Carinthia has it all: lush mountains, crystal-blue lakes, Austrian cuisine and the hotel beds that will turn you into a different person.

I never have an easy time deciding between a holiday by the lake or in the mountains because both make me happier than just chilling at the beach – and both have their unique perks. Thing is, sometimes good things are so close, a little too close maybe. That may explain why it took me 23 years to visit the country that borders Germany: Austria. It’s too close, its scenery is too similar to where I grew up right? Um, no.

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In late May, I had the pleasure of spending a few days at Lake Millstättersee, Lake Wörthersee and the city of Klagenfurt to get an idea of what I’ve missed all these years (a lot). Lake Millstättersee has been my favourite. It’s relatively small but the density of nature around gives you the privacy to cycle for 30 kilometers without bumping across too many celebrities. I’ve heard that’s a serious problem in other parts of Europe… Think Lake Garda.

Now here are some of the activities that are ideal for loved-up couples, best friends or mothers and daughters looking to recharge without being lazy.

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Ain’t no mountain high enough: The Alpe-Adria-Trail

I mentioned the mountains, right? Well, the Alps in Carinthia aren’t too steep or challenging, so even beginners will have fun spending a few day there.

If you’re up for something super cheesy to set the tone for your romantic getaway, you might want to give the Lovers’ Path (“Sentiero dell Amore”) a go. It’s a 6.5 kilometer route for, er, lovers, who are meant to get inspired to think about their love, write some of their thoughts in little books – and the agency who started this is on their way of creating a book of findings from months and years of lovebirds’ notes. That route is part of the bigger Alpe-Adria-Trail, a magnificent hike through what locals call – fittingly – Garden of Eden. It will lead you through Slovenian, Austria and Italy in 43 stages. You don’t have to do all of them, just pick one or a handful and ask the booking centre to help organise the luggage transfer. I’m determined to hike them all one day. Although I’m a sucker for Norwegian mountains, the parts that I’ve seen here looked pretty fab even for my understanding.

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Because the days start early in the mountains, you might want to have a little lunch break at Lammersdorfer Hütte that comes with a breathtaking view over the Nock Mountains. This hut in particular also runs its own cheese factory in the summer months. I opted for the hearty “Kärntner Brettl-Jause”, which came with rye bread, sausages, cheese and lard, it’s very difficult to get an idea for how awesome this is without trying it, so you might have to try it out yourself. At the end, don’t forget to order a little fruit schnaps before you carry on sweating. Most of the huts here are traditional, family-run businesses who have seen all kinds of highs and lows during past decades (that’s living in nature for ya, hey) which you can literally taste and see everywhere. The same applies to hotels by the way. There’s a very special energy and vibe to these businesses, they just seem to go that extra mile – and I came across plenty of extra miles in Carinthia.

Rowing during sunrise

Mornings are the best time to see the area from a different perspective: a rowing boat. Sunrise at Lake Millstättersee is foggy and magical, particularly when a passionate local like Gottlieb Strobl (who rents out the boats) tells you some of the area’s best kept secrets – and where to find the most romantic spots. No, I won’t tell you this time, but trust me, it’s well worth getting up at 6am. Speaking of getting a little active, I easily cycled round the whole lake in three hours (with an e-bike though, ehem), and the fresh breeze coupled with lush trees and little forests will definitely rejuvenate your bones!

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Getting pampered at Hotel Kollers

It absolutely makes sense to stay at a hotel that’s got a great sauna area if you’re out and about and getting your hands dirty in the daytime. I stayed at Hotel Kollers, which was the ultimate jackpot and something I didn’t realise until I woke up the first morning (it was dark when I arrived), pulled the curtains and found myself staring right onto the lake… Paradise. The spa area is to die for, the outside pool (it’s inside the lake) will give you just the right amount of goosebumps after 20 minutes in an 80°C Finnish sauna. And then there’s this special little island which hosts very romantic dinners. You’ll get there by boat, a chef brings you all courses by boat too and then leaves you to dine in the middle of the lake. For reals. Isn’t that serious honeymoon inspo?

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Klagenfurt & Lake Wörthersee 

Lake Wörthersee may well be Carinthia’s most popular lake, it definitely is its biggest and most crowded. And, for more superlatives, it’s the warmest Alpine lake and also has Europe’s largest beach and lido delighting 12,000 people on a good day.

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Klagenfurt, the capital of the federal state of Carinthia, almost has a Mediterranean feel to it. It’s a city rich of history (and destruction) and hidden secrets, like the old Town Hall on the picture above. We saw it from the outside, the door was open and then couldn’t resist sneaking a little peek. Most of the flats here are rented out and oh how lucky these few are!

The famous writer Ingeborg Bachmann is originally from Klagenfurt, some of her most inspiring quotes are printed on posters all over the city. These umbrellas can also be found all over. Just a week before I visited, a heavy snowstorm took the whole area and the umbrellas had to be replaced completely. Sucks when nature decides it wants yet another dose of winter in May…

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Dining by the lake

And for a last little culinary stop, the restaurant Villa Lido is located right next to the lake. The Italien food and wine is almost as good as the view, what more could you possibly want?

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I hope this inspires you to visit Corinthia. It’s a trip you won’t forget – promise! 

Thank you so much Ute & Alexandra from Visit Carinthia
for making my visit so colourful and enjoyable!

All photos by Caroline Schmitt