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.
One national park, seven nature parks, one UNESCO biosphere park and more than 50 Natura 2000 European protected areas are among the natural treasures of Styria. They all differ in character, which is shaped by the valuable natural as well as cultural landscapes that are part of them.
"Schützen durch Nützen" ("Protecting them by using them") – that's the motto of the nature parks, for instance. Through harmonious and, above all, conscious coexistence of man and nature, natural habitats can be preserved and protected long term.
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:
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.
Since 2002, the Eisenwurzen Nature Park has also been allowed to call itself a European Geopark, and in 2004 it became a member of the "Global Geopark" network under the auspices of UNESCO. In 2015 followed the recognition as "UNESCO Global Geopark", as part of the UNESCO World Heritage. In the GeoDorf Gams with the GeoPath of the same name, during guided tours in the Arzberghöhle and the Kraushöhle or during hikes through