Carinthia, or Kärnten in German, is a region waiting to be discovered. Halfway between Italy and Slovenia, it tries to take the best things from both countries, often succeeding. From its capital Klagenfurt to the beautiful spa town of Villach, from the high, steep gorges to Austria’s highest mountain, the Großglockner, visiting Carinthia you will find everything you are looking for from an active mountain holiday.
Don’t underestimate the beauty of the Nockberge mountains, declared a UNESCO biosphere park, with their placid, rounded, grass-covered appearance, which can be reached on foot or by bike along pleasant trails. To get there, you will follow the 34-kilometre-long Nockalmstraße alpine road through a huge forest of spruce and larch. Speaking of alpine roads, two hours from Klagenfurt is the Großglockner alpine road, Austria’s most famous road.
Carinthia is also a land of museums: don’t miss the MMKK, the region’s museum of modern art, located in Klagenfurt Castle. But also worth a visit are the Liaunig Museum, located in Neuhaus, and the Notsch Museum, where you can admire the main works of the painters of this region. And what about the abbeys, such as those in Millstatt, Ossiach and S. Paul im Lavanttal, or the fortified castles typical of the region, such as those in Hochosterwitz, Landskron and Porcia, the latter being recognised as one of the most important Renaissance buildings north of the Alps.
Carinthia is the southernmost state in Austria. It has an elongated shape, with 180 kilometres in an east-west direction and 70 kilometres in a north-south direction.
The international borders, with Italy in the south-west and Slovenia in the south-east, are marked by mountains, the Carnic and Karawanken Alps respectively. Other mountains separate Carinthia from the Austrian regions, in particular the Hohe Tauern with Salzburg in the north-west, and the Packsattel pass with Styria in the north-east.
The capital of Carinthia is Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, with about 100,000 inhabitants, while the second most important city in the region is Villach, with about 60,000 inhabitants. Despite the existence of numerous microclimates, due to the heights, valleys and reliefs, Carinthia’s sunshine hours are the highest of all Austrian regions.
Mountains, lakes, unspoilt nature, but also dynamic and trendy cities full of art and culture. In Carinthia you can find this and much more: here are the most beautiful things to see in the region, so that you don’t miss a single one and enjoy your holiday to the fullest.
Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, for everyone simply Klagenfurt, is the capital of Carinthia and a must-see for all visitors. It is impossible not to be enchanted from the first glance, thanks to the many sights, starting with the old town, which revolves around the Alter Platz, its main square, and the numerous Italian-inspired Renaissance and Art Nouveau buildings.
Then visit the Landhauspark, where you will find the Der Gesang fountain, the work of Kiki Kogelnik, the world-famous pop-art artist. If you want to explore further, head to the MMKK, Carinthia’s museum of modern art, one of the most important collections of its kind in Austria. Finally, for a relaxing day in the open air, don’t miss Klagenfurt’s Wörthersee, the warmest alpine lake in the world, which is home to Europe’s largest non-marine beach, frequented by more than 10,000 people every summer day.
Villach is the second largest town in Carinthia, but retains the unique charm of an Alpine village. It lies on the River Drau, which flows through its centre, and is a lively spa town crossed by a major cycle path, the Drau Cycle Path, making it an ideal destination for an outdoor holiday.
Visit the beautiful Landskron Castle in the surrounding area, and the Warmbad Villach area with the Karnten Therme and the Thermal Urquellenbad swimming pool. Finally, if you can, come to Villach during the carnival, a veritable explosion of colours, or during the Villacher Kirchtag, the largest folklore event in Austria.
The Nockberge mountains occupy a significant part of Carinthia and are part of a national park declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Visit them by making a base in one of the local villages such as Ebene Reichenau, Gnesau, Deutsch Griffen or Himmelberg: these are gentle, grassy peaks, light years away from the typical alpine vete, which can be explored comfortably via an extensive network of trails that reach as far as the Falkert and Hochrindl peaks.
To get there, you have to take one of the most beautiful roads in Austria: the Nockalmstrasse, or Nockalm Road, a 34-kilometre-long alpine road with 52 hairpin bends. It can only be travelled from the beginning of May to the end of October, and between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., motorbikes are prohibited. There is a charge for access, but it is free for Kärnten Card holders.
One of the most representative medieval castles in Austria, Hochosterwitz Castle is certainly one of the most interesting things to see in Carinthia. It is located on a rocky outcrop near the town of Sankt Georgen am Längsee, and was built in the year 860 by the Osterwitz family.
After the last major renovation in the 16th century, Hochosterwitz Castle has kept more or less the same appearance. Some areas are open to tourists during the summer season from Easter to the end of October: in particular, it is possible to walk the 620-metre walkway through the 14 gates, and to visit some rooms housing collections of prehistoric objects, paintings, weapons and armour.
Carinthia’s gorges are all-round natural experiences, to be explored on foot on paths alongside rivers, through roots and across wooden bridges, for a day of adventure. One of the most representative gorges in the region is the Raggaschlucht, created by the Raggabach stream over thousands of years.
This narrow gorge is surrounded by high vertical rock walls and the sound of the water is constant. You can reach the end of it by walking over ladders and small bridges, while on the way back the path leads through the forest. The Raggaschlucht gorge is open from May to September and is closed on days when it rains heavily; hiking boots are required to walk through it.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article