After 4 previous visits to Austria (2 ski trips to Tirol and 2 wine & wellness-themed trips to the Wachau region), I had the opportunity to travel back and explore yet another region of this beautiful country: Neusiedlersee in Burgenland!
Based on my previous experiences, I could only look forward to this trip, knowing the food, the people and the weather were all going to be great.
Adding on to the fact that the Neusiedlersee is UNESCO heritage listed, I was excited to see what surprises this part of Austria had in store for us when it came to nature. Well, it didn’t disappoint either!
You can find my top 5 activities of this trip below:
#1 Go Bird Watching around the Neusiedler See
Yes, I know, bird watching doesn’t perhaps sound to you as the most exciting activity on your holiday you could choose from. But wait! You haven’t yet seen the area you’re in.
The Neusiedlersee / Seewinkel region is the natural border between the Austrian alpine foothills to the west and the Little Hungarian Plain to the east. There is a steppe lake, you can find unique salt lakes and grazing lands here, as well as marshlands, grasslands, forests, salt and sand landscapes… all filled with a wide range of flora and fauna.
Counting birds alone, there are more than 300 species you can spot here throughout the year!
If that is not enough to get you at least a bit interested, let me tell you that the landscape here is even protected under various national and international laws such as a landscape reserve, Natura 2000-listed area, UNESCO biosphere park and UNESCO world cultural heritage.
Being mostly flat, Burgenland is cycle-heaven, it’s filled with vineyards producing some first class wines and by being the warmest and driest places in Austria, there is hardly any rain. There really is nothing left to complain now, is there?
What you need for bird watching: #1 a great set of binoculars (like Swarovski Optik)
… or an even bigger one if you want to get serious about it!
#2: A Bird Book! (so you know what you’re actually looking at)
#3: Overview of which birds can be seen in the area in certain time of the year
#4 Preferably a guide who can help you out and knows what he’s doing
#5: a lot of patience!
We climbed all the way to the top…
… the view was so worth it!
Taking photos of the birds? Bring your biggest lens!
We also spotted cows, bonus! :)
#2 Relax in a Spa Hotel
You’re probably exhausted after all that bird watching, haha, well no problem at all! There are so many great spa hotels in Austria, you really can’t go wrong. In Burgenland, we stayed at the St. Martins Spa Therme Resort and it was really incredible. While I would normally never book a holiday like this myself, I can see why lots of people enjoy it here so much.
You really don’t even need to leave the hotel anymore, as there is so much to do here: from the restaurant serving amazing local food, to live music at the bar in the evening and from the sauna’s, beauty treatments and swimming pool to a massive lake to walk around. Although, they also offer some great activities to show you the best of the local area, which you can read in the next tip.
The Lake at St. Martins
There are a couple of pools at St. Martins, indoors, outdoors, whatever you like!
A breakfast for winners
The menu at St. Martins changes daily!
Vila Vita Pannonia
We had the opportunity to also visit another spa hotel in Burgenland during our visit: The Vila Vita Pannonia. They are not your typical spa hotel, as they are more focused on outdoor activities, so a bit more suited for families in my opinion. There is just so much to do here (I will list some of it at the bottom of this post)
What I liked here was that you also have the opportunity to rent a sort of ‘vacation home’, that looked so cute! That way, you really have your own space and I can totally see it would be a relaxing experience when you travel with your family, as there is something to do for really everyone.
The vacation homes at Vila Vita
relax around the massive lake of Vila Vita Pannonia
Natural Swimming Pool, if you dare!
#3 Take a Neusiedlersee Safari and spot a… Ziesel! (A What? Scroll Down to Find Out!)
At the St. Martins resort, you have the great opportunity to explore the region together with a professional ranger and learn all about the local wildlife and nature that’s so typical for the Burgenland region of Austria. Every week, they put together a new program with various tours you can choose from.
The location of the lodge is perfect for nature adventures: they are close to the Neusiedler See – Seewinkel National Park, but even directly around the resort, there are many animals and interesting plants to spot. I especially loved seeing all the colourful wildflowers that were blooming when I visited!
Back in the days, the shepherds used to sleep in these huts while guarding their cattle or sheep
Get your binoculars out again!
And THAT my friends, is a Ziesel right there. Too cute!
#4 Walk with Rare White Donkeys
Since July 2013, a couple off new -very special- staff was hired at St. Martins: four beautiful Austro-Hungarian ‘baroque donkeys’, called Franz, Heck, Galamber and Fredi graze the grounds of the resort and you have the chance to take them for a walk.
White donkeys were bred in Eastern Austria and Hungary in the Rococo period. During this time, light-coloured animals were very popular with the aristocracy, as they were thought of as bringers of light, while dark animals tended to symbolise death. Unfortunately, they became out of fashion later on and are now threatened with extinction.
When you go on the walk with the donkeys, you take them on a leash around a field and bring them to a boat house, where you can enjoy a lovely lunch with regional products.
While this is normally a perfectly safe activity for adults and kids, for full disclaimer I have to add that in our case, the donkeys got a bit scared of a noise at one point and took off, leaving us lying on the road and in the cornfield with bruised arms and legs, only to find them happily grazing a couple of hundred meters further along.
It can happen, but this was a very rare case, as their trainers have ensured me that they’ve never had any problems before with the animals. Perhaps they just don’t like bloggers, or thought we didn’t take enough selfies with them, who knows?!
Little Cheeky Buggers!
A wonderful lunch with local produce, loved it!
#5 Taste Quality Produce and Support Local Businesses
Speaking about local produce, one of the best ways to experience the best of Austrian food, is to check out the website of the Genuss Region Österreich, which you can find at www.genuss-region-shop.com. This initiative was founded in 2005 with a collaboration of 25 regions, but it’s grown to over 112 regions contributing the best quality products produced by local communities.
Not only can you find information on all things regional on the site (from events to businesses and their specialty products), but all of the regions are governed by common guidelines which highlight certified producers and local agricultural specialties, which has a positive impact on the region’s economy as well.
If you buy any product from the Genuss Region (or when you visit them), you actively make a contribution toward the preservation of vital rural areas as well as climate protection and sustainability. How great is that?!
Genuss Region Products at the Vila Vita Resort
A peek into my goodiebag… oh my! So many amazing local products!
The stunning looking restaurant at Vila Vita Pannonia
Want more things to do around Neusiedlersee?
While the 5 activities above where my personal highlights, of course there is plenty more to do in Burgenland. How about the following:
Have a go at Stand Up Paddle
I tried stand-up paddleboarding at Vila Vita Pannonia and while it was fun, I don’t have balance at all and was happy to step off the board again 5 minutes later :)
Go Horse Riding or Enjoy a Covered Wagon ride
There are many tracks for horses through the Seewinkel area, at Vila Vita Pannonia, you can get the kids to take a ride, or go on a covered wagon ride with the whole family
Cycling, of course!
The two resorts mentioned in this article have free bikes for you to take for a ride!
… and plenty more!
I’m almost hitting 1500 words, so I will wrap the article up now, but as you can see: the options on what to do in and around the Neusiedlersee are really endless. I hope you enjoy your stay in Austria as much as I did!
Website St. Martins Resort: www.stmartins.at
Website Vila Vita Pannonia Resort: www.vilavitapannonia.at
Visit Burgenland: www.burgenland.info
Visit Austria: www.austria.info
Pannonian Bird Experience: birdexperience.org
Disclaimer: This post is part of the #AustrianTime Blogger Campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with the Austrian National Tourist Office. All photos and opinions are, as always, our own.
This post is also available in: Dutch