Austria, the Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe, offers an outstanding variation in landscape and scenery; rugged, snowcapped mountains with stunning glaciers to admire, waterfalls to marvel at, huge ice-caves to explore, easy accessible rolling hills to wander and crystal clear lakes to jump in. The movies Sound of Music, Spectre, and Before Sunrise were all filmed at beautiful locations of Austria. Besides breathtaking nature, Austria offers a rich history and culture as well.
Austria occupies an area of approximately 84.000 km2 and has a population of nearly 9 million people. Austria shares its borders with neighbouring countries; Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Italy.
German is the country’s official language. Austria is a federal republic made up of nine states. The upper part of Austria (the states of Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Vienna and Burgenland) is situated in the Danube valley and consists of easily accessible terrain. Vienna, Austria’s capital, is situated in the upper part of Austria as well and one of the most grandiose cities in the world. Every city in Austria has its own character and many are internationally well-known.
The other five states (the states of Vorarlberg, Tirol, Salzburg, Carinthia and Styria) are located in the lower part of Austria, in the Alps and less densely populated.
The Alps, the highest mountains in Europe, stretch through eight countries in unparalleled beauty. Regardless the season and weather, the Alps seem to pop out majestically of a postcard. In summer, the Austrian Alps are covered with green lands and trees. This is an excellent time for outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and paragliding. There are plenty of hiking trails in the Alps with varying difficulty levels and thus suitable for the entire family. In most regions, cable cars can bring you up to marvelous views.
In winter the Alps turn white with snow and this is when it becomes obvious that Austria truly is a winter sports paradise. There are excellent facilities and attractions at all ski resorts. Maintenance and safety are of the highest concern and the cable cars and lift systems in ski centers are of top quality. Costs of skiing are generally lower than in France and Switzerland.
For more information about Austria, visit the Austrian National Tourist Office website: www.austria.info
Some interesting facts:
Fact: Did you know that postcards were first implemented in Austria? The idea came from Germany, but Austria was responsible for the very first publication of postcards.
Fact: Vienna, Austria’s capital, is the smallest city in the area, but houses approximately a quarter of Austria’s entire population.
Fact: Austria has different languages besides German spoken by locals, including Austro-Bavarian, Alemmanic, and English.
Fact: Austria is the home of many famous personalities like: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gregor Mendel and French Queen Marie Antoinette and also home of the very notorious, infamous Adolf Hitler.
Fact: Austria caters to the world’s oldest zoo and one of the oldest amusement parks, which are both located in Vienna.
We decided to go on a road trip in Europe in July 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic ruled the world.
We actually would have been in Maui during this period. Ever since we left Oahu two years earlier, we missed Hawaii. Due to the pandemic, we had to cancel our flights to New York, Maui and Chicago. Even though we knew we still had a million reasons to be grateful for, it hurt a lot!
So what did we do in this period?
We started to explore our own country and went to places all tourists visit in our country, but we never visited before.
After some time, we considered a road trip to Norway. However, we needed to drive through Denmark and Denmark’s borders were closed. Just before our holiday started, Rakesh learned that Denmark opened up to travelers again, making our trip to Norway possible! Anjali spent a complete night gathering information about Norway, only to discover the next day Norway’s borders were closed as well…
We did not know where to go anymore! France, Spain, Italy, Denmark? Rumors started Barcelona was facing another lockdown. No insurance would cover costs due to the Corona-virus, so we had to travel wisely. We would choose our destinations depending on the severity of the COVID-19 affected area.
Anjali started packing, for colder climates and warmer climates, for six children, swimming gear and thick sweaters. Rakesh made sure our car fit the different requirements as stated for countries we would travel through.
The uncertainties about traveling during a pandemic with our six children were stressful and exhausting at start and caused us to get trapped in time-consuming discussions.
We decided to go to Tyrol, Anjali’s mother had told us several times it was one of the most gorgeous area’s in Europe. We searched for an accomodation in Tyrol and quickly booked three nights at an apartment in Stubaital. We were completely unaware at that moment how much Stubaital would enrapture us!
