It’s a little after 9 in the evening, and the final slither of the sun withers behind the verdant mountain saddles surrounding me. Siping a chilled glass of locally distilled schnapps, I raise a toast to the summer solstice – what a sensational pocket of the world to spend the longest day of the year in.
With little warning, the sky radiates in shades of violets and tangerines, the Asitz Mountain’s final performance of the day.
This true peak of serenity, soothing sounds, sceneries, and introspection had been my home for these end-of-spring days. Artworks by Adriana Franza had guided me through towering pines, orchestras had supplied the soundtrack to my meditation in mountain huts, and organic vending machines selling local produce such as fruit and yoghurts had provided the flavours to keep hiking to a ‘cinema of nature’.
While thoughts of the Austrian Alps often conjure up powdery-white vistas of ski-laden gondolas, or chilly afternoons enjoying bubbles and beers in mountain huts between slopes, the warmer months arrive with their own invitations.
Unlike some other winter-only destinations, the mountains of Austria also come alive in summer, and yes, in this instance, you’d be stating facts rather than a movie cliche when you say “with the sound of music”.
The Asitz, snuggled into the Leogang mountain range and a part of the Eastern Alps, is perhaps one of the most emblematic. Austria and specifically Salzburg (the state The Asitz calls home) have long been renowned for their deep love of music, art, creativity, and all things cultural.
As the birthplace of Mozart, the city has often taken centre-stage for classical music offerings. Yet, beyond the church spires and city cobbled streets, you will find dazzling lakes, jagged peaks, and a slower pace of life in surrounding Salzburgerland.
With this long and acclaimed cultural history running through the blood of the region’s residents, it’s unsurprising that passion for the arts has also spilt outwards, and indeed upwards, to mountain peaks and lofty heights. There’s a reason The Asitz is locally known as Berg der Sinne (Mountain of the senses), and the long summer months, from late spring to early autumn, are the best times to visit and appreciate an active-cultural break.
The Asitz provides the perfect chance to envelope yourself in nature without a gruesome slog for those who aren’t fans of multi-day hikes or intense gradients.
Sure, you could opt to tackle some of the extended and more strenuous hikes in the surrounding mountains of Leogang Saalfelden, or you could simply ride the gondola (free with the local tourism card) to the top of the mountain to enjoy the art, music, views and alpine gastronomy without breaking a sweat. The Asitz truly is a mountain for everyone.
The TONspuren concerts serenade an enchanted audience from late June to early August. Partly due to the docile tones of singers and strings that take to the stage, but perhaps primarily due to the magical setting.
As the sun starts to fade, performers take their place against the backdrop of jagged peaks on the lake-side stage near the highest peak of The Asitz. The sound of music brings the mountain alive and spills out, echoing into the valley below.
Top-class performers from near and far grace this vast yet intimate setting every year, providing another reason to venture to Austria in summer.
Should your schedule not follow that of the summer concerts, fear not, as from spring to autumn you’ll have the chance to hear previous years’ performances in something of a private space.
The innovative TONspur islands, of which there is currently a handful, can be found dotted around the most scenic points on The Asitz Mountain. These wooden huts frame vistas of mountains, clouds, valleys and lakes, and the lounging bed inside can be rolled out onto the deck for a sun-kissed experience or sheltered by the roof and walls to escape the elements.
With the push of a button, your silent reflection is accompanied by recorded concerts, washing over you from the speakers in the headrest. I spent a blissful hour contemplating the panoramas to a varied soundtrack, and it was perhaps that hour which made me fall in love with this corner of Austria.
In a world of screens and streaming, we can easily fall into the trap of ‘just one more episode’, and at the Cinema of Nature, it’s precisely what the designers wanted you to do.
You can lay back and watch the show from lazy string-suspended hammock beds or reclining wooden chairs. There is no flat-screen or projection here, just an unadulterated view across the mountain peaks and small villages of Saalfelden and Leogang.
