Austria – you wouldn’t think that this landlocked country would have much scuba diving. And even when it comes to ranking the best outdoor activities in Austria, the country lives in the shadows of its flashier neighbor, Switzerland.

Instead, Austria is perhaps best known for being the home of Mozart, schnitzels, and imperial architecture. But with lakes, rivers, mountains, and valleys, Austria has some of the best outdoor activities in Europe, from hiking to mountain climbing, whitewater kayaking, skiing, cycling, paragliding, and – of course – scuba diving.

Yes, Austria is an adventure travel destination worth traveling to. With its beautiful Alpine landscapes and fairy-tale-like lakes, Austria is a place where you can create wonderful moments in nature, in both summer AND winter.

Official LanguageGerman
Capital CityVienna
Population8,970,205 (2024)
Famous CitizensWolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
a map of Austria

Find your next adventure with these best outdoor activities in Austria. Enjoy!

Scuba Diving in the Mountain Lakes

Austria has thousands of lakes with hundreds of dive sites centered mostly in the Salzkammergut and Salzburg regions in the northwest of the country, with Lake Altaussee, Wolfgangsee, Traunsee, Wallersee, and Gosausee representing the best-loved lakes by divers. But there are also popular dive spots in the west with Lake Achensee, and in the south with Lake Wörthersee, Millstätter, and Weissensee. And you can also dive in the capital city of Vienna in the popular Neufeldersee Lake.

Scuba diving in the Austrian lakes

These glorious Austrian mountain lakes sit more than 1,000ft (300m) above sea level, meaning that you’ll be diving at altitude. You can expect to see a variety of freshwater fish, like crayfish, trout, and catfish, and also sunken objects, underwater trees, and even wrecks.

Best Time To Go: You can dive in the Austrian lakes all year round, but the water conditions are generally better in the winter when the visibility often exceeds 65ft (20m). On the flip side, water temperatures drop below 39°F (4°C), but if cold water diving is your thing, smaller lakes freeze over and you can also try ice diving. Lake Weissensee is one of the best places to dive under the ice.

Hit the Slopes! Skiing and Snowboarding

Whether you’re a ski, snowboard, or sleigh kind of person, there’s no shortage of ski resorts, making skiing one of the best outdoor activities in Austria.

Best of all, it doesn’t matter if you’re a pro skier or a beginner, skiing in Austria ranges from easy to moderate, with different terrains and landscapes. From well-groomed slopes to thrilling descents and picturesque sceneries, Austria has some of the best skiing in Europe.

For reliable snow, head to Ski Arlberg, Austria’s largest skiing area that is interconnected with ski lifts and pistes. Located in the Vorarlberg region on the border with Switzerland, Alberg has some of Austria’s most popular ski resorts, including Lech (more upmarket) and St Anton (known for its après-ski nightlife).

Female freeride skier in Austria

But there’s plenty more. In SkiWelt, in Tyrol, you’ll find thrilling slopes as well as family-friendly alpine resorts. While the Saalbach-Hinterglemm in the region of Salzburg has something for everyone.

Best Time To Go: The best time of year for skiing in Austria is between November and February with some ski resorts open until early spring. But regardless of the season, you can hit the piste all year long on the Hintertux Glacier in Tyrol. It’s the only place in Austria that has snow 365 days a year!

World-Class Hiking, Trekking, and Walking

Austria’s outdoor landscape is characterized by idyllic villages flanking towering mountains, so one of the best ways to soak up this stunning scenery is on foot.

With an intense network of hiking, trekking, and walking trails varying in duration and intensity, you can make your route as gentle or strenuous as you like. From intense Alpine hikes to immersive forested hill walks and pleasant strolls around the mountain lakes. Some trails are also accessible to wheelchair users or people with reduced mobility.

For long-distance hikes and treks, you can’t beat Adlerweg (aka Eagle Walk). It’s a 256-mile (413km) trail with 33 stages that take you across Tyrol from east to west – from St Johann to St. Anton via Innsbruck. You can pick and choose which stages to hike based on their difficulty rating, elevation, and how long they are.

For intermediate, day walks, the Pinzgauer Spaziergang hike is a popular high-altitude trail near Zell am See, not far from Salzburg. The trail is roughly a 10-mile (17km) hike through green, Alpine meadows past steep mountains and herds of cows. How Austrian!