We brought along an impressive amount of homemade frozen food (which restaurant was going to seat our group of eight during this pandemic?), boxes with groceries, piles of masks, disinfectants, cooking pans to prepare a meal outside, beach stuff and a significant dose of uncertainty about our accommodations.
Rakesh even bought a couple of fishing rods (just in case supermarkets would be closed?). We felt completely Corona-proof.
When our never ending household was in a slightly acceptable state, we left. We woke the kids up at 1.00 am and Rakesh started driving at 2 am. In this way, the kids would hopefully be asleep most of the time, somehow we don’t seem to move forward when the kids are awake.
After 12 hours almost non-stop driving by Rakesh, we ended up in Stubaital for a three nights stay. We were completely surprised by Stubaital’s amazing landscapes. Mountains, snowy peaks, waterfalls and lush green hills, babbling brooks… breathtakingly beautiful!!! What a huge difference with our usual backyard view of terraced houses in a friendly neighborhood!
If you want a more lively impression of trip in Stubaital, have a look at our short video ‘Family travels in Austria’ : https://youtu.be/kSXoFs9li7c
Stubaital is a valley in Tyrol, Austria where the Ruetz River flows
through. Tyrol is a gorgeous state in Austria. Harmonious sceneries
of majestic mountains, green tinted lakes, waterfalls cascading down off
snow-capped mountains and cozy residentials in pure green valleys will
make you feel refreshed and renewed. Every turn is a postcard of the
If you plan a visit to this area, there are 5 municipalities in the valley to choose from: Schönberg im Stubaital, Fulpmes, Telfes, Mieders, and Neustift im Stubaital. Stubaital valley boasts of 20 glaciers and is well known for those who love skiing and hiking.
Often accommodations provide guests with the Stubai Super Card, which provides free access to all public transportations, sights of interest, and other bonuses and discounts.
We received the Stubai Card which is different from the Super Card, but still includes a free travel pass and access to various tourist attractions like the Stubai Glacier.
If you are not affiliated with participating merchants, you can still avail of the Stubai Card. You can get this prepaid card from different railways and tourist information desks.
Wilde Wasser Weg
Driving along the Wilde Wasser Weg is an exciting experience. Every scenery entices to get out of your car and capture its beauty, making it impossible to travel on a tight schedule.
You can hike many trails of varying difficulty along this road. Read more about hiking the Wilde Wasser Weg in the link:
After we drove for only a few minutes on the Wilde Wasser Weg, we spotted this gorgeous lake with beautiful green water surrounded by magnificent mountains and we decided to stop for a short while. We got out of the car, enjoyed the views, I took some photos, and the kids found a few sticks to imitate a prehistorical fight. In the meantime, our little girl was mesmerized by a couple of ducks. A few minutes turned into an hour before we resumed our journey.
I see them
They see me
These ducks make my day
My brothers are running and fighting with sticks,
My sister sits and talks with dad,
Mum is making photos
‘Ooh’ and ‘ahh, so beautiful!’
Not sure what she is talking about.
I can walk around,
Maybe jump in the water,
Pick up some stones,
smuggle them in my mouth
Silently wander off
when no one looks.
And then… I see them
The true inhabitants
The seasoned locals
of this scenery.
I see them
and they see me.
The Grawafall is approximately 85 meter wide and likely to be the widest waterfall in Austria! Its waters cascade about 100 meters down into the depth. In 1979 this waterfall, one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Austria and one of the widest of the East Alps, was officially declared a natural monument.
A trail was developed to bring you close to the waterfall and also to the upper platform which offers a breathtaking view of the waterfall. You can visit the easier accessible panoramic platform if you prefer this.
Crystal clear brooks at several spots along the Wilde Wasser Weg are not an official sight of interest, however truly so worth to take a moment for!
‘Crystal clear water flows in a playful trot over stony ways,
sunlight glitters in blue and green shades,
along breathtaking vistas of tall rising trees and green leafy plants.
A perfect sheer scenery promises continuous entertainment
to the wise old mountains, rising majestically above all,
with amiable nods of sparkling white tops.
