When I first started researching our Europe trip I had a goal of visiting a tiny mountain town on the edge of a lake. I came across an article that listed the top 10 most beautiful and secret towns you MUST visit in Europe, and Hallstatt, Austria was on this list.
When planning it became clear how difficult it would be to get there as it's legitimately in the middle of nowhere in Austria and isn't all that touristy which made finding a place to stay tricky. I was determined to make it happen no matter what it took! After booking a flight from Prague to Salzburg I set out to find a place for us to stay in Hallstatt. I ended up finding an adorable little B&B and started emailing back and forth with the owners who only spoke German (made making a reservation super interesting!).
We arrived in Salzburg on July 24th and realized getting to Hallstatt was going to be quite the trek involving multiple buses, multiple trains, a ferry and quite a bit of walking (and the 2 planes it took us to get to Salzburg). From the time we boarded the second bus which took us to the train station we were deep in the Austrian mountains and everything was unbelievably gorgeous.
We rode the train through tiny little villages nestled between lakes and mountains before arriving at the ferry "terminal," one dock with the tiniest boat to shuttle you across the lake. We now realize that we didn't document our trek to Hallstatt because we were so confused and exhausted the entire way. In total: 2 planes, 2 buses, 1 train, 1 ferry, a bunch of walking and over 12 hours later we arrived!
We hopped off the ferry and felt like we had stepped back in time, with less than 800 residents all dressed in lederhosen, Hallstatt was already a dream come true. Apparently everyone in this town has the same last name or very similar so finding our B&B was kind of funny and involved a bunch of "Is this it? No wait wait I think this is it." We were so happy with our accommodation once we found it, an old bed and breakfast with a lake view and the sweetest owners.
We headed for dinner and stumbled across one of five restaurants in the entire town and ate traditional Austrian food by the lake as swans swam past us, so dreamy!!! We walked around a bit after dinner before getting caught in torrential downpour which had us running back to our place where we met the owner, a lady in probably her late 70's, who suggested we go for a swim! We thought wait what? A swim? It's pouring and kind of cold, then she said okay well I'm going for a dip that's what you do here when it rains! So we changed into our bathing suits and ran in the most epic downpour to the lake where Myles jumped in, I dipped my toes in and decided it was probably best I didn't jump in as I was already freezing with blue lips and soaking wet anyways.
The next day the skies cleared up and we ate a delicious brunch in the town square before renting a tiny electric boat and driving it all around the lake which we had basically to ourselves. This is probably one of the most memorable moments of our entire trip, complete silence, towering mountains, a secluded mountain town with a castle within view. We wandered through the grounds of the church (most iconic photo of Hallstatt if you google it) and walked through the cemetery marvelling at tombstones thousands of years old. Part of the church contained skulls of deceased residents that had been dug up to create room for family members to be buried... that's how small this town was, no room to bury the dead.
Later in the day the rain came again but we decided to go on a walk/hike to a waterfall we heard was nearby. Well it wasn't quite "nearby" but we trekked on anyways before walking through a farmer's pasture filled with animals to the foot of this waterfall, again just so dreamy!
The following day we decided to hike to the over 3000 year old Faszination Salzwelten (salt mine) which was perched above the town of Hallstatt. Once atop we decided to splurge and purchase a salt mine tour and we were not disappointed! After donning some pretty amazing looking mining outfits (mostly just to protect our clothes) we headed into the mine with a group of people and one tour guide. The farther we walked the colder it got (like really cold!), ice started to form on the cave walls and you could see your breath. In total we travelled over a kilometre into the mountain and over a kilometre downwards. The tour was hilarious as we rode slides even further into the mountain (for sure not safe whatsoever), you just had to keep laughing or else the overwhelming sense of claustrophobia would get you. We rode out of the mine on the sketchiest "train" I've ever experienced, it was basically you straddling a piece of 2x4 with wheels on it through the narrowest track in complete darkness without any type of restraint. We were told to keep our heads down and bodies tucked in as the cave walls were brushing up against your shoulders as you flew through the darkness. Well worth the money we paid, as we will most likely never experience such history like the 7000 year old wooden staircase uncovered within the mine (the oldest in Europe) or taking home salt from that very mine itself.
We ended the day by eating some authentic Austrian food again (okay and a hot dog at 9pm from some guy standing outside) and a restful night in our B&B. The quietness we experienced was a whole new level of peace which was so beautiful. There were no crowds, no mad tourists buying souvenirs in a frenzy, just the people who had lived there for generations.
We could not have asked for a better time in Hallstatt and want to visit again so badly but maybe next time in the winter as there'd be no better sight than those mountains covered in snow!
We highly encourage you to do some of your own research on Hallstatt as it was just so incredible we feel like our words don't do it justice!
Up next (who knows when) Berlin, Germany!