Experience a once-in-a-decade performance amongst the beauty of the Austrian Alps
About the Tour
Whether you crave history, natural beauty or a grand theatrical performance, this 8-day journey through Austria and Germany offers a glimpse of it all. The tour commences in the picturesque town of Zell am See, Austria, a place where skiers, hikers, and history buffs rub elbows with pleasure. The lakeside town is surrounded by mountains and offers premier shopping opportunities, as well as centuries-old buildings. We have three days here to enjoy the town and to explore Hohe Tauern National Park. Take in the park on foot and from the scenic Pinzgauer Lokalbahn Railroad. Moving on, we cross the border into Germany and arrive in Oberammergau. This charming village is filled with intricately painted houses and lovely wood carvings; however, this is not what the village is most famous for. During your time in Oberammergau, we are treated to a once-in-a-decade performance of the Oberammergau Passion Play, a theatrical performance put on by the townspeople. All of the costumes and sets are created locally, and the story is the same that has been told since the 17th century. This is Oberammergau’s true claim to fame. On Eurostar, we continue back through Germany to London, where the tour comes to a close.
- First Class and Standard Class rail throughout (Standard Premier Class on Eurostar journeys with a light meal and drinks)
- Scenic rail journey on the narrow-gauge Pinzgaubahn
- Hotel accommodations for 7 nights
- 14 meals including a special Passion Play dinner
- Tier 1* tickets to a performance of the Oberammergau Passion Play
- Visit to the spectacular Krimml Waterfalls
- Excursion to Hohe Tauern National Park
- Journey on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road
- Exclusive meeting point at our dedicated Departure Office in St Pancras
- Transportation by deluxe motorcoach
- Services of a professional tour escort and knowledgeable local guides for touring
Days 1-2 – London to Zell am See
Our tour begins at London St Pancras International, and after meeting your Tour Manager, we board the Eurostar service to Paris where, on arrival, we continue to Stuttgart where we stay overnight.
On Day 2, we travel to Zell am See, where we stay for the next three nights. Depending on the departure date, we either stay at the Grand Hotel Zell am See or the 4-Star Neue Post. Zell am See is one of the most well-known Austrian towns, a haven for visitors, skiers and hikers alike. The lake on whose banks it is sat is a glorious expanse of water stretched across the entire valley. (Day 1 - Eurostar meal, D; Day 2 - B, D)
Day 3 – The Pinzgaubahn and the Krimml Waterfalls
Our excursion today takes us by coach to Krimml in the Hohe Tauern National Park, the second largest wildlife preserve in Europe and home to the glorious Krimml Waterfalls, the largest waterfalls in Austria and thought to be the highest in Europe. Over 380 meters high, crashing down onto the rocks below, the Krimml waterfalls cast a shimmering mist over the sumptuous backdrop of the valley below. Guided walks follow a trail that passes by the three stages of the falls as they thunder into pools guarded by pine tree forests and craggy rock formations. The valley, the Krimmler Ache, is a glorious example of a postcard Austrian valley, complete with forested walls, noble Alpine mountains, and traditional farmlands and barns. The waters here are exceptionally pure glacial waters sourced from the peaks above and are actually recognized by the local government as being beneficial to the health of those who visit, specifically for aiding the immune system.
After some time here, we transfer to Mittersil for a journey on the wonderful narrow-gauge Pinzgauer Lokalbahn Railroad which treks to Zell am See, offering marvelous views across the forests below. With jolly red carriages trundling below the steep tall pine covered mountains, this train gives a superb panoramic snapshot of the picture perfect Austrian countryside as it runs from the traditional city of Mittersill to Zell am See. (B, D)
Day 4 – The Grossglockner High Alpine Road
Today sees us visit the Hohe Tauern National Park and journey along the superb Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Regarded as one of the world's finest roads, this section provides us with unparalleled views across the stunning valleys and mountains, crowned by the ancient and magnificent Grossglockner, Austria's tallest mountain.
Wriggling up and over the small foothills, the route takes us past fresh waterfalls, chocolate box towns and verdant meadows on a journey which connects the small communes which in this corner of the world. Keep an eye out here for the wonderful wildlife which call this place home including regal birds of prey, adorable marmots and the magnificent Alpine ibex, a wild goat native to the region with excellent curved horns.
One of several stops on the way is the enchanting village of Heiligenblut where we have some time at leisure. This town at the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park lies at the foot of the Black Mountain, Grossglockner, and is the gem in the crown for the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. At the heart of this fairy tale village is an impressive Gothic church with an exquisite spire and reverent interiors, striking against the Alpine sky. (B, D)
Day 5 – To Oberammergau
Leaving Zell am See today, we travel by rail (Standard Class) to Oberammergau where we check into our hotel, in or around the Ammergau region. After settling in, we have some time here to explore before dinner this evening.
