Zirbitzkogel | © Steiermark Tourismus | Tom Lamm Zirbitzkogel | © Steiermark Tourismus | Tom Lamm
Treasures of nature in the green heart of Austria

Relaxing holidays in Styria's nature

Quiet and peaceful, yet full of life – nature's diversity in the green heart of Austria ranges from vineyards and alpine pastures to forest ponds, rivers and orchard meadows.

These landscapes are good for body and soul, which also makes nature an essential element of the Grünkraft Steiermark offers.

The impressive Gesäuse National Park

With an area of 12,000 hectares, Gesäuse National Park is almost 35 times the size of Central Park in New York. In total, it occupies 0.7 percent of the area of the federal state of Styria, and it's one of its most beautiful natural treasures:

  • The areas along the untamed waters of the river Enns are some of the last breeding grounds for sandpipers.
  • The wild forests are left pristine: Endemic rarities such as the dianthus plumarius blandus – a subspecies of the cottage pink and unique in the world – grow on the impressive rock faces on the left and right banks of the Enns.
  • The natural habitats of forest, water, rock and alpine pastures contribute to the high biodiversity of Gesäuse National Park. Insects in particular feel right at home there. More than 1,230 butterfly species have already been identified in the national park.
  • What is special about Gesäuse National Park is that nature can develop freely, and processes such as avalanches or windthrows are allowed to happen. On about three quarters of the total area, forests continue to develop. Old trees die and make way for new ones. Rivers also get to choose their natural course. They are allowed to overflow their banks and thus reshape their surroundings. 

Gesäuse National Park is best experienced together with a seasoned National Park Ranger or on rafting and kayaking tours on the rivers Enns or Salza. For the latter, there are marked places to get in and out of the river, which can be used at set times.

The two visitor centres – Weidendom Adventure Centre and the Gstatterboden National Park Pavilion – offer opportunities to delve even deeper into the multifaceted world of natural phenomena at Gesäuse National Park. The living structure of the Weidendom ("willow dome") on the banks of the Enns with its research workshop area and the walk-in ecological footprint is particularly impressive.

The six themed trails through the national park are especially exciting for families with children. Adventure-seekers can follow in the footsteps of Wild John on the forest trail that starts at Weidendom car park, for instance, and then explore the Johnsbachtal valley. Immediately afterwards, they can continue their tour of discovery on the Rauchboden Trail. Here, stunning views of the Enns below and the imposing rock faces of the Gesäuse above will amaze visitors of all ages.  

Hikers and mountaineers get their money's worth on the numerous marked long-distance hiking trails and via ferratas. On the Luchstrail, they can experience three unique protected areas – Gesäuse National Park, Limestone Alps National Park and Dürrenstein Wilderness Area – at their wild and beautiful best.

The 15 via ferratas in the Gesäuse National Park were created in harmony with nature and offer challenging tours with magnificent views. There's also a variety of other trails available for all types of preferences and requirements, from accessible walking trails to difficult climbing tours.

Adventure tip: The nights in the Gesäuse are among the darkest in all of Europe. During "Sternderl-Schauen" ("stargazing") at Weidendom Adventure Centre, visitors can see up to 6,000 stars in Austria's dark night sky. Stargazing is especially beautiful at new moon. On these days, shooting stars shoot across the sky, and stars that are thousands of light years away seem close enough to touch.

Seven natural wonders in Styria

Nature parks in the green heart of Austria

The seven nature parks of Styria comprise a variety of natural and cultural landscapes, which are characterised by their pristine condition as well as by their natural and cultural highlights. What's more, there are also numerous opportunities to experience nature.

Yet it's not only visitors who enjoy immersing themselves in the intact nature of the green heart of Austria. More importantly, the nature parks provide a protected habitat for rare plants and animal species.

Reading in the green. Country estate Pichlschloss at Mühlen, Naturpark Zirbitzkogel-Grebenzen | © Steiermark Tourismus | Tom Lamm

Nature park hosts 

Our Nature Park hosts are quality-checked hotels, guesthouses, farm holiday businesses and private room landlords. Every single one of them is a certified ambassador of the Nature Park-philosophy. They are experts for healthy living, healthy food, healthy living spaces and provide you with nature experiences in "their" Nature Park.

Your Nature Park hosts in Styria

A habitat for endangered animal and plant species

The multi-faceted UNESCO Lower Mura Valley Biosphere Reserve in Styria

Since June 2019, Austria has a fourth UNESCO biosphere park: the Lower Mura Valley Biosphere Reserve in Styria between Bad Radkersburg and Mureck. The impressive river landscape covers a total of 13,000 hectares. And with its natural river dynamics, the Mur constantly creates new habitats for countless endangered animal and plant species, including more than 300 types of birds. Numerous fish also take advantage of the river system for their migrations.

Last but not least, intact floodplains along the Austrian-Slovenian border protect settlements from flooding and ensure an ample supply of clean drinking water.

This unique natural jewel is not a museum, but a thriving recreational space for a variety of activities: So-called "River'scools" boards at important locations throughout the biosphere reserve provide information about the local flora and fauna.

Tip: Be sure to bring binoculars or a magnifying glass, because there is a lot to discover and marvel at!

Donnersdorf is an ideal starting point for exciting adventures along the well-developed network of trails through the river Mur's floodplains. With a bit of luck you might even spot a white-tailed eagle, one of the rarest birds in Styria. At the Murturm lookout tower in Mureck, you can get a bird's eye view of the area.

An experience for all senses

Nature's beauty in Styria

The natural treasures of Styria provide tranquillity and relaxation. Due to low visitor numbers and a location far away from traffic, you will be able to experience your surroundings with all your senses: 

The soothing soundscape only consists of the sounds of animals, the rustling of leaves, and the burbling of water.
Your olfactory sense will be treated to the delicate scent of flowers, the refreshing smell of water, and aromatic forest fragrances.
Hands and feet get to touch and feel natural surfaces such as soft forest floors.
And if you've ever wondered what nature tastes like, you can take a sip of refreshing spring water or sample the wild fruits that grow in forests and on meadows.
All while your eyes get to follow the gentle interplay of light and shadow ...

Hiking amidst Styria's nature

Hiking is probably one of the most relaxing ways to discover the nature reserves in the green heart of Austria. The following hikes and themed trails take you along multi-faceted routes next to gushing rivers, through tranquil forests, and more.

Experience nature in Styria

Whether it's forest bathing, events in and about nature or special themed trails: Styria's natural treasures can be explored and experienced in a variety of ways.