IT all began, so the legend goes, with an axe being thrown down a hill.

In the thousand years or so since Saint Wolfgang of Regensburg hurled the weapon, a beautiful town has been built on the shores of Austria’s Lake Wolfgang.

The region is famous for many things – it was the birthplace of Mozart, the setting for parts of The Sound of Music, and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl used to vacation nearby ¬– but is such an attractive area that these claims to fame seem almost irrelevant.

Even on an overcast and rainy day, the lake shines deep blue, and is so clear that fish swimming underneath the surface are easily visible.

Then there’s the mountains, the trees, the towns, and the boats.

As well as its visual beauty, the Austrian lake district has the reputation of being a top destination for sports including cycling.

But those who fancy trying their hand at something a little more unusual might consider canyoning.

The bad news is that it’s cold, wet, and hard work.

The good news is that it can be done in any weather, it’s a great group activity, and it’s thoroughly exhilarating.

It certainly requires a few leaps of faith – literally – but gives a glimpse into a world that most people won’t see.

The Canyoning Salzkammergut website euphemistically says “rarely will you be as close to nature as canyoning in the Strubklamm”, and it isn’t wrong.

The trek begins with an immediate plunge from a 10 foot cliff into cold, muddy water, and progresses from there.

Over an expedition of a couple of miles the skills needed include walking on slippery rocks, climbing over fallen trees, manoeuvring over submerged logs, plunging from 25ft cliffs into narrow waterways, and sliding down waterfalls.

If it sounds full-on that’s because it is, but it’s an activity quite unlike any other.

Aside from the trek itself, the experience of being in 100ft canyon with rain pouring on you leaves quite an impression.

The opportunity to stand in a river and look up at looming cliff faces, with trees leaning precariously over the edge, should not be missed.

And for those who like to document their travels on social media, there are definitely many opportunities for spectacular photographs and videos.

Judging by the amount of cycling paraphernalia in hotels, restaurants and shops in the region, cycling is a hugely popular sport in the Salzkammergut region.

For many people, there’s one slight problem with that: it’s really, really hilly.

Fortunately, a solution is at hand, and e-bikes offer mere mortals a chance to take in the surroundings of Lake Wolfgang without legs giving way and collapsing half way up a ludicrously steep climb.

A word of warning – when you first jump on an e-bike, the unexpected speed can be incredibly disorientating.

But after the initial shock of how easy it is to climb hills, the smooth and almost silent action makes gliding around the shores of a calm lake a truly unique feeling.

After renting a bike, anyone can hop on a ferry from St Wolfgang to Reith, and the quiet ten-minute journey across the lake leads to a cycle path around the lake.

From there you can cycle past Forsthub, on to Strobl, and then back to St Wolfgang. On the way there is a raised viewing platform near the lake, a mini pier to walk out onto, and then the quaint community of Strobl itself, before returning along a more hilly section to return the bikes.

For those who prefer a more sedate trip, there are many cultural aspects to the area.

The House of Mozart in St Gilgen gives a fascinating insight into the life of one of the greatest composers of all time, particularly his prodigious talent, his unusual upbringing, and his untimely death.

There is also the chance to have a meal at the unusual Restaurant Zur, which combines its authentic Austrian food with a nine-pin bowling alley.


James Johnson visited the Salzkammergut (Lake District) region of Austria as a guest of the Fuschlsee Tourist Office ( and the Salzburgerland Tourist Office ( He stayed at the Triathlon Hotel Mohrenwirt ( in Fuschl: double rooms are from €78 (low season, Jan-May) to €98 (high season June-Sept) per person per night based on 2 sharing B&B including city bike hire, wifi and access to the hotel’s private beach on the shore of Lake Fuschl.

Fly direct to Salzburg with leading airlines including Eurowings, British Airways and Ryanair (direct flights are available from some major UK airports). Transfers to Fuschl from Salzburg by road (½-hour) €50 per taxi or by rail (2 hours) €7.10 Per person

Activities / prices / useful notes:

• 3* Hotel Obermayr at Ebenau ( is owned/managed by Maximillian Obermayr. Double rooms from €33-63 per person per night based on 2 sharing B&B

• 2-hour beginners canyoning trip in the Almbach with Max Obermayr: price €59 per person, minimum of 4 / maximum of 8-10 per instructor (depends on ages/fitness). Private tours also available and priced at €130 for the Almbach or €150 for the more challenging and longer Strubklamm

• Ferry transfers on Lake Wolfgangsee are from €5.20 to €20.60 per person; (€0.90 discount for Salzkammergut card holders)

• House of Mozart at St Gilgin, entry fee is €4 per person

• E-bikes can be rented in all villages; from €35 per person per day

James Johnson