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The geographic borders of this lofty province in the high Alps might appear to be the work of a mapmaker gone haywire, but actually they follow the dictates of nature over those of man. Craggy mountains, deep valleys, winding rivers, lakes, and rolling foothills, plus a little political expediency, all affected the cartographer's pen. Within this bundesland (state or province) of some 7,154 sq. km (2,762 sq. miles) are some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Austria. The spectacular Krimml Falls are the highest in Europe.

Land Salzburg is an outdoor playground, perfect for those seeking Austria's clear alpine air and blue mountain lakes, the country made famous in The Sound of Music. You can begin by exploring the Salzkammergut lake country, a narrow corridor in Land Salzburg between Bavaria and Upper Austria. Many parts of Salzkammergut, which means "domain of the salt office," grew rich from mining salt -- and also gold.

Although there are often Land Salzburg excursions leaving from Salzburg, we think it's much more fun and less expensive to do it on your own. Most people involved in tourist services speak English, and you can travel in relative security and comfort.

This is a land of summer and winter sports, with such celebrated spas as Badgastein and renowned ski resorts such as Zell am See, Kaprun, Saalbach, and Hinterglemm. Relax at a lakeside resort, such as St. Gilgen, or stay at a mountain hotel where the air is crisp.

Of course, Land Salzburg is a skier's paradise. The season begins about 10 days before Christmas and usually lasts until Easter or beyond, depending on snow conditions. Skiing on some of the lofty plateaus is possible year-round. Kaprun, Saalbach, and Zell am See are long-established and expensive resorts. However, in the true spirit of the Frommer's guides, we've sought less familiar and even undiscovered places -- many known only to the Austrians and an occasional German tourist.

The terrain directly around Salzburg is flat, but most of Land Salzburg is mountainous. Always inquire about local weather conditions before embarking on a day's sightseeing, particularly if you're going to be traversing one of those lofty alpine highways. The highest mountain range in Austria, the Hohe Tauern, lies on the southern fringe of Land Salzburg. The Hohe Tauern national park encompasses one of the most beautiful areas of the eastern Alps and remains mainly undeveloped. The park's core is formed of mighty mountains, steep rock faces, glaciers, and glacial streams, one of which feeds the Krimml Falls. Mountain meadows, alpine pastures, and protective woods comprise the park's periphery. Other natural attractions are Liechtensteinklamm, south of St. Johann in Pongau, the most dramatic gorge in the eastern Alps; Gollinger Wasserfälle (the Golling Waterfall), between the Valley of Kaprun and its powerful dams; and an ascent to the Kitzsteinhorn at 2,931m (9,616 ft.).

The Tauern Highway is one of the most important north-south roads over the Alps. Vehicles pass through two tunnels while traversing the highway. The Tauerntunnel is 6km (4 miles) long, and the Katschbergtunnel is 5km (3 1/4 miles) long. Because many of the alpine highways require extensive upkeep, tolls are charged, but they're not excessive. The Grossglockner Road, with hairpin turns and bends, is Europe's longest and prettiest alpine highway.

Unlike regions of Austria more devoted to serious skiing, Land Salzburg derives a good percentage of its income from midwinter vacationers who appreciate the region's accessibility from the major (snow-free) highways and rail routes of Austria. Prices in August tend to be roughly equivalent to prices in January and February, and cheaper in off-season months, such as June and October. (Resort hotels in Land Salzburg often close completely during the gray meltdown days of early spring and the rainy days of late autumn.)

Instead of staying in Salzburg, especially crowded during the Salzburg Festival months, reserve a room at a resort described below and commute to the province's capital city. You'll find the prices often lower and the atmosphere more laid-back.

Accommodations are wide-ranging, from deluxe resorts to a mountain hut. There are a few castle hotels in Land Salzburg to suit those who have traditional tastes and don't always demand the latest in plumbing fixtures.

Most hotels in the district automatically price your accommodations with half-board included. Although you can always request a bed-and-breakfast rate and take your meals elsewhere, the supplement for half-board usually represents a good value, sometimes allowing you to eat your main meal of the day for between 12€ to 20€ ($16-$26) per person. You could try out the local restaurants at lunch. Hotels here almost always have the best restaurants anyway, so we suggest selecting a hotel dining room for dinner. Parking is rarely a problem in these places, and, unless otherwise noted, you park for free.

Long cut off from the rest of the world but now accessible because of modern engineering achievements, some sections of Land Salzburg still cling tenaciously to their traditions. Old costumes and folklore still flourish in the province.

For information on Land Salzburg, contact the Salzburg State Tourist Board, P.O. Box 1, Wiener Bundesstrasse 23, A-5300 Hallwang (tel. 0662/66880; fax 0662/668866; www.salzburgerland.com).