At the end of June, we took two weeks and went to the Tyrolian Alps and the Italian Dolomites.  I can't find enough superlatives to describe this area.  We had great weather most of the time, and we were really overwhelmed by the scenery.

If your browser doesn't support the javascript function used on this page to display pictures, click here to see a full page of all the pics.
Here is the itinerary we followed:
3 days in Jenbach, Austria, about 30 miles east of Innsbruck.
3 days in Bolzano in the Italian Dolomites
3 days in Zell Am See, in Austria
3 days in Bad Ischl, in Austria
3 days in Salzburg...                   click on the map to see where we were-->

First, some general tips on Austria.  When entering Austria, don't forget to buy the highway sticker (pickerl) which is required for driving on the highways.  It can be bought for a period of 2 weeks or longer.  Second, you don't need to reserve  a room in advance except in one  the major cities.  There are hotels, guesthouses, and B&B's in great profusion everywhere.  I haven't seen a country so attuned to tourism as Austria is.  Lastly, remember that almost every mountain has a cable car leading to the top.  In winter, they're for skiing, and in summer they're for catching the view from the top, but they all cost money (not cheap at all!), so wait for a day with great weather for that ride up the mountain.

Here's the rundown on what we did and where we stayed.

Eastern Tyrol

The area to the east of Innsbruck is known as the eastern Tyrol. Its main geographic artery is the Inn Valley which runs east to west.  I found the Jenbach/Rotbach area to be centrally located to travel the entire region.  A few minutes to the north is the Achensee, Innsbruck is 30 miles to the west, to the east are several interesting towns (Rottenberg, Brixlegg, Kufstein, Kitzbuhel),  and to the south is the Hohe Tauern national park which includes the reknowned Krimml Falls.  We stayed in a delightful little family run hotel in Rotbach called the Esterhammer Hotel.  The Graus family was just delightful in helping us out with anything we wanted.  The hotel also has an excellent restaurant which is the neighborhood bar as well where we could hobnob with the locals.  Here are the main attractions we found in the area:

On the road to Innsbruck

Wattens with the Swarovski Crystal Works
Kolsass - a cute little town where we took part in  the local music festival
Halle in Tyrol - pleasant old town
Schloss Ambrose - a castle & park complex above Innsbruck
                               **don"t miss it!!**  Click here and take a look.
Innsbruck - the capitol of the Tyrol.  It's expensive to stay here
                   but it is a beautiful town and well worth the visit.

To the south and east

Drive due south through the Tiller valley, to Zell am Ziller and on to Mayrhoffen. If the weather is good, go up to Tuxer valley. We didn't do this because of the lousy weather on the day we were there.  Drive back to Zell am Ziller and continue east to the Hohe Tauern National Park, which contains the Krimml Falls and many beautiful views.  Continue to Mittersal, and turn north to Kitzbuhel, a beautiful winter ski resort.  From here, it's an easy ride back to Jenbach, although a side trip can be made to Kufstein.  On the way back, you can stop if you want in Rottenberg or Brixlegg. Rottenberg has a lot of glass dealers, if you are into glass.

To the north

To the north is the Achensee (click here to see a great view from  the western shore), and further north, in Germany is the Tegernsee.  This is the route we took from Munich which we flew into.

The Dolomites

From Jenbach, we drove by Innsbruck to the south and visited the Subaitel Valley , an absolutely stunning area (click here for a look) .  We went up some mountain whose name I still don't know and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

From there, we continued into Italy, through the Brenner Pass, and then into the Giovo pass to get to Merano.  Merano is a pleasant town with hot water spas, but we were more interested in Bolzano.  We stayed in a wonderful castle hotel above Bolzano called Schloss Korb.   Sorry, no home page, and no email.   The phone number is 0471-636000.  On the other hand, this was one of the highlights of our trip.  Great view, great castle, great restaurant. We loved it. It's located in Appiano and is right at the beginning of the local "wine route".  If you do stay at this place, I recommend you take a room in the "new building" and not in the castle itself.  A room in the castle requires climbing lots of stairs. Click here and take a look!

The wine route
The wine route starts at Appiano, and winds its way south through Caldero, Tramino, and Cortina.  There are some interesting wines here, but the best was Sudtiroler Lagrein Dunkel, which is available everywhere, from a plethora of vinyards, and at a very reasonable price.   We continued south to visit Riva del Garda at the northern end of Lake Garda, and Trentino, the biggest town in the area.

