Lake Achen – a summer holiday paradise in Austria

Explore the "Fjord of the Alps"

The Achensee or Lake Achen is the largest Alpine lake in the Austrian Tyrol. Nestled between the Karwendel and Rofan massifs, it’s rightly called the “Fjord of the Alps”. From the lakeside villages and beaches to scenic hiking routes, boat rides, and cable car trips… Continue reading to discover everything there is to see and do around the Achensee, Austria.

Lake Achensee in Austria.
The view towards Maurach from Pertisau over Lake Achensee.

Lake Achen at a glance

The Achensee is 9 km long, 1,3 km at its widest point and 133 metre at its deepest. Its water is so clean, you can drink it. If you’re lucky, you will spot Alpine marmots, chamois (a goat-antelope) and Alpine ibexes (Steinbock) in the surrounding Karwendel Nature Park.

Lake Achensee, as the English like to call it, is about 40 km or a 40-minute drive from Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol. It’s easily accessible from the Inn Valley via the town of Jenbach. 

Lake Achen holiday villages

The villages of Pertisau, Maurach, and Achenkirch are on the shores of Lake Achen. Naturally, they all provide a wide choice of hotels, guesthouses, holiday apartments and restaurants.

Pertisau

In my opinion, this pretty lakeside village has more of a holiday feel to it than Maurach or Achenkirch. People have been coming here for centuries to relax and practice their hobbies. It was a favourite hunting ground of Emperor Maximillian I, also called the “last knight”. He even had a hunting lodge built here in the 1400s.

Pertisau am Achensee.
The shoreline in Pertisau is lined with hotels and beach cafés.

Pertisau is home to the oldest golf club in Tyrol and is the starting point for many other sporting activities – both in and out of the water. It’s on the border of the Karwendel Nature Park, with easy access to three stunning valleys – the Falzthurntal, the Gerntal and the Tristenautal.

Achenkirch

Achenkirch is a municipality on the northernmost shore of the lake and is spread out over an area that stretches all the way to the German border. Its popularity among famous German writers such as Ludwig Steub and Peter Rosegger helped to establish the Achensee as a summer resort.

St. Annakirche Achenkirch
Little mountain bikers pass the St. Annakirche on a hill in Achenkirch.

The brave can swim in the nippy water of the public bathing area, while golf enthusiasts can practice their swing on the 9-hole golf course. Interesting buildings include the old Scholastika customs station, dating to the time salt was transported across the lake.

Maurach

Coming from the Inn Valley via Jenbach or Wiesing, Maurach is the first village on the eastern shore of the Achensee. This is also where you will find a big tourist information office. The town is filled with tourist accommodation but is also home to many locals. As a result, there are enough shops, supermarkets, banks, and a post office.

The Achensee steam cog railway ends near Maurach, with its Buchau bathing beach popular among day visitors. The base station of the Rofan cable car is also in Maurach.

Read more: Hallstatt is another scenic lakeside town in Austria. Click here to read how to plan the perfect day trip from Salzburg to Hallstatt

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Water sports

I believe the purpose of a swimming pool or lake is solely to cool down when it’s extremely hot. Of course, children and water sports enthusiasts would disagree. With temperatures ranging from 16 °C to 22°, Lake Achensee is sure to cool anyone down. In fact, you will need to be active in the water to not feel the bite of the fresh mountain water. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to do just that in the Achensee.

Achensee viewpoint
This viewpoint next to the road on the northern shore of the Achensee is a perfect spot from where to watch kite surfers.

Strandbad Pertisau

We spent a lovely day on the lawns of Strandbad Pertisau while Mattheus and his cousins enjoyed the water trampoline and climbing wall/slide. There is a restaurant serving light meals, drinks, and ice-cream, but you can also pack your own. However, you must pay to use the toilets. The doors are fitted with locks that only open when you insert €0,50. If you time it right, you can catch a door open when someone else leaves. But beware, there are those who don’t want to share their €0,50 with others!

Strandbad Pertisau Achensee
Children enjoy the water fun at Strandbad Pertisau.
  • Note: The summer information brochure says admission to Strandbad Pertisau is free with a valid AchenseeCard. I’m not sure what the entrance fee is otherwise. We were never asked to pay anything or show any card and didn’t see any pay points or signs either.

There are more public swimming areas in Achenkirch, Schwarzenau, and Maurach. The ones in Achenkirch and Maurach have lovely large laws with play areas, kiosks and public toilets. At Achenkirch, you can also rent paddle boats and paddleboards.

Paddle boat on the Achensee.
Fun on a paddle boat on Lake Achensee.

