Charming Villages in Austria for a Cozy Winter Vacation

A charming village in Austria.

Austria is known for its idyllic landscapes, beautiful architecture, and enchanting Christmas markets. In addition, this beautiful country is also a haven for those who like to practice winter sports in Europe. Massive snowfalls, however, transform practically all Austrian villages into fairytale settings right out of the movie Frozen from November to March. Unfortunately, most tourists visit only popular cities like Vienna, Salzburg, or Innsbruck. For this reason, we have prepared an article about those charming villages in Austria where you can go for a cozy winter vacation whether you want to practice winter sports or not. By visiting these villages, you will discover the authentic Austrian spirit and realize just how beautiful this country truly is. So let us proceed in our journey to discover the charming villages that you have to visit when in Austria.

Hallstatt

This tiny village, found on the shores of the lake with the same name, is one of the most beautiful villages in Austria. The Salzkammergut mountains surround Hallstatt and give it a picturesque view that you would never believe to be true. Moreover, this village is so unique and valuable that it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. Over 2000 prehistoric graves were found near Hallstatt village, suggesting that this area might be the cradle of Austrian civilization. In addition, the many 16th century buildings around the local market square will make you take an architectural trip back in time. However, besides admiring the beautiful surroundings, you can also have some fun. For instance, you can go hiking, cycling, or cruising on the lake. And, you can have a taste of the famous Austrian pastry, Schaumrollen.

Picture of the village of Hallstatt.
Hallstatt is one of the most charming villages in Austria for a cozy winter vacation.

St. Gilgen

If you want to visit one of the most charming villages in Austria for a cozy winter vacation, you should visit St. Gilgen. This village, located 20 minutes from Salzburg, is bordered by Wolfgangsee Lake and the Zwölferhorn mountain. And, even if this village is small, there are lots of attractions to be seen here. For example, “The Sound of Music” was filmed here, so you can visit some places that appear in the film. In addition, you can take a cable cart ride to the top of the Zwölferhorn mountain or visit the Mozart house. The Mozart house is not, as one might imagine, where Mozart resided, but rather where his mother was born. Nonetheless, the Mozart house is worth a visit, as is a Wolfgangsee Lake cruise or experiencing the local food. The famous Austrian spaetzle noodles are a must when you come to St. Gilgen.

Mayrhofen

Mayrhofen is another pretty village that is close to a big city. It is located in the Zillertal Valley, just around one hour away from Innsbruck by car or train. The village becomes a ski resort during the winter, but the good part is that it is not very popular among tourists. So, if you like to practice skiing, you can do so here and avoid the crowds. In addition, you can take the cable car to the top of the mountain Ahornbahn and see the Ahorn Lake that sits at 2000m. Also, you can swim in an outdoor swimming pool or take a steam train ride to nearby Zell am Ziller, where you can slide down the alpine toboggan Arena Coaster. Or, you can explore the valley further and visit Hintertux Glacier. There, you can explore an incredible ice cave known as the Ice Palace, or you can ski some more at the local resort where skiing is possible all year round.

Sunset over a mountain in Austria.
The mountain villages in Austria offer breathtaking views.

Durnstein

This village of Lower Austria is said to be the jewel of the Wachau Valley. Durnstein is a historical village alongside the Danube river that will enchant you with its beautiful architecture. For example, the Blue Baroque tower of Durnstein Abbey. This abbey is a former Augustine monastery from the 15th-century, restored in the 18th-century in the Baroque style. In addition, you can also visit the ruins of a 10th-century castle where Richard Lionheart was imprisoned. And, if you decide to visit this beautiful Austrian village, you don’t need to pack a lot of items with you. In the narrow, cobblestoned streets, there are many modern stores where you can get anything you need. As a result, it is best to keep your valuables at home and ensure their safety by renting a storage space for them. It will help you travel lighter and more comfortably

St. Wolfgang

St. Wolfgang is another of the charming villages in Austria that you can visit for a cozy winter vacation. You can find this typical Austrian village on the banks of lake Wolfganesse, surrounded by breathtaking mountains. It has beautiful streets, flower-decorated buildings, and a magnificent 14th-century church that adds to the picturesque setting. This church is famous for being the site of a previous church built in 976 by Saint Wolfgang, Bishop of Regensburg. Also, the church serves as a destination for a pilgrimage that takes place every year from St. Wolfgang’s grave. Besides viewing historic buildings in the village, you can go on a train ride. The Schafbergbahn train will take you up the mountain for more than 1700 meters, from where you can admire the beautiful view of the village. Or, you can take a boat ride along the Wolfgangsee and admire the village from the lake.

Church tower and lake in St. Wolfgang, Austria.
The charming villages in Austria are just as beautiful in summer as they are during winter.

