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The Great Outdoors in the Salzkammergut

The Salzkammergut is one of Europe's summer playgrounds, centered on the towns of Bad Ischl, St. Wolfgang, and Hallstatt. Soaring mountains with needlelike peaks and shimmering lakes along forested valleys are the backdrop for any number of outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking. The best known of all the Salzkammergut's 27 lakes lie to the west of Bad Ischl: the Mondsee, the Attersee, and the Wolfgangsee.

Biking -- While most of the province's terrain is too hilly for biking, you'll find great places to bike in the districts around the lakes, particularly around the Attersee or the Traunsee. The best cycling path is the 14km (9 miles) from Bad Ischl to St. Wolfgang; of course, biking on the back roads is more scenic. Tourist offices in either town will help you plan routes. You can rent bikes from the most visible gas station in Attersee, Petrol Schweiger (tel. 07666/7821), for around 10€ ($16) per day. If you'd like to join a local bicycle tour through and around the region, consider Eurobike Eurofun Touristik, Mühlstrasse 20, Obertraun am See (tel. 06219/7444).

Boating -- Most of the lakes scattered amid the forests of Upper Austria are deep, cold, and clear, and as such, boaters love them. If you want to rent a boat, the local tourist offices of every lakefront resort covered within this chapter can recommend local outfitters, one of the most visible of which is Wolfgangseeschiffahrt, A-5360 St. Wolfgang (tel. 06138/22320).

If you're interested in exploring one of the lakes while someone else worries about navigation and maintenance of the equipment, consider one of the Attersee tours offered by Stern Schiffahrt, A-4863 Attersee (tel. 07666/7806). From June to mid-September, a 2-hour cruise along the south shore of the Attersee is 12€ ($19); cruises depart every 2 hours from 9am to 5pm. During the same time period, a 1-hour tour along the lake's north shore costs 10€ ($16) and departs at hourly intervals every day from 10am to 5pm.

Canoeing/Kayaking/Sailing -- Some of Upper Austria's best white water lies along the swift-flowing Traun River. The region's best recommended canoe, kayak, and sailboat rental company lies in the neighboring hamlet of Nussdorf: Yachtschule Kolloer, A-4865 Nussdorf (tel. 0676/3305253), where a 4-hour rental of a watercraft costs between 20€ to 25€ ($32-$40), depending on its pedigree. They also offer sailing lessons.

Fishing -- The Salzkammergut is one of the best places to fish in all of Austria -- or Europe, for that matter. The easiest way, in terms of legalities, involves buying a fishing license, valid for 1 week's fishing on the Attersee (but not in any of the swift-flowing rivers) for a one-time fee of 21€ ($34), available through any branch of the local tourist offices. Acquiring a permit for fishing in the streams of the region is much more complicated, involving permission from at least one local bureaucracy. For information, contact any local tourist office.

Golf -- The best course is the Salzkammergut Golfclub at Bad Ischl (tel. 06132/26340; www.salzammergut-golf.at). This 18-hole, par-71 course charges greens fees of 50€ to 60€ ($80-$96) daily.

Hiking -- The Salzkammergut is great hiking country, and local tourist offices not only suggest hikes, but also provide route maps. The Bad Ischl area, for example, has more than 100km (62 miles) of trails. In the Attersee area, one 35km (22-mile) hike takes 8 hours to finish. One of the best hiking trips involves circumnavigating Austria's largest lake (Attersee), which can take anywhere from 3 to 5 days, depending on your fitness level and how extensive an itinerary you want to pursue. Depending on your route, you can hike between 50 and 97km (31-60 miles), and choose paths of varying degrees of difficulty. For more details about possible outings, the tourist office in Attersee (tel. 07666/7719) will send you a booklet indicating the hiking possibilities and their estimated times.

Tennis -- Your best bet is the Tennisclub Bad Ischl in the heart of the resort (tel. 06132/23926). The club offers both indoor and outdoor courts along with ball-throwing machines. You can also rent rackets.

Watersports -- Because of their proximity to such cities as Linz and Salzburg, the lakes of Upper Austria are popular spots for water-skiing and scuba diving. If you want to go water-skiing, the reception desk at lakeside hotels can provide names and addresses of suitable establishments. A well-recommended company on the Attersee, however, is Häuplhof, which operates out of the hamlet of Muhlbach, near Attersee (tel. 07666/7788). And if you want to scuba-dive in waters that originated high in the Alps, head for Reiter, in the town of Unterach (tel. 07665/8524), which specializes in year-round dives into the cold, dark waters of lakes whose depths sometimes exceed 168m (551 ft.).

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.