Sailing, rafting, kite surfing and paddle boarding

The Achensee is ideal for sailing and kite surfing. However, you do need a permit. They cost €15 for a month or €35 per year and are available at the boathouse in Pertisau or online at www.fischerei-achensee.at. Paddleboarding is also becoming increasingly popular. Most equipment can be rented around the lake.

Lake Achensee paddle boarding.
A paddleboarder taking a break on a secluded beach next to Lake Achensee.

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Hiking and cycling

There are more than 450 km of marked hiking routes and 250 km of cycling and mountain bike routes around the Achensee. They have one of the best interactive online cycling and hiking maps  I’ve come across.

Cycling around the Achensee.
Cycling around Lake Achensee can be enjoyed by young and old.

Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll around the lake or venture into the mountains, there is a trail for everyone. The nice thing about staying close to the lake is that you can take a boat back to where you started if your legs get tired or bad weather sets in.

If you stay in tourist accommodation near the lake and are in possession of an AchenseeCard, you can also join in free guided walks, including a sunrise hike. Your host or the tourist information centre will be able to give you more information.

Gaisalm

The Gaisalm is the only alm (traditional mountain hut/restaurant) in Tyrol that can be reached by boat. The only other way to get there is on foot. I highly recommend walking at least one way.

Gaisalm hiking trail
On the hiking trail from Pertisau to the Gaisalm.

The hiking trail from Pertisau to the Gaisalm is just over 4 kms and an easy walk, affording you unique views across the lake. From there, you can either take the boat or carry on walking to Achenkirch. This part of the hiking trail has some steep parts with steps, but once again the views are incredible. Walk at least part of the way to take pictures of the Gaisalm in its beautiful setting.

Gaisalm Achensee Austria
The Gaisalm can be reached on foot or by boat.

The Gaisalm serves traditional Austrian food. The service is quick and friendly. Children won’t get bored while the adults sit and enjoy the view with a slow drink. Apart from swimming in the lake, there is more than enough room for them to run around on the big lawns or play on the swings and slides.

Gramai Alm

We love going down the Falzthurntal to the Gramai Alm. It’s perfect for families. Those who are energetic can hike or cycle the 7,1 km from Pertisau, while the “lazy” ones can drive. The starting point is at the parking area at the toll booth to the Karwendel valleys.

Cycling between Gramai and Pertisau.
Cycling to the Gramai Alm from Pertisau.

The trail to Gramai is wide and even, making it suitable for push chairs. The way there is slightly uphill, with a climb of about 300 metres from beginning to end. If you would rather skip the uphill part, you can also rely on Berna, the “nostalgiebus”, to take you to the alm. Or break your journey up with rest stops at the Falzthurnalm on the way. Total walking time is about 2 to 3 hours, depending on your level of fitness and how many breaks you take. Once at Gramai, the kids are entertained by an animal petting zoo, a pond with extremely cold water to walk through, and a big play area.

Picnic near Gramai Alm
You can have lunch at the Gramai Alm or enjoy a picnic on the way there.

The Gramai Alm is not open all year round (have a look at the pictures inside of when it was almost covered by an avalanche some years back). The summer season is generally from May to the end of October, while the restaurant is also open for people arriving on foot from the end of December to March.

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Boat rides

The boats or ferries from Achenseeschiffahrt stop at 6 different places around the lake, including the 3 villages. A round trip costs €20 per adult, with discounts for children and groups. It’s also possible to take the boat between two docking stations only. For example, if you choose to walk to the Gaisalm from Pertisau and take the boat back, the journey will cost €5,20 per adult during the peak season. Refer to the latest timetable for up-to-date information.

Achensee boat
One of the boats of Achenseeschiffahrt connecting six different stations along the lake.

The Steam Cog Railway

A little steam locomotive has been hauling tourists up and down the mountain between Jenbach and the lake since 1889, making it the oldest of its kind in Europe. To add to the nostalgia of the journey, you can step right onto a boat when disembarking from the train at Seespitz. The timetables are coordinated.

The journey on the Achensee Steam Cog Railway isn’t cheap. However, I guess it’s worth the €29 per adult for the return trip if you really like trains and see it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can also check their website for special offers that give you more value for your money.

Cable Cars

Two cable cars give you instant access to the mountains, from where you have spectacular views over the Achensee. The Rofan Seilbahn starts in Maurach, while the Karwendel Bergbahn leaves from Pertisau. Return journeys cost between €17 and €20,50 per adult.

View on the Achensee from a surrounding mountain. © Österreich Werbung Homberger
Taking a cable car up the mountain will give you a vantage point from where to take pictures like these. © Österreich Werbung Homberger

More tips for your Achensee holiday

  • While there’s no doubt that nature is the biggest attraction around the Achensee, there are a few other attractions to provide some variety. They include the Achensee Museumswelt in Maurach, where you will find from 400 handmade dolls to a selection of old tractors. In Pertisau, you can see how the healing Tyrolean shale oil is extracted from rocks in the area at the Tiroler Steinöl Vitalberg Erlebniszentrum.
  • For a great meal in a stunning setting (even though it’s not on the lakeside), try Martin’s Bistro in Achenkirch. 

