Calvin Yates, Researcher at Headwater, walks the little known region of Carinthia in Austria.
Last summer I travelled to the beautiful Austrian region of Carinthia to research some new holidays. It’s an area not so well known to the Brits but Lake Wörthersee, the largest lake in Carinthia, is surrounded by majestic mountain peaks, lush meadows and cool forest. The water is famously clean and, due to thermal springs, it is lovely and warm from May to Mid-October. It seemed like the perfect destination for Headwater customers!
Day 1 Klagenfurt
My first night was spent in the atmospheric historical Hotel Sandwirth in Klagenfurt, the impressive capital of Carinthia. The hotel is just a few minutes walk to the pedestrian centre – a lovely area to explore in the warm evening sun whilst deciding which of the many local restaurants to choose for an evening meal. I opted for traditional Austrian cuisine and sampled the locally renowned, and delicious, cheese dumplings.
Day 2 Klagenfurt to Pörtschach
The next morning a two minute walk took me to the bus stop for the 10 minute ride to the lake front and my first views of the glistening, crystal clear water of Lake Wörthersee. Time for a quick coffee in the early sunshine before heading off along “WörtherseeRundwanderweg”, the Lake Wörthersee hiking trail. A short climb later, I was a world away from the bustling lakeside below, with great views over the lake.
From here the route continues through pine forest, pretty meadows and past small farms before continuing up to PirkKogel. At 660m this is the highest point of the tour so, although it’s a fairly gentle climb, I decided to call in for a refreshment stop at the impressive looking SchlossDrasing.
Make sure you have your camera with you today as the views from PirkKogel are simply breath-taking. It’s also a perfect picnic spot too, with a conveniently situated bench tempting you to stop and drink in the views. Dropping down past “Sound of music” like meadows, the urge to sing “The Hills are Alive…” was strong – but luckily for the locals I managed to resist! I then descended through woodland, with glimpses of the lake along the way, to the pretty town of Pörtschach. A great end to a great days walking.
I stayed in SchlossLeonstain, one of the many wonderful, historic hotels of Austria. This has been tastefully restored but still gives you the feeling and atmosphere of the original C14 castle with its pretty courtyards and open corridors.
Day 3 Pörtschach to Velden
Leaving the castle behind the route took me up above the lake for yet more outstanding views. I thought the views from PirkKogel were stunning, but at HoheGloriette things got even better. It is, perhaps, one of the prettiest lookout points I have ever seen. Sitting for a while on the perfectly placed wooden chairs I was surprised to discover the gentle sound of classical music wafting through the air… yes these really are ‘musical chairs’ but you won’t need to run around until the music stops!
There were more of these quirky delights just a little further along the route. In the woods there is the “barefoot trail”; a section of the path where you can take off your shoes and socks to feel the different types of vegetation under foot.
After sampling the textures of the woodland floor, I took a small detour to the Karavankenblick lookout point for even more incredible vistas, and a spot of lunch. It was then on to pretty Forstsee, where I dipped my toes in the cool mountain lake, before following the trail around it and on to the final section along the impressive RömerschluchtGorge.
It was then just a short hop to the bustling cosmopolitan town of Velden. This is THE place to be seen on the lake, with its own casino and great choice of bars with outdoor seating, it’s the perfect place to sit with a nice cool beer, watching the mix of water-sport enthusiasts, cool crowd and elegant rich. My stop for the night was the lovely SeehotelHubertushof, which sits on the lake-front with its own private bathing deck and covered pool.
Day 4 Velden to Reifnitz
The final days walk began along a lakeside path as I left Velden behind. With blue skies above and wonderful views over the lake to the mountains beyond it was a delightful start to the day. The route continued on along a beautiful trail through fragrant pine woods. It has a real fairytale feel as you criss-cross the pretty little streams in the dappled sunlight – just remember to keep an eye out for the local trolls!
Once out of the forest I was rewarded with great views of both the lake and where I had been walking just days before. I stopped for another picnic lunch in another perfectly placed wooden lounger – this time right on the edge of the pretty Trattingteich pond. Following nice flat trails, I then dropped down through thinning woods, on wide gravel tracks, to pass the picturesque church of Saint Anna before a final canal side stroll into Reifnitz and a short ferry ride back to Klagenfurtsee.
At the ferry port here you can either take the bus back to the centre of Klagenfurt or, as I did, follow the Landkanal (canal) right into the centre of Klagenfurt and return to the Hotel Sandwirth. After a refreshing shower I strolled into Klagenfurt for a final beer in one of its many open air cafés. It was then time for a lovely dinner in the lively Bierhaus Augustin, a local mainstay.
Overall a great mix of walking in beautiful countryside with overnight stays in lively cosmopolitan towns full of friendly locals and great cuisine. I thoroughly recommend it!
Our 6-night Carinthia Walking holiday departs every two days from 13th May to 20th September. Priced from £838 per person it includes continental breakfasts and 4 evening meals. Comprehensive route notes, maps and luggage transfers between hotels are also provided. An 8-night version of the walk is also available from £1018 per person.