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The 5 best outdoor activities in Carinthia: slowing down on land, on water and on the bike {Review}

Carinthia is recommended for those who want to be completely out and enjoy the wild and picturesque nature of the Alps: Hardly any other region offers so many scenic contrasts and a variety of activities. An overview.

1. Alpine entry: By train through the Hohe Tauern

As soon as you arrive in Carinthia, it starts imposing: through a tunnel between Böckstein in the Gastein Valley (Salzburger Land) and Mallnitz in the Carinthian Möll Valley, you can take the Tauern Railway directly into the high mountains.

The Hohe Tauern are a high mountain region in the central Alps in Austria. The approximately 120 km long and up to 3798 m above sea level. A. high main ridge represents the geographical center of the Eastern Alps. Here are some of the highest mountains in Austria. Through this beautiful alpine landscape, the train continues to Spittal am Millstätter See, the first stop on my journey.

2. Millstätter See: bivouacs, slow trails and bathhouse

It is Carinthia's second largest lake, with 141 m deep and with 1204,5 million cubic meters the most water-rich lake. It is the special charm of the lake that the south bank is largely undeveloped. The Slow Trail south bank therefore brings hikers closer to the lake and its mineral-rich water than any other.

Along the natural shore, the path from Seeboden meanders over 4,4 kilometers past hidden bays and sandy beaches. On the way you can hear entertaining stories about sea life, boat architecture and fishing on the boards. Hammocks invite you to relax in cozy places.

From the slow trails to the bathhouse

Slow trails are short hiking trails in the whole of Carinthia near the lake with special natural spots, extraordinary views in and out and extensive lake views.As a kind of deceleration program, they should clear your head, inspire the soul and spirit and promote serenity. The Slow Trail Zwergsee was even more exciting for me, an easy hike high above Millstatt. From Kleindombra you walk through shady mixed forests, past the Zwergsee and the Klieberteich to the unusual “forest stage” on the Luschan Höhe, which has the shape of a ship's bow and a fantastic view all over the lake.

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You can relax after the hike in the bathhouse directly on the shore of Lake Millstatt. The lake wellness facility, built in the noble style of the historic bathhouses of the 19th century, offers pure relaxation. In addition to four different sauna cabins with direct lake access to cool off, a tepidarium, a brine steam bath and the spacious spa area, the 35 degree warm and 60 square meter outdoor pool, from which you have a great view of the lake when you swim in summer and winter, is particularly impressive .

Culinary and overnight

You can of course also eat well and lightly in the bathhouse and, in Carinthia, you shouldn't miss out on culinary delights. There is also Charlys See-Lounge in Döbriach, which is also called “sundowner directly on Lake Millstatt”. When it's not pouring rain, you experience a quasi “Caribbean feeling” at sunset and the food is healthy and light. However, the region has other exciting offers for those who love pleasure, for example you can take a motorboat to one of the small islands and enjoy a seven-course menu there at sunset, with the waiter saying goodbye after each course. And from the end of August to the end of October, Lake Millstatt invites you to “Culinary Autumn Tables”. The highlight: the lovingly arranged dishes by master chefs, hosts and regional producers are presented in special box seats with mountain and lake contact.

Since June 2017 you can spend the night in seven bivouacs under the stars. The small houses are only equipped with a bed, a table, two chairs and in some cases with an outdoor shower, are located in different places on the lake and on the mountain and, thanks to a panoramic window, offer a view of the firmament at night and the sunrise in the morning. The bivouac clearing offers a singing bowl massage as a special water, in which the guests lie directly on the lake and can experience the vibrations and the waves directly. The masseuse is Romana Hauptmann, health trainer for relaxation and energetics from Spittal an der Drau.

3. Relaxed paddling on the Drava

I leave Lake Millstatt, the train continues through impressive alpine landscapes to the small town of Oberdrauburg, which is idyllically located between the Kreuzeck group in the north and the Gailtal Alps in the south. Directly at the Oberdrauburg train station is the starting point of the second and probably most beautiful stage of the Drau paddling trail.

This currently offers over 7 km of paddling pleasure between Lienz and Ferlach on 110 eventful stages. Thanks to the calm speed of the water, even beginners can do these easy tours undertake. The paddle path is also excellently signposted and maintained by the company “Draupaddelweg”: All start and end points are in the immediate vicinity of train stations, so that you can quickly and easily return to the starting point by train.

Like paddling through the wilderness

With tour guide Franziska König, who is also the social media manager of the Draupaddelweg and is on the way as the river ambassador, I start around 10 a.m. The water is not deep at this point, the subsoil is made of gravel, so that you can enter barefoot in an emergency and the flow speed makes it even easier to enter. Unfortunately, it's also freezing cold that my feet hurt.

At 10 to 15 km / h we paddle downriver between the Gailtal Alps and the Weissensee Nature Park. The environment is a dream to say the least, since you don't see streets, people or houses, you feel at one with nature. You could actually get on well without paddling, only in a few places you get an idea of ​​how it should be in a white water kayak and I am glad that Franziska is there and knows her way around.