The brook continues its long winding journey, tumbling over rocks,
swirling around colorful stones.’
Stubai Glacier is Austria’s largest glacier skiing area. You can reach the Stubai Glacier by car or by ski bus and reach the different slopes by aerial cableway.
Suddenly we were face-to-face with magnificent mountains. It was a sight we never would have imagined possible with our six fairly young kids.
It was a scenery adventurous travelers marvel at after a few days hiking or after an extensive climb.
Skiing professionals worldwide choose this area to practice their skills. The Stubai Glacier Ski Resort is not only for professionals, but also for beginners. There are areas where families, even with young kids, can enjoy fun slopes to learn skiing or tobogganing (sliding down snowy slopes in simple sleds). There are intermediate and advanced slopes. If you want to know more about skiing and other activities at Stubai Glacier, have a look at: https://www.stubaier-gletscher.com/en/.
This was right after and just before our poor kids slipped, in between the slippery scenes. We did not take snow boots along on our roadtrip. We had to compromise during our roadtrip in Europe with unknown destinations during a pandemic. You simply can not take many extra’s along for 8 persons besides winter outfits, summer outfits, food, and other necessities.
There is a small, but nice playground at Stubai Glacier as well. Our kids had a great time going down the slide and on the swing.
Top of Tyrol at Stubai Glacier
Top of Tyrol is a spectacular viewing platform at Stubai Glacier at 3,210 kilometers height, offering a magnificent 360 degree scenery of snow capped mountain peaks. Here you will see 109 peaks of the different mountains around the area. There are several viewing decks where you can enjoy these views. We reached the top by taking the cable car and climbing up stairs.
ICE grotto at Stubai Glacier
Be aware of the closing time of the Ice Grotto, a must see when you are at Stubai Glacier! We vaguely remembered the time and first enjoyed an extensive lunch at Schaufelspitz (the restaurant you will pass on your way to Ice Grotto). When we finally stumbled fully stuffed to the Ice Grotto at 14.30, the sign said: closes 1500 hrs.
We hurried and tried to climb down fast. We watched our eldest kids from above, saw them walking, turning, crawling down this steep, slippery and crooked path, while we held our youngest kids tightly. We were so glad when we arrived safely, still with 20 min left to explore the Ice cave!
The Ice Grotto is situated at an elevation of 3,000 meters and 30 meters below the ski runs. The ice reflects a beautiful, glowing blue colour caused by its unique crystalline structure. Every year the winter snow adds a new layer of ice to the glacier and inside the cave the ice shows this pattern. There is a lot to learn about glaciers here! For the walking tour, sturdy footwear and warm clothing are advised. We went in summer with shorts and a jacket, however we did not feel cold inside since we only had a short walk in the cave and it was sunny outside.
These photos were taken on the way back from the ice cave.
Kid’s Park Klaus Auele
This is an outdoor playground for the kids with magnificent views. Our kids had a lot of fun here.
When you visit the Elfer, you can reach the area for skiing and hiking at 2505 metres by cable car. You will find Tyrol’s longest toboggan runs here. There are many alpine huts that serve a variety of food.
Sadly enough we did not get to visit the Elfer, since there was a long queue in front when we wanted to visit and this just didn’t look appealing during the pandemic.
Panorama Lake at Schlick 2000
At Schlick 2000, you can hike up to the Panorama Lake, truly one of the most beautiful mountain lakes we have ever seen! With the first stop of the ascending cable car, you will arrive at a beautiful hiking area and a picturesque restaurant. We enjoyed a delicious lunch with sausages, fries, apfelstrudel and icecream.
We noticed the sign to the Panorama Lake with an indicated time for the trail of 45 minutes. We were reluctant to hike the mountains at first. We expected it to be tough with 6 kids, 28 degrees Celsius, and no water bottles along.
However, our eldest son Eashan was so eager to start walking, we could not refuse.