Sometimes we simply forget to press pause and admire what we have in front of us, but from this viewing platform in the sky, where mother nature performs a unique show daily, you’ll be reminded of the simplest pleasures of the great outdoors.
Linking the top and middle gondola station together, the summer Asitz art trail will take you on a journey of inspiration through the towering pines of the forest.
This year’s installation was courtesy of the Italian artist, Adriana Franza, although a different artist is represented each year. As you follow the trail up or down, sometimes with the ski-lift gliding above you, you’ll find shaded benches to rest and take in the views while spotting paintings in clearings.
The Asitz is home to two artificial lakes, which double as art installations. The highest, best admired from the cross at the heights point or the TONspur looking over it, seemingly floats in the clouds, as the dramatic descent around it presents like a suspended lake high above the valley.
The second lake, closer to the middle station, is called ‘Peaceful Water’, a crystal-clear pong surrounded by wooden art installations and plenty of seating to contemplate.
Whether you opt to take a seat on the wooden swings and benches designed by local students, cool your feet in the refreshing water, or circumnavigate the lake looking out on the valley and caramel-spotted cows, you’ll certainly find your inner-zen by the waters.
Just before the middle station, a range of play areas for children provides education and challenges.
However, the delightful scent of mountain herbs and plants from the gardens makes this a perfect finish before descending to the valley’s base.
For adrenaline junkies and those who prefer to mix their cultural fix with adventure kicks, The Asitz in summer will keep you entertained.
Beyond the art trails and easy hikes, there is an impressive network of trails across the nearby Alps, both in the mountains and between villages, but also a few more ‘extreme’ ways to discover The Asitz itself.
One of The Asitz’s most extensive claims to fame is the Epic Mountain Biking park, one of the most celebrated in Europe.
Stretching far beyond The Asitz, it covers some 80km of trails over multiple peaks. Tracks jump off the side of mountains, down tracks of various grades and intensities, and are used for competitions. Expect to find technical and challenging conditions on many routes, with awe-inspiring vistas accompanying you the whole time.
A new addition to The Asitz is the XXL Flying Fox, one of the steepest and most rapid in the world.
Take flight over the mountains, nearly 150 metres above, and hurtle along this 1,600-metre rope line at extreme speeds to get your adrenaline kicks.
My time in The Asitz was exactly what I needed. A place to pause, regather and rejuvenate.
I read a whole book. I unpacked my entire suitcase. I spent an hour listening to classical music. For me, it’s rare to find a place in modern Europe that not only allows you these joys but seemingly pushes you towards them, insisting you have the time.
I hope that when you are breathing in the fresh alpine air while listening to Bach inside a tiny hut atop The Asitz Mountain, you will find the same inner peace I did – it’s a true natural escape where art and adventure collide.
Where to stay, how to travel, and how to get around Saalfelden Leogang and The Asitz Mountain.
If you are flying, you can take your pick from Innsbruck or Salzburg airports in Austria or Munich airport in Germany. You can arrive by train in under two hours from any of these airports.
If you want to travel more sustainably by train, you can take the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam and then change to the Alpine Express, an overnight service which stops in Saalfelden.
I stayed at the peaceful and wood-cladded Stockinggut Hotel and adored my stay – it felt like an Austrian Alps almost all-inclusive resort with the evening dinner option, and the views of the valley were beautiful. It’s also just a short walk from the gondola to reach the top of the mountain,
You can read more about my stay here or check prices on booking.
You might imagine being in the alps, a car is required, but I had a great trip using public transport. The local bus, train, and gondola connections work well, and if you stay in accommodation signed up for the regional card (such as Stockinggut), you can use all the public transport locally for free.
Continue your Austrian adventure by exploring all the other things to do in Saalfelden Leogang, with a long weekend in Salzburg, or head west towards Innsbruck and Tyrol.
My visit to Saalfelden Leogang was supported by Austria Tourism as part of their #RealAustria summer series. As always, all writing and thoughts are my own.
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