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Austria trip--routing from Salzkammergut to Tirol

Hello folks:

I am planning a trip to Austria and Italy for about 3 weeks in September, 2021. I will fly into Salzburg airport from San Francisco. I will rental a car and have a tentative itinerary as follows:

First 2 nights at Holiday Inn in Salzburg, using my free night certificates
This hotel is on the east side of the main train station, almost at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 150. I know that Salzburg is small and doesn't warrant two full days, but I need two easy days to recuperate from three flights (San Francisco-Montreal-Frankfurt-Salzburg).

On the third day, I will ride the train to Freilassing to collect my rental car.

For the 3rd night, this is where I need your help...
I would like to visit Hallstatt--take a boat trip and then swim briefly in the lake. There is a little dog beach in Obertraun by Hallstatter See that I would like to swim in. I dream about swimming in cool Alpine water and playing fetch with some nice pooches.
For this night, I am not sure whether I should stay in Obertraun or again at the Holiday Inn at Salzburg. Day tripping from Salzburg enables me to use another one of my soon-expiring free hotel night certificates and to avoid the mundane processes of checking-in and out of different hotels. On the other hand, staying in Obertraun gives me more flexibility and time to explore Hallstatt and Hallstatter See. I know that, in order to avoid tour bus crowds, the best times to be there are early morning and late afternoon.

4-8th nights in Kitzbühel area
Will spend time in Tirol, but east of Innsbruck. Just to chill in the Alps: light hiking in the mountains and along river gorges, swimming in lakes, and enjoying awesome Tyrolean food.

9th night and onward
Haven't fixed this half of the itinerary yet, but intend to spend at least 12 nights in the Dolomites, Italy.

Final 2 nights
Stay in Munich city
Fly out of Munich airport

So, for my third night, should I stay in Salzburg or Obertraun? A night at the Holiday Inn in Salzburg would be free, whereas a night at Obertraun would cost about US$170. Another advantage of staying in Salzburg is that it is located somewhat between Hallstatt and Kitzbühel. Google Maps offers three different routes for driving from Obertraun to Kitzbühel, two of which are via Salzburg/Bavaria. So, logistically, it isn't unreasonable to stay at Salzburg for an extra night.

I appreciate any advice and suggestions you may have. Thanks in advance.

Posted by
15944 posts

First, you will need to purchase an Austrian Vignette for the car unless you luck out and get a car that already has one for at least the length of your stay. Otherwise you could buy a 2-month one for 27.80 EUR, or buy a 10-day one for the first part of your trip for 9.50 EUR, then another for when you cut through Austria on the way between Ost Tirol and Munich.

As far as whether or not to stay in Obertraun or Salzburg, I'd do Obertraun since that is where you want to spend your time. Salzburg is not free, since you will have to pay for parking there and burn expensive fuel commuting. Also, your vacation time is precious and you don't want to spend it with unnecessary driving, partly in city traffic. Plus you will miss out on visiting this area outside of day-trippers hours.

Posted by
1358 posts

I would second Sam's suggestion.
Especially as you are so keen on swimming in mountain lakes, you should go to Altausseer See ("the dark-blue ink pot of the Alps"), and maybe Grundlsee and/or Toplitzsee. Having never felt the desire to swim in such rather cold lakes I don't know where the best places for swimming are, though.

Posted by
1135 posts

Salzburg is good for two days. I get the impression many day trippers miss Schloss Hellbrunn and the zoo next door. Bus from your hotel, or a gentle stroll along a pathway by the river for most of the route. Werfen castle and ice caves are also close by.

Sam makes a good point about the vignette. I've rented twice from Munich airport, and both times the car already had a vignette on the windshield - no idea if it was from the rental company or from the previous renter. I don't know what the parking situation is at your hotel but I'd also stump for Obertraun, if you are fine with the extra cost. You can stop off at Bad Ischl on the way to Hallstatt.

In 1987 we stayed in Alpbach during our honeymoon. We liked it a lot. There was an almabtrieb going off at the time we were there, I can't remember where exactly. As I remember, I much preferred Zell am See to Kitzbühel. Zell has a pretty centre and lake front, a fairly easy and pleasant hike around the lake.

Re the Dolomites. We stayed in Vipiteno for a few nights (not technically in the Dolomites?). Vipiteno has a small and attractive, arcaded centre. One day we spent mainly driving to Castelrotto and east from there. Very pretty. One of our most memorable vacation days was driving from Vipiteno to Merano. Gorgeous scenery on the way. Merano is a fabulous town in a great surrounding. I'd love to return and spend more time there, but it's always been a little out of the way.