    Martin's Bistro Achenkirch
    Outside seating at Martin’s Bistro in Achenkirch.
  • If you’re staying in the area and have a free AchenseeCard, you might consider buying the Achensee Holiday Card. For only €69 per week, it includes tickets for the cable cars, the boats, the steam cog railway, a few museums and Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens. If bought separately, this could cost you very near to €200. Pity it’s only available for staying guests!
  • Many attractions, restaurants, and places to stay are not open year-round. Please check, especially in early spring and late autumn, before you plan a visit.

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Getting to the Achensee

By car

  • Coming from the Inn Valley, take the A12 highway and then the Wiesing/Achensee exit. Travel on the B181 for about 7km until you reach Maurach. Follow the directions to Pertisau and Achenkirch from there.
  • Coming from the direction of Munich on the German side, find the B318 to Tegernsee. Follow the directions from there until you get to the Achenpass and eventually Achenkirch across the border.

By train and bus

  • Jenbach is the closest railway station to the Achensee, with regular trains from Innsbruck, Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna stopping here. From the station, regional buses (numbers 4080, 8332 or 8336) or taxis go to the Achensee. The best thing is that travel on the regional buses is free for everyone staying in tourist accommodation in Achenkirch, Maurach, Pertisau or Steinberg. You will get a guest card after your arrival to show to the bus drivers, but when you first arrive at the station in Jenbach you can simply show him or her the reservation confirmation.
  • From the German side, you can also take a train to Tegernsee and bus 9550 via Kreuth to Achensee. Find more information about the bus connection here: www.rvo-bus.de

Looking for other destinations for a day trip in Tyrol? Why don’t you consider the Ötztal with the Stuiben Waterfall or the Stubai Valley?

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Lake Achensee summer holiday

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Kristall SpacesMegan JerrardClaudiaGhia LorenzoAsh Recent comment authors
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Agness of a Tuk Tuk

Wow! Achensee seems so breathtaking and picturesque. I am definitely adding it to my summer bucket list. How many days would you recommend staying there?

Siddhartha Joshi

It’s such a shame that I’ve never been to Austria…and I hope I can change that this year. Achensee is a perfect place to start planning with the summers coming up soon now…

Love the variety of things one can do there…I guess I will be mostly busy with the mountain hikes 🙂

Lois Alter Mark

Austria is high on my travel bucket list, and this area is stunning. It looks so beautiful and peaceful! I love that you can be as active or lazy as you want, and still enjoy it!

Linda

This post was so timely. We head to Austria in May. It will probably be too cold for most water sports but maybe a boat tour would be good. We might have wanted to rent a boat. Although it would depend on how hard and expensive it was to get a permit. A leisurely bike ride around the lake would be a great option when we are there. A cable car ride looks like a way to get a great panoramic view!

Julie

These are great tips for visiting the Tyrol region…I think it would be my husbands dream as he loves golf and cycling. And I can’t get over the views from the mountains to the lake to the wildflowers. What a beautiful destination!

Elaine Masters

Such a wonder to see this side of Austria. I love seeing all the hiking and boat options. The cable car ride must be long and steep to get to that height!

sherianne

These images are beautiful! That cable car view is postcard perfect. Love the water trampoline, is the lake cold?

Ash

Lake Achensee is an interesting place to visit. The views are simply stunning and there’s so much activity to do like sailing, rafting, cycling and hiking. Otherwise, a perfect place just to relax and watch the world go by. Someday, I would like to visit.

Ghia Lorenzo

Achensee is such a beautiful and peaceful place. I think I could really used to live there peacefully. Amazing breathtaking views and so much activities that you can engage. I really love your photos, thanks for sharing this paradise to us.

Claudia
Claudia

The European Alps are one of my happy places. The Achensee looks like a beautifully scenic place to explore. The viewpoints of the mountains and lake are gorgeous. My kids would love spending hours of fun in the water at Stranded Pertisau, while I’d love the hiking and taking a cable car up the mountain.

Megan Jerrard

The Achensee sounds like a fabulous part of Austrian Tyrol! If Pertisau was good enough for Emporers, I think that’s where I’ll stay 🙂 We’re big water sports enthusiasts so love holidays to lakeside towns – paddleboarding sees me fall into the water more often than not, but perhaps the chilly bite of the water here will teach me to stay on my board :D! The Lake scenery is seriously stunning!

Kristall Spaces

Looks wonderful, must have been an amazing adventure. Thank you for sharing the recommendations about what to do during summer!