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Southern Carinthia – Wild, Wet & Wonderful

© by Arnold Weisz

The valleys between the Drau River and the Karawankene mountain range in Southern Carinthia offer secluded valleys, fantastic hikes, unique cultural heritage and stunning waterways.

Although the region we refer to, Southern Carinthia, is only about 45 x 15 kilometres in size, you can find a multitude of activities and sights. Compared to many other and more well-known regions of Austria, Southern Carinthia is mostly visited by Austrians, Slovenes and Italians, i.e. “locals”. Tourism is kept at a manageable level and on a smaller scale to protect nature. Sometimes we felt that we were really off the beaten track. Notwithstanding, we were never more than 25 miles from the state capital Klagenfurt.

Wild, wet and wonderful

Our adventure tour around Southern Carinthia gave us some of the best the region has to offer. Here the headline – wild, wet and wonderful – are the keywords to describe the fantastic nature. Wild mountain scenery, beautiful valleys and wonderful adventures by rivers, waterfalls and lakes. We have been on some phenomenal hikes in gorges around Austria but were nevertheless very impressed with what we experienced hiking through the Tscheppanschlucht.

Hiking in the Tscheppanschlucht Canyon

Tscheppaschlucht-gorge near the village Ferlach is a wonderful natural jewel. The trail and walkways are relatively easy to hike. However, some parts are quite steep and narrow, requiring you to be steady on your feet. It all starts easy but becomes more strenuous as you move the 334 altitude meters up to the highest point at 983 meters above sea level. Often you hike up and down the terrain. Nevertheless, we hardly gave it a thought and admired the nature around us instead. You can choose from 3 different routes and destinations with estimated hiking times ranging from 2 to 4 hours. We chose the 3-hour hike that ended the hike in the small idyllic hamlet of Windisch Bleiberg. After eating a delicious lunch at the Kirchenwirt Inn, we returned to the car park with the bus which is included in the entrance fee to the gorge. This is one of the best gorge hikes we have done in Austria, and the whole trip including the lunch stop took about 5 hours.

For more info: Tscheppanschlucht (German only)

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A nature walk in Bodental

Bodental valley is surrounded by the mighty steep Karawanken mountains on three sides. Bring the kids and go for easy walks on dirt roads and forest trails. Complete the day out in nature, by taking a long lunch break at a farm restaurant that serves hearty traditional Austrian home cooking. Those who want a little more advanced summit trips will also find several wonderful hikes in the mountains on the border with Slovenia. We parked at Meerauge (“eye of the ocean”), which is a small pond. You can walk all around the little water on a wooden walkway. The mysterious little pond has crystal clear water and you will find fish here as well. Nonetheless, after enjoying the wonderful colours of the remains of an old glacier, we continued on foot into Bodental on the forest road (driving only allowed with special permission) to Märchenwiese (“Fairytale Meadow”). The open pasture meadow at the very end of the valley at 1157 meters above sea level, is a great place for a family picnic. You can either bring a blanket to sit on in the meadow or use the benches and tables on site.

Beach holiday at Klopeiner See

Those who first and foremost want some relaxation should spend a few days at Klopeiner See. The small lake with crystal-clear water is perfect for a few days by the water. Furthermore, if you want to exercise a bit apart from the swim, you can rent both pedal boats and bicycles. Also, there is a kind of boardwalk around the entire lake. There is almost a bit of a Mediterranean atmosphere here in the middle of summer when the jetties and lawns are packed with people, and you have to queue to buy ice cream. Souvenir shops, restaurants of all kinds and beach bars are teeming with life. Or, do like us and treat yourself to some quiet days in September. We still had a lovely 25 °C (77 °F) in the sun and 22 °C (71 °F) in the water. Klopeiner See is a good starting point, where you can easily reach most of the sights of Southern Carinthia.

For more info: Klopeiner See Tourism

Stunning Wildsteiner waterfall

There is no shortage of beautiful waterfalls in mountainous and water-rich Austria. However, this waterfall that falls freely 54 meters is a stunning little gem. Although it is a bit secluded, it has great facilities with parking, toilets and a walkway right up to the waterfall. Next to the parking lot (See Google Maps) you will also find a cosy cafe with a large outdoor seating area. It takes 15-20 minutes to walk up to the waterfall. If you wear proper hiking shoes, you can take a walk up to and below the waterfall. It is incredible how the water shoots out over the edge of the cliff wall, and down into the gully before the water disappears down the creek.

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Mountain hike to Hochobir

Hochobir with 2139 meters above sea level is one of the highest peaks in Southern Carinthia. From the summit, you get a phenomenal 360-degree view. Hiking the 586 altitude meters up from Eisenkappler Hütte (1553 metres above sea level) on relatively steep paths, zig-zagging up through the forest is tough. At about 1750 m altitude, and after about 1 km you reach the last scrub forest. From here the terrain opens up and you hike along a ridge for a while. Moreover, you have a fabulous view almost in every direction, but especially south towards the Karawanken. Nonetheless, the trail continues steadily uphill on wide and well-marked trails until you reach the ruins of the Rainer Schutzhause. The mountain cabin from the 1880s burned down after skirmishes in the area in 1944. From there it goes steeply up narrow paths up to the summit cross on Hochobir, where we arrived after about 2 hours, including some photo stops. To know more about this hike, please read our article about our hike to the summit.

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Written by Arnold Weisz

Globetrotting multilingual communications specialist born in Vienna, Austria – with passion for scuba diving, golf and culinary delights! 15 years of experience as a scuba- and travel reporter for among others: X-Ray Dive Magazine and Dykking.