This is what walking holidays are made for, embracing some of the best hiking trails in Carinthia and beyond. Winding from the foot of Austria's highest peak, the Grossglockner in Carinthia, through the most beautiful mountain and lake regions in Carinthia, passing close to the point where Austria, Italy and Slovenia intersect at the Dreiländereck, and finishing on the Adriatic coast, the Alpe-Adria Trail is a real journey of discovery - both of the landscapes of this part of Europe and the Eastern Alps, and its history. Signposted from start to finish, its 43 stages of around 20km each enable pleasure hikers to do as much of it as they want for a tailor-made hiking holiday.
The Alpe-Adria hiking trail is undoubtedly one of the best hiking routes in Carinthia, which is blessed with many superb hiking and biking trails and more than 200 bathing lakes. You can hike through gorges or along high-altitude trails, such as the Nockberge, and ride the best cycle routes in Carinthia alongside beautiful lakes or on Austria’s highest mountain pass road, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Or head off-road to explore 3,000km of mountain bike trails in Carinthia.
Carinthia is also well known for its mild and sunny climate, slow food scene, local wines and Mediterranean vibe. Plus, it’s easier than ever to get here – new Ryanair flights take you to Klagenfurt from London-Stansted in less than two hours, and the Alpe-Adria Trail Booking Centre can help you organise your own bespoke tour.
Highlights of the Alpe-Adria Trail through Carinthia
The first eight stages of the Alpe-Adria long distance hiking trail lead through the sunny, idyllic Mölltal Valley in Carinthia with its unbeatable views of the alpine world set amidst mighty 3,000-metre peaks - the perfect place for an adventure holiday in Carinthia.
It all begins at the foot of the Pasterze, the largest glacier in Austria, in the heart of Hohe Tauern National Park. The Hohe Tauern National Park offers visitors spectacular views, widely varied flora and fauna, and opportunities to explore some of the best hiking and biking trails in Carinthia. After that, the Alpe-Adria Trail leads on to the picture-postcard town of Heiligenblut with its famous church, and then on to Grosskirchheim. Gmünd, an artist’s village with medieval roots and the birthplace of Porsche cars also lies along the route.
The Millstätter Alpe Mountains are amongst the most beautiful hiking regions in Carinthia due to the rolling hills of the terrain and the beautiful views of Lake Millstätter, which is the second-largest bathing lake in Carinthia. You're also hiking in the heart of the gentle landscape of the Nockberge Biosphere Park with its famous spa town of Bad Kleinkirchheim, through which stages 15 and 16 pass. The village of Arriach is the geographical centre of Carinthia, and is also the starting point of the stage that leads to Gerlitzen Alpe.
After a stop at Lake Ossiacher See, where you can enjoy the peaceful surroundings and panoramic views or try your hand at some water sports, the last stage which lies entirely within Carinthia leads from Velden am Wörthersee to the Baumgartner Höhe, not far from Lake Faaker See. A highlight of this stage is the ruined Finkenstein castle, a theatre and concert arena that impresses visitors with magnificent views and striking sunsets.
The Alpe-Adria Trail through three countries
As remarkable as the sights of Carinthia are, they are just the beginning of The Alpe-Adria Trail. This diverse voyage of exploration crosses through three countries – Austria, Italy and Slovenia – and explores three cultures. With gorgeous natural wonders, it winds along lakes, streams and rivers until it reaches its destination: the Adriatic Sea.
The Slovenian leg more or less follows the Soča River, which becomes the Isonzo once it reaches Italy. Highlights here include the Alpine Ski World Cup site of Kranjska Gora, walking in Triglav National Park - the only national park in Slovenia - the Julian Alps, the highest mountain pass in Slovenia, the Vršič pass, and the popular water sport area of Bovec, which is also the highest skiing region in Slovenia. Numerous natural sights include waterfalls, caves and secluded river valleys. The further southward along the Soča you go, the more beautiful the landscape becomes.
The route leads across the border into Northern Italy in Collio, pushing on westward to the tradition-steeped city of Cividale del Friuli, a UNESCO World Heritage cultural site since June 2011. A trip here means a chance to enjoy Italian culture, with Collio's winegrowers renowned for their excellent produce - a fantastic location for some wine tasting.
The trail crosses the rough and fascinating landscape of the Karst, a plateau that rose up out of the sea 30 million years ago, where the powerful bora wind blows, before reaching the Adriatic sea at the idyllic harbour town of Muggia, a bit to the south of the old Austro-Hungarian port city of Trieste.
Those who don’t wish to attempt the entire length of the trail can opt to hike selected stages all of which have heavenly views and natural wonders. And for walkers who don't fancy the 750km version, but would still like to discover three countries on a hike, there is a short version of the Alpe-Adria Trail - the Three-Country Round Trip - a circular route, featuring seven day-long stages stretching over 130 km through Carinthia, the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and Slovenia. This one starts from the Baumgartner Höhe, not far from Lake Faaker See in Carinthia.
Trekking enthusiasts can book their hiking routes by phoning the Alpe-Adria Trail Booking Centre or online at alpe-adria-trail.com. You can choose from various packages or put your own tour together with the help of a personal consultation. The free Alpe-Adria Trail app makes an ideal online tour planner that you can use from home or, later, as a guide along the trail. Feeling inspired? Grab your hiking boots and get going.
For more information about the Alpe-Adria Trail, go to alpe-adria-trail.com