The Salzkammergut, the old salt-mining region of Austria, is one of those rare parts of the world where mankind has managed to leave its mark without blighting the natural environment. Now designated as a World Heritage Cultural Landscape, the region is not only scenically breathtaking but also architecturally beautiful. Historic palatial buildings and picturesque villages nestle around clear-watered lakes under the silver crags and green forested slopes of the Dachstein Mountains as though they belonged naturally as an integral part of the landscape.
Of all the many charming villages, the old salt-mining town of Hallstatt is the most enchanting - a cobble-stoned lakeside town straight out of the pages of a picture book.
Its fairytale 16th and 17th Century houses are squeezed into every square inch of space on a precipitous mountainside, expanding upwards on terraces and outwards into Lake Hallstatter, on piles driven into the lakebed.
The 10 km (6 mi) walk from Hallstatt to the quaint market town of Bad Goisern follows the course of a historic pipeline used for transporting brine from the salt-mine to the trading to the trading town of Ebensee on Lake Traunsee, 40 km (25 mi) away. The path, known as the Soleweg (Brine Trail), is cut into the rock face 200 m (650 ft) above the western bank of the lake. As you amble through romantic countryside of woods and pastures, spotting wildlife and breathing pure mountain air, you are accompanied by a heart-stopping view of the opposite shore - the towering crags of the Sarstein Ridge mirrored in the water. The beauty of the pastoral surrounding induces a sensation of mild euphoria and by the time you reach Bad Goisern you will be completely smitten with this glorious part of Austria.
WHEN TO GO
June to September
TIME IT TAKES
A tour of Hallstatt salt mine.
Gosauzwang Bridge - impressive 38 m (125 ft) bridge built on enormous stone piles over the rushing torrent of the Gosau River.
Breathtaking views of the Dachstein Mountains.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
This is a straightforward family walk for young and old. The Salzkammergut is wonderful hiking and cycling country. There are hundreds of trails of all lenghts and levels of difficulty leading around and between the lakes and up into the Dachstein Mountains.