Fleeing the alpine peaks, we descend on the southern lake district to wind up our final tour of Austria. Of course, this tour is recommended during the all-too-short summer months. Instead of Vienna, we use Salzburg as our gateway to the lakes, which begins in the province of Land Salzburg and ends in the summer resorts of the southeastern province of Carinthia.
Day 1: Salzburg: Gateway to the Lakes
Salzburg, the city of Mozart, lies at the door to some of the greatest natural attractions in Europe, found in the province of Land Salzburg. After driving or flying to Salzburg, you'll have just enough time to walk the ancient streets of its Old Town (allow 2 or 3 hr.) and visit the Residenzgalerie and the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Day 2: Mondsee: Austria's Moon Lake
On the morning of Day 2, leave Salzburg and head east on the A-1 until you see the turnoff to Mondsee, 27km (17 miles) to the east. Check into a hotel for the night and visit Schloss Mondsee, where Maria married Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Stroll along the lovely Marktplatz, a square filled with lively cafes. Arrangements can be made to go sailing (check with the tourist office), or you can just enjoy the lakefront beaches. "Moon Lake" (its English name) is the warmest of Land Salzburg's bodies of water.
Day 3: St. Wolfgang: The Romantic Lake
For Day 3 you can still use Mondsee as a base or transfer over to St. Wolfgang so you won't have to make the 40-minute drive back at night. The easiest way to get here without taking difficult roads is to head southeast along Route 154, following it around the southern rim of Wolfgangsee, then cutting back west at the signposts into St. Wolfgang, which lies on the northern tier of Wolfgangsee, arguably known as the most romantic lake in Austria. It was the setting for the popular operetta The White Horse Inn, written in 1896 but still performed all over Austria annually. Swimming and watersports dominate the lakefront beach life, and you can also plan visits to the Pfarrkirche St. Wolfgang, a pilgrimage church since the 12th century. It's also possible to take an excursion to Schafberg for the most panoramic views in Upper Austria. On a clear day, you can see 13 lakes in Land Salzburg from here.
Day 4: Bad Aussee: The Green Heart
On the morning of Day 5, head east from St. Wolfgang, retracing your steps to the main road at the junction with Bad Ischl. From here, follow Route 145 southeast to Bad Aussee, a distance of only 34km (22 miles). Check in for the night.
The old spa of Bad Aussee is called the "green heart" of the Salzkammergut. At Bad Aussee you'll have crossed over from the province of Land Salzburg in Syria. Its lake, Altaussee, is one of the most beautiful bodies of water in that province. The resort, lying 650m (2,133 ft.) above sea level, is set in a network of other lakes in the Traun Valley. Drop in at the tourist activities to hook up with any activities likely to be offered at the time of your visit. Hiking through this mini lake district is one of the joys of coming here, and it breaks up all that time at the wheel.
Day 5: Villach: Heart of the Carinthian Lake District
On the morning of Day 5, leave Bad Aussee, heading for Villach, 206km (128 miles) to the southeast. Follow Route 145 southwest to the junction with the motorway A10 heading south to Spittal. Once here, continue southeast on the Autobahn (E55/E66) into Villach. After checking into a hotel for the night, explore on foot its Altstadt or Old Town, centered on the main square, Hauptplatz. After a visit to the tourist office for a map, set out for a drive into the Villacher Alps, one of the most scenic drives in Carinthia, taking you for an 18km (11-mile) journey via the Villacher Alpenstrasse toll road with panoramic views in all directions.
Days 6 & 7: Klagenfurt: Carinthia's Capital
On the morning of Day 6, leave Villach A2 for Klagenfurt, 56km (35 miles) away. Anchor into Klagenfurt for 2 nights. After a tour of the Old Town and a visit to its Domkirche and Diozesanmuseum, you can head for nearby Wörther See for fun in the lake water. After all this relaxation you can plan to take some nearby excursions on Day 7, your final day in Austria. In a period of 1 day, you can drive to Maria Saal, a pilgrimage church outside Klagenfurt; Hochosterwitz Castle, whose origins go back to 860; and to St. Veit an der Glan, the old capital of Carinthia back in 1170. After Klagenfurt, it's a 309km (192-mile) northeast drive to Vienna.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.