Seeing The Sights
Along with the natural scenery of the town and the surrounding area, you can see the Nikolauskirche, a 15th-century church with well-preserved Gothic frescoes, a late-Gothic stone pulpit, and baroque altars and tombs.
In summer, besides swimming in thermal baths, the spa offers a host of saunas, massages, and solariums. There's also an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, horseback riding, hiking, and a variety of excursions, perhaps in a fiaker (horse-drawn carriage). Cable cars and chairlifts are not only for winter-sports crowds; in summer, take one up to the top and get a panoramic view of the Hohe Tauern.
In winter, most visitors are drawn to this region for the great skiing. In 1958, Graukogel, one of the main ski areas, was the site of the world championships.
One of the region's most quirky attractions is the Gasteiner Heilstollen, A-5645 Bergstein (tel. 06434/3753; www.gasteiner-heilstollen.com), a labyrinth of underground tunnels carved out of the Böckstein during the 18th and 19th centuries as a gold mine. It has been transformed into a small-scale health spa, where tiny cars carrying six patients are shuttled through the tunnels on a narrow-gauge railway. The 15-minute trip through the heated and mildly radioactive air (local doctors claim the effects are dispersed from the body within an hour) is cited as a cure for arthritis.
Between mid-January and October, you can ride through the tunnels Monday to Saturday 8am to 4pm for 52€ ($83). The tunnels are 3km (2 miles) from Badgastein. Follow the signs from Bergsteinerstrasse, or take one of the hourly blue-and-gray Lackner buses.
Graukogel (2,508m/8,228 ft.), to the east of the valley, is reached by bus from Badgastein. Expert European skiers crowd these slopes in the afternoon. A chairlift takes skiers to the halfway station, and a double chairlift or surface lift takes them to the top. A round-trip ticket costs around 15€ ($24). A mountain restaurant stands at the halfway station. This is also a favorite starting point for alpine walking tours. Call tel. 06434/2005 for ticket information. Service is daily 9am to 4pm.
On the west side of the valley rises Stubnerkogel (2,230m/7,316 ft.). A six-seat gondola takes you most of the way; however, it takes a chairlift and a couple of surface lifts to reach the top. There's also a mountain restaurant with a panoramic view. The gondola and the chairlift (tel. 06434/2322) are in service from late May to mid-October daily from 8:30am to 4pm; a round-trip ticket costs 16.50€ ($26).
Kreuzkogel (2,684m/8,806 ft.) is at Sportgastein, 8km (5 miles) up the valley to the south of the village of Böckstein, site of the tunnel sauna mentioned above. This is a great place to come for high-altitude bowl skiing. It's about a 20-minute bus ride from Badgastein. A chairlift will take you to the halfway station, with a surface lift pulling you to Kreuzkogel's top station. Besides the well-equipped skiing facilities here, including cross-country trails, you can enjoy hiking, indoor horseback riding, indoor tennis, curling, and ice-skating.
You can drive from Badgastein to Sportgastein along Gasteiner Alpenstrasse at elevations ranging from 900m to 1,454m (2,953 ft.-4,770 ft.). The toll charge is 3€ ($4.80) per person; it's free for children 4 and under. In winter, the ski-season ticket includes the road toll.
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.