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Natural Wonders: The Best Austrian Vistas to Take it All in

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Image Courtesy of Tourism Austria 

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Whether you’re winding over a mountain pass or cruising the curves along the edge of a sapphire-blue lake, Austria has a view to offer up—always. And you aren’t limited by transportation options, either. Sure, a car gives you the freedom to stop and snap photos whenever you want, but you can also go by gondola or bicycle or train or, perhaps in that most Austrian of ways, by foot.

No matter how you get to your destination, you’ll be rewarded with an expansive, ever-changing landscape that opens your mind—and your heart—to the beauty of this alpine nation. So leave your phone in your pocket, and let yourself go a little. Feel that? That’s nature taking over, helping you leave the noise and stress of city life behind.

We’re highlighting some of Austria’s most popular scenic lookouts below. But keep your eyes open: there may be a gorgeous vista just around the bend.

  1. Accessible by bus from central Vienna, Kahlenberg is the city’s highest vantage point at 1,587 feet. For Austria, this isn’t much by way of altitude, but the surrounding landscape is terraced with grapevines—Vienna is the only world capital with wine cultivated in its limits—and the views towards the city and the mountains beyond are also superlative. There’s a café, of course, where you can get cake with your meticulously prepared coffee. You can also drink in a city panorama, including the spire of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Danube, from the slopes of Nussberg Vineyard.
  2. From downtown Innsbruck, walk to Hungerbergbahn station to catch the funicular railway that climbs up an impressive 2,811 feet. But don’t stop here; board the gondola, and continue to Hafelekarspitze at 7,657 feet. If the altitude doesn’t take your breath away, the views certainly will. Even the fluid, contemporary funicular stations themselves are eyeful; they were designed by starchitect Zaha Hadid and inspired by ice formations. The mountain is open year round; hikers, mountain climbers, and bikers take over when the snow’s gone for the season.
  3. At 12,461 feet, Großglockner is Austria’s highest peak. While the summit is for experienced climbers, those purely seeking to admire the granite-and-glacier mountain from a distance can traverse the Großglockner Hochalpenstrasse. The road zigzags through Hohe Tauern National Park, past half-a-dozen skyscraping peaks and across flower-speckled alpine meadows, and it seems like each view is more spectacular than the one you left behind. The ambitious can walk the Alpe-Adria Trail from the highest point of the Großglockner range all the way to the Adriatic Sea. It’s a 43-stage journey but with many of the trailheads easily reached by road, you can absolutely add a night or two to your Austrian adventure.
  4. In a land of mountains, it’s natural to travel upwards to look back down. For another perspective, board a sturdy little tour boat and ride across the mirror-like waters of the Hallstaetter See. People have lived in the Hallstatt region since about 1,200 BC, and the storybook village is positively picturesque. Houses cling to the hillside above the lake; the windows feature red or green shutters and flower boxes bursting with petunias; and the cobbled streets wind up to an old churchyard with a view back down to the lake below. As of 2013, there’s also a decidedly modern way to admire the view: from the Welterbeblick Skywalk, a spectacular 1,200-foot-tall viewing platform that juts out over the water. The scenery is exceptional at any time of year, but there’s an especially magical quality to the place in winter when the steep rooflines are capped with an icing of sugary snow.

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