Accommodation and cuisine

Halfway between Oberdrauburg and our destination Greifenburg, there is a nice rest area near Dellach east of the Draubrücke. The canoes are safely on the bank, while you can use the observation deck on the tower or the barbecue area. A few meters away from the Drauoase is the campsite at the Waldbad. There is also a restaurant and snack bar here.

After about two hours and 18,2 km of paddling, we have reached our destination Greifenburg and fortify ourselves with good food in the Gasthaus Wulz in Bruggen, which also offers a specialty for beer lovers. Over 013 types of beer from all over the world are stored in Shop1.000. Accommodation and good food on the way are well catered for: in every place there are simple but comfortable accommodations such as the Gasthof Post in Oberdrauburg, some of them have even joined forces to form the Drauradweg Wirte association, which also includes the “Goldenes Rössl” inn in the historic district Part of the center of Sachsenburg. I let the day end by exploring the small town a little and discovering the wonderfully located public swimming pool with a panoramic view and dining very well in the 800-year-old golden knight.

4. Cycling on the Drauradweg

The next morning my bike guide Jörg Moser picks me up from Villach. The former glazier had to give up his business and sport has helped him overcome serious illnesses. And while Jörg covers the 64 km to Villach with a normal mountain bike, I am a little more comfortable with an eBike.

Comfortable tour also for occasional drivers

Since I rarely ride my bike, the tour is a challenge, but Jörg is a very good guide. It is practical that my luggage was picked up in advance and transferred to the destination - this service is always included when you book a corresponding tour offer.

The Drau Cycle Path connects four countries - Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. A total of 510 kilometers - 279 of which have been awarded 5 stars in Austria by the ADFC - it meanders from Toblacher Feld in South Tyrol to Varaždin in Croatia. On the classified section in Austria, the Drau Cycle Path has uniform signs and is well developed (asphalt, fine gravel). It mostly runs along the Carinthian main river Drau, in the middle of a varied mountain and bathing lake landscape.

Cycling like Olympic champion

It is the diversity of this landscape that particularly inspires me: We start practically in the Alps and very slightly downhill along an ever wider river, through meadows and fields, through an increasingly southern landscape to Villach. Celebrities like the Austrian Olympic ski champion Franz Klammer also live here on the way and are out and about by bike. Many cyclists pedal from here with cross bikes or e-bikes on the Drau cycle path to Slovenia or over the former railway lines on the Alps-Adriatic cycle path to the coasts of northern Italy, from where they can then return by bus.

No doubt, in this region cycling is very important and cross-border. For several years now, Villach has even had its own cycling officer, who is mainly responsible for the development of mountain bike projects, for example in the Karawanken Mountains, and the entire service chain. In addition, the city offers a free bike storage and repair service with the bike butler - the parking and information station is located directly on the R1-Drau bike path between the city bridge and the congress center.

5. End the tour in Villach and on Lake Faak

The bike butler is right below my hotel, the chic voco Villach, which is particularly popular with business and conference guests. I was particularly impressed by the great view of the city and the Drava and the good breakfast.

Active lifestyle and history

My city tour with city guide Lisbeth Stampfer also begins here. For me, the almost 80-year-old embodies the sporty, international lifestyle of the region right on the border with southern Europe like no other: She enthusiastically talks about the trilingual exchange on the local organic market with many Italian and Slovenian retailers, goes skiing at lunchtime and climbing with play me the 239 steps to the church tower to enjoy the great view.

Villach's beauty only reveals itself at second glance: badly hit by bombs during the war and partly rebuilt a bit unattractively, the city today inspires above all with its location in the middle of mountains and lakes. But the city also has a lot to offer historically, as it looks back on an eventful history as an important traffic junction: Its most important architectural monument, the parish church of St. Jacob, is also the city's landmark. A Romanesque basilica once stood here, first mentioned in 1136, but destroyed by earthquakes. From 1360, first the choir and later the nave were rebuilt in Gothic style. However, the real highlights are often hidden behind arches and in side streets: at Hans-Gasser-Platz, for example, there is the only remaining part of the old city wall with a massive bastion tower, which was first mentioned in 1233.

Decelerate in a special atmosphere

In the summer of 2020, all of Villach was transformed into a living room. Guests can really relax and enjoy the summer in Carinthia's second largest city on seating islands in the living room style and in feel-good zones with stylish lounge furniture and even lampshades. In addition to living room concerts in the guest gardens, the Drau sets the pace when they take place every Wednesday and
Sends fountains of water into the sky on Friday evening. The numerous gardens, some of which are somewhat hidden, also invite you to relax in the green, e.g. across from the city museum in the historic Widmanngasse across from the city museum or in the inner courtyard of Palais26, the former Hotel zur Post, where numerous celebrities lived.

But Villach also offers a unique natural environment such as the Dobratsch Nature Park, the Mittagskogel and the Karawanken, as well as the Ossiacher and Faaker lakes framed by mountains. The latter is known as “Carinthia's South Seas” with 28 degrees and Caribbean-turquoise, glittering shades of color, for which lime particles are responsible. In the middle of the lake in the historic Inselhotel, which once belonged to Ludwig Wittgenstein, you can enjoy deep red sunsets while paddling and swimming.

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