East to Cortina d'Ampezzo

Actually, we didn't get to Cortina, but it's supposed to be a beautiful and expensive ski resort well worth a visit if you have the time.  We took a circular route in order to return to Bolzano.
We took route 241 east from Bolzano through Val D'Egga (D'Egga valley) and visited the following spots -

Lake Carezza - a small but beautiful, absolutely, completely green lake
Nova Laventa - a nice stop for coffee and the view  (...and a great pic!)
Passo Castelunga - another beautiful pass
Cannazei - another beautiful ski resort
Passo di Sella - absolutely beautiful mountain ride. The view as you ride between  the
                          mountains is indescribable, especially between the Sasso Longo and the
                          Gruppe Di Sella mountains. You'll know it when you get there.
                          That's where we stopped for lunch.  click here for the view).
Ortisei - and yet another beautiful ski resort.

After we got back to the main road, we visited Bressanone, which has one of the most beautiful squares I have seen in Italy.

As for geography, the area of the Dolomites is in the province of Alto Adige, and is more Austro-German than Italian.  Both German and Italian are spoken by most everyone. The area has changed "owners" many times in its history. The area to the south is the province of Trentino and is far more Italian (more pasta in the restaurants than knockwurst).  In any case, the main difference between Austria and Italy in this area is that in Italy, every spare piece of ground is covered by grape vines. In Austria, if the land is cultivated, it's generally with grains used in the making of beer.
Back to Austria, the Grossglockner, Zell am See

We took route 49 back into Austria.  We visited Brunico in Italy and could have visited Dobiaco but we didn't want to invest the time.  It was a beautiful day, and we wanted to use it to cross the Grossglockner highway.   We stopped in Lienz for a few minutes and then continued north to Heligenblut.  This little town is a delightful little place but its main claim to fame is that it the southern entrance to the Grossglockner highway.  If you get a good day (as we did), this ride is worth the price.  It costs about $35 for a day pass.  Like I said, we got a GREAT day and we loved this ride.  If you stop to take pictures, or for lunch, or for a cup of coffee just to enjoy the view, this should take between  3 and 6 hours.  Don't miss the side trips off the main road.  One is to the Edelweisspitz, the highest point in the area, and another is the Swarovski observatory with spectacular views of the local mountains.

From here we went to Zell am See for 3 nights.  Zell am See is a lovely, restful resort town on the lake and a great place to go to relax or enjoy water sports.  We stayed at a B&B called the Altenberger.  It's got a great view and the owners are very helpful.  Breakfast is the typical Austrian breakfast, and the location is also very convenient, although a bit difficult to find on the first try.

Nearby Zell am See is a place called Kaprun (take a look!).  This is a must and I am very surprised that Kaprun is not advertised more in the travel books.  It's a fascinating place, where they have built a complex of dams and hydroelectric power plants in the mountains.  You take a bus, then a cable "platform" and then another bus to get up to the dam area.  Just the ride takes 30-40 minutes, but it's well worth it.  Again, if you get a nice day, this is a beautiful place to spend some time enjoying the view.  Hikes are also possible in the area.

To the east of Zell am See (about 40 minutes, we stopped on the way to the Salzkammergut area) is Bad Gastein.  Bad Gastein is a stunning city in the mountains famous for its hot mineral baths.  On my next trip to Austria, I would definitely like to stay a few days here.

