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Posted by on Oct 2, 2016 | 103 comments

Why you have to visit the Wachau Valley?

During the last days of July, I started to plan our big trip of the year. The goal was to secure airfare and accommodation for mid-October.

Things turned out better than I was expecting.  A flight departing the last week of August was of better price than all the flights I was researching in October. I ended up booking that flight.

The thing is that that purchase gave us only seven weeks before the trip.  I bought the tickets on a Thursday and told my husband I was going to ground myself on Saturday afternoon. I decided on the final route, booked accommodation and transportation.

Everything was ready except for one thing: a daytrip I wanted to make from Vienna.

I procrastinated for two months.  I ended up booking an excursion to the Wachau Valley my first night in Vienna.  I couldn’t decide between exploring independently or going on a guided tour.

In retrospective, I believe my indecision was trying to save me from the inevitable.  The tour performance ended up being terrible. Their disorganization drove me crazy on several occasions.

But, here is the main point I want to make.  No tour company or guide or individual or weather condition or service provided, was strong enough to tarnish my day in the Wachau Valley.

Spitz, Wachau Valley, Austria

This 24 mile (40 km) stretch of the Danube between the towns of Krems and Melk is as pretty as river valleys come. The place is a dream come true.  I am not exaggerating. I felt like most of the people around were dancing on their tiptoes to the tune of imaginary music.

WillendorfWachau Valley, Austria

Wachau Valley, Austria

The Wachau Valley has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is one of the most prominent destinations in Lower Austria.

Wachau Valley, Austria

The town of Krems is located 48 miles (76.6 km) from Vienna.  This makes the area an easy daytrip (or weekend trip) form the big city.

Bus Ride

The first part of the tour was a bus ride through the storybook towns of Krems and Durnstein (there are other small towns on the route).  The towns themselves are worth a visit.   They have attractions such as the Gottwaig Abbey, the Steiner Tor (medieval gate) and the Durnstein Castle.

The panorama in the valley is famous for its vineyards and orchards. The wines produced in the region are some of the most prized in Austria.

Wachau Valley, Austria

Wachau Valley, Austria

Wachau Valley, Austria


The second part of the tour included a boat ride from Spitz to Melk.  While waiting for the boat to arrive, we had a chance to take a look at several buildings in the town.  For what I learned, the arrival and departure times of the boats are estimated.  It depends on how the river current is on that particular day.

Spitz, Wachau Valley, Austria

Spitz, Wachau Valley, Austria

Suddenly, it was time to board the boat and that is when the best part of the day started.  We chose to sit in the uncovered area to have a good view of the surroundings.  Semi and total covered areas were available too.

Spitz, Wachau Valley, Austria

Wachau Valley, Austria

In just seconds, we were in the middle of the river.  The houses got smaller and the sky bigger. The views from the Danube were so different from the ones on shore.

Spitz, Wachau Valley, Austria

Hinterhaus Castle

South of Spitz, a nearly thousand year old medieval fortress, called Hinterhaus, stands with its Gothic bulwark and Renaissance fortifications. Locals assure the castle is haunted and many tales and legends have grown up around these ruins.

Wachau Valley, Austria


This tiny town is known among pre-historians as the town where the oldest piece of European art was found. The Venus of Willendorf, a 30,000-year-old fertility symbol, was found here.


Wachau Valley, Austria

Wachau Valley, Austria

Wachau Valley, Austria

Aggstein Ruin

The cool thing about visiting the valley for the first time is that you do not know what you are going to find after each turn and twist.

I got really excited when I spotted the Aggstein Castle in the distance.  Can you tell I am a castle lover?

This castle is located 300 meters (980 ft) above the Danube.  I was lucky to get some decent photos using my camera’s zoom.

Aggstein Ruin, Wachau Valley, Austria

Aggstein Ruin, Wachau Valley, Austria

Aggsbach Markt and Aggsbacg Dorf

I loved passing by these colorful and cute towns.

Aggsbach, Wachau Valley, Austria

Aggsbach, Wachau Valley, Austria

Aggsbach, Wachau Valley, Austria

Aggsbach, Wachau Valley, Austria

Aggsbach, Wachau Valley, Austria

Schönbühel Monastery

This monastery was founded in the 17th by an aristocratic family who had converted to Catholicism. It was as a pilgrimage church that the monastic church gained fame.

Schönbühel Monastery, Wachau Valley, Austria

Schönbühel Monastery, Wachau Valley, Austria

Schönbühel Castle

Even after seeing a lot of beautiful sights along the valley, I was still waiting to pass by one particular place.  I knew we had arrived because the boat slowed down.  We were passing by Schönbühel Castle.  This is one of the most famous landmarks in the Valley (and in the entire country).