We asked our waitress’ advice. She expected us to hike the trail in 20 minutes. Of course she did. The hike to Panorama Lake would have taken her only 20 minutes. Hours later that day, we reproached ourselves several times for letting the beautiful Austrian girl judge our speed and capability to reach the Panorama Lake. We bet she did not even take the cable car in the morning to her work, but ran all the way up, her long hair blowing in the wind. After work, she would just happily throw off her apron, tiptoe out of the restaurant and swirl her way up to Panoramic Lake, yodeling with blushing cheeks and her Austrian Dirndl dress gracefully dangling on the rhytm of her steps.
When you are in your 40’s with kids, it is NOT the same. We were not like her. Not the slightest bit. Maybe you are an experienced hiker or you know your kids are used to hiking and do not make a fuss about it. In this case, it should be easy to do. It was not to us. Two kids in our family really did not feel like hiking up.
‘Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet??!’
Our eldest girl suddenly suffered from pain everywhere and our youngest son, well, he really made this hike memorable. He simply did not want to hike. Whatever we tried, nothing worked. He complained non-stop, refused to continue countless times and wanted to be carried often. Grandparents, parents carrying strollers and small children caught up on us, such a shame!
Our little girl, only two years old, did so well. She had fun and hopped and walked. Our three eldest boys ran up and down all the time.
While hiking up to the Panorama See, you get to enjoy some spectacular views and if you are lucky, you will meet the typical Austrian cows with cowbells. A herd of swinging mountain cows seemingly defying gravity, accompanied us for a while. It was such a delight to experience the orchestra of jingling cowbells, which swelled in crescendo to an angelic symphony!
Eventually, the hike took us 1.5 hours in 28 degrees without a drop of water. If you are used to hiking or just in good shape and with kids willing to walk, you can easily hike this trail in 30- 45 minutes.
The treasure revealed itself, every step we climbed a little bit more. Our exhausted dragging along changed to fast exhilarated steps and our exhaustion was replaced with excitement as we set eyes on Panorama Lake’s enchanting beauty.
Panorama Lake was a true jewel amidst the mountains !
She proudly wore her transparent surface of lush green trees and snowy mountain peaks. Her depth compiled of blue and green shades in perfect flow. We were so in awe of all we saw!
Panorama Lake was beautiful beyond any imagination and we had to agree: absolutely worth the effort!
We stayed at a fully equipped apartment: Haus Alpenkonig, a Tyrolean country house offering a marvelous backyard view. There was a kitchen, enough beds and the interior was rustic and cozy. Situated in close proximity to the centre of Neustift im Stubaital, Stubai glacier, Schlick 2000, Elfer and Wilde Wasser Weg this apartment is an excellent starting point. A free ski bus stops at 100 metres distance.
We didn’t eat out so often due the pandemic, so the following list is mainly made through an internet search.
- Schaufelspitz Restaurant
We enjoyed an extensive and delicious gourmet lunch at the famous restaurant Schaufelspitz. This is the highest located 3-toque awarded Restaurant of the World (awarded 15 points by Gault-Millau). Gault-Millau’s scale is 1 to 20 (highest) and Schaufelspitz was awarded 15 points. We had the best Austrian food on top of the largest glacier ski resort!
Schaufelspitz served us their sausages, cheeses, and hamburgers. We loved their famous apfelstrudel. Apple strudel is made of apples, raisins, sugar, and cinnamon wrapped in a thin sheet of dough, baked, and served with powdered sugar and vanilla sauce. We ordered three times!
- Eisgrat Self-Service Restaurant
Eisgrat Restaurant serves homemade pasta. This is a huge restaurant that can seat 400 people. There are deckchairs at a wide panorama terrace where you can enjoy the breathtaking view.
- Herr Klaus-Das Restaurant
Herr Klaus is top-rated on TripAdvisor in the Stubaital area. Herr Klaus in town of Neustift is known for its gourmet burgers and steaks barbecue with several vegetarian options. It is advised to make a reservation beforehand.
- Jagdhütte Café Restaurant
Another great restaurant in Neustift is Jagdhütte Cafe Restaurant which is wellknown for fantastic Austrian cuisine. They are famous for their ribs and steaks, soups and desserts. If you happen to be there on a Friday night, they serve the best pork knuckles prepared in a big fireplace in the middle of the restaurant!