Located on the banks of the Ammer River, this small, charming town at the heart of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen region of Bavaria is quintessentially German. It is famous for its woodcarving traditions to which many shops in the town center are dedicated. Strolling through the busy streets at the time of the Passion Play is almost like walking through a living, breathing fairytale thanks to the coloured houses and cobbled streets. (B, D)
Day 6 – The Passion Play
Today features the highlight of our tour: the magnificent Oberammergau Passion Play. Divided into two halves, this behemoth of a production showcases the final days of Jesus Christ's life, chronicling his Passion in a performance that features over 2,000 villagers as cast, crew, and members of the live choir and orchestra.
These villages take charge of designing the stunning set pieces, creating the marvelous backdrops and running the immense organization required for such an enormous undertaking. The costumes are a wonder to see, as is the superb acting and genuine cast, all of whom are residents of Oberammergau. The play even featured in its latest iteration live animals including hens, cows, and goats.
The story behind the Passion Play is worth noting - during the time of the bubonic plague in the 17th century, the people of Oberammergau made a vow to God, declaring that if he saved the town from the plague, they would produce a theatrical production for him every ten years celebrating the sacrifice of his son Jesus. The people of Oberammergau were spared from the horror of the disease and consequently began a tradition that would last up until today. This makes the Oberammergau Passion Play the most famous and the oldest across the world, having run continuously since its inception (apart from a single break due to the beginning of World War II).
Unsurprisingly, the play is of massive importance for the village, due much in part to the fact that it is only performed once every ten years, adding a huge sense of gravitas to each showing. Our top tier tickets grant us some of the best seats in the house. We enjoy a special Passion Play dinner during the two hour break. (B, D)
*Tier 1 tickets are designated as category 1 or 2 seats, located at the front & center of the theater.
Days 7-8 – To Cologne and London
Bidding Oberammergau and Bavaria a fond farewell today, we travel by rail through Germany to Munich (Standard Class) and then on to Cologne where we stay overnight. Our train arrives into Cologne by mid-afternoon, giving you ample to explore this superb city and its spectacular Gothic cathedral, home to the shrine of the Three Kings.
The following day on Day 8 we continue to Brussels where we transfer to the Eurostar service to London. Here our tour comes to an end. (Day 7 - B, D; Day 9 - B, Eurostar meal)
Grand Hotel, Zell am See
The 4-star Grand Hotel, one of the famous landmarks of Zell am See, is situated on a small promontory between the railroad and the lake. Completed in 1896, in its early years, the hotel was a favorite summer residence of the European aristocracy. It was completely rebuilt in 1984 in the same traditional style. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, and café. There is also a Wellness Center, ideal for relaxing after a day of exploring. This has an indoor pool with views out over the lake, a hot whirlpool, and steam bath.
Hotel Neue Post, Zell am See
Located at the heart of the charming Austrian town of Zell am See, the 4-Star Hotel Neue Post is a quaint establishment with friendly and professional staff and a range of amenities.
Facilities include a fitness suite, with a spa and swimming pool, a well stocked bar and an international restaurant. Each room boasts a television, a hairdryer, and a bathrobe.
The high speed Eurostar trains link St Pancras International in London with Paris and Lille in France as well as Brussels in Belgium.
The highest class of Eurostar travel available for leisure customers is Standard Premier Class. In your dedicated Standard Premier carriage you'll find a less dense seat configuration, meaning the seats are larger and you have ample space to relax and stretch out. As part of the service, you'll enjoy complimentary drinks and refreshments, served at your seat by friendly, helpful waiting staff.
Enjoy a journey on the excellent narrow-gauge Pinzgaubahn. Traveling between Zell am See and Mittersill, this line has been running continuously for nearly 120 years. Trains still run regularly along the foothills of the beautiful Pinzgau Mountains, from which the line takes its name. More recently, a summer steam service has been introduced, allowing passengers to enjoy the nostalgia of the 'Golden Age' of steam, as they travel across barn-dotted meadows and the calm beauty of the Austrian countryside.
Introduced in 1981, France's TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) was the original European high-speed train. Linking Paris with Lyon, the new service revolutionized train travel and meant that traveling by air over medium and short distances was no longer seen as the best option, even for business travel.
The network has expanded rapidly and today these sleek, stylish trains offer links to over 60 destinations throughout France. Operated by SNCF, the French national rail operator, TGV trains travel over specially-constructed high speed lines. The trains can achieve speeds of up to 186mph (300km/h) on most long distance routes and 200mph (320km/h) on the new TGV Est line, which links Paris with Strasbourg, Luxembourg, and Basel. With the exception of shorter journeys, TGVs almost always have an on-board buffet car, serving a selection of drinks and light refreshments
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