Final words

Austria is more than simply the birthplace of the Viennese waltz and the home of the famed Habsburg emperors. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world that becomes more and more beautiful when you take the time to explore it. And, the best way to get to the true heart and soul of Austria is to visit its little villages. There, you can meet the friendly locals, taste the delicious Austrian cuisine, and learn about the country’s history. Austria is an ideal winter holiday destination, whether you want to explore it on your own or have a memorable family trip. So make sure to visit the charming villages in Austria for a cozy winter vacation.

Staying in a Hotel vs. Renting a Flat When Visiting Europe

Map of Europe

If you are planning a ski trip to Europe this winter or just want to visit the Old Continent at some point, you should know your lodging options. Even though a hotel might be your first choice, you should think about renting an apartment, for example. Rentals have become very popular during vacations in Europe, and tourists seem satisfied with this type of accommodation. However, both a rental and a hotel might have advantages and disadvantages. As a result, this article is here to help you decide which one is the best between staying in a hotel vs. renting a flat when visiting Europe.

Booking

If you are used to staying at a hotel during vacations, you already know how things work. You do some research, find the hotel that meets your needs, make a call, and you have a room reserved. Or, if you already know the hotel you want to stay at, you can make a reservation online. When it comes to renting a flat, though, the research might take a little longer. Many rentals are not verified, even on booking sites, and some of them might not have reviews. That can make it a bit harder for you to determine whether or not that flat is good for you. However, if you are lucky, you might be able to find a suitable rental pretty quickly. Simply look for those with the most reviews and a detailed description. Examine the photos, the location, and the amenities, and then compare them to the reviews. If they check out, you have a winner.

Payment

When renting an apartment in Europe, you should know that booking websites charge a booking fee. The fee is part of the price, and it will be handed over to the owner, but only after you check in. Even if it might seem strange, this procedure is there to protect the owner from fraud. Furthermore, some websites will need identification to make the owner and their guests feel more secure.

On the other hand, when it comes to hotels and payment, you have more options. For instance, you don’t need to pay in advance if you don’t want to. Most of the time, hotels will charge you either at check-in or check-out. Some hotels might encourage you to pay in advance, offering discounts for prepaid rooms. However, you can still choose to pay for the room at check-in or out.

Person holding money.
If you plan to rent a flat in Europe, make sure you have Euros or money in the local currency with you.

Prices

The price makes a big difference when deciding between staying in a hotel vs. renting a flat when visiting Europe. If you pay between $100 and $150 per night for a hotel room, a rental will cost around $40. But, of course, it can depend on the destination you choose. However, unlike with hotel rooms, you might be asked to pay a safety deposit for the rental. This deposit can vary based on the apartment, so make sure to check before you book it. Also, you will have to pay the deposit upon arrival in cash. Most rental owners don’t accept credit cards, so you will need to have some money with you when you check in, ideally in local currency.

Check-ins

When it comes to check-ins, hotels might have a plus. They have a reception, so someone will be there to check you in 24/7. You will receive the key to your room, and then you are free to come and go as you wish. In a rental, on the other hand, you need to set an exact time when you will be checking in. As a result, when you agree on the hour with your host, make sure that you will be able to arrive on time. Research the exact location of the flat and how to get there. It is the same as a hotel room once you have checked in. You can come and go as you please because you will have the key to the flat. However, if you share the apartment with someone else, you may have to share the key.

The advantage of hotels vs. rented flats is the reception that is open 24/7.

Safety

If you are concerned about the safety of your valuables while traveling in Europe, both a hotel and a rental can be considered safe. Most hotels have CCTV coverage, making it difficult for your items to be unsafe while in the room. Furthermore, hotel security knows who entered the hotel, when they did so, and where they went. It’s pretty hard to get past them without being noticed. In rental flats, you can also have cameras at the entrance, and you and the owner are the only ones who have the key. But, if you are skeptical and need to find a way not to worry about your possessions while traveling, you can leave them in safe hands in a rented storage space back home. Your precious belongings will be safe during your travel, and you can enjoy your vacation stress-free.

Amenities

When it comes to staying in a hotel vs. renting a flat when visiting Europe, a hotel room will win if you prefer comfort. Hotels can offer breakfasts, housekeeping, laundry services, or room service. In addition, the employees will help you with anything you need. For example, you can ask about the location of the nearest pharmacy or where to buy the most original souvenirs. At the same time, internet services may be poor, or you may be required to pay for them. Then again, in a rental, even if you have to make your breakfast and do the laundry, you might have a much better internet connection. In addition, you can look for a flat that has all the things that will make you feel at home. Air conditioning, a balcony, a separate bathroom, a TV, or a parking space are just some examples.

