Cyclists in Austria’s southernmost region, Carinthia, can enjoy breathtaking nature, a mild climate and stunning riding at a range of altitudes. And here, the cycling season begins a little earlier than everywhere else. At the end of March, mountain bikers, racing bikers, e-bikers and leisure bikers are already out and about on numerous trails, cycle paths and routes.
Carinthia is a region for cycling fans who appreciate a variety of cycling opportunities, the countryside, the food and the weather. You can cycle on endless road routes alongside the beautiful lakes or on Austria’s highest mountain pass road, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Or head off-road to explore 3,000km of MTB trails in Carinthia.
Where is Carinthia?
Carinthia is known as the sunny side of Austria. Located in the south of the country in the Eastern Alps, it is spread across Austria's borders with Italy and Slovenia. Home of the famous Hohe Tauern National Park, it's a region characterised by picturesque mountain landscapes - ranging from mighty 3,000m peaks to the gentle Nock Mountains - and for more than 200 lakes, where the water temperature climbs above 25C as early as May and stays warm through to September. This makes Carinthia ideal for activities such as biking, hiking and an extensive array of water sports.
The beautiful blue and turquoise lakes and rivers offer a huge range of aquatic activities to visitors, from rafting and windsurfing to SUP and relaxed boat trips. The lakes also provide some of the best walks in Carinthia, with circular routes, long tours and panoramic viewpoints, perfect for appreciating the serenity of the lakeside surroundings. The famous Alpe-Adria Trail is especially worth exploring.
It's also proud of its cuisine - particularly its 'slow food' scene - and the mild sunny climate gives it a distinct Mediterranean vibe. It’s now easier than ever to get to Carinthia – new Ryanair flights take you to Klagenfurt in the south-east of the region from London-Stansted in less than two hours.
Biking and cycling in Carinthia
Mountain bikers will love the bike routes in Carinthia, here on the sunny southern side of the Alps. Carinthia has made huge strides in its MTB infrastructure in recent years, with a particular focus on flow trails. Around 40 trails and a route network covering around 3,000 km make biking on the south side of the Alps particularly fun. Numerous bike parks with training circuits and trails for all abilities are available, along with family-friendly tours between the many Carinthian lakes.
Flow trail highlights include Europe’s longest flow country trail (15 km) in the Bike Area Bad Kleinkirchheim while the newly designed 6km Kornock Flowtrail at Turracher Höhe on the high plateau between Carinthia and Styria is packed with waves, curve carousel, paths and bridges.
To help you really go with the flow, the mountain bike hotspots - including Bad Kleinkirchheim, Nassfeld, Petzen, Turracherhöhe and Weissensee - have joined forces to form the Flow Trails Carinthia with their own Bike Card Carinthia. This ticket - with its access to five essential cable car routes - is available as a multi-day or season ticket.
Carinthia offers attractive terrain for road biking, with the road bike season usually lasting until November. Many of the most beautiful cycle trails in Carinthia are along routes with little traffic through wonderful, natural landscapes, from the high peaks of the Hohe Tauern National Park to the gentle hills of the Nockberge, as well as into the wide valleys with their warm lakes.
With the 6-day Tour de Kärnten or the Fuga300 - a unique cycle experience riding 300km in one day from the Grossglockner through the Alps-Adriatic region to Grado - Carinthia can offer events to suit all ambitious enthusiasts.
Finally, Carinthia is a paradise for all leisure cyclists. Its 1,300km network of signposted cycle paths takes you alongside rivers, around lakes and through the towns. For those who like to take things easier with an e-bike, even challenging bike tours can be managed with ease. The Drau cycle path, the Alpe-Adria cycle path and the big Carinthian lakes circuit are just a few of the exceptional and internationally renowned options for trekking cyclists. A tailor-made bike rental system 'Kärnten rent e-bike' offers around 50 rental stations with all types of bikes in all 9 tourism regions of Carinthia.
The best bike and cycle routes in Carinthia
From mountain bike hotspots to the most beautiful cycle paths, here are six of the best cycling routes in Carinthia, that really showcase what cycling in Carinthia is all about:
Duration: 8 days
An unforgettable scenic tour, which has been given the European Cycle Path Award. Starting in Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg, in one week you pass through the Hohe Tauern National Park to the sunny south and through Carinthia across the border to Italy. The route within Carinthia is especially attractive, because from the Tauern motorail in Mallnitz it is mostly downhill to the sea in Italy.
