The beautiful scenery of Lake Gosau and Hallstatt, Austria

The hills are alive with the sound of … cow bells.

I am often asked how I choose my holiday destinations. More often than not they are well known places that I have read about or places friends have already visited. But recently, a new trend seems to have formed thanks to the power of social media (Instagram in particular, although the Earth Pics twitter account also has a lot to answer for). This trend involves me simply seeing an amazing photo of an amazing place and thinking ‘Where IS that?’ and ‘Can I feasibly go there?’. I have form with this, see here. For this reason alone, a trip to Lake Gosau and the village of Hallstatt – a UNESCO World Heritage site was planned.

Lake Hallstatt and Lake Gosau are located in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. The area is about an hour’s drive south east of Salzburg, which is the airport that we flew into.

Hallstatt seemed like a destination which was good for a couple of days, so I needed to extend the trip by looking for a nearby place that we could stay and explore beforehand. After a lot of researching, I stumbled across a lovely looking little guesthouse on the shores of Lake Gosau.

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Lake Gosau

Lake Gosau, or Vorderer Gosausee as it is known locally lies about half an hour west of Hallstatt and just over an hour from the airport. Taking a detour from the main 166 road that heads to Hallstatt, Lake Gosau can be reached by taking a right turn onto the Gosausee Bezirksstraße through the scenic valley town of Gosau. Heading through the town, the towering and jagged mountains ahead mark the spot that you are heading for.

The beautiful Lake Gosau

The beautiful Lake Gosau

Gasthof Gosausee

Arriving at the lake, there is only one accommodation option here (at lake level) – Gasthof Gosausee. A family run hotel on the edge of the lake, surrounded by the towering Dachstein-West mountain range, it has a number of guest rooms, a lakeside patio, snack kiosk, gift shop and a lovely restaurant offering great local dishes (and huge portions). Staff are friendly and welcoming and it becomes a perfect base for day trippers visiting the lake. Whether it’s hikers starting on their treks or visitors heading to the gondola up the mountain located behind the hotel, it’s a useful stopping point.

We stayed here for two nights – the first night we were the only guests staying at the hotel. It was so peaceful and serene, apart from the relaxing sounds of cowbells from the nearby meadows.

Gasthof Gosausee on the shores of Lake Gosau

Gasthof Gosausee on the shores of Lake Gosau

It is fair to say that the main selling point for the hotel is the view of Lake Gosau. That spectacular view. Make sure you book a lake view room, as you will certainly not be disappointed. Looking out onto the crystal clear, calm water giving a mirrored view of the mountains and glacier is a beautiful thing. If you want to check out some reviews for the hotel, click here.

Morning views from Gasthof Gosausee looking our across the lake

Morning views from Gasthof Gosausee

Mirrored reflections on Lake Gosau

Mirrored reflections on Lake Gosau

Hiking and Walking

Zweiselalm

Predominantly a skiing destination in the winter, and a hiking destination in the summer the conveniently located Gosaukammbahn cable car is right behind the hotel. This will transport you up to the alpine meadows of the Zweiselalm, offering miles of hiking trails, 360 degree views and plenty of alpine huts for your rest stops. We spent a few hours up here wandering the trails, and stopping off every now and again for a break at a mountain hut. The nearest hut to the mountain cable car station is the Gablonzer Hutte offering great food, accommodation and most importantly, refreshing continental beers! Be sure to stop off before heading back down to the lake. By the way, you don’t have to take the cable car – you can hike down if you have a couple of hours to spare.

Heading to the Zweiselalm on the Gosaukammbahn cable car

Heading to the Zweiselalm on the Gosaukammbahn cable car

The view of Lake Gosau and the Dachstein mountain range from Zweiselalm

The view of Lake Gosau and the Dachstein mountain range

Gablonzer Hütte at the top of the cable car from Lake Gosau

Gablonzer Hütte – a great place to stop for a drink or two

Before I go any further, let me tell you that I am not a true hiker. I don’t like to be out for hours on end away from my creature comforts, and I am also not a fan of any particularly risky hiking activities or locations. Walking on safe trails with great views for a couple of hours is ideal for me.

Hiking around Lake Gosau

Another great hike and suitable for the likes of me, is a hike around the lake. This takes approximately an hour, is relatively flat and again offers fabulous views from pretty much any point along the trail. The reflections on the lake are something else.

Towering peaks and Alpine huts at Lake Gosau

Towering peaks and Alpine huts at Lake Gosau

The sun catching the trees and casting great reflections on Lake Gosau

The sun catching the trees and casting great reflections on Lake Gosau

There is an extended hiking option, which is definitely worth an extra couple of hours. At the very back of Vorderer Gosausee, another trail will lead you further up towards the glacier to another lake called the Hinterer Gosausee. This hike takes roughly an extra hour each way, but the views that greet you along the way make it unmissable. It’s fairly hilly in sections, but nothing too taxing.

The hiking trail to Hinterer Gosausee from Lake Gosau

The hiking trail to Hinterer Gosausee

Hikers exploring the shores of Hinterer Gosausee

Hikers exploring the shores of Hinterer Gosausee

Once you arrive at the far end of the Hinterer Gosausee, you will be pleased to hear that there was another alpine hut, Hozmeisteralm, which was ideal for a lunch stop before the trek back to the hotel. This alpine hut sits right under the Dachstein Glacier and it was a great spot to look up and admire the dramatic scene.

