Alpine Railways and Lakes of Austria
Starting and ending in Vienna, this is a circular tour of Austria taking in Graz, Zell-am-See, Innsbruck and Salzburg.
Join us as we explore some of Austria’s amazing alpine steam railways and lakes. Beginning in Vienna we first travel to Graz via the spectacular Semmering Pass. With time to explore this historic city we then continue our travels through more wonderful scenery to the lakeside resort of Zell-am-See. Here we have a cruise on the lake and have our first steam train as we head into the hills to see the famous Krimml Waterfall. There is also time here to explore the many walks and ski-lifts. Our journey through Austria takes us to Innsbruck, our base for 3 nights. From here we will have two more steam train trips, one of which takes us up to a higher level lake where we have a cruise. Our final destination is the beautiful city of Salzburg, from where we have a lake cruise and a memorable trip up the steepest cog railway in Austria. We return to Vienna for our flights home, or to continue our travels on our Vintage Slovakia trip.
Your Tour Manager for this trip is David.
Sunday 20th August (D) Arriving in Vienna on flights from several UK airports, we have time to settle in before enjoying our Welcome Dinner.
Monday 21st August (B) Today we have a spectacular rail journey to Graz via the UNESCO listed Semmering Pass. The Semmering Railway, constructed between 1848 and 1854 over 41 km of high mountains, is one of the greatest feats of civil engineering during the pioneering phase of railway building. Set against a spectacular mountain landscape, the railway line remains in use today thanks to the quality of its tunnels, viaducts, and other works, and has led to the construction of many recreational buildings along its tracks. After time for lunch we will be joined by a local guide for a walking tour around the UNESCO listed historic centre of Graz.
Tuesday 22nd August (B) A full day in the charming town of Graz. Explore the city’s tram network and tram museum, or head up the hill to the Schlossberg by funicular, lift or on foot. Other attractions include the Armoury, the largest collection of historical weapons in the world, and the Burg, with its double spiral staircase (1499), a masterpiece of stone masonry from the end of the Gothic period.
Wednesday 23rd August (B,D) Leaving Graz behind, we have another very scenic rail journey to the summer and winter lakeside resort of Zell-am-See. This afternoon we shall have a short lake cruise. Dinners in the hotel are included on all three nights spent here.
Thursday 24th August (B,D) The first of four steam hauled trains on this trip, the Pinzgauerbahn takes us into the mountains west of Zell-am-See. With a stop to take on water at Mittersill, the whole journey is just short of 3 hours each way. At the far end of the line at Krimml, we will have a short coach trip to see the famous Krimml Waterfall. At 380 m, it is the 5th highest in the world. Return to Zell-am-See in time for dinner.
Friday 25th August (B,D) A free day in Zell-am-See gives us the opportunity to explore the many attractions. As a winter ski resort, Zell-am-See has a number of cable cars (locally described as mountain trains!) that will whisk you high up into the surrounding mountains to experience one of the most beautiful panoramic views in Austria and enjoy a fabulous view of more than thirty 3,000 metre peaks. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, but still want to experience amazing scenery, explore the panoramic hiking path between the summit and Sonnkogel. Many theme-orientated signs, viewing platforms, a marmot cave, a beehive and the magnificent 360° panoramic view from the path make everyone’s heart beat faster. Or of course just have a lazy day around the village, exploring its charms and resting by the lakeside.
Saturday 26th August (B) Our destination today is Innsbruck, where we will spend the next three nights. After our 2-hour train journey we break for lunch and then meet our local guide for a short guided walking tour of the historic centre.
Sunday 27th August (B) The first of two days of steam! Today we visit the Zillertalbahn that runs from Jenbach to Maryhofen. With a gauge of just 760 mm, it is an exhilarating way to explore the fascinating landscape of the Zillertal Valley. As they say, there “Go hiking on the steam train”. Our journey is just under 90 minutes each way. There is also a frequent diesel railcar operated public service on the line. After making the short journey by rail from Innsbruck, we start our journey at Jenbach. This station has a very unusual claim in that it serves railway lines of 3 different gauges – the standard gauge main line, the 760 mm Zillertalbahn and the metre gauge Achenseebahn.
Monday 28th August (B,L) We return to Jenbach, but this time head north on the metre gauge Achenseebahn. About 1 mile into our 50-minute journey, we start to climb up towards the Achensee lake. Within its length, it rises some 440 metres (1,444 ft) in height, with the steeper sections using the Riggenbach rack system. It is Europe’s oldest cog railway which is still steam operated. From the mountainside high above Jenbach, we have a wonderful view of the Inn Valley and the surrounding mountains to the Stubai Alps and the Wilder Kaiser. Soon we arrive at Eben station, the highest point of the line at 970 metres above sea level. From here we drop down to the Seespitze on Lake Achensee where we join our 50-minute cruise between the high mountains on either side to Scholastika. A short walk from the pier, we will enjoy a traditional lunch in a local hotel before having some free time to enjoy the views. The mountains above the village are popular with skiers in the winter, and there are a number of chairlifts in the area. We then re-join our cruiser to return to Seespitz and another trip on our steam train back to Jenbach.
Tuesday 29th August (B) This morning we take our Inter-City train from Innsbruck to the city of Salzburg, known as the birthplace of Mozart and setting for the film “The Sound of Music”. The city is divided by the Salzach River, with medieval and baroque buildings of the pedestrian Altstadt (Old City) on its left bank, and 19th-century Neustadt (New City) on the right. After time for lunch we will explore the most historic parts of this city in the company of a local guide.
Wednesday 30th August (B) This morning we travel by coach from Salzburg to the lakeside village of St Gilgen. From here we have a short cruise on the Wolfgangsee, possibly on the 1873 paddle steamer “Kaiser Franz Josef I”, to St Wolfgang, where we join our final steam train of the trip, the Schafbergbahn, the steepest cog railway in Austria. The trip to the top of the Schafberg starts at the lake-side base station in St. Wolfgang. After a few minutes, the track crosses the provincial border between Salzburg and Oberösterreich, before continuing its steep ascent through lush fields and green forests. At Dorneralm (1015 m/3330 ft above sea level) the first crossing point is reached. This is where the historic steam locomotives pause to take water. The next stop is the quaint station of Schafbergalpe at 1363 m (4472 ft). From there it takes another 10 minutes for the train to reach the summit. This segment is probably the most spectacular and already offers impressive views in multiple directions. A short walk from the summit station you will find restaurants with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
Thursday 31st August (B) With a free morning to enjoy Salzburg at your leisure, we return to Vienna on a late afternoon train.
Friday 1st September (B) Transfer to the airport for flights home, or alternatively spend some additional days relaxing in Austria’s beautiful capital city, or join our Vintage Slovakia trip.