The diversity of the countryside is also special: mighty mountains and sunny valleys with warm lakes – the further south you get, the gentler and softer the countryside gets. You can get back to the starting point with a comfortable train ride, twice a day from Udine.
Drau Cycle Path
Duration: 7 days
One of the best-known bike paths in Austria, the award-winning Drauradweg is an experience for all the family and crosses Carinthia in seven stages that follow the course of the Drau River from Toblach/Dobbiaco in South Tirol to the end in Varaždin in Croatia, the main part of the route being in Carinthia.
The path is well signposted in both directions and leads mostly over flat terrain, so that cyclists can fully enjoy the beautiful landscape. As the route is permanently accompanied by the railway, some sections – if desired – can be carried out in comfort by train. The Drauradweg also has plenty of culinary highlights to offer, with 55 Drau cycle path inns dotted along the way.
One of the more unusual MTB trails in Carinthia, this is an underground tour and is especially recommended for families! Near the cross-border Slovenian town of Mežica, bikers don mining lamp and helmet to cycle into a disused lead and zinc mine.
It is not a great challenge athletically – the 7 km long trail leads through the mine with hardly any difference in altitude, which makes it very suitable for families – but the bike guides explain lots of interesting and exciting facts about the history of mining. And even though the mine has been inactive for more than 15 years, you will still be able to see old machines and relics from the industrial past.
Carinthian Lake Loop
Duration: 4-7 days
The Carinthia Lake Loop is probably the ultimate leisure bike tour in Carinthia. As a horizontal figure eight, the multi-day tour meanders beside 20 Carinthian lakes with stupendous views and sights. In 2023, the tour was extended with a route in Central Carinthia with trip destinations surrounding vineyards and castles.
Some 50 per cent of this route is by the water, either besides many well-known lakes - including Lake Millstätter, Brennsee, Ossiacher See, Wörthersee, Klopeiner See and Faaker See - or along the embankments of the Gail or Drau rivers with plenty of opportunities to take a dip.
The Carinthian Lake Loop is divided into eight stages. Those who would like to get to know the diversity of Carinthia should take at least four days, better still a week, to explore and take in all the experiences along the way, especially the chance to swim in the beautiful lakes. The western or eastern circuits of this horizontal figure eight are suitable for shorter discovery tours. The tour is also ideal for e-bikes.
Flow Country Trail Petzen
In MTB circles, the name Diddie Schneider is revered as one of the best mountain bike route designers in the world and one of his masterworks can be found in Southern Carinthia, on the Petzen mountain. The 11.5 km-long Flow Country Trail is one of the longest trails of its kind in Europe - a thrilling roller-coaster 0f a route. With its numerous turns and subtle jumps it is suitable for professionals and beginners alike.
A cable car takes you up to the start of the trail on the mountain. Downhill, the tour leads around curves, over rolls and jumps – and if you can take time out from watching where you're going, there are rest and stopping places along the way where you will be rewarded with wonderful panoramic mountain and lake views.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road
Distance: 171km (full tour); 48km (high road alone)
Duration: up to 17hrs
Not, as its name suggests, an urban high street, the Grossglockner is one of the most beautiful alpine roads in Europe, where 48 km and 36 hairpin bends are waiting to be conquered. The demanding climb combines sporting challenges with impressive views of the surrounding mountains and, of course, the Großglockner, Austria's highest mountain at 3,798 m.
The full tour leads from Döllach in the Möll Valley, rising gently up to Heiligenblut, which is a famous mountaineering village. From there you move on to the core zone of the Hohe Tauern National Park, past the well-known Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe heights and on to the Hochtor at 2,576m.
Road cyclists are spoilt for choice when it comes to cycling Carinthia. As well as the Grossglockner, there's the Nockalm Road - a classic among the Carinthian mountain roads which passes over fantastic alpine meadows to the heart of the Biosphere Park - and the Villach Alpine Road which takes you from Lake Wörthersee through the Dobratsch Nature Park to the highest officially passable end point, the Rosstratte. Or try the 3 Country Tour, a circuit which takes riders through Italy and Slovenia, as well as Carinthia.
For more information about biking and cycling in Carinthia, go to visitcarinthia.at/cycling