The Dachstein Glacier above Hinterer Gosausee

The Dachstein Glacier above Hinterer Gosausee

The hike back had few welcome downhill sections. We returned around the opposite side of Lake Gosau to do a full loop, which offered more amazing scenery. We arrived back to the hotel just before a thunderstorm hit, which was spectacular to watch from the safety and shelter of the hotel.

A tree growing from a rock on the shore of Lake Gosau.

A tree growing from a rock on the shore of Lake Gosau.

Portrait shot standing on the shore of Lake Gosau

Standing on the shore of Lake Gosau

Lake Hallstatt

After a couple of days at Lake Gosau, it was time to move on to Hallstatt – the main reason why we had travelled to Austria.

Hallstatt is a spectacularly beautiful village on the shores of (unsurprisingly) Lake Hallstatt. The traditional Austrian architecture set to a backdrop of towering mountains is so dramatic it left me feeling lost for words.

Classic view of the beautiful town of Hallstatt form a popular photography spot

Classic view of the beautiful town of Hallstatt

Houses built into hillside at Hallstatt

Houses built into hillside at Hallstatt

The centre of Hallstatt is a traffic free zone. When you arrive (and if you are staying in the village), road signs direct you to a car park on the outskirts of the town, from where you are then shuttled into town.

Hotel Seewirt Zauner

We opted to stay at the Seewirt Zauner hotel, which was located in the main square. Looking very traditional on the outside, the hotel actually turned out to be very modern. We chose a room on the top floor with a balcony, which gave a nice (if slightly restricted) view over the village and lake. It was a great location with plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby during the day.

Exterior shot of the Seewirt Zauner hotel in Hallstatt

Exterior shot of the Seewirt Zauner hotel

Balcony views from our hotel room at the Seewirt Zauner

Balcony views from our hotel room at the Seewirt Zauner

Hallstatt Village Square

Hallstatt Village Square

Things to do in Hallstatt

Boat Trips

So what is there to do in Hallstatt? Well, we started off with a boat trip. No point in staying at a lakeside village without taking a trip out on to the lake! There were a few cruises available and we opted for a short cruise. This was a round trip between Hallstatt and Obertraun, located on the opposite side of the lake. Lasting about an hour, we had fantastic views of the surrounding areas.

A view of the ferry boats on Lake Hallstatt

A view of the ferry boats on Lake Hallstatt

Low hanging mist over the village of Obertraun

Low hanging mist over the village of Obertraun

The mountains towering over the village of Hallstatt

The mountains towering over the village of Hallstatt

Funicular Railway

Another thing worth doing is taking a ride on the funicular railway which takes you onto the Salzberg mountain.  While you are there you can visit the salt mine or the Rudolfstrum restaurant, which has a panoramic terrace overlooking the lake. If you are feeling brave and have a head for heights, why not check out the ‘World Heritage Skywalk’ – a viewing platform that juts out from the mountain 350 metres above Hallstatt.

A view of the funicular railway to Salzberg Mountain from the lake

A view of the funicular railway to Salzberg Mountain from the lake

Looking down at Hallstatt from the World Heritage Skywalk

Looking down at Hallstatt from the World Heritage Skywalk

There are plenty of other attractions in the area, but we were fairly limited by time and rainy weather to do some of the other things.

So, what were my thoughts on Hallstatt?

Well, it is as beautiful as every photo makes it look and a lovely place to spend some time. However, being so beautiful it attracts hordes of tourists. Every hour from 9am to 5pm coaches arrive and drop off hundreds of people onto the narrow streets. The Chinese love Hallstatt so much that they have built a replica of the village in China, I kid you not. It doesn’t make for a relaxing time strolling around. I found it quite stressful at times. The coaches stop for a limited time, meaning that everyone is literally clambering around to try and see as much as they can in their designated time slots. Then, come 6pm, when the last of the coaches leave, the village becomes a ghost town. The cafes and restaurants close and you are pretty much limited to the hotels for entertainment and dining.

 

Night photography in Hallstatt

My one attempt at night photography in Hallstatt

In hindsight, if I were to return I would likely stay across the lake in Obertraun and jump on the ferry to Hallstatt for a visit. Most likely though, I would stay at Gasthof Gosausee and travel in to Hallstatt for a few hours. Funnily enough as we were checking out of Gasthof Gosausee the owner asked where we were going to next. On mentioning Hallstatt, he knowingly smirked and nodded, saying ‘OK, well we may well be seeing you back here in the next few days if you need some peace and quiet.’ It honestly was quite tempting.

Have you ever visited either of these locations?

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12 Comments on “The beautiful scenery of Lake Gosau and Hallstatt, Austria”

  1. Excellent job in providing info about a beautiful place to visit! Great descriptions and gorgeous photos! Your night shot is actually quite cool!

  2. I wandered into your blog from the Community Pool. Lovely pictures and stunning scenery. I like your conversational, light hearted, personable writing style. Looking forward to seeing more. Do pop into my blog and lemme know your thoughts. I do some travel writing too.

  3. Oh my goodness! Talk about breathtaking views. Can easily see why you gave this place a go, just by simply looking at one of these pictures ourselves makes us want to jump on the next flight and visit.

  4. Pingback: Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa – Shoot from the Trip

    • The hiking is great and really not too difficult.
      It was very quiet when we were there. We had the cable car to ourselves (and staff member). I’m not a fan of sharing cable cars with other people!

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