- Ristorante & Pizzeria Da Rocco
If you are craving for something else than Austrian food, then how about some Italian fare? Ristorante & Pizzeria Da Rocco was chosen as #1 Italian restaurant in Innsbruck for Traveller’s Choice 2020 on TripAdvisor. Fantastic pizzas, great wine and delicious tiramisu make Da Rocco one of the best Italian restaurants to dine in Stubai.
- Tschangelair Alm
Tschangelair Alm in Neustift. A little walk from Wilde Wasser Weg, this cozy place sits next to the river. It offers cheap and great food with superb views of the river. They farm their own fish and chicken.
- Machete-Burrito Kartell
Long waiting lines and locals eating; these two signs (and more) will probably draw you to Machete-Burrito Kartell, one of the only two Mexican restaurants in Innsbruck. Great value for money in a laid-back atmosphere.
- Froneben Alm
If you are staying in Fulpmes town or skiing in the Schlick 2000 area, you should visit Froneben Alm. It is a small place serving local Tyrol food made from locally sourced ingredients in season. They have a children’s playground with water and sand games. You can also eat al fresco out in the sun garden with the deckchairs.
- Jausenstation Oberkartnall
Jausenstation Oberkartnall is another Neustift gem situated on a large open meadow. The view from Jausenstation is exquisite with the panorama of the Stubai mountains. Their homemade chocolate nut cake and their famed Vien Schnitzel are very popular.
Try this pleasant stop in Neustift which is just a short diversion from the main road. A quieter place to enjoy traditional Tyrolean dishes amidst green meadows and pine forests
If you are planning to go on a trip to Stubaital, there are many ways for getting around the valley.By bike
You can rent a bicycle to explore the mountains of Stubaital. Check this link (https://www.stubai.at/en/activities/biking/bike-and-mountain-bike-rental/) for different renowned companies offering bicycles for hire.
There are car rentals in and around Stubaital and you can browse online for exclusive deals. We went to Stubaital with our own car.
There are ski buses which ride between different skiing areas and offer free transport. Check this link (https://www.stubai.at/en/activities/skiing/ski-bus/) for the bus schedule.
By Cable Car
Modern cable cars will bring you up the mountains for skiing down the slopes or just to enjoy fantastic views.
Safety is a top priority in Austria, and everything is well organized. There are many things to do and to see in this magnificent country. However, there are a few things that you should know before visiting Austria to have a blast during your stay here.
The official language in Austria is German. Austrian German is different from Standard German in terms of accent and vocabulary. Locals can adjust to speaking Standard German if you can’t keep up with their dialects.
Communication can be pretty challenging for non-German speaking tourists. Many Austrians know some English, but not all Austrians are keen on talking English unless necessary. Additionally, some restaurants and shops offer menus or catalogues without any English translation. Downloading a translator application on your mobile phone might be an outcome. In general, when you are at a tourist destination, Austrians are well-versed in English.
Limited Shop Opening hours
Another thing about Austria that you should be aware of, are shops’ opening hours. Compared to other countries, many stores close early. Did you know that in Austria all shops should be closed on Sundays and Holidays by law? Major train station shops, gas station stores, airports, some bakeries and confectioners, and souvenir boutiques are exempted from this law.
Although Austria is considered to have a temperate climate, you still need to be aware of the weather forecast when hiking or planning a trip, as in any other mountainous area. We were once caught up in a storm while driving in the mountains, and I can tell you, it was pretty scary to us! Austrians have built structures to keep rocks from falling down, but still, you need to be careful in bad weather.
Austria is generally safe for tourists because of its low crime rate. Although rare, pickpockets and theft still occur, in large cities, public places, and crowded areas. Always remember to keep your belongings attended at all times. Better safe than sorry!
First we were disappointed we could not travel overseas due to the pandemic and we had to cancel our flights. Austria, however, made up plenty for our disappointment! It was beautiful beyond any imagination and we felt truly blessed to experience and explore some areas in Austria!
If you are inspired to visit Austria, I would love to know! Please leave a comment below.
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