It doesn’t matter if I am hiking, cycling or swimming in the crystal-clear waters or lying on a lounger drinking beer and eating ice cream, Lake Wörthersee always makes me feel healthier.
It’s the freshness of the alpine lake, the scent of pine trees carried in the warm summer breeze and the towering mountains all around.
Located in the southern Austrian state of Carinthia, this is one of the region’s largest lakes at around 20km long and 1-2kim wide. Most holidaymakers stay in or around the pretty town of Velden on the western end. The regional capital of Klagenfurt is on the eastern end.
Wörthersee opened up to tourism when the Southern Austrian Railway was built in the last half of the 19th century, attracting Vienna’s nobility here for their summer retreat. Its popularity soared in the 50s and 60s when a holiday in Carinthia’s mountains became the choice for many Germans and Austrians.
Today the lake has to compete with cheap package holidays around the world but remains popular with a fairly sophisticated crowd seeking a peaceful, friendly retreat. LGBTI travelers are generally warmly welcomed – particularly during the Pink Lake festival (see below).
What’s there to do?
For the lazy: Sunbathe at the beach bars (many hotels have their own), enjoy a cocktail, saunter around the shops in Velden, stop for coffee and cake at the amazing bakeries, eat ice cream and take a boat cruise around the lake.
For the active: Hike, cycle, swim (the water is 25C, 77F in summer), camp, golf or visit the local water park.
For explorers: Discover castles, the soaring Pyramidenkogel Lookout Tower, dramatic gorges, beautiful churches or the mountain railway. There’s even a Bee Museum.
For relaxation: Many hotels offer great spas, where you can enjoy a massage, steam and sauna before cooling off in the lake. In the evening, there are informal beach-style restaurants offering regional Austrian cuisine, great fish and seafood, pizza and more ice cream.
Pink Lake is the LGBTI highlight attracting a friendly, mostly German-speaking crowd of hundreds of gay and bi men and some women. Velden really embraces the event so it does feel like the lake has turned pink.
During the day people relax at the beach bar, at night there are big parties, with highlight being a night-time boat party, joining two boats as they cruise around Wörthersee. In 2016 it runs from 25 to 28 August.
There are other events throughout the year, including a Christmas market and bodypainting festival. But the biggest and most famous is the Ironman Austria Triathlon (26 June 2016) attracting 3,000 athletes from all around the world for a punishing 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42.2km run.
Gay Star Travel booked flights with Cheapflights.co.uk to the regional airport, Flughafen Klagenfurt. From there it’s an affordable taxi transfer to hotels anywhere around the lake.
It’s driving distance from Munich, Vienna, Zagreb, or Venice and served by the Austrian Train Service.
Photos: © Austrian National Tourist Office, Kärnten Werbung, Steinthaler, Österreich Werbung, Popp & Hackner, Österreich Werbung, H.Wiesenhofer