© Foto Oberösterreich Tourismus GmbH/Moritz Ablinger: Morgenstimmung beim Campingulraub mit Blick auf den Attersee und das Höllengebirge im Salzkammergut.
Morgenstimmung beim Campingulraub mit Blick auf den Attersee und das Höllengebirge. Ein Paar hat den Camping Van am Straßenrand geparkt und spaziert über eine Wiese. Die Sonne geht gerade auf, tiefstehende Wolken sind über dem Attersee zu sehen.
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Take a camping trip around Upper Austria

A land of mountains and of lakes, a land on a mighty river, a land of cities. Travel through Upper Austria and be sure of amazing views wherever you set up your caravan, campervan or tent. Gaze out across the Danube, the world-famous lakes of the Salzkammergut region or majestic mountain peaks. Expect a journey into the unexpected.

Our tour of Upper Austria begins in Passau, on the Bavarian-Austrian border. The City on Three Rivers, as it is known, can be easily reached via Germany’s A3 motorway. Surprises are the order of the day in Upper Austria. This quickly becomes clear just a few kilometres over the border from Passau. 

 

The scenery of the Upper Danube Valley with its tree-lined banks is famously beautiful. But did you know that the world’s first zero-energy museum is located right here in the municipality of Engelhartszell? The Schütz Art Museum is a real hidden gem and home to classic modernist artworks by Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka as well as pieces by Waldmüller, Moll and Egger-Lienz. By the way, Engelhartszell marks the start of the Sauwald Panoramastrasse (panoramic road), which climbs up into the heights above Central Europe’s greatest river – a must if you love fantastic views.

The Danube Valley is the most enchanting route to take across Upper Austria to its state capital, Linz – and it boasts a unique natural wonder. At the Schlögene Schlinge, the Danube forces its way through the hard rock that makes up its riverbed to form a double loop. The magnificent vista from the Schlögener Blick viewing platform is well worth the short hike.

Linz – the beating heart of Upper Austria

Between the ancient granite plateau of the Mühlviertel to the north and the Kürnberg Forest ridge to the south, the Danube forges on towards Linz.

Linz is a vibrant city full of contrasts that offers up surprise after surprise. On the one hand, there are the historic alleys of the old town and the unexpectedly large and grand Hauptplatz square. Then on the other, the city boasts many modern cultural and architectural landmarks. The imposing Lentos Kunstmuseum on one bank of the Danube, home to works of contemporary art, is just one example. And on the opposite bank sits the Ars Electronica Center, probably one of the most unusual museums in the world. Rather than focusing on the past, it looks into the future and addresses the question of how new technologies are changing our society.

The Mühlviertel and the brewing town of Freistadt

At this point, we recommend taking a detour to the north into the Mühlviertel. Polished over millions of years, the rolling hills of this granite plateau offer a wealth of stunning views. The Kefermarkt winged altarpiece is a hidden jewel of Gothic sculpture, whose incredibly lifelike and expressive figures are turned to face the viewer. And a few kilometres further north lie the intact medieval walls enclosing the brewing town of Freistadt. As well as being famous for its typical Mühlviertel beers, the town’s brewery also has a unique legal structure. Shares in the Braucommune, or brewing community, which are calculated in buckets, have been linked to the ownership of houses in Freistadt’s old town since time immemorial.

 

© Foto Oberösterreich Tourismus/Mühlviertler Alm Freistadt/Robert Maybach: Hopfenplantage im Mühlviertel.
Mühlviertler Landschaft mit einer Hopfenplantage mit hochgewachsenen Pflanzen, Wald und einem Feldweg dazwischen.

Hop cultivation and
beer spiking

video

Steyr and the Kalkalpen National Park

It’s time to turn southwards again, across the Danube and past Enns – the oldest town in Austria – with its eye-catching clock tower, to Steyr. This city lies on the rivers Enns and Steyr, which unite against the backdrop of one of Austria’s most magnificent old towns. In ancient times, the iron from Styria’s Erzberg mine was brought in on the rivers by boat. And with it came prosperity and wealth. Townhouses in the city reflect every architectural style from Gothic to Baroque to Rococo, while historical monuments to industrial history can be found in the Wehrgraben district.

