Traunkirchen, Austria

Photo: Seehotel Das Traunsee

Over the last few years, the Salzkammergut has become your favorite part of Austria. It’s not surprising given the region’s beauty. The rugged Alps. Glacial-carved valleys. Alpine lakes. Untouched pine forests. It’s unexpected for a different reason, though. You’d never heard the resort area’s name when you first arrived. It was just the Dachstein Mountains, Hallstatt, and Traunsee to you. You know better now that you go there every summer.

That’s another issue. You’ve only traveled to the Salzkammergut when it’s warm. No one blames you for wanting to go boating, fishing, hiking, and swimming during the summertime. But you’re missing out on a magical time of year. During the winter, the lakes freeze over and the mountains sparkle with snow. You can go skiing, snowshoeing, and tobogganing. There are Christmas markets around the holidays, too.

Well, that didn’t take much convincing. By the time you hear “Christmas markets,” you’re looking into flights to Salzburg. From there, you’ll drive east to Traunsee, the deepest lake in the country. You’ll stare at Schloss Ort (a castle on an island) and Traunstein (a high mountain with nearly vertical walls) as you head along the west coast. Then you’ll stop in Traunkirchen, a small village halfway down the shoreline.

Photo: Seehotel Das Traunsee

Traunkirchen is as picturesque as it gets. It’s home to little churches—one includes a historic pulpit called the Fischerkanzel—a regional museum, and a water taxi dock. Lake and mountain views are around every corner. Plus family-owned hotels offer warm service and traditional food.

You choose Das Traunsee. The small hotel sits right against the lake. Wooden boardwalks, rocky paths, and stone steps lead up to bright, modern rooms. You discover thoughtful amenities—including tablets, beach bags, and hiking backpacks—in your spacious suite.

At first, the beach bag seems odd for this time of year. Its towels and slippers are still useful in the spa, though. The Lake Spa is one of the main reasons you booked here. The newly renovated space features two saunas (one with a panoramic view of the lake), an infrared sauna, a marble steam bath, and an ice grotto. It has a relaxation area with a tea bar, too. You can even use the lake as a plunge pool—a hole will be drilled through the ice if it’s frozen—in which to cool off.

Restaurant Bootshaus is the other reason you chose this hotel. The award-winning restaurant sits atop a converted boathouse. The light-filled space has large windows and cozy wooden tables. It focuses on local suppliers, seasonal dishes, and Austrian wines. The menu changes constantly as a result. It’s the perfect spot to begin planning your winter adventure in Salzkammergut.

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