria

Inspires by Avis contributor Ben Lerwill details his 8-day road trip through Salzburgerland taking in mountains, lakes and a variety of heart-pumping activities.

Situated on the Austrian border, and just as easily reachable from Munich as it is from Vienna by road, Salzburgerland is fast becoming a desirable location for holiday-makers, travellers and adventure-seekers to explore.

At Salzburgerland’s famous Lake Fuschl, wellness means wellness. Pinewoods, rumpled hills and manicured hotel grounds ring the water. The lake measures some 2.5 miles from end to end and has a ban on petrol-powered engines, lending a hushed stillness to the summer air. Trout fishermen bob around in the sunshine, Lycra-clad walkers stroll along the shore path and pelotons of cyclists whizz off into the countryside. I order coffee and cake (don’t judge – I’ve already been for a run, which in my book calls for a chocolate torte) and debate what to do with the day ahead.

The lakeside town of Fuschl is one of many health-focused resorts in Salzburgerland, the mountainous swathe of central Austria radiating south of Salzburg itself. Long the domain of Sound of Music tourists – and still as fine a place as any to march gaily into the hills singing about edelweiss – the area has also grown in popularity as somewhere to enjoy cycling, water sports and other vitalising outdoor pursuits. I’m on an eight-day road trip, looping around the region in my rental car and proving to myself that wiener schnitzels taste even better when you’ve done the exercise to earn them.

Two people paddle boarding on water

Stand-up paddleboarding 

“Stand-up paddleboarding,” is the verdict of the receptionist at Fuschl’s Hotel Mohrenwirt, when I ask for a good way to spend my time here. “Then walk up Schober mountain before breakfast tomorrow”. I heed her advice, spending a glorious couple of hours paddling across the aquamarine calmness of the lake (the Caribbean-style colour being to do with the particular plankton in the water), and making an early-morning hike up nearby Schober to revel in a wraparound panorama of lakes and mountains.

Mountain range

Peak of Schober Mountain

Perhaps because of this enlivening start to the day, I’m feeling fairly mellow when I set off on a canyoning trip in Almbach Gorge a few hours later. A good thing too, because when you’re faced with a series of ever-higher jumps into deep natural rockpools, you probably don’t want to overthink things. The gorge – aptly enough – is gorgeous, a high-walled wooded chasm alive with birdsong. “Just jump,” grins guide Max at each of the freefalls. I learn to trust his confidence. It’s a real buzz.

Waterfall leading into gorge

Almbach Gorge

Eight days is an enjoyable duration for a focused European road trip like this, giving me two nights in each of four resorts and – because of the short distances from place to place, which are rarely more than an hour apart – allowing plenty of variety, as well as ample opportunity to gawp at the pinnacled grandeur of the Austrian outdoors.

I love my time in Hochkönig, where I hire an e-bike (it’s not cheating – it’s an act of self-kindness) and head into the mountains. The view across the valley is an absolute belter, a range of bare-rock peaks known as Steinerne Meer, or ‘The Stony Sea’. I find a hillside hut selling home-baked bread and alpine cheese, spend an hour on its terrace, then continue.

Mountain range

Steinerne Meer

A windsurfing lesson on nearby Lake Zell teaches me that I’m terrible at it, but the mountain surroundings are so dramatic that I don’t really give a schilling about falling in every 30 seconds. In any case, it’s little more than a pitstop en route to my final destination, Leogang, which arguably has the most spectacular location of the lot, sitting among a prime-grade amphitheatre of limestone summits.

The summer slopes here are laced with hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails, but during my visit, everyone’s attention is squarely on the 1.5-mile downhill track known as the Speedster. The UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup, which calls in annually at Leogang (June 8-9 this year), is taking place, and the place is alive with cowbell-wielding crowds watching riders hurtling down impossible gradients at impossible speeds. I’m content to stand and spectate. In fact, the whole week considered, I’m content full stop.