Most importantly, however, Steyr is the gateway to the Kalkalpen National Park. Austria’s largest forest national park is a refuge for rare plants and animals. Lynx prowl through upland forests of ancient beech trees – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you continue south through the wild and romantic Enns Valley, into ever more imposing mountains, you mustn’t miss a two-wheeled detour along the Hintergebirgsradweg cycle path at Reichraming. This wide track, which winds repeatedly through tunnels carved into the rocks, harks back to the time when timber was felled here and transported out of the head of the valley via a forest railway.

The route through the mountainous landscape on the edge of the national park and over the Hengst pass into the Pyhrn-Priel holiday region makes for a superb drive. Here, the Northern Limestone Alps rise to heights in excess of 2,000 metres. On the domed Wurbauerkogel mountain in Windischgarsten stands the National Park Panorama Tower, a glass viewpoint designed so visitors can gaze out into the distance and count the peaks on the horizon. Away from this peaceful scene, however, the Wurbauerkogel is also a place for adventures, with its challenging bike park and exhilarating Alpine coaster ride.

It’s worth taking a detour here, too, into the Stoder Valley. A few years ago, the people of Austria voted the Schiederweiher lake in Hinterstoder the most beautiful place in the country. When the angular peaks of the Totes Gebirge are reflected in its waters, have your camera at the ready to capture one of the most stunning scenes in the Alps.

Mountains, lakes and salt

Culture and tradition are nurtured and preserved in Upper Austria’s monasteries. And behind monastery walls, they also know how to eat well. If you catch sight of the towers of Schlierbach Abbey on your way through the Krems Valley, you’d be wise to take a break for refreshment, as the Cistercian monastery  produces its own cheese, which can be sampled in the on-site restaurant. A mouth-watering final stop before you continue into the Salzkammergut.

Forested and restful, the Alm Valley offers a foretaste of this region of lakes and mountains. Where the Almsee lake nestles peacefully at the head of the valley, the health benefits of woodlands are well-known. “Waldness” is the name given here to a form of forest wellness, where visitors enjoy relaxing and restorative stays in the woods, supported by professional coaches. What’s more, the deepest lake in Austria, Traunsee, is only a stone’s throw away. Gmunden on the lake’s northern shore is the home of Gmundner Keramik, fine tableware from Upper Austria. In the Salzkammergut region, where the concept of the summer holiday was invented, nature doesn’t hold back on superlatives. Continue on to the Attersee to discover the largest inland lake in the whole of Austria and the best surroundings in which to enjoy freshly caught fish. Perhaps you too will find inspiration in the place that helped propel both Gustav Klimt and Gustav Mahler to the pinnacle of their creativity during summer visits. You’re sure to encounter these two famous names as you make your way through the Salzkammergut.

A road popular with Salzkammergut aficionados follows the Weißenbach along its winding valley from the Attersee across to the Traun Valley and on to Bad Ischl. The town, which will be the European Capital of Culture in 2024 together with the surrounding Salzkammergut region, is much more than just the former summer retreat of the Austrian emperor. Of course, a visit to the Kaiservilla and a taste of delicious Zaunerstollen from Zauner, former confectioners to the Imperial and Royal Court, are musts. But then there’s also Katrin, Bad Ischl’s local mountain, which has its own cable car and a breathtaking view of the majestic Dachstein massif. And anyone who has taken a hike up the Rettenbachalm will never forget the mouth-watering delights served in the local inn.

Let’s turn our attention back to the Dachstein. The highest mountain in Upper Austria is located in the federal state’s southernmost corner. Take the cable car up to the spectacular 5fingers viewing platform to gaze hundreds of metres down onto Lake Hallstatt and the small town of Hallstatt, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that has given its name to an entire period of human history. A visit to Salzwelten Hallstatt will give you the chance to see inside the world’s oldest salt mine. The Dachstein mountain itself is criss-crossed by labyrinthine cave systems, which are gradually being explored. If you venture into the Giant Ice Cave, prepare to be stunned by the dazzling ice sculptures that have been shaped by nature.

The names of other large lakes will also feature on your journey through the Salzkammergut. For instance, there are unique opportunities to set up camp directly beside the turquoise waters of Lake Wolfgang. And if you take a ride up the Schafberg at full steam on the rack-and-pinion railway, panoramic views of the Salzkammergut’s lakes come as standard. Finally, Mondsee is an ideal destination, whether you’re a water sports enthusiast or you simply fancy a relaxing paddle. It’s the warmest bathing lake in the region, making it the perfect place to end your tour of Upper Austria and linger a little while longer. After all, moments like this are precious.