Although the landlocked country of Austria might not be the first destination that comes to mind when considering a scuba diving holiday, this European destination is actually surprisingly popular with altitude divers. Austria has borders with Germany and Czech Republic in the north, while its southern border is shared between Italy and Slovenia. To the west, you’ll find Switzerland and Liechtenstein and to the east lies Slovakia and Hungary. Boasting more than 300 lakes that have some of the cleanest alpine water in all of Europe, Austria also has a number of rivers to dive in, and is home to some popular ice diving spots too.
Lake diving in Austria gives visitors the opportunity to dive in crystal clear waters originally formed by melted glaciers from the previous ice age. Not only will divers experience exceptional visibility when lake diving, but the marine life is plentiful too. Divers will find the likes of catfish, perch, grayling and trout as well as eels, pike and some great shoaling juvenile fish that find their shelter in the abundance of vegetation in the lakes. It is even possible to do some night dives in the lakes, although it is recommended to make use of a local dive operator if you wish to do so.
Aside from the dive sites that are well worth visiting, Austria is also developing its tourist offerings with great sightseeing opportunities and resorts offering outdoor sports such as horseback riding, golf, hiking, sailing, water skiing, fishing and windsurfing.
There are 9 states in Austria, with Salzburg, Styria and Tirol being the main areas where scuba diving is most popular. It is also possible to find diving hubs around the many large lakes scattered around the country. It’s important to bear in mind that some lakes have restricted zones for certain activities. With these lakes being popular with a number of water sports and activities, it’s important to know full details of each lake before attempting a diving holiday in Austria.
It is possible to dive in Austria at any time of year, and all diving levels will find sites that are worthwhile visiting. Due to the chilly waters, it is always recommended to wear a dry suit when scuba diving in Austria. During the summer months of June through September, air temperatures in Austria average between 25-35°C. The water temperature is usually around 25°C on the surface, but quickly drops down to around 4°C when headed deeper underwater. The summer months are typically dry, but rain is occasional too. Landslides and avalanches can be prevalent in Austria, and the winter months of December to March will bring cold temperatures of around -10°C. The lakes will become covered with ice, and ice diving is possible and best to do in the month of January.
Austria Dive Sites
The region of Salzkammergut boasts more than 165 lakes, some with an infamous historical past as these areas served as sites for Nazi projects, with many relics of Nazism lying beneath the water’s surface.
Lake Attersee is the largest lake in the Salzkammergut region and is a popular choice for lake diving in Austria. With a healthy ecosystem of underwater flora and a wide variety of fish species, this lake is the central point for much of Austria’s diving as it hosts at least 26 dive sites. In the winter months, visibility can reach 25 meters, whereas the visibility is around 10 meters in the summer. Both beginners and advanced divers can enjoy the many sites in Lake Attersee, which benefits from light penetration even at 30 meters down.
Wolfgangsee is a popular lake for scuba diving in the Salzkammergut region. It has an interesting array of dive sites including St.Gilgen, Falkensteinwand, Falkenstein Cliff Wall and the Naval School. There is also a Naval School on the lake shore, as well as more historical relics from the Nazi-era. Nazis confiscated a great deal of treasure from Hungary and stored these in the waters of this lake to avoid the allies finding them. Hans Hass was commissioned to find the lost treasure items in 1945, although some of the artifacts are still found today.
Regarded as paradise for mountain divers, Tirol is a high altitude dive at 2500 meters above seal level. The water here in the wild gorges and steep slopes is exceptionally pure and boasts visibility up to 50 meters on some days. The biggest lake in the region is Achensee which covers more than 9km. The lakes are highly popular with divers and have great fish life.
A popular favorite for scuba divers is Hechenberg site in Achensee, where deep divers can reach up to 40 meters to visit a ship wreck as well as a statue of Madonna. For beginners divers, the nearby Schwarzenau site is an enjoyable site where divers can see VW beetles laying at depths of 8 meters.
Diving in the Grüner Sea in Styria is a must-do for scuba divers in Austria. This site is actually a flooded pasture which gives the water a beautiful emerald green hue. After the winter months, the snow melts to create a beautiful dive site perfect for beginners or experienced divers to explore up to 12 meters down between May and June. The water recedes soon afterwards, but when it is possible to dive there divers will find trout and a number of interesting things such as a bench and a bridge.
There are many diving operators and certified dive centers in Austria. Most of the major lake diving areas will have dive centers right on-site, and some centers offer training courses and certifications. Scuba diving is so popular around these lakes that some even have customized platforms to facilitate diving.
It is necessary to obtain specific training and equipment for ice diving and altitude diving, so it’s always best to check with your chosen diving operator before arranging travel.
How to get to Austria
Austria is well-connected with international airports in Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna. Austrian Airlines is the largest airline operating in Austria, taking visitors to more than 130 destinations around the world. Other airlines operating into Austria include Ryanai, Monarch, Jet2, British Airways, Easyjet, BMI and FlyBe. For those travelling within the EU, Austria is reachable by rail and road.