Lakes in Austria: Swim, Surf & Sail

An Alpine mountain lake in Tyrol

Note: This article is an overview. For detailed information on indivudial lakes in Austria, see the links in the table at the bottom of this page.

Most of the things that I talk about on this website target visitors of Austria that want a well-rounded Austria experience. Therefore, I focus on sightseeing and touring the country. About two thirds of this country is dominated by the Alps and during the last ice-age, mighty glaciers covered essentially all of what is Austria today. When they melted away to some very few areas in high altitudes in high altitudes (where they still support an all-year-round skiing industry), the glaciers left a landscape shaped under their weight. Smooth hills, rubble and many lakes.

Lake Neusiedlersee is enormous - but shallow: At most only some 2 metres deep.

Today, there is a total of more than 300 lakes in Austria. They are a crucial factor in the country′s tourism industry and appeal particularly to domestic and Central European tourists who come for water sports, hiking and natural beauty rather than sightseeing in Vienna. The largest and probably most famous lakes are Lake Constance or Lake Bodensee shared with Switzerland and Germany in the West and Lake Neusiedlersee shared with Hungary in the East.

The Lake Bodensee is best accessed from Bregenz, the capital of Vorarlberg and serves the town as a site for a floating stage during the Bregenzer Festspiele festival. Lake Neusiedlersee lies within the National Park of the same name, nonetheless, swimming, surfing, sailing and other water sports are allowed and hugely popular. Many Viennese take advantage of the Neusiedlersee, which has its own floating stage for the Seefestspiele festival of Mörbisch. Access to lake Neusiedlersee is constrained by the reed growing all over the shore, except in Podersdorf, the not-that-attractive tourism hub on the East shore.

Lakes of Tyrol, Carinthia, Salzburg & the Salzkammergut

Beyond that, the regions most famous for lakes are Carinthia, south of the Alps, and the Northern edge of the Alps. Salzburg′s Flachgau county is also called the "Salzburger Seenland" (Salzburg Lakeland, a somewhat over-done claim) with Lake Wallersee, the three Trumer Seen and Lake Mattsee; and the south of the province has Lake Zellersee to offer, with the tourist centre of Zell am See.

Lake Fuschlsee in the Salzkammergut

The region around Lake Mondsee in Upper Austria is called the Mondseeland and part of the Salzkammergut, which is generally famous for scenery and lakes such as Mondsee (with the town of Mondsee), Wolfgangsee (with St Gilgen and St Wolfgang), Fuschlsee, Attersee, Traunsee (with Gmunden), Hallstätter See (with the famous town of Hallstatt) and Grundlsee (by Bad Aussee).

Alpine lakes such as those of Tyrol are typically much smaller, but often very pretty: Lake Achensee is the only bigger lake of the province, but there are several small ones around Kufstein or Reutte. The Carinthian lakes such as Lake Ossiachersee, Lake Wörthersee (with the abbey of Maria Wörth and Velden), Millstätter See and the small Lake Faakersee near Villach are popular destinations for domestic Austrian tourists.

Lakes of Southern Austria

Carinthians have not only a reputation for being hardcore conservative right-wingers, but also as an easy-going crowd that likes sports, good food and company. A bit of a contradiction, I know, but "Carinthia is crazy" (this is the official tourism council′s slogan - "Kärnten is a Wahnsinn" - and I will not disagree with them).

As I said above, all in all there are some 300 lakes in Austria. International tourists will typically limit their stay to the Salzkammergut, unless they are keen on hiking and nature. The following table gives a more extensive list of bigger lakes. If you stay in a particular area, as the local tourism office for more information on nearby lakes that might make nice destinations for swimming, windsurfing, sailing or even diving.

Biggest Lakes of Austria

Name of Lake Province Size (km2) Depth (m)
Achensee Tyrol 7.0 133
Afritzer See Carinthia 0.4 22
Almsee im Almtal Upper Austria 0.8 5
Altausseer See Styria 2.1 53
Alte Donau Vienna 1.6 7
Attersee Upper Austria 45.9 171
Bodensee Vorarlberg 538.5 245
Erlaufsee Lower Austria 0.5 38
Faakersee Carinthia 2.2 30
Fuschlsee Salzburg 2.6 66
Gleinkersee Upper Austria 0.13 24.5
Grabensee Salzburg 1.3 13
Grundlsee Styria 4.0 64
Hallstätter See Upper Austria 8.2 125
Heiterwanger See Tyrol 1.3 50
Heratinger or Ibmer See Upper Austria 0.25 3.3
Höllerersee Upper Austria 0.2 20
Irrsee Upper Austria 3.5 32
Keutschacher See Carinthia 2.7 15
Klopeiner See Carinthia 1.1 48
Lange Lacke Burgenland 1.6 1
Lunzer See Lower Austria 0.6 34
Mattsee Salzburg 3.5 40
Millstätter See Carinthia 13.4 140
Mondsee Upper Austria 13.6 68
Neufelder See Burgenland 0.6 23
Neusiedler See Burgenland 156.9 2
Obertrumer See Salzburg 4.7 35
Offensee Upper Austria 0.55 38
Ossiacher See Carinthia 10.4 52
Plansee Tyrol 2.7 70
Toplitzsee Styria 0.5 103
Traunsee Upper Austria 24.5 191
Vorderer Gosausee Upper Austria 0.6 82
Wallersee Salzburg 5.8 23
Weißensee Carinthia 6.4 97
Wienerwaldsee Lower Austria 0.32 unknown
Wolfgangsee Upper Austria 12.6 114
Wörthersee Carinthia 19.4 85
Zeller See Salzburg 4.4 68
Zicksee Burgenland 1.2 1.6
Ödensee Styria unknown 19
Ödseen (2) Upper Austria 0.2 22


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Further Reading

Physical Geography of Austria