East to the Salzkammergut

The Salzkammergut is the area of lakes to the east and southeast of Salzburg.  It doesn't have the grandeur of the Alps, but the area is very beautiful and there are lots of great places to see.  Here are the highlights.
Gosau Visit the Gosauern Lake (click here for a look) which is about 10 minutes from the little village of Gosau. The lake and the Dachstein mountains in the background is stunning.  There's a delightful walk around the lake which takes about an hour.
Halstatt Halstatt is one of the oldest settlements in Europe and one of the most photographed spots as well.  We were there on a really hot day and didn't enjoy it too much, but we did appreciate the beauty of the place.  Cars are not allowed in  town. You have to park on the outskirts, or even in lots situated in the tunnel going by the town.  If you want to stay here, keep in mind the parking problem and the many stairs in all the buildings. This is a town built on the shore stuck right to the cliff, so the buildings goes up, not out.  From here, you can take a cable car and visit a salt mine, which we didn't do because of the heat. 
Obertraun Obertraun is located about 5 minutes from Halstatt and has a very unusual attraction - the Dachstein Eishole (ice caves).  Take a cable car to the approach to both the ice caves as well as the Mammoth Cavern.  We went only to the ice caves and it was well worth the visit.  Just be ready for the 15 minute hike up the mountain to the cave entrance.  There are guided tours and if you ask the guide, he'll say a few words in English.  The caves are cold (-2 C) and incredible. 
Bad Ischl We stayed 3 nights in Bad Ischl at the Zum Goldenen Schiff Hotel right in the center of town, overlooking the river.  Bad Ischl is a medium sized town with a few interesting things to see and a hot water spa.  It is also conveniently located to use as a base to visit the entire Salzkammergut area.
Gmunden Located on the Trauensee, this town had the best shopping in Austria, outside of Salzburg.  Alisa made us go back a second time to pick up a few rags she missed on the first pass.  If you see the little lady selling "grilled fish on a stick", get one.  It's delicious!!   Click here to have a look.
St. Wolfgang This beautiful town is located on the Wolfgangsee, and here we found the best restaurant we ate at during our stay.  I'm talking about the restaurant at the Hotel Weisses Rossl.  It's right on the lake and a truly delightful culinary experience.  It was so good, we went back a second time.  I've since discovered that this is a famous hotel and has been featured in films and the like. 
St. Gilgen Another delightful town on the Wolfgangsee.  A nice way to visit both St. Wolfgang and St. Gilgen is to drive to one and take a boat to the other.  There is a variety of boat lines to take between the towns on the lakes.  We took one of the drive it yourself electric boats for an hour's relaxation on the water.  Just delightful... 


From Bad Ischl, we drove to Salzburg.  On the way, we wanted to go up the Schafberg mountain.  The weather was bad, so we didn't go.  We are told that the view is magnificent, with a view of the entire Salzkammergut including 18 lakes.  There's an ancient train from St. Wolfgang, or you can go by car.

An important decision in Salzburg is where to stay.  In the old city, things are pretty expensive, so we stayed in Nonntal, a part of Salzburg about 10 minutes walk from the old city.  This walk would have been quite pleasant had it not been raining most of the time we were in Salzburg.
On the other hand, the buses are convenient and frequent, and the taxis are abundant.

We stayed at a modest 3 star hotel in Nonntal which was a little disappointing.  The people were helpful, and they had a very nice restaurant. Dinner was fine,  but the quality of breakfast depended on how much the proprietress had to drink the night before. They were also enlarging the hotel and the building noise and work crew did little to add to the atmosphere, which was advertised as "quiet and relaxing".
Despite the rain (and there was plenty of it!), we enjoyed Salzburg very much.   The Mirabell gardens are beautiful even in the rain, and there's plenty to see in the old city itself, especially if you like Mozart.  We went to one concert (in costume) in a church in the old city and it was a delightful experience.  One of the highlights of Salzburg is the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

We ate at two very good restaurants, The Alt Salzburger in the old city at the western end of Hofstallgasse street, and the restaurant at the Schlosswirt Hotel in Anif, a town about 10 minutes drive south of Salzburg.  It's not far from a major attraction, Schloss Hellbrun and  the Anifer Wasserschloss.

TISCOVER A comprehensive site covering all aspects of the Austria
PRACTICAL AUSTRIA lots of good information and lots of links on Austria.
ANTO The Official Austrian National Tourist Office
HOTELSTRAVEL A long list of hotels and other information on Austria
ABNET Another long list of hotels in Austria
KAREN BROWN Karen Brown's always useful list of interesting hotels and B&B's
MININGCO Excellent guide to Salzburg, including hotels recommendations
SALZBURGERLAND A very attractively designed site dedicated to  the Salzburg area
TRAVEL.ORG A good site with lots of information on Austria
BOB & GAIL'S PAGE Bob & Gail describe their trip to Austria.  Good pics and short descriptions of the places they visited.
ITALY-LINK A site full of information on Trentino and Alto Adige
INITALY This is my favorite site for information on Italy


This is a page from our site "Travels with Steve & Alisa".  It describes one of the many trips we have made together.  We've built these pages not just to describe our trips, but to help other travelers if we can.  Please use the information we've provided freely, and let us know if you have any questions we might be able to answer about your own planned trip, or just let us know if we have helped you. Or perhaps you have some information we could add to the site. Visit our home page using the link to the right.                 

Enjoy your next trip!!                         ~Steve & Alisa~

  UPDATED: March 21, 2006