If you rent a flat while visiting Europe, you will have all the comfort and amenities that you need.

Final words

Choosing the best accommodation for your trip to Europe is totally up to you. If you are willing to pay more but have an easy check-in, no deposits, comfort, and more security, you should choose to stay at a hotel. But if you want to pay less, live like a local, have all the amenities you want, and all the space you need, you should go with a rental. Your preferences will dictate whether you will go with staying in a hotel vs. renting a flat when visiting Europe.

Ski and Snowboard All Year Round at These Destinations

If you are an avid skier (like me), wouldn’t it be great to ski and snowboard all year round at these destinations? Namely Whistler, Canada; Hintertux, Austria; Las Lenas, Argentina; Keystone, United States. (COVID-19 disclaimer: some resorts, like Las Lenas have announced that they are not opening this season due to the pandemic). What skier isn’t dreaming of that next ski vacation? Ski resorts have always focussed on safety, but this year are doing everything they can to keep you safe. Enhanced safety measures and procedures are in place to deal with COVID including mandatory face coverings, advanced reservations, lift restrictions and more. Physical distancing is a natural with ski and boards and lots of room on the hills. If you’ve pushed off your ski vacation, it’s time to start thinking ahead to ski and snowboard all year round at these destinations.  

Winter Skiing in Whistler, Canada

Every skier or snowboarder in Canada either dreams of going to Whistler or dreams of going back to Whistler. While there are other great ski destinations in Canada, (Lake Louise, Big White and Mont Tremblant come to mind), Whistler is consistently ranked as #1. You have got 2 distinct mountains with Whistler and Blackcomb side by side and connected by the memorable Peak to Peak Gondola. With over 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, you could spend days on either Blackcomb or Whistler Mountain without getting bored in the least. And with an average of 460 inches of snow each year, there’s plenty of the white stuff. The top of mountain temperature and bottom/valley temperature vary greatly as one would expect. At the peak, you can ski the glacier and stay up top for some bowl skiing. At the end of your day, make sure you leave plenty of energy to ski down the mountain. The Peak to Creek run is 7 miles long.

Spring Skiing in Austria

Hintertux Glacier Ski Resort is Austria’s only year-round ski resort (yes, 365 days per year). Hintertux is in Austria’s Tirol Region, a warm and welcoming area that is my favorite and the real heart of the Alps. In winter, one lift pass, the “Ski- und Gletscherwelt Zillertal 3000”, gets you access to interconnected resorts like Finkenberg and Mayrhofen with 60 km of terrain. 72% of Hintertux’s ski pistes are Intermediate which makes this glacier more manageable for groups and the average skier.  The mountains of Tirol have many more ski resorts available during ski season (including Kitzbhuel, St. Anton, Zugspitze and more) as well as other activities like hiking, swimming, and mountain biking. Innsbruck is nearby and offers great Austrian hospitality, food, and culture when you are finished with the ski portion of your trip to Austria.   

Skiers and snowboarders on the slopes of Austria
Pumuckel42, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Summer Skiing in Argentina

The highest mountain in the Andes is Las Lenas, Argentina. Las Lenas is very much about the skiing. Its projected opening date is around June 6th with closing in early October. With 30 runs (80% intermediate/advanced), it is not big by any means, but the skiable terrain and vistas draw rave reviews. It is not fancy and does not offer many alternatives for days a way from the slopes. But it’s a bucket list destination for skiers – skiing in South America and skiing in summer. After the skiing is done, it’s time to head to Buenos Aires or neighbouring Chile to experience more of South America.

A view of Las Lenas Ski Resort in Argentina

Fall Skiing in Colorado

Skiiing in the fall can be “hit and miss” due entirely to unpredictable snowfall. Keystone, Colorado is the top candidate (normally open in early November) followed by Lake Louise, Canada and Mammoth Mountain, California. Keystone Resort is a short drive from Denver and covers 7 miles across 3 mountains along the Snake River. There are 3 villages with restaurants, bars, and accommodation slope side and in the villages. Keystone is a top-rated family-friendly resort that is more about skiing than extras and wild après ski. With 130 trails, 20 lifts and night skiing, there is no shortage of terrain and time to ski. You’ll enjoy some the longest runs in the State of Colorado.

Summary – Ski and Snowboard All Year Round at These Destinations

There’s a quick list of ski areas to get too year-round. You are not restricted to skiing and boarding in traditional winter or Q1 of each year, especially this year. For the average skier, these are bucket list destinations. Get ready and prepared for some big terrain, great views and a world class ski experience. And don’t forget your travel insurance and extra insurance coverage for COVID-19. I’m ready for a ski tour of these great destinations. It is time to dream and plan that next great ski trip!