Thanks to its unique location, the popular tourist area of Villach – with its lakes, Faak and Ossiach – in the region of Carinzia, just over Treviso’s Italian border, is the perfect place to enjoy the colours of the autumn in a mild and pleasant climate. A few days off “out of season” in this part of Austria can be really beneficial: alpine excursions, relaxing around the lakes, or remise en forme in thermal spas, Villach has the perfect holiday for everyone. The southernmost Austrian region charms with its gentle outlines and breathtaking views; almost as sunny as a Mediterranean country, both for its climate and the warmth of its people, it is very focussed on environment protection.
Visitors return from Carizia fascinated by the beauty and the smart accessibility of its locations. What makes this region magic? Compared to the rest of the country, Carinthia enjoys a lot of sunny weather. Its lakes are the warmest in the Alps and during the summer you can swim, just like in the Mediterranean. There are in all 1270 lakes and ponds of various sizes, and in most cases their water is classified as “drinkable”. A sporting paradise: cycling routes, rock climbing gyms, golf courses and of course water sports and trekking paths. In winter, skiers can choose among twenty different ski resorts.
There is no shortage of cultural activities, festivals, events and initiatives of all sorts. Also in this case, its geographical position is an advantage, as it is surrounded and influenced by different cultures (Austro-German, Italian and Slovene). Museums, castles and fortresses are all symbols and reminders of the eventful past of this region. The different cultural influences are also evident in the region’s varied traditional cuisine, which will certainly satisfy the taste of the most adventurous palates.
In Carinthia, environment integrity is the result of careful ecological planning and the realisation that successful tourism and environment protection follow the same path. 2 National Parks, 35 protected areas for a total surface of over 13,000 hectares; 2 bird sanctuaries and 75 protected areas extending over 35,000 hectares; 250 protected natural attractions. There are more than 70 camping grounds, ranging from the most equipped to the most basic, so campers are sure to find their ideal spot.
In the heart of Carinthia
The Villach-Warmbad area, with lakes Faak and Ossiach, is easily accessible and well served as it is near the Italian border and has many camping grounds, most of which around the lakes. The area is a concentration of the region’s unique features: mountains, lakes, nice people, mild climate, a Renaissance city and endless possibilities to practice all kinds of sports. If excursions, trekking and cycling tourism are your thing, there are many trails ad routes to choose from. Mountain lovers can climb Mount Gerlitzen, on the north bank of Lake Ossiach, while the less fit can reach the summit comfortably seated in the Kanzelbahn cableway till halfway up, and then change and take the four-seat chair lift till 1,911 m. For those who fancy the walk, a well-marked trail leads back down to the lake. The same trail can be followed also on mountain bikes.
Another interesting mountain is Mount Verditz, the North-eastern pillar of the area. Cableways to the top operate also during the warm season. To return back down to the valley, the toboggan run is an exciting alternative to walking. The Villach Alp, can be reached by motor vehicles up to 1,732 m. From there a number of different trails offer breathtaking views, which on particularly clear days include Großglockner, Austria’s highest mountain. Last but not least, Dreiländereck, on the border with Italy and Slovenia, can be reached with a modern chair lift.
Lakes Ossiach and Faak
Ossiach is the longest lake in the area and is ideal for all kinds of water sports. The Baroque church of the Ossiach monastery is an unmissable stop for art loves; internationally renowned for its religious music performances and for hosting the Music Academy of Carinthia.
Faak is the southernmost swimming lake in the region. The Finkenstein castle, built on a rock overlooking the lake, hosts musical festivals and cabaret performances. Both lakes are surrounded by running and walking trails. On Lake Faak there are 5 Nordic walking trails, between 4.5 and 10 km long.
Cycling is the most popular activity thanks to the extensive network of cycling routes: 32 km around Lake Ossiach, which connect to the Drau, the river that from South Tirol runs across Carinthia. You can go from Villach to Spittal by train, and then cycle back along the Drau. Lake Faak offers a choice of different itineraries.
A trip to the city centre
Set between the three bordering countries, Villach is a charming city influenced by different cultures. The bridge on river Drau is one of its symbol locations, offering views of the so-called “Berme” from both banks, very popular with cyclists and keen walkers. The historic city centre starts just after crossing the Drau, a pedestrian area with a lively main square at the centre and residential buildings all around it, many of which have been tastefully and elegantly restored. The original Medieval structures are still visible and individual buildings, constructed one next to the other over the centuries, create a fascinating network of narrow streets, some surmounted by buildings, others sustained by pointed arches. In the main square, the 16th century Hotel Post boasts a beautiful Renaissance façade.
In Warmbad Villach, every day 40 million litres of water – at a temperature of almost 30 degrees – pour from deep down under the ground into the Erlebnistherme and therapeutic baths of Warmbad-Villach. Here they offer a combination of health benefits and fun, fitness and relaxation, also thanks to the swimming pool and its gigantic 21-metre long slide, a joy for both adults and children. Also Bad Bleiberg – a mining area up until the 1950s when thermal water was discovered – has a very well equipped centre and therapeutic facilities.
The tourist area includes 10 municipalities, all worth visiting. Arriach, Carinthia’s geographic centre, is interesting for its beautiful century-old farms connected by the Hofwanderweg path. Saint Magdalene is a real natural gem and Egg, on Lake Faak, with its charming landscape, hosts a unique religious shrine, probably the most photographed in the world.