The Austrian Alps practically define the country, at least when you consider that only one quarter of Austria can be considered as low-lying. The Alps in Austria are anything but unspectacular, and they are a big reason why so many tourists flood into Austria every year. Some of the best alpine views in the world can be enjoyed in the Austria mountains, not to mention some of the best skiing. When the snow melts, hiking, mountaineering, and Alps camping become top Austrian Alps pursuits, and if you like cycling, these mountains can sure give you a workout. You'll probably feel like your participating in the Tour de France should you try to pedal your way up some of the country's mountain passes.
You can hardly avoid the Austrian Alps when enjoying an Austrian vacation, as 62 percent of the country's total area is constituted by them. That is unless you base your trip entirely in the eastern and northern parts of the country, which are flatter. Vienna and Linz, which are two important Austrian cities, are actually not found within the Austrian Alps, so it is conceivable that the major mountains in Austria could elude certain visitors. However, since Austria is not a terribly large country, with just 32,000 square miles of land, heading west and south to see mountains is always an option.
When you look at a topographic map of Austria, you can see that the Alps in Austria are at their highest starting south and southwest of Salzburg. As such, Salzburg is often the gateway to the Austria mountains for many visitors. Come wintertime, numerous flights carrying would-be skiers and snowboarders arrive in Salzburg. The world-class ski resort town of Innsbruck is arguably the best destination for those interested in enjoying the Alps in Austria. However, you might get some arguments from folks who are partial to Zell am See, which rests on a pristine lake high in the Austria mountains. Both Innsbruck and Zell am See are ideal destinations for Austria skiing, and there are plenty of great Innsbruck hotels and Zell am See hotels for prospective visitors to choose from.
Come summertime in Austria, the Austrian Alps present a playground for kayakers, canoers, rafters, and hikers. Alps hiking, by the way, is about as good as it gets. The lakes region near Salzburg is a delightful destination in the warmer months, particularly for those who want to enjoy the signature Salzburg Sound of Music tours. You can also arrange tours in Salzburg to not only explore parts of the Austrian Alps, but also the German Alps, which are not too far off. Innsbruck, which is in the state of Tyrol, also stays prime for activities once the snow melts. Some will tell you that the hiking in the Tyrol region is the best in western Austria, and it would be hard to argue. East of Innsbruck, the Zillertal Valley is a hikers dream. You can nab a guide in this valley to take you to some of the most picturesque spots. As is the case in the higher reaches of the Alps in Austria, skiing on a glacier can even be enjoyed in the summertime. This is the case at the Tuxer Gletscher glacier in Tyrol.
For more great skiing and hiking in the Austria mountains, the city of Klagenfurt makes for a good destination. Found in southern Austria near the Slovenia border, Klagenfurt doesn't boast the same size mountains as Innsbruck does, but you can still find some great slopes nearby. In fact, the Bad Kleinkirchheim ski area, which is found close to Klagenfurt, is often where the Alpine World Skiing Championships are held.
Exploring picturesque valleys and doing some Alps camping are two other ways to enjoy the Alps in Austria. The largest national park in Europe lurks in the Austria Mountains, and though much of it remains remote, you can access certain parts, including some valleys that will take your breath away. This expansive park is the Hohe Tauern National Park, and it stretches through the Austrian states of Land Salzburg, Tyrol, and Carinthia. It is within this park that you will find Mt Grossglockner, which rises 12,461 feet into the sky. This lofty peak is just south of Zell am See, and it is the tallest in the country.