We all have a bucket-list of places that we want to visit and when we do visit, either we feel it’s not all that we imagined or… its simply overwhelming.
I’ve been dreaming of visiting Hallstatt in Austria ever since I first saw a picture of it in a travel blog, a few years ago and it finally happened this June with a blissful three day stay at this postcard-pretty, lake-cuddling town. Visitors are simply in awe of the beautiful lakeside and mountain setting of the village, where time had stood still and earned its well-deserved place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. As you walk along the waterfront promenade, you keep wondering how a town can be so picture-perfect! Anything but a fairy-tale-painting-come-to-life!
One of Europe’s oldest settlements, Hallstatt was born before there was Rome as a salt-mining centre (its name means “place of salt”). Archaeologists claim that people have been coming here to dig salt since 7,000 B.C. (salt used to be precious because it preserved meat). The namesake salt mine is now open to visitors during summer months and its another experience by itself! The Alpine village is also known for another wonder – the ice caves deep in the mountains.
With these two additional attractions, today, Hallstatt has become so popular that during peak summer its virtually besieged by thousands of tourists! So if you plan to visit, do so during the shoulder months- either before the crowd comes in or after its gone… better still, if you are looking to enjoy the town in a non-tourist way, stay at Obertraun village right opposite Hallstatt across the lake, which we did! The views of Hallstatt as you approach on the ferry ride from Obertraun are priceless.
We stayed at Seehotel am hallstättersee, Obertraun- one of the only two hotels on the lakeshore overlooking Hallstatt. Quiet, peaceful, ensconced by Alpine mountains , sprawling green meadows, steps away from the lakeshore…absolute bliss!! The Chalet type accommodation on the third floor with a large balcony offered panoramic views of the stunning locale. Every morning we woke up to the chirping of birds and occasional drizzles making our stay even more romantic.
The not-to-miss experience is a walk along the car-free waterfront promenade with its charming old buildings (some of them over 500 years and still standing pretty), quaint little cafes and a few beer houses (brewing their own Hallstatt brand), artistic fountains in the lively market square.
As you stroll along, wonder at the Austrian wooden houses built on the Alpine slopes along the lakefront, appreciate the reflection of the town’s oldest church spire mirrored on the tranquil lake, smile at the snow white Swans gliding through happily on the chill waters, wave at the septuagenarian, ever-smiling Austrian grannies managing the souvenir shops, admire the shuttle boats knifing through the glacial waters leaving beautiful folds of waves or get awe-inspired by the cotton clouds embracing the evergreen Alpine woods. If you are a shutterbug, the photo opportunities are simply endless.