Mountaineer enjoying the view over lake Achensee in summer, Austria Tyrol

For something a bit shorter and easier, the Liechtensteinklamm (or Liechtenstein gorge) is a popular 2.5-mile (4km) trail in Salzburg. Set in one of Europe’s deepest gorges, the Liechtensteinklamm has steep walls, tunnels, and a spiral staircase.

For easy walks, a stroll around the Austrian lakes is a must. For example, Grüner Lake in Styria, Pillersee in Tyrol, Egger Almsee in Carinthia, Zeller See near Salzburg, Achensee near Innsbruck, and Hallstatt in Upper Austria are family-friendly choices.

Best Time To Go: Summertime is the best time to take a walking trip in Austria when temperatures are comfortably warm (59°F-77°F / 15°C-25°C), and there’s very little chance of snow at higher altitudes. But if you want to go hiking in the winter and hear the snow crunch under your feet, Austria also has winter walking trails through national parks, open meadows, and pine-covered paths. Check which trails are open during the winter season!

Love to Ride? Go Biking and Cycling

For mountain bikers and cyclists, Austria has routes that cut through its stunning countryside and small towns. You’ll find anything from flat, smooth terrain to steep climbs.

As a good rule of thumb, anything west of Salzburg, is stuff for serious cyclists. Everything else can be classified as moderate/easy. Whichever way you go, you can do loop tours, follow riverside trails, or explore entire regions.

Classic cycling routes include Glocknerstrasse Mountain Pass (hard Alpine road in Salzburg), Styrian Wine Country Cycle (intermediate cycling through the wine-growing villages in Styria), and Danube Cycle Path (easy cycling along one of Europe’s longest rivers).

Family Of Four Cycling in Austria

Best Time To Go: The best time of year for cycling in Austria is from early spring to early fall (May-October) when the weather is most favorable.

Enjoy the Thrill of Kayaking

One of the best outdoor activities in Austria is to canoe or kayak the country’s many rivers and lakes. The waters are perfect for both gentle paddling and rough whitewater rafting.

Tyrol is one of the best kayaking spots in the Alps. The Imster Schlucht Canyon is perfect for gliding, slipping, and dropping down ravines and gorges. Otherwise, there’s the Zillertal Valley which, together with rapids, has calm stretches of water for the whole family to enjoy.

And for something calmer, you can always go kayaking on one of Austria’s beautiful lakes.

Scenic view of beautiful autumn scenery at famous alpine lake Gosausee with Dachstein mountain summit and young adventurist kayaking in golden morning light at sunrise in fall, Salzkammergut, Austria

Best Time to Go: Summer is the best time to go canoeing or kayaking in Austria. The days are longer, the sun is bright and the rivers are flowing. But winter kayaking is also a thing!

Take to the Skies by Paragliding

If you’re looking for a stunning aerial view over the Austrian lakes, mountains, forests, and canyons, how about paragliding? If you love the feeling of weightlessness while scuba diving, you’ll definitely enjoy taking to the skies.

A paraglider over Achen lake, a picturesque alpine  lake with shimmering turquoise waters , offering swimming, sailing, boating and hiking. A view from cable car station above Pertisau.  Austria

You’ll find different schools in and around all major towns and cities, but the most popular spots are around Salzburg, Innsbruck, Zell am See, and Ossiacher See.

Best Time To Go: Spring and summer are the best times of year to go paragliding in Austria, when the weather is most stable.

Challenge Yourself With Rock Climbing

Where there’s a mountain, you can bet there are also outstanding rock climbs to check out. And Austria has some of the best rock climbing in Europe.

The main rock climbing spots in Austria are around Salzburg and Innsbruck. For pros and beginners alike, there are mountain peaks, Alpine meadows, and forested valleys with classic and multi-pitch routes. Take your pick.

Beautiful young girl climbing Drachenwand via ferrata high above scenic Mondsee lake, Austria

Best Time To Go: Generally, the best time to visit the country for rock climbing is from spring to fall, but like most of Austria’s outdoor activities, you can also go rock climbing in the winter, too! It’s a more challenging experience, but if you’ve got the strength to climb icy mountain walls and frozen waterfalls, then ice climbing could be for you.

Create Your Outdoor Adventure

Engage your mind and senses by immersing yourself in nature with the best outdoor activities in Austria. Venture up the mountains, navigate the rapids, go airborne, and dive the great freshwater lakes. And even if you’re not very adventurous, you should try Austria’s outdoor activities. They could prove to be life-changing experiences.

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