Schönbühel Castle, Wachau Valley, Austria

The origins of the castle date from the early 12th century. The castle is built on rock approximately 40 metres (130 ft) above the level of the river Danube. A Roman fortress may have stood there before. Through the years, the castle has had many owners.

Schönbühel Castle, Wachau Valley, Austria


To me, this castle lived up to the expectations.  I found it very unique and regal.  I wish I could have stopped there and get a closer look.  Hope this is something I can do in the future.

Schönbühel Castle, Wachau Valley, Austria

Schönbühel Castle, Wachau Valley, Austria


This is another small and colorful town in the valley.  This town is distinct because it has a structure that resembles an aqueduct (but I am not sure what it is).

Emmersdorf, Wachau Valley, Austria

Emmersdorf, Wachau Valley, Austria


All good things come to an end and our trip ended in Melk, home to the Benedictine Abbey of the same time. This place is another of Austria’s treasures.  It is considered the highlight of the entire area.

We toured the Abbey but I will leave that story for later.

Melk, Wachau Valley, Austria

Melk, Wachau Valley, Austria

After Melk, we returned to Vienna by bus. Our hearts were bursting with joy.  Till this day we talk about our day in the Wachau Valley.  With Cesky Krumlov, it was our favorite destination of the trip. I long for the day when I can return to this place that stole my heart.


  • I visited the area with Vienna Sightseeing. I do not recommend the company (huge number of people on each tour, disorganization, missed a stop because people arrived late, etc.).
  • If you chose to visit on a tour, pick a company that specializes on small groups. Also, make sure they have a clear itinerary (and you know what places are going to be visited).
  • You can visit the valley on your own by taking a train from Vienna to Krems. After that, you can stop by Durnstein and take a boat from there to Melk.  Visit the Abbey and go back to Vienna by train.  Or, you can do the trip in reverse.  Keep in mind the day will be extremely busy if you chose to do something like that.
  • To be honest, one day in the Wachau is difficult. I believe the area deserves two or three days.  There are tons to see there.
  • This site can help you to plan your trip:

Have you visited the Wachau Valley?

Pin it for later?

Are you looking for an awesome day trip from Vienna? If so, you have to visit the Wachau Valley.  It is the perfect combination of beautiful scenery, ruined castles and charming towns.


    • I didn’t have enough time to explore enough of Melk. I couldn’t go to the town on take a look at the front facade of the Abbey. I feel like I have to go again.

  1. I just visited the Wachau Valley for the 3rd time last week and it is so beautiful. I had never spotted Schönbühel before and now I’m going to have go yet again to see it. Such a beautiful area and so close to Vienna. I agree you need multiple days.
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    • David, that is great. I will go again without thinking about it. I want to stop by Krems and Durnstein and it would not hurt going to Melk again.

  2. It all looks so picture perfect. I haven’t been but my parents went on a cruise there a couple of years ago and raved about it. Thanks for being honest about the tour company, that’s worth knowing. #mondayescapes
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    • After seeing this place, I understand why a lot of people are interested in river cruises. The rivers in Europe are way too scenic and picturesque. I loved this experience and will like to repeat it.

  3. So gorgeous!! I love that monastery.

    • The monastery is larger than life. And, you would not believe the views from the terrace.

  4. Views like these are why I am so interested in European River cruises. We’re stalking all the travel companies for time when the price drops to a manageable level so we can take that cruise.

    • I think you can find good prices if you book a yer to 9 months before the trip. That is when they do 2 for 1 and free airfare specials.

  5. I’ve never been to this Valley, but it looks gorgeous with all these quaint villages along the river. I will definitely look into that for my next extended trip to Europe. You had wonderful weather, too 🙂 #MondayEscapes

    • I am glad you discovered a new place! I should be fun to add it to an European itinerary.

  6. Ah its such a shame your guides were so un organised. The views look incredible all those little houses and the pretty colours I would have been in my element, thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes

    • Well, I tried not to pay attention to their mess. As I said, the scenery was too pretty to to be in a bad mood.

  7. Oh great, despite your disappointment the photos are still superbly taken and it is amazing that you didn’t miss any name. They are all very interesting most specially to me whom places like these are alien. I love most that small community along the river where the background is a forest, which i am sure will be fantastic in Autumn. Thanks for the tour.

    • Well, the ship had brochures of the area. That brochure had a map with the name of the towns (I knew it was going to be a big help at the moment of writing the posts). It also has the boat itineraries in the Valley. That will help with future plans.

    • You are so right! It would be a dream to live in the area. Imagine all the places you can visit during the weekends. I would love to stay in Europe an extended period of time.

    • I tour the Danube in Hungary with in a small group and that was a different experienced. The guides made sure we were enjoying and we didn’t feel rushed. I cannot complain a lot though. It the day in the Wachau Valley was one of my favorite days of the trip.

