Eastern Alps

The whole Eastern Alps region is dramatic countryside, with breathtaking scenery and great winter sports equal to those in Switzerland. Here majestic peaks, many well over 9,750 feet, soar above slow-moving glaciers that give way to sweeping Alpine meadows ablaze with wildflowers in spring and summer. Long, broad valleys (many names have the suffix -au, meaning “water-meadow”) are basins of rivers that cross the region between mountain ranges, sometimes meandering, sometimes plunging. The land is full of ice caves and salt mines, deep gorges, and hot springs. Today most tourism is concentrated in relatively few towns, such as Heiligenblut, but wherever you go, you’ll find good lodging, solid local food, and friendly folk; it is countryside to drive and hike and ski through, where people live simply, close to the land.

Western Carinthia and East Tirol are dotted with quaint villages that have charming churches, lovely mountain scenery, and access to plenty of outdoor action—from hiking and fishing in summer to skiing in winter. Across the southern tier, a series of scenic routes passes from Carinthia to that political anomaly Osttirol (East Tirol). In 1918, after World War I, South Tirol was ceded to Italy, completely cutting East Tirol off from the rest of Tirol and the administrative capital in Innsbruck. The mountains along the Italian border and those of the Hohe Tauern, to the north, also isolate East Tirol, which has consequently been neglected by tourists.

Eastern Alps Reviews

While this region contains fine restaurants—in fact, two of the country’s top dozen dining establishments are here—most of the dining in the small towns of the Eastern Alps will take place in Gasthöfe or Gasthäuser (country hotels or inns)—chalet-style inns with flower-decked balconies and overhanging eaves. The dining rooms are not necessarily separate restaurants frequented by nonguests. Note that in many cases such inns are closed in the off-season, particularly November and possibly April or May.

Eastern Alps Reviews

This part of Austria is relatively inexpensive, except for the top resort towns of Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Bad Gastein, and Zell am See. Even there, however, cheaper accommodations are available outside the center of town or in pensions. Note that room rates include taxes and service and almost always breakfast, except in the most expensive hotels, and one other meal, which is usually dinner. Halb pension (half-board), as this plan is called, is de rigueur in most lodgings. However, most will offer a breakfast-buffet-only rate if requested. Most hotels offer in-room phones and TVs. A few of the smaller hotels still take no credit cards, or if they do they will add a surcharge of between 3% and 5%. In the prominent resorts summer prices are often as much as 50% lower than during ski season.

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