There is no place like home. As I live abroad these days and need to survive on a tight student budget, frequent trips back home are not always on the horizon. Ergo, every chance I do get to go back to Austria I am more excited than the last time. Last summer  I spent a fabulous weekend in Innsbruck, which is probably my favourite city in Austria when it comes to dramatic views and amazing outdoor activities at your doorstep. But I thought, when in the Alps… you also have to spend some days in the mountains. So, I strapped on my boots and shouldered my backpack, and made my way to the perfect mountain getaway, a gorgeous lake called Achensee.

A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee | Travelettes.net

Call me biased, but the region of Achensee belongs to the most beautiful and traveller-friendly areas I have ever visited in Austria. Here are a few facts to convince you of just how easy it is to plan your trip to Achensee and why it should definitely be on your Europe bucket list:

– You can reach the villages around the lake by public transport.First you take the train from Innsbruck to Jenbach which takes 15-30 minutes depending on the connection, and from there a bus takes you up into the hills to Maurach which takes about 20 minutes. This bus is FREE if you show your hotel reservation. Maurach is one of five villages surrounding the lake and serves as your hub to the rest of the region.

– Even if you don’t want to stay in one village, you won’t need a car! If you book with a hotel or guest house that works with the local tourism board, your stay includes a FREE regional guest card, the Achensee Card which gives you access to free public transport around the region. There are hiking busses (ski busses in winter) connecting the villages on land, and a ferry linking them over the water (the ferry is available for a discounted price with the card). Card holders also have access to the region’s guided hiking programme, several WiFi hotspots around the lake and various discounted entries in museums and attractions in the area.

– With beauty comes often pain – or at least a painful entry price to access the pristine water of the lake. Elsewhere in Austria the land surrounding the lakes is privatised and visitors can only jump into the refreshing cold water in specific ticketed areas. Not on Achensee though! The entire shoreline is publicly accessible and visitors are encouraged to bring their towels, picnic baskets and sun lotion for a day at the lake.

– There is plethora of outdoor activities to chose from, whether you are into hiking, climbing, trail running, mountain biking, windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding, swimming… you get the gist!

– Last but not least, the lake is one of the most pristine in Austria, with water of drink water quality, and surrounded by the dramatic faces of the Tyrolese limestone alps. There is no way you could possibly resist!

A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee | Travelettes.net

Now let’s talk about some highlights. I had four days to explore the region, with an early-ish arrival from Innsbruck on day 1 and a late flight from Munich on day 4. I wanted to do as much outdoor sports as possible, but also indulge in the local wellness specialities and dig into delicious Austrian food. So, here we go.

Climbing the 5-Peak Climbing Route

I love climbing, but am simply not experienced enough to set out on my own. That’s why I set up a day trip with Florian Wechselberger, an experienced alpine guide who leads expeditions all over the Austrian Alps and abroad. Seeing that this was not my first rodeo but I was a little out of practice, we decided for the 5-Peak Climbing Route in the Rofan Mountains. The trail is a fixed rope route with steel cables placed in the rocky slopes, which means all you need to do is click in and climb up.

It was hot (don’t forget sun lotion), but gorgeous. The views were simply the best! And I even saw some edelweiss flowers for the first time in my life. We managed three out of five peaks, I guess I’ll have to start another attempt when I’m more in shape. If you also need a mountain guide for the area, or anywhere else in Austria, get in touch with Florian. He was great all day – just the right mix of challenging and good company! Find more photos of my climbing adventure in the Rofan Mountains in my photo diary.

Achensee - Austria-60 A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, 5 Peak Climbing Route | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, 5 Peak Climbing Route | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Edelweiss | Travelettes.net

Trail Running to Start the Day

I had just picked up running again so I was excited to see that the tourist office in Pertisau had a brochure with running routes in the area. The trails really cater to every level of physical ability, so I went for a quick morning run along the west side of the lake. The trail isn’t steep (so important) and effectively in the middle of nowhere, as there are no roads on this side of Achensee.

A Day on the Lake: Of Ferries, Stand-Up Paddling and Sun bathing

The real reason why you head to an Austrian lake is to spend some time in and on the water. Achensee is perfect for that, even though the temperatures are freezing cold and need a little bit of adjusting to. Luckily my hotel had an infinity pool reaching out into the lake, which made first contact a bit easier.