Posted by
726 posts

Visited Ktzbuehel Altstadt today after driving by it for years. I was pleasantly surprised. Yes it is an expensive ski village, but nice. If you like Mittenwald, Germany you will like Kitzbuehel. We had to show proof of vaccination or test at a cafe there. Some people were turned away. Took the gondels up to the Kitzbuehel Horn and walked down some. Great views from the top and the Wilder Kaiser. No signs of flooding here.

Posted by
489 posts

Thank you for your responses so far. It seems that I should stay in Obertraun.

Has anybody visited Weissensee or Achensee? They seem to be pretty nice lakes.

Posted by
2700 posts

For the Dolomites…

Look into the Val Venosta/Vinschgau area. It’s basically just west of Meran/Merano and goes to the Swiss border. Mountains, beautiful valleys, small villages and so many castles. Castle Tirol, Juval Castle and Churburg Castle are all worth seeing. As is the small, intact medieval walled town of Glurns/Glorenza. Right over the Swiss border is the Convent of St Johns in Mustair, which we loved visiting.

For the quintessential Dolomites, stay in the Alta Badia, east of Val Gardena. So many Dolomite passes to drive! Spectacular! A day trip to Bozen/Bolzano and the “Ice Man” exhibit is easy from here. What a stunning area!!!

We’ve stayed in the Dolomites (Val Gardena and Alta Badia four times). We loved staying:

www.montanara.it

www.garniariston.com

In the Val Venosta/Vinschgau it’s hard to beat:

www.biohotel-panorama.it/

East if Innsbruck you may want to look at the Zillertal! Awesome alpine area. We stayed in Finkenberg, kind of “balcony” overlooking the valley surrounded by high alpine peaks.

Paul

Posted by
4283 posts

I have never had a rental car in Austria without a vignette. Note that the vignette is no longer a physical sticker as it is automatic with the car and the highway scanners will recognize whether or not there is a vignette tied to that car.

Don't be surprised if people are hesitant to allow strangers to play with their dogs, especially if you don't have a dog yourself.

Posted by
726 posts

Was at the Weissensee 10+ years ago for an afternoon, while staying in an apartment on the Millstaetter See. Seemed relaxed and family oriented then. Please search the forum for Achensee and my posts too for my recommendations and review there. Have stayed there mostly in Pertisau five times at various times of the year. Next to the Karwendel National Park too. I've taken family visiting from the US there. One of my favorites.

Posted by
489 posts

Is Weissensee worth a detour if I am going to Hallstattsee and Achensee?

BTW, I am going to Hallstatt based on a Fear-of-Missing Out (FOMO) mentality. I see that everybody in the internet raves about it and don't want to regret not traveling to it as I will be in Salzburg anyway. So, I scheduled a detour to spend time there for one day.

Posted by
15944 posts

@Emily, a car rented in Freilasing, Germany may not have an Austrian vignette that is still valid attached.

Posted by
489 posts

Thanks for the tip about the Austrian vignette. I will buy one in Freilassing or get a digital one. If the previous car renter bought a digital vignette, there is no way for me to find out whether it's still valid or not, correct?

Posted by
4283 posts

Just ask the car rental place. I’m sure that they will have purchased an annual one for the car as freilassing is a suburb of Salzburg.

Posted by
1358 posts

If the previous car renter bought a digital vignette, there is no way for me to find out whether it's still valid or not, correct?

No, not correct.

Here you can check the validity of any digital vignette: https://evidenz.asfinag.at/en/

Posted by
726 posts

I would skip the Weissensee then, when visiting Hallstatt and Achensee. The Kaerten lakes region is worth a visit, but you need the time to do it.
For what it's worth, I set my NAVI to avoid highways/Autobahn and have not bought an Austrian vignette in years. I have the time to do it though. Watch your speed thru Austrian towns as many have one or more speed cameras.

Posted by
51 posts

If you do stay in Obertraun, a very scenic route to Kitzbuhel would be Obertraun-Bischofshofen-Saalfelden-Fieberbrunn-St. Johann-Kitzbuhel. The route between Bischofshofen and Saalfelden is a high mountain pass and I wouldn't travel this road unless the weather is good.

If you stay in Salzburg, the route through Bad Reichenhall-Lofer-St. Johann-Kitzbuhel is a great drive and you should have no issues with this route in any weather.