Summer, sun, and…mountains? For me, these didn’t really belong together. For my holidays, I’m usually drawn to exotic countries, to the sea, to the south. In my world, the high mountains of Austria have always been reserved for winter sports. I was able to experience what I’ve been missing out on with this limited mentality this summer, as the TUI BLUE Schladming invited me to stay a few days in the green heart of Styria. Flowery meadows, alpine lakes, the high mountains of the Dachstein Glacier, and the most beautiful alpine lodges in the region! There is so much to discover in the region of Schladming-Dachstein – here are my highlights to read and hopefully also relive!
Wanderlust for Beginners – The Picturesque Spiegelsee
“Explore the more” is the slogan of the TUI BLUE hotels – experience more on your holiday. The right choice for me! I’m always very active on holiday; I have to get to know the country, people, landscapes, enjoy sports and excursions, and I just want to see as much as possible. The concept of the TUI BLUE hotel is designed for travellers like me. That’s why they’re mostly in areas with great recreational opportunities and excursions, and it’s the same in Schladming. More than 1,000 kilometres of well-marked hiking trails await hikers here in the middle of Austria, in the Schladming-Dachstein holiday region. But where to start? How long are the individual routes? What’s the change in elevation? Am I in good enough condition for the trip? At the TUI BLUE Schladming, I have a local “BLUE Guide” on my side who can guess exactly which trail I’d be most interested in and whether it fits my fitness level. So the decision is very easy for me: I’m going to the Spiegelsee (Mirror Lake)!
At 1,800 metres above sea level, the quiet mountain lake is usually so smooth and clear that you can see the Dachstein Massif in its reflection, hence the name. The hike starts from the Reiteralm, which can be reached after a short cable car ride from the “Preunegg Jet” valley station. Thanks to the Summer Card, an activity card for the region that’s part of every overnight stay at TUI BLUE, I get one free ride on the cable car per day. You can also reach the Reiteralm by car, bus, or even by bike. From here it’s just a relaxed 45 minutes to the Spiegelsee. The trail is well signposted and leads past the Speichersee and the Untersee, which are already a feast for the eyes. Finally, “Mirror Lake” lives up to its name and has me seeing double. The Dachstein Mountains and its imposing reflection in the water are a great photo opportunity, as are the cheeky goats trying to steal something from my little picnic. Warming sunbeams, a unique view, and even animal entertainment: What a perfect trip! In the evening there will be a menu at TUI BLUE with three different hot dishes, which I can combine super flexibly. So I can just choose what I feel like before finally falling exhausted into my soft bed.
The Duistizkarsee – Trip of Discover to the Green Heart of Styria
The next day, I’m ready for a slightly more demanding hiking trail. The company IN A TEAM offers guided tours for the guests of the TUI BLUE, which can be led by an experienced mountain guide and booked directly at the hotel. Well-fortified by the delicious breakfast buffet, it’s off to the Duisitzkarsee for me and my new hiking buddies. The hike takes three to four hours and leads from the valley up steeply through lush green forests to the quiet mountain lake, which – after about an hour – lies like a postcard in front of us. The effort was well worth it! A deep green, the Duisitzkarsee reflects the surrounding wooded peaks; a herd of sheep rolls over the alpine meadow and small, fluffy rabbits nibble on the lush grass, thus completing the perfect mountain paradise.
Two rustic lodges offer exhausted hikers some refreshment with food and drinks, and we also take a short break here. I courageously order a portion of “Kasnockerln” in the original recipe with spicy “Steirerkas”, and the whole table cheers up over the very strong smell of cheese. But I really like it, and with the fantastic view of the mountain panorama and the lake, it tastes much better! Rested, we continue gently uphill and downhill past the uncultivated Neualm, next to a small stream serenely splashing in front of us, through shady pine forest back to the valley, where we reach our starting point again. After the exhausting hike, I’m looking forward to the sauna options at TUI BLUE. The “SkySauna” on the roof terrace offers a Finnish outdoor sauna, a steam bath, and an infrared sauna, where I can recharge my batteries and watch the spectacular sunset.
High Up – The Dachstein
Day three takes me to dizzying heights. On the Dachstein, at 3,000 metres, I stand on the “Stairs to Nowhere”, which, as the name suggests, stick out from the mountain wall and lead to nowhere. Glass next to me, glass under me, and the gigantic panorama of the highest mountain peaks in Austria in front of me. This place will make you weak in the knees. The Dachstein, which can be reached by the glacier lift from Ramsau, has some tourist attractions that make the visit here a real experience. In addition to the Stairs to Nowhere, there’s a long and somewhat wobbly suspension bridge, an ice palace with colourfully illuminated ice sculptures, and the so-called Skywalk, which offers the best views of the surrounding peaks.
And the glacier itself is of course an attraction! On the way back I grab one of the popular open-air spots on the panoramic gondola. Without an obstruction between me and the beautiful massif, I can enjoy the ride here on the small balcony of the cable car. From May to September, you should reserve a place, because of the large number of visitors. For the open-air experience, line up on the right side at the valley station, because the left gondola unfortunately has no balcony.
Downhill in Hochwurzen – A Tour with the Mountain Go-Kart
The region has even more activities ready for adventurers. Be it summer tobogganing, paragliding, or mountain biking, adrenaline junkies will definitely get their money’s worth here. I opt for a descent with the mountain go-kart, a tricycle without an engine, with which one can race down seven winding kilometres of gravel road through the forest to the valley. Tickets are available in the Ski Lenz sports shop at the Hochwurzen valley station.
You go up the mountain with the cable car and then down again with the mountain go-kart. Safety first. All drivers get a helmet and a short introduction. Large groups are even accompanied by two experienced guides on the descent. Smaller children can ride with their parents at the front of the kart, so the ride is fun for all ages. Everyone can choose their own pace and always enjoy the fantastic view of the Dachstein.
A Truly Beautiful Place! – The Sonnenalm
I spend my last evening at the Sonnenalm and my farewell to Styria couldn’t be better! The rustic, cosy alpine farm at an altitude of 1,350 metres is operated by the friendly proprietor Gerhard and his son Matthias. You can reach them by car, even if this isn’t so popular, because there are always problems on the steep switchbacks in the winter and Gerhard has to rush to the drivers’ aid with snow chains.
Therefore, it’s better to go on foot with a short hike from Ramsau. At the Sonnenalm, you’ll be warmly welcomed, you’ll soon feel like you’re among friends, and you’ll be toasted with some Swiss stone pine schnapps. In addition, there’s home-style food made with products from the farm itself. Delicious! There’s even a clear view of the sunset here, like a dream – the “Sunning Pasture” has the name for a reason. When Matthias unpacks his “Quetschn” – the Styrian accordion – and starts telling funny jokes, there’s nothing standing in the way of an exuberant evening. Before the visit, however, one should call first, since the lodge only operates in the evening if groups or company outings have registered beforehand.
Unfortunately my time in Austria has passed much too quickly. Alpine meadows in the sun, picturesque mountain lakes, imposing peaks, and the right mix of peace, relaxation, and adventure: A summer in the mountains is really not as bad as I’d always thought! With a heavy heart I say “Baba” and goodbye to Schladming, but only to return soon…