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100km (62 miles) S of Salzburg; 410km (255 miles) SW of Vienna

Badgastein is not only Austria's premier spa, it's also one of the great spa towns of Europe. The local tourist industry began when Frederick, Duke of Styria, came here in the 15th century for treatment of a gangrenous wound. The duke was healed, and word spread. Badgastein had made its way onto the medieval tourist map. Royalty and aristocrats flocked here around the turn of the 19th century to "take the waters." And good waters they are -- radioactive springs with healing properties.

Badgastein lies on the north slope of the Tauern massif in one of the most scenic spots in Austria. The spa town is spread across steep hillsides split by the waters of the tumbling Gasteiner Ache. Hotels, many with water piped in directly from the Ache, adorn the steep slopes formed by the cascading waterfall. The spa's indoor swimming pool is carved into a rock filled with the radon waters.

Although Badgastein was first a summer retreat, it's now also a center for winter sports. With its pristine alpine air, skiing equal to that of St. Moritz in Switzerland, the finest hotels in Land Salzburg, 18 hot springs for thermal hydrotherapy, and a mountain tunnel that has been called "the world's only natural giant sauna," Badgastein is the pinnacle of mountain spa resorts.