Austria, along with Italy, is a pioneer of agritourism, and most farm stay holidays in Austria have the added bonus of being set amongst some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery. The same scenery is sometimes also a venue for numerous outdoor sports, rock climbing, paragliding, hill walking and winter sports, so many farm stays in the Austrian Alps have a full 12 month season and are popular with those seeking out adventure. Having said that though you’ll find the vast majority of Austrian farm stays are very child friendly and the farm stay holiday experience here is also hugely popular with families from the cities as well as foreign tourists. Here’s the FarmStayPlanet guide to the wonderful Austrian countryside!
Rural Salzburg, Austria, The Sound of Music country, has long been a popular choice for farm stay holidays; its mix of dramatic scenery and quiet peaceful rural charm being surely best appreciated from some of the lovely classically Austrian farmhouses that dot its countryside.
Salzburg is similar to another of Austria’s popular farm stay destinations; Carinthia, in that its lakes are a major attraction. And though the temperatures here may be a little lower, the lakes of the Salzkammergut region are renowned for the quality of their water with the likes of Lake Wolfgang, the regions largest, becoming hugely popular in the summer.
Farther up the mountains Prebersee lake is a common spot for the area’s many hikers to take a dip in the cool waters as they walk through Lungau, surrounded by some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery, 1000 meters above sea level. To explore the valleys of the Salzburg region is a thoroughly inspiring pass-time, there are some strenuous hikes but they come with some really awesome views that will ease any pain.
If you decide to stay out amongst the mountains, amongst all that beautiful nature, Salzburg has many farm stay options and as the region has been hosting a huge number of visitors for many years now it really knows how to look after them.
The green heart of Austria; Styria, with Graz as its capital has huge swathes of beautiful, dense forest, low valleys and deep blue lakes. It also is a fertile farming heartland and is home to Austria’s relatively unknown wine industry.
A novel, more well known Austrian tradition has its roots here too: The musical tradition of yodeling didn’t start out as music, legend has it it was used as a means of communicating from farm to farm, across the difficult mountainous terrain, as well as to call out to lost cattle who, probably just out of curiosity, would raise their heads to the strange noise and in doing so shake the bells around their neck to create what too is another traditional sound of the Styrian mountains.
There are lakes too, with great facilities for sailing, scuba diving and other watersports. Lake Grundlsee, ‘The Styrian Sea’ is the largest but others like Lake Kumberg and Altausseer Lake are notable too. Among the other sights in the region are the great Benedictine monastery of Admont and the renowned baroque basilica of Mariazell which is still a place of Catholic pilgrimage.
Carinthia in the South East is, like most of Austria, great winter skiing country but it’s main claim to fame is its lakes, it has over 200, more than any other province in the country and once the snow season is over the lakes become the focus of tourism, with good opportunities for boating, fishing and watersports, and in some sections nude bathing points, all over the province. It is unofficially Austria’s Riviera, with the fact that it has overall probably the country’s warmest temperatures, and by the lake sides has a laid back, almost mediterranean feel.
Popular lakes include Kloipeiner See and Faaker See, and farther up the mountains, and therefore much cooler lies Weissensee, most of which is a protected environmental area and a haven for wildlife. Worthersee is Carinthia’s largest lake and quite developed, it contains Europe’s largest bathing beach complete with a giant water slide and many hotels and campsites.
Like the great lakes of northern Italy, especially in Worthersee, there is a history of upper class lake tourism here that, though now doesn’t have such an exclusive feel, left its mark in the many beautiful old villas and beautiful, ornate buildings that line the shores of its lakes.
Around the lakes there is some very beautiful countryside and it being probably Austria’s most popular summer destination it contains some of its best farm stays and country houses.
Tyrol, Austria, with the wintersports centre of Innsbruck as its capital, is the centre of the majestic Alps and is, as you would expect, a truly spectacular region. A paradise for skiers and mountaineers it is also a place where people can just stay and enjoy the scenery, amongst some of the most dramatic and magnificent scenery in the whole continent. And it is hugely popular for farm stays that combine both the peace and tranquility of the farm with the excitement of winter sports.
In winter, as I mentioned, it is a magnet for skiing enthusiasts, the Stubai Glacier in particular, and when they leave the mountaineers take over. There are lakes in abundance too, Lake Plansee, Lake Natterer See and Lake Thiersee to name but a view, and they all come with well organized and comfortable facilities.
It’s also a bit of a golfing holiday centre. There are 17 well rated courses in the Tyrol region and well rated or not they all come with stunning scenery that would be hard to match anywhere.
Despite its tough terrain it is farming land too and among the pretty cottages and classically Austrian farm houses that dot the landscape you’ll find some excellent farm stays, and with some incredible scenery on your doorstep.
Little Vorarlberg in the far west of Austria, lined up against Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and is an unassuming, quite traditional place with a lot of agriculture, dairy farming in particular. Though small there are a variety of landscapes in Vorarlberg, from the high, typically Austrian, mountain land of Silvretta-Montafon to the fertile, deep green, hills of the Bregenzerwald which move down to the great Bodensee or Lake Constance.
Though much of Vorarlberg might be considered a little off the tourist radar, Silvretta-Montafon is one of Austria’s great wintersports centres, with many renowned ski resorts here.
Plenty of tourists also while away their time on the sandy shores of Lake Constance and the beautiful countryside that surrounds it, with a particular highlight being the quaint, traditional, wooden houses that are synonymous of the area.
It’s also famous for its handicrafts, wooden handicrafts in particular, and, as mentioned before, it is a strongly agricultural area where agriculture generally comes before agritourism, but which can offer visitors an authentic Austrian farmhouse holiday experience in sometimes quite stunning settings.
Upper Austria is the land that inspired the painter Gustav Klimt and is home to salt mines, pristine blue sailing lakes, thermal springs and, strangely enough, to what some say is the worlds oldest cake recipe; The Linzer Torte.
Lake Mondsee is known as Austria’s warmest lake with water temperatures as high as 27 degrees centigrade and is one of many in the region that are excellent for sailing, swimming and canoeing.
Upper Austria contines to mine salt and the visitor can get involved too. A visit to Hallstatt Salzwelten mine, in the Salzkammergut region between Graz and Salzburg, will allow non claustrophobics to descend the depths and discover what goes on down there, and it’s all really very interesting, if not slightly scary.
The town of Hallstatt itself is a highlight of rural Upper Austria. It lies in a gorgeous spot between Hallstätter See and the slopes of the Dachstein Massif and, apart from being a charming and beautiful town, it is known worldwide for its remarkable abundance of prehistoric burial sites. They date from the early Iron age, a time that would become known to archaeologists as the the Hallstatt Period (8th to 5th centuries BC).
Lower Austria, with the grand River Danube flowing through is not as Alpine as other regions but it has its beautiful clear lakes like Lunzer See and Herrensee and miles of idyllic farming land.
The Wachau Valley, with the iconic baroque masterpiece Melk Abbey as its centrepiece is famous for its fertile soils and abundance of vineyards and apple farms. It is Austria’s agricultural heart and is a big producer of white wine and cider amongst others, as well as that particular Austrian favourite; the dumpling. The local speciality being Marillenknodel made from apricots, which you can hope to be served up in any good farmhouse.
The little town of Rohrau where Lower Austria meets Burgenland is the birthplace of the composer Joseph Haydn and attracts a steady number of classical music fans.