Austrian lake trip: Wörthersee & Carinthia
Austria is one of my favorite travel destinations in Europe when it comes to enjoy pure nature: beautiful mountains, evergreen meadows, pine forests, a lot of waterfalls, creeks and rivers. However, what impressed me the most is the beauty of the Austrian lakeside.
Imagine: long chains of rocks and mountains covered with alpin forests and snow at their peaks and charming mountain lakes at their bottom with incredible pure water that you can see the bottom of the lakes from anywhere. Isn’t it a true beauty of nature?! This is why this April, after another great weekend in Vienna, we decided to leave the noisy city life and to get closer to the pure nature of the Austrian lakeside.
Route – Part I: Vienna – Velden – Maria Wörth – Klagenfurt – Velden.
The way from Vienna to Velden, a small town at the west side of the Wörthersee in Carinthia, was easy and fast so in three and a half hours we reached our hotel. As we arrived after the sunset, we didn’t fully realize the beauty of the location and were competely surprized coming out of the appartment next morning. The hotel (called Barry Memle) was located exactly on the lake, the door of our appartment was leading literally to the little boat landing stage. And here is the lake surrounded by mountains peaks coveredwith snow … exactly what we expected!
After 2 days spent around the Wörthersee, we have found few reasons for you to come here once.
#1. Beautiful views on the Wörthersee from Velden
It is indeed charming: pure waters of the lake surrounded by mountains with few tiny towns at their bottoms. The town of Velden is one of the best spots to enjoy the lake as it is located on the north-western end so you have the sun shining directly to the Velden’s coast almost the whole day long. Even at Easter it was warm enough to get some sunbaths, and we can imagine how relaxing it could in hot summer days when you can enjoy swimming in the warmed waters of the lake.
#2. Bird-eye views from Pyramidenkogel
After enjoying the lake directly from the coast, we moved up to the clouds (and beyond) to the tallest observation spot at the Wörthersee – Pyramidenkogel (the pyramid hill) on the southern side of the lake. At the top of the hill (850 m above the see), there is a wooden 54m-high observation tower which offers the best panoramic view on the Wörthersee and the county nearby (entrance: 11 euro). It’s breathtaking. And it’s very windy, at least it was in the middle of April, so get prepared properly – warm jackets and scarves will definitely save you from catching cold. From the observation point you can see the lake in its full length from Velden in the West to Klagenfurt in the East.
Right downside, there is the village of Maria Wörth which is also worth visiting. The village is famous for its two churches located on the tiny peninsula and with its 1100 years history (first settlement was mentioned back in 875). After few minutes spent at the lake side in Maria Wörth we headed further on to Hochosterwitz.
#3. Hochosterwitz castle
Forty minutes drive from Maria Wörth and you will reach one of the biggest attractions in Carinthia: the Hochosterwitz castle. Imagine driving through the green valleys between single standing forest covered hills and mountains, and all of a sudden you see a tall alone standing mountain and a castle on its top. You start seeing the castle from already few kilometers away and this is the best spot to make a stop, exit the car and enjoy the view of the castle from afar.
Important learning from Hochosterwitz: come before 4pm. Althouth the castle closes its gates at 5.30pm, the entrance is only possible before 4pm. However, second important learning is: even if the gates are closed and you cannot get in, the way here is still worth your time – probably it was the most amazingly looking castle from afar I have seen before (and yes, I have not visited Mont Saint Michel yet).
Meal of the trip
Go for traditional Austrian cuisine – it is a must! It combines the best of all Austrian neighbour nations: sausages and potato salad from Germany, gulash from Hungary, cheese from Switzerland, spiciness and soups from Balkans. In this trip we trully enjoyed several Wiener Schnitzels (we advice to take the one from chicken), gulash, baked chicken, various soups and many many Apfelstrudels (an multi-layer apple pie) which can served cold, with warm vanilla souce and even ice-cream.
The best restaurant we experienced was Falle located in few kilometers to the West from Velden. If you are nearby, don’t miss it: it is a typical Austrian Landhaus (so-called county inn and restaurant) with a hundred years of history beautifully decorated in a traditional style. Interestingly, we met many local Austrian people there considering this as a very positive fact proving the spot is indeed authentic. Surprizingly, dinner for two with beer or wine won’t cost you more then 30 euro.
Important learning about meals: don’t mess with the meal time as Austrians are close most of restaurants between 2pm (end of lunch time) and 5.30pm (dinner time). People in the town confirmed: “We locals used to eat at home” and advised us to get some local food on the market.
Drink of the trip
Austria is the country of beer and wine: almost every restaurant in Carinthia offers you beer on tap, most of them is lager or pils. Key beer national manufacturers are Gösser, Zipfer and Stiegl. My personal preference is Stiegl beer from Salzuburg: solid lager with a bit stronger taste and sweeter finish comparing to classic lagers (Gösser) and classic pils (Zipfer). You can get Stiegl beer bottled (in every Billa or Spar grocery stores, approx. 0,80 euro per bottle) or in many traditional restaurants with red Stiegl label outside (on tap 2,70-3,50 euro for a pint).
If you are up to the try something very local, go for Villacher pils, the most popular draft beer in the Wörthersee region. And do not forget: at the Wörthersee you should enjoy your beer only outside with a beautiful views on the lake and mountains.