Spring had not yet sprung in Achensee!

Audrey Todd, 05 March, 2020
We all hope for wall-to-wall sunshine on holiday, but Audrey Todd explains why the Austrian Tyrol – and the mountain village of Pertisau, in particular – is beautiful in any season.

The coldest May in 28 years”, said our slightly apologetic host as the snow fell gently outside the restaurant window.

Our early May walking holiday based at the Hotel Wiesenhof in Pertisau am Achensee in the Tyrol, was getting off to a snowy start. Fortunately, we’d studied the forecast (with rather sinking hearts) and packed appropriately – just as if we were going walking in the Scottish hills (in any season).

Weeks earlier, I’d envisaged strolling across lush, green meadows bursting with wild-flowers, the sun beating down on our backs, as we explored the mountains and valleys. Currently, the meadows were, in fact, sporting a layer of soft snow, while higher up, the mountains were blanketed in white, well down past the tree line.

However, the cable cars were running and the views as we made our way along the deserted slopes were breathtaking. The snow seemed to highlight the peaks, the cliffs and the valleys, the air was cold and fresh and we were on our own, just drinking in the view – and the silence. Higher paths were invisible – all markers were covered by fresh, untrodden snow, so we explored lower routes, heading down through the pine forests to the lakeside.

The walking was simply lovely, accompanied by birdsong and waterfalls emerging from snow banks. The pale spring foliage on the birch and beech trees contrasted with the darker hues of the pines, while the patchwork light and dark green of the forest merged into the blue-green of the lake. We saw deer grazing on the forest edges and black tufty-eared squirrels rootling in the undergrowth.

Over the week, cable cars whisked us – usually the only passengers – up into the Karwendel and Rofan mountains, at times simply to take in the wonderful views while enjoying a coffee on the terrace of a mountain restaurant. Paths led us via bird-watchers’ hides, wooden shelters constructed randomly at the side of the routes (welcome picnic spots), shrines, sculptures and carved wooden animals. With the lake almost always in view, we felt confident to randomly change plans if an interesting alternative path appeared.

We cruised the lake, too, taking advantage of our Achensee Holiday Cards, stopping off wherever took our fancy for lunch or to walk along the lakeside back to our hotel. We could also have borrowed bicycles from the hotel to make a trip around the lake, explored Pertisau on the hotel’s Segways, or joined the regular local guided walks featuring in the news sheet (in English) provided by the hotel at breakfast each day. Our hosts, the Family Entner, owns nearby stables, so horse-riding was on offer, too.

The local Steinöl (shale oil) museum, describing the history of this mining industry in Achensee, was an excellent find. Based on the health-giving properties of the high sulphur content of shale oil, a tempting range of wonderfully scented lotions, creams, shampoos, massage oils and similar, derived from Steinöl, was available in the shop and made excellent souvenirs.

The 100-year-old Achensee steam cog railway, which we had hoped to experience, was unfortunately closed for maintenance, but that is apparently a real treat, making its way slowly through the scenic valley to Jenbach. Next time, I hope.

The Hotel Wiesenhof offered supreme comfort and good food after many hours exploring the mountains. We would pack a sandwich lunch from the wonderful breakfast buffet and arrive back in time to sample some of the delicious cakes (oh, those cakes!) before heading for a sauna, a swim, or simply to relax with a book on our balcony. The staff were lovely – most spoke excellent English (apologies for my poor German) and were friendly, efficient and fun.

On our last day we woke to a cloudless blue sky. It seemed that the meadows had woken up to spring overnight and were covered in yellow, pink, blue and purple flowers. The snow was retreating up the peaks and the warm sun brought steam rising from the pastures. Brightly coloured paragliders circled down from the heights and our trip across the lake showed that canoeists, wind-surfers and sailors were now out in force. What a transformation!

Despite the weather, we had no regrets and had a fantastic holiday. We had walked up to 18 kilometres per day in an utterly beautiful area, the scenery enhanced by the snow, and had a perfect haven in the Hotel Wiesenhof. We still think about the cakes!


Related holidays

Lake Achensee & its Mountains
Enjoy an incredibly varied choice of walks and activities from a superb hotel with first-rate hospitality.
More about our self-guided walking holiday in Austria >

Heart of the Tyrol
We also offer a 3-night break at the Hotel Wiesenhof – the perfect introduction to this gorgeous corner of Austria.
More about our short walking breaks in Austria >
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