Hohe Tauern: hooked on nature

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Is there anything healthier than breathing pure air? Yes, breathing pure Alpine air. That’s why, your lungs will love Hohe Tauern National Park.

 

A holiday paradise since 1981

Hohe Tauern National Park is everything you see in your mind's eye when people talk about Austrian landscapes: green pastures, snow-covered peaks and gleaming glaciers flowing hundreds of metres above the ground. It’s Austria’s largest national park, and that, in a country where nature is everywhere, is saying something. Spread over 1,865 square kilometres, it stretches across the provinces of Carinthia, Salzburg and Tyrol. Thirteen visitor centres are sprinkled along the various regions for your convenience.

 

A picture-postcard road

The Hohe Tauern National Park is home to Austria's highest mountain, Grossglockner, standing 3,798 metres above sea level. It's the star of the Park's natural skyline, which has some 300 peaks over 3,000 metres high. Beneath it lies the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, a 48-kilometre stretch with 36 hairpin bends running through a landscape of rocks, vegetation and ice from Salzburg to Carinthia. The panoramic route goes all the way to Kaiser-Franz-Josef Höhe, at an altitude of 2,369 metres, and climbs a total of 1,500 metres. Because of weather conditions, it's only open during daytime from May to October.

 

Nature in its many splendours

Driving along the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a good way of exploring the different landscapes and climatic regions of the Hohe Tauern. The glaciers on the hillsides are draped like a green mantle over the cold rock. The Park has nearly 350 glaciers, covering 130 square kilometres. But there are also lakes (551!), rivers and waterfalls. The most spectacular are the Krimml Falls, among the highest in Europe, with a drop of 380 metres. It is, indeed, the perfect setting for outdoor activities through every season of the year.

 

Plants and wildlife at 3,000 metres

Winters here last eight months a year, but nature has learnt to adapt to the climate, so the Park is full of life all year round. One third of all the plant species in Austria thrive here, alongside up to 10,000 animal species. The Alpine flower Edelweiss is one of the most popular plants, so much so that it has been declared a protected species in a bid to stop its admirers from making posies with it. In terms of the animal world, the Hohe Tauern National Park has its very own ‘big five.’ You can spot bearded vultures, Griffon vultures, golden eagles, ibex and chamoix on this particular Alpine safari.

 

Life's better in the open air

Winter provides a wide range of options for enjoying the Park-you can go skiing, hiking, snowshoe hiking, sledging, etc. But come summer, and you are spoilt for choice. From May to October you can get the National Park Sommercard, a pass that allows you to really make the most of your visit to Hohe Tauern, including one free attraction a day and hiking tours guided by park rangers. Pick from among more than 30 trails, designed for walkers of all ages, abilities and interests. Some focus on exploring the wildlife, with stops at Alpine huts to enjoy local food while others are combined with climbing activities for the more adventurous.

 

A mountain feast

With all that physical exertion and all those kilometres walked, you sometimes have to pause and simply take in the landscape. The more than 80 refuges and picnic shelters dotted around the valleys and Alpine peaks were built for exactly that purpose. One of the most attractive is Stüdlhütte, standing at an altitude of 2,802 metres. The hut is right on the Grossglockner mountain and the design is not quite what you'd expect in this setting. It has seven bedrooms and the food on the traditional Tyrolean menu is prepared using ingredients from its own farm.

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