Guided tours are a good option when you don't want to do it all yourself. You travel along with a group (sometimes large, sometimes small), stay in prebooked hotels, eat with your fellow travelers (the cost of meals is sometimes included in the price of your tour, sometimes not), and follow a schedule. But not all guided tours are an if-it's-Tuesday-this-must-be-Belgium experience. A knowledgeable guide can take you places that you might never discover on your own, and you may be pushed to see more than you would have otherwise. Tours aren't for everyone, but they can be just the thing for trips to places where making travel arrangements is difficult or time-consuming (particularly when you don't speak the language). Whenever you book a guided tour, find out what's included and what isn't. A "land-only" tour includes all your travel (by bus, in most cases) in the destination, but not necessarily your flights to and from or even within it. Also, in most cases prices in tour brochures don't include fees and taxes. And remember that you'll be expected to tip your guide (in cash) at the end of the tour.
Among companies that sell tours to Austria, the following are nationally known, have a proven reputation, and offer plenty of options. The classifications used here represent different price categories, and you'll probably encounter these terms when talking to a travel agent or tour operator. The key difference is usually in accommodations. Note that each company doesn't schedule tours to Austria every year; check by calling.
Abercrombie & Kent. 800/554–7016; www.abercrombiekent.com.
Travcoa. 888/979–4044; www.travcoa.com.
Globus. 866/755–858; www.globusjourneys.com.
Maupintour. 800/255–4266; www.maupintour.com.
Brendan Tours. 800/421–8446; www.brendanvacations.com.
Trafalgar Tours. 866/544–4434; www.trafalgartours.com.
Cosmos. 800/276–1241; www.cosmos.com.
Trafalgar Tours. Trafalgar Tours. 866/544–4434; www.trafalgartours.com.
The Austrian national tourist information website, www.austria.info, includes excellent sections on hotels that welcome cyclists, as well as some of the better-known tours and routes.
You can no longer rent a bike at train stations in Austria. The cost of renting a bike (21-gear) from a local agency is around €35 a day. Tourist offices have details (in German), including maps and hints for trip planning and mealtime and overnight stops that cater especially to cyclists. Ask for the booklet "Radtouren in Österreich" or go to the website www.radtouren.at. There's also a brochure in English: "Biking Austria—On the Trail of Mozart" that provides details in English on the cycle route through the High Tauern mountains in Salzburg Province and neighboring regions in Bavaria (www.mozartradweg.com).
E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular and are widely available for rent. Small electric motors make cycling up hills easy and increase the range of routes you can tackle in a day. You still have to pedal and can choose how much input you want the motor to make. A network of battery stations—at shops, gas stations and even mountain huts—means you can exchange a waning battery for a fully charged one at suitable intervals.
Most airlines accommodate bikes as luggage, provided they're dismantled and boxed.
Austria Radreisen. 07712/5511–0; www.austria-radreisen.at.
Backroads. 800/462–2848; www.backroads.com.
Butterfield & Robinson. 866/551–9090; 800/678–1477; www.butterfield.com.
Euro-Bike Tours. 800/575–1540; www.eurobike.com.
Mountain Bike Hotels. This is a good resource for finding biking hotels. 0810/101818; www.austria.info.
Pedal Power. 01/729–7234; www.pedalpower.at.
VBT (Vermont Biking Tours). 800/245–3868; www.vbt.com.
Annemarie Victory Organization. Annemarie Victory Organization is known for its spectacular "New Year's Eve Ball in Vienna" excursion. Annemarie Victory also organizes a "Christmas in Salzburg" trip, with rooms at the Goldener Hirsch and a side trip to the Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf. Annemarie is Austrian - her family still own a castle there - and says she can obtain the very best tickets for the balls. 212/486–0353; www.annemarievictory.com.
Smolka Tours. Festive holiday-season tours include concerts, gala balls, and the famous Christmas Markets of Vienna and Salzburg. 800/722–0057; www.smolkatours.com.
Austria is a popular vacation spot for those who want to experience nature—many rural hotels offer idyllic bases for hiking in the mountains or lake areas. The concept of the Urlaub am Bauernhof (farm vacation), where families can stay on a working farm and children can help take care of farm animals, is increasingly popular throughout Austria. There are numerous outfitters that can provide information on basic as well as specialty farms, such as organic farms or farms for children, for people with disabilities, or for horseback riders.
Austrian Tourist Board. 212/944–6880; 416/967–3381; www.austria.info.
Naturidyll Hotels. You might have to get your search engine to translate the German-only, but you'll find a good choice of hotels that focus on nature, and plenty of photos to show what the accommodations look like. 01/867–3660–16; 0800/80–18–400; www.naturidyll.at.
Information on Farm Vacations
Farmhouse Holidays in Austria. Based in Salzburg, this company has an English language website and online booking. www.farmholidays.com.
Kärnten/Landesverband Urlaub auf dem Bauernhof. This company is based in Carinthia and has an English language website. www.urlaubambauernhof.com.
Oberösterreich/Das Land vor den Alpen. An English-language website for farm vacations in Upper Austria. 050/69–02–1248; www.farmholidays.com.
Salzburg/Das Land der Tradition. 0662/870–571–248; www.salzburg.farmholidays.com.
Tirol/Das Land der Berge. 05/9292–1172; www.bauernhof.cc.
Hiking and Mountain Climbing
With more than 50,000 km (about 35,000 miles) of well-maintained mountain paths through Europe's largest reserve of unspoiled landscape, the country is a hiker's paradise. Three long-distance routes traverse Austria, including the E-6 from the Baltic, cutting across mid-Austria via the Wachau valley region of the Danube and on to the Adriatic. Wherever you are in Austria, you will find shorter hiking trails requiring varying degrees of ability. Routes are well marked, and maps are readily available from bookstores, the Österreichische Alpenverein/ÖAV, and the automobile clubs.
If you're a newcomer to mountain climbing or want to improve your skill, schools in Salzburg province will take you on. Ask the ÖAV for addresses. All organize courses and guided tours for beginners as well as for more advanced climbers.
Tourist offices have details on hiking holidays; serious climbers can write directly to Österreichischer Alpenverein/ÖAV (Austrian Alpine Club) for more information. Membership in the club (€55, about $74) will give you a 30%–50% reduction on the regular fees for overnights in the 275 mountain refuges it operates in Austria and for huts operated by other mountain organizations in Europe. Membership also includes accident insurance for vacations of up to six weeks. Young people up to 25 and senior-citizen memberships have a reduced price.
Inn Travel. Though based in the U.K., this company is happy to arrange hiking and walking tours in Austria for clients from the U.S. +44 1653/617001; www.inntravel.co.uk.
Österreichischer Alpenverein. 0512/59547; www.alpenverein.at.