Anyway, I took the ferry from Pertisau to Buchau across on the other side of the lake for more views of the lake and eventually an appointment with Daniel Greedier from the kitesurfing school Learn2Kite. Don’t worry though, I was not on a mission to fly over the lake, but rather bot onboard of a stand-up paddle board and paddled around Achensee with Daniel right behind me always one stroke ahead. Even though my balance isn’t exactly brilliant, I love stand-up paddling and in terms of a water sport that doesn’t necessarily require me to get wet in the ice-cold water, it was the perfect choice. Of course, I fell in anyways…

To dry off, I joined the groups of locals and visitors who spread out there towels and sun umbrellas along the shore of the lake and waited for my ferry back to Pertisau.

A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Taking the Lake Ferry | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, SUP | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee | Travelettes.net

An E-Bike Tour to Feilalm

Don’t get me wrong, I love cycling. I will even face the occasional mountain bike tour, but on my last morning at Achensee, I needed a break. Luckily, my hotel was renting out e-bikes as well, so I grabbed a map and made my way up to Feilalm. It took me about an hour to cycle up, feeling really guilty when overtaking brave mountain bikers, who did it out of their own strength. I was still super sweaty because the sun was burning down. That Radler (lager shandy) at the hut was very well deserved!

A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, E-Bike Tour | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Feilalm | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Feilalm | Travelettes.net

A Wellness Day with local Shale Oil

There is no better excuse for indulging in a hotel’s wellness offer than being on an active holiday. The area of Achsensee is particularly famous for producing a special kind of oil, shale oil, which is used in most the signature treatments in the spas of the region. The oil is extracted from shale rocks in a process I didn’t really grasp – but if you want to learn more, there is a museum explaining the process in Pertisau.

I went for a shale oil bath followed by a massage with the same oil. I was warned not to freak out in the tub, as the oil is deep black and it looks like you’re sitting in a bowl of ink. The smell needs getting used to as well, but if you like the smell of basements and caves – man, I love smelling wet rocks – then you shouldn’t even bat an eyelash.

After the treatment and massage my skin was so soft, I couldn’t believe it!

Stuffing my Face with Austrian Food

The best thing about such an active holiday is that you don’t need to feel guilty about eating everything from the menu – and if I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. One of the best meals was certainly the late lunch that followed my climbing tour. The hut at the end of our trail, Erfurter Hütte, was super traditional and I ordered a mix of three different Tyrolese specialities: a spinach dumpling, a pressed cheese dumpling and some local ravioli-like pasta with butter and parmesan cheese.

On my last evening I went for a delightful adventure to Steinberg, the furthest village of the region. My parents had come to visit from Vienna and we booked a table at the restaurant Gasthaus Waldhäusl, which is a traditional guest house where you can sleep and eat. The village is quite isolated and tourists only come here if they want to go completely off-the-beaten track. Without your own wheels it is harder to get here, although there are busses. To cut a long story short, the food alone was worth the trek. Again I went for a traditional dish – a fry-up with potatoes, onions and a grid egg on top. My mouthwatering dessert was one of my favourites: thin pancakes filled with ice cream.

Another favourite foodie place was the traditional restaurant Gramai, at the end of the valley behind Pertisau.

Achensee - Austria-67 A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Palatschinken | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Austrian Cuisine | Travelettes.net

Where to Stay?

When looking for accommodation around Achensee there are so many options around, from low budget guest houses to super traditional farm stays and luxurious hotels. I stayed at the Strandhotel Entner, which translates to beach hotel as it is located right at the shore of the lake. The open beachside bar and the infinity pool which is restricted to hotel guests reach out over the water and the views are absolutely gorgeous.

Although my room was not facing the lake, I can’t really complain about the view either (see the third picture below). I had my own spacious balcony for some relaxing naps and my bed was facing the windows, so the first thing I saw in the morning was mountains.

The hotel has its own spa area and offers all kinds of treatments, such as the mentioned above shale oil massage. They also rent out bikes and e-bikes which is free for guests. There is a fancy dining restaurant on the first floor and a cool brunch/lounge restaurant by the lake. It is a four star superior hotel which locates it a bit on the pricier side, but it made my active holiday so much more relaxing and comfortable. The location (walking distance to the ferry station, just by the lake and directly connected to running and cycling trails) and the amenities made it the perfect choice for me.

A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Strandhotel Entner | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Strandhotel Entner | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Strandhotel Entner | Travelettes.net A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee, Austria | Travelettes.net

I have to admit I am helplessly in love with Austria – how often can you say that about your home country? But who could resist?! With such gorgeous views, great outdoor opportunities and easy transportation links the region of Achensee has made it to my top list of Austrian mountain getaways.

Have you ever been to the area? Or are you already planning a trip? Hit me up with questions in the comments!

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A Mountain Getaway in the Alps: Achensee | Travelettes.net

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.