    • I need to keep my eyes open for the post because I want to see how your experience went.

  8. Wow, all those magnificent castles. The valley looks stunning I can see why a day trip was an absolute must. #citytripping

    • The castles make everything more special. There is one basically in every town.

  9. These photos remind me of the river cruise I was on last year from Amsterdam to Nuremberg. The castles on the middle Rhine were spectacular. If we had carried on to Budapest we would have seen the Wachau Valley – that’s my plan, to do the second half of the trip. Seeing your photos has made me want this even more.
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    • I think visiting the Rhine River is one of my next goals. I am convinced cruising the rivers in Europe is one of the bext things to do.

    • I am glad you liked it. Writing the post brought back so many good memories. I relieved the entire trip.

  10. Beautiful images! I’ve always wanted to visit this area. Looks incredible!

    • I was blown away by Austria’s natural beauty. I want to discover the lakes and mountains now.

    • Yes, I feel like stopping at every town. I think next time I am renting bikes and staying in one of the small towns.

  11. It looks like an amazingly beautiful place, you got great photos of it.
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    • Thanks Al! Glad you liked the photos.

  12. So perfect!! I adore that monastery…The photographs are just amazing!..i like your site much obliged for offer with us…

    • Thanks for stopping by! The monastery is great! I am going to dedicate and entire post to it and to the town.

    • Thanks Rhonda! The weather was phenomenal that day. I am happy to write about my experience with the tour company. I know it is not going to fly with travelers that have my similar style.

  13. What a lovely area! I am dying to go to Melk because they have a stunning fresco painted staircase I want to see! #WanderfulWednesday

    • Lolo, I wasn’t able to see the staircase. We had very little time on Melk. So, I want to go back to see what I missed.

  14. Beautiful scenery! Totally get your frustration about the tour company though. We went on a bus tour in Spain last month and it was not what we expected either. Really wish we had gone on our own – would have saved so much time by not being forced to stop at tacky souvenir stores 😀

    • I feel you. At least, I didn’t have to experience the souvenir shop stops. I have been to those on other tours.

  15. I can see why you loved it. Between the castles and quaint, colorful towns. Picture postcard perfect!

    • It is true! I am thinking about printing some of these photos. They bring such good memories.

    • I think this such be a must if you are in Vienna. It is the perfect opportunity to experience a bit of this place’s charm.

  16. Castles are my #1 FAVORITE thing about Europe. Especially medieval ones. It’s my favorite time period because many of the structures of that time are hundreds of years old but also not old enough to be ruins yet. I love how one of the castles here are clearly medieval and then they built on– in the 18th century it looks like?

    • Yes, the first castle that appears in here. These places changed owners a lot of times. Many of those owners did their own additions.

  17. Very charming, can imagine the huge stretch and Danube river and checking out the towns from there its one of a kind experience. Good you had a awesome time exploring Wachau Valley, which is a UNESCO site.
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    • Yes, it was a great experience. I am ready to take a look at the valley in another way. I will like to bike around.

  18. We passed through and stopped in some of these towns on a river boat cruise a couple of years ago. I would like to re-do it as was October as it was rather rainy.Also I have a better lens on my camera now!

    • Wonderful! I would like to take a river cruise one day. Anyway, I hope you get to visit the valley with better weather.

  19. It looks stunning…even more reason for me to visit Vienna! Shame the tour was a bit rubbish but I love your photos. The castle looks amazing and I am a big fun of those colourful houses. #citytripping
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    • Oh yes! You have to stop by Vienna and spend a day (or more) in here. Everything in this valley is beautiful.

  20. I would love to explore Austria in more detail. So far I’ve only been to Vienna, but Wachau Valley is definitely a piece of paradise really worth visiting. Castles, ruins, little towns and a beautiful nature. What more can you ask for? Your pictures are so beautiful, Ruth! They really made me want to go there right now.

    • Anda, Austria really surprised me. The Wachau Valley was awesome but we also had the opportunity to see the landscape of Upper Austria while driving to the Czech Republic. We fell in love with the country.

  21. I’m a major castle-lover, and I would’ve gone insane passing them on a boat! I’d want to dock and go explore them.

    • Becky, believe, it wasn’t easy for me. I wanted to enter every one of those castles. I have seen photos taken from the Aggstein Ruin and they are so gorgeous!

    • Arnie, I guess it was my fault because I didn’t dig enough on the tour description. Well, at least I had the scenery to cheer me up.

    • That is so true! Austria rocks! I want to see more of it.

  22. Exquisite! The Danube River is spectacular – as is the countryside in Austria. Another country to put on the bucket list!

    • Kathy, add it to your bucket list! Do not even think twice about it. It is a country like no other.

  23. Out of bad things, good things come like the stunning Wachau Valley. We were astounded at how lovely everything was in Austria, and how very neat…even the farms

    • Like you mentioned, things in Austria are every near. It was a pleasure to walk around and enjoy what the cities (and countryside) have to offer.

  24. I’ve never been though have been to Austria a few times. I would like to visit the Wachau Valey – it looks lovely! It’s a pity the tour was rubbish but glad it didn’t spoil your day.

    • Well, maybe you should visit Austria again. I am sure there is a lot you have not seen.

  25. That’s too bad about the disorganized tour, but I’m glad to hear that your enjoyment of the area triumphed over any displeasure at the logistics. I especially like the pictures of the villages as seen from the water with the hills rising up behind them, especially the ones where the leaves on trees are starting to turn colors. You now have me wondering what the inside of those castles is like.
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    • I will like to see the interior of the castles too. Since my camera has a good zoom, I know there were people around.

  26. I’m a fellow castle-lover! The Wachau Valley looks amazing and I’m interested to hear it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site – I will add to my ever-growing list. It’s good to know that these tour organisers were crap and should be avoided: really, if that’s their main line of business, they have no excuse for being shambolic.

    • Supposedly, they are the number one tour company in Vienna. They have good reviews. That was one of the reasons I picked them. But, things ended up going in a different way.

    • I feel the same way. The waterways in Europe are full of history. I want to visit more rivers in the future.

  27. What a stunning area, I have now added it to my never decreasing list of places to visit. The castles look amazing from the river. Thanks for the advice on staying a few days, I hope you get back one day to spend more time seeing what you want.h

    • I have the same problem. My list of places to visit keeps growing and growing. But little by little, I have been visiting places I have wanted to visit forever.

  28. It all looks like a fairy tale to me, especially that Castle on the edge of the cliff. Beautiful pictures…. You certainly had wonderful weather for this tour. Thanks for taking me along!

    • I can see how the fairy tales got a beginning. These places are so picturesque!

    • Oh, good! I discover new places thru blog posts all the time.

    • Sally, what a nice description! I guess you should show up in costume to this places.

  29. I can’t believe I didn’t hear of this valley on my trip to Austria!! It’s stunning! Sorry the tour ended upbeing a disaster, but still seems like it was worth it!

    • Well, now you know about it! I heard it is very popular with residents of Vienna.

  30. Ruth, The Wachau Valley has been on my to-do list for a while, but I just never seem to find the time to get over there. It’s only about a four hour drive from my house, so you’d think it would be easier. I’m glad I read your comments before I go. I will be making sure to go when there are fewer tourists, buses, etc, and I will drive. The landscapes are just too pretty to miss! I’m so glad I read your post before I go.
    Thanks, Corinne

    • You are right! A four hour drive is not that much. A long weekend in the valley sounds good.

  31. I love learning about new places!! It looks fabulous. I’m a castle lover too (or anything old) haha. I would have wanted out of the boat!! I will definitely plan to stay a couple days to see the sights. Your photos really capture the beauty and culture. Thanks for sharing this great destination!
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    • Nancie, I a glad you discovered the place the Wachau Valley thru the post. A couple of days will work wonders in this area.

  32. Such a wonderful collection of photos from your tour. I have briefly heard of the Wachau Valley and I’m glad you’ve enlightened me. As a castle lover, I so want to go now. I love all the small towns and unique offerings from each town. They’re all so photogenic. Glad you still enjoyed the sights despite the tour company.
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    • This will be a perfect place to explore with your family. It will be cool to combine bikes with boats.

  33. Looks amazing!!! We might be going to Vienna this winter (hoping so bad!!) and this looks so idyllic!! So pretty! Thank you for sharing on FlyAwayFriday and can’t wait to see what you share next!

    • Cloe, I really wish you can make it to the city soon. I am sure you will love it.

  34. The pictures look beautiful! I would LOVE to be there right about now! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday!

    • Ok, I will like to be there too. I think I will need to plan moving to Europe ;0)

  35. I always love exploring places by boat. So, was your tour guide that good at helping you remember all of the names of places, did you take copious notes, or did you usual Google reverse image search to remember all of those places? … Or maybe you did a great job researching and knew what to expect to see during your tour? I’m curious, because when I visit new places I often take pictures of things and have no idea what they are (either at the time or when I return home!); I guess it all depends on how well I’ve researched the place I’m visiting and whether or not the building (or mountain or whatever) stands out. 🙂

    • Mandy, I did two things to remember the names. I took a brochure of the ship line we took. That pamphlet has info about the boat stops and it even has a small map. In addition,I took a picture of a map of the area.

  36. Coolll !!! Your photos just make me wanna visit Wachau as soon as possible, they are sooo stunning 🙂
    Glad to hear you sharing your experiences in Wachau Valley, Ruth 🙂

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