The relaxing power of nature has been well documented for hundreds of years – there’s something primal about reconnecting with the Earth and more recently studies have confirmed the effect of nature on productivity and happiness.
But, regularly finding time to be in nature isn’t just good for the soul, but for the body too.
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk in nature. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”
So, where should we be headed to get our dose?
Well, there are few more tranquil places on Earth than Austria. Little wonder when you consider that only a third of the country is less than 500metres above sea level; I guess you could say that the majority of Austrians are breathing rarified air!
But, it’s not just the height of the place that makes it so peaceful. It’s one of the most mountainous regions in Europe and is home to some of the most incredible lakes and natural wonders in the world – and, as we no doubt all know by now, the hills are literally alive with music!
So, if you’re in need for some serious R&R, finding a way to make it to Austria is probably just the medicine. To help you plan, below are five of Austria’s most wonderful natural attractions.
Donau – Auen National Park
Donau – Auen National Park lies a short distance outside of Vienna. It’s the last surviving large wetland area in Central Europe, a place where the iconic Danube River still flows freely. The river still regularly floods the surrounding flatlands, which is a major habitat for birds and other fauna and flora. This beautifully tranquil national park is best explored on foot, by bicycle or on a boat.
The Seegrotte, meaning Lake Cave in English, in Hinterbrühl is Europe’s largest underground lake. Although it’s technically not a natural cave, but a manmade gypsum mine, the Seegrotte is an impressive natural highlight in Austria. After the ceiling of the mine collapsed in 1912, it partially filled up with water, creating a huge underground lake that can be explored by boat.
Lake Hallstatt is one of many stunning mountain lakes in Austria. The town of Hallstatt and the lake are, in fact, one of the most photographed destinations in the world. The lake and surrounds are perfect for boating, fishing, hiking, mountaineering and cycling.
Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
The Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave, conveniently located a short trip south of Salzburg, is the world’s largest ice cave. Its name means World of Ice Giants in English. There are more than 40 kilometers of caves in this icy labyrinth. The ice cave is home to enormous stalactites and stalagmites of ice, vast halls and stunning ice formations.
Thayatal National Park
Thayatal National Park lies on the border between Austria and the Czech Republic and boasts a landscape of castle ruins, gorgeous valleys, wildflowers and woods. Home to large numbers of wildlife, including some very rare species, this peaceful national park invites visitors to strap on their hiking boots, throw a backpack on their backs and head out into nature.
If Austria is a little too far off the beaten track for you, just find a local park or go out in your backyard, take your shoes off and feel the earth beneath your feet – you’ll thank yourself for it later.