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Vacation in Volcano Land

© by Arnold Weisz

The region Vulkanland, Styria in southeastern Austria is a hidden gem. Not only because of its natural beauty but also as a paradise for connoisseurs of wine and food lovers.

Despite its fiery name, the Styrian Volcano Land (Steirisches Vulkanland) lacks lava-spewing volcanos or blackened, scorched earth. Instead, the region primarily consists of a lush green landscape of rolling hills. The hillcrests are usually covered by forest, and the valleys are dominated by farmland, vineyards and dotted with villages.

Slow down and enjoy

The region was a hotspot for volcanoes – 17 million years ago. Since then, nature has done its course and created an incredible green landscape. Moreover, this is a charming vacation region with ample opportunities for hiking, biking or more mellow activities. We have travelled extensively throughout the region for a couple of years. We have experienced everything from museums, wander routes, biking trails, lush nature, fantastic views and, of course, the culinary delights that the region is known for. Visiting the Styrian Volcano Land is about taking it slowly and enjoying life.

Green Heart of Austria

The mild climate, often influenced by the Mediterranean rather than the Atlantic, makes this perfect for growing many different fruits and vegetables. Styria is known as the «Green Heart of Austria», and this part lives up to the promise. Locally produce such as apples, cherries, and strawberries are readily available in local stores and supermarkets as soon as they are in season. Also, don’t forget to pick up a bottle or three of Kurbiskernöl (Pumpkin seed oil). The green cooking oil can be used on everything from ice cream to soups and salads. Local eateries are keen promoters of local produce and often serve dishes based on short-travelled food.

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Hike and bike

Although the region offers a wide variety of activities, tourism in Volcano Land is still low-key compared to, for example, Tyrol or Salzburg. However, despite the lack of alpine mountain peaks and cable cars, the region offers many leisure activities, especially for wandering and bicycling enthusiasts. The region is awash with wandering and bicycling routes, leading you through vineyards, farmlands and woodlands. In addition, many well-signed routes have unique viewpoints, such as hilltop villages, chapels or viewing towers, which offer spectacular views of the region.

Wine and dine

Over the last couple of decades, Southeastern Styria has gained a reputation for producing quality wines. Moreover, the region’s vineyards have spurred culinary tourism combined with local produce, and you are never far from great eateries that serve local food and wine.

Gently and spectacular

At first sight, nature is not anywhere as spectacular as the high Alps. However, don’t be fooled, as the landscape is not dull. The Volcano Land will still leave you climbing up and rolling down steep winding roads. Another great feature of the region is the short distances. You could easily stay in one place and explore the region by foot, bike or car without wasting too much on transport.

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We can’t list absolutely all places you should see. Nonetheless, here are our favourites and we leave it up to you to find yours.

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Straden

A tiny hilltop village easily visible from afar due to its 3 church towers. It has a lovely little plaza where you can enjoy a nice lunch or delicious Austrian pastry. Moreover, the views of the surrounding vineyards is magnificent.

St. Anna am Aigen

A one-street hilltop village strung out along a narrow hillcrest, in the middle of vineyards. The Vinothek is a must-visit to sample wines from all over Styria. It’s also a great base for hiking and biking in the lovely landscape, which is a mix of vineyards, agricultural fields and forest.

St. Peter am Ottersbach

Climb the 25 metres high wooden viewing tower and enjoy fantastic views of large parts of the Styrian Volcano Land, and as far as Slovenia. The tiny village has a couple of good eateries, offering short travelled food.

St. Stefan im Rosental

The village is primarily known for its fantastic rose garden (park). It also has a small but fun waterpark with nearby mobile home parking. Furthermore, the valley and hills offer great hiking.

Riegersburg

First of all a famous cliff-top castle, that also comes with an idyllic hamlet below. Riegersburg also hosts a great museum, and the views are simply spectacular. Try to visit during one of its medieval events.

Read our article about the Riegersburg Castle

Klöchberg

The hillside vineyards, just a few kilometres west of the Slovenian border, produce high-quality wines such as the Traiminer. Stay on the hill in small guesthouses with splendid views, wander among the vineyards or simply have a romantic picnic.

The river Mur

The Mur forms part of the border between Austria and Slovenia. Along its banks, you find almost jungle-like hiking trails. On a hot summer day, hike or bike along the river, and enjoy a delicious fish platter at a riverside restaurant.

Finally, it’s not a place but a railway trip which we highly recommend.

The Jungle Express

A local train which winds its way slowly the 22 kilometres between Feldbach and Bad Gleichenberg. The trip will give you great glimpses of the landscape in the Styrian Volcano Land. You can jump on and off the train and use some of the many hiking trails adjacent to the track.

Check out these links:

Styria / Steiermark Tourism

Airport / Railway connections

Styria’s capitol Graz is the nearest city, and has an international airport only about 40 minutes to one hour twenty away. Moreover, Graz is also on the railway line between Slovenia and Croatia.

To / from Vienna

Vienna is only about two hours away by car or railway.

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Written by Ana Lucia Marcos

Ana Lucia has traveled the world, but fell completely in love with Austria. She loves the dramatic mountain landscape, the phototastiske lakes and the captivating castles. Moreover, a real Wienerschnitzel is always on the menu when she explores the alpine country.