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heber ctity, Utah
November 13, 2005
It is best to enter the Salzkammergut from the north so that the scenery builds from the rolling hills of the pre-Alps to a crescendo in the high mountains and glaciers of the mighty Dachstein and the Totes Gebirge. North of the Hallstattersee, a certain amount of driving in circles is needed to see all that is worth seeing. The most scenic of these roads is going from Bad Ischl to Gmunden but also take in Gmunden to Attersee town via the east shore of Lake Attersee, from Mondsee town to St Wolfgang via the east side of Lake Mondsee and the west side of Lake St Wolfgangsee. (Note that the directions given for these drives are the way to go for the best views along each lake, although it is well worth driving both north and south along each lake, where possible).
Every visit to the northern lake region of the Salzkammergut should end in bad Ischl, for here is where the grand scenery begins. After a short visit to this quiet old spa town, we always head south on Route 145 to visit the Snack Bar, just off Route 145 between Bad Ischl and Bad Aussee. This is one of the greatest Alpine views, but it’s not in any guidebook I’ve ever seen. It is worth a major detour to see. Leave Bad Ischl going toward Bad Aussee. The highway begins to climb a mountain. About two-thirds the way to the top, the road makes a hairpin turn to the left. You will see a parking lot on your left, tucked into the bend in the road. Park here. Walk to the downhill corner of the parking lot nearest the highway to the tunnel under the road. The best views are from the terrace in front of the snack bar. Below, ringed by cliffs and high mountain walls lies the famous Lake Hallstatt. At the far end of the lake towers the mighty Dachstein, its glaciers sparkling in the midsummer sun.
From journal The Salzkammergut
Now to one of the most famous picturesque villages in the world. Everybody knows Hallstatt, even before going there, because this little village on the shores of the Hallstattersee is probably pictured on more travel posters than any place in the world. Pass by the first turnoff for Hallstatt, because you will never find a parking place at this exit unless you are staying in town at a hotel with a parking lot. Continue north. The highway enters a tunnel. Watch for parking signs turning off to the right inside the tunnel. The town’s main parking lot is carved out of the inside of the mountain, and it is short walk into the center of town. Scenic boat rides on the lake. Everybody takes pictures of the church, the best views being from the north of the church. Just off shore are found some of the oldest human settlements in Europe, estimated to be about 30,000 years old.
Continue north from the parking lot and turn left on Rt 146 to Gosau, where we headed south toward the Gosausee through a quaint little farm valley. The Gosausee is one of the most spectacular Alpine lakes. We like it even better than the Hallstattersee for sheer scenic beauty. At the far end of the lake looms the rocky crags of--you guessed it--the mighty Dachstein.
Returning from the Gosausee to Gosau, continue west on Route 166 and Route 162 to the expressway south of Salzburg. This dive, Routes 166 and 162, is one of the most pleasant in the Alps. It's not the grandest scenery, but scenery that feels right for a drive thorough the Alps. For a longer trip in the Salzkammergut, go south on Route 166 from the intersection with Route 162 and follow the more northern road from Eben in Pongau to Aich, with a trip up the Hunnerkogle cable car for a dead on look from 9,000 feet at the 10,000-foot summit of the Hoher Dachstein itself.
If time is a problem, the high points of the Salzkammergut are the view from the snack bar, the Gosausee, and Route 166-162. Begin your visit by going from Gmunden to Bad Ischl.