Visiting Hallstatt and Obertraun
Historically known as the home of the oldest salt mine, Hallstatt is a small, picturesque village located on a lake called Hallstatter See, in Upper Austria. This village, with a population of 1,000 people, relies mainly on tourism—and for good reason!
If you are going to Austria, you must not miss out on this beautiful destination. There are a lot of attractions around Hallstatt you might not know, and they are all exquisite. Normally a day trip would be sufficient, but if you wish to visit all the attractions, you might have to extend your stay.
The Market Square
The market square in Hallstatt is one of the town's most popular attractions. It is a small square surrounded by colourful houses, with a statue of the Holy Trinity at its centre. These houses are usually souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes.
St. Michael's Chapel
Once there was a culture of skull painting, mainly practised in the eastern Alpine region. Today St. Michael's Chapel in Hallstatt has the world's largest collection of skulls—about 1,200—of which over 600 are painted. These skulls were actually transferred from the graves outside the chapel into the charnel house so that the graves could be reused for new burials.
Getaway to Obertraun
There is a beautiful town called Obertraun next to Hallstatt. To get there, the best way is by bus 543 from Hallstatt. Hop on the bus in Hallstatt and the get off at the last stop. Both single and return tickets can be bought onboard from the bus driver. There are basically three attractions you can visit by taking the Dachstein Krippenstein cable car:
- The Mammoth Cave
- The Dachstein Ice Cave
- "5 Fingers" Viewing Platforms
Dachstein Krippenstein cable car offers two sections, section I is the cave world and section II is the viewing platform.
If you want to visit all three places, you can choose the All-Inclusive ticket. If you are not interested in the viewing platform (which I highly doubt!), you can go for the ticket combination that only includes admission to the caves. I opted for the combination that includes only one cave and the viewing platform due to limited time.
The Dachstein Ice Caves
After the first cable car, you still have to walk for 15–20 minutes to reach the ice cave entrance. There will be a tour guide who speaks both English and German.
According to their website, the ice in the cave is formed by the water which seeps from the Dachstein plateau down into the cave through small cracks and joins in the cliff. When the outside temperature lies above the freezing point but the caves still contain very cold air, the penetrating water freezes and forms magnificent ice shapes.
You can expect to climb more than 500 steps in the cave. Some steps are slippery due to the formation of ice, so make sure you wear shoes with excellent grips. And remember to bring thick clothing because the temperature in the caves is extremely low, around 0° Celsius. The tour takes approximately 50 minutes. Are you ready for this adventure through the rocks and the ice?
"5 Fingers" Viewpoint
To get to the viewing platforms, you need to take another cable car to the top of the mountain. From the drop off point, you have to walk for around 30 minutes to reach the viewpoint.
Are you wondering why people call it "5 Fingers"? This is because the viewing platform has a shape of a hand and each "finger" has its own feature. From left to right, the first finger has a metal frame for photography. The second finger has a glass bottom that gives the visitors an adrenaline rush. The third finger is comparatively shorter than the others. The fourth finger has a hole on the floor that allows an abyss view, while the fifth finger has a telescope.
When you stand on one of the platforms overlooking the whole Salzkammergut region, you feel as if you have conquered the world. You definitely will never regret it.
Dress for Cold, Wet Weather!
Shoes and clothing are extremely important to protect yourself from the unpredictable weather. I would suggest the best time to visit is summer because the weather at the mountaintop is bearable and a few layers of thin clothes may be sufficient. If you intend to visit during other seasons, you have to bring thicker clothes. You should also bring windproof clothing as it may be windy at the mountaintop. Wear robust hiking boots that are waterproof to ensure a good walk through slippery paths.
Normally people make a day trip to Hallstatt, but it is certainly not sufficient if you wish to visit every attraction there. Due to time limitation, I did not go to all the attractions. There are a few important places that I could not make it but they are very important for me to mention here.
As we all know, Hallstatt is well known for its salt production, so you should visit its salt mine if you have time. To get to the salt mines, you have to either take funiculars or hike up.
There is also a skywalk right above the Hallstatt village that offers breathtaking views of the lake and the mountains. However, due to time constraints, I opted for Dachstein Ice Caves and the 5 Fingers viewing platforms in Obertraun instead.
If you wish to visit all the attractions in both Hallstatt and Obertraun, you should probably allocate a day in each town so that you have ample time to enjoy your sightseeing.
How to Get to Hallstatt Village
According to my own experience, if you are going from Salzburg, the cheapest option is to take bus 150 from Salzburg to Bad Ischl, and then a train from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt, followed by a ferry across the lake to the village. Of course, you can also take a train straight from Salzburg to Hallstatt and then a ferry to the village if you wish to avoid hassles.
If you are going from Vienna, then you might have to take an early train because the journey takes about 4 hours.
The ferry service is open for the whole year but the last return ferry trip is at 6 pm. If you wish to stay until later than 6 pm, you can book a hotel or Airbnb in Hallstatt, but they are limited and might be a little pricey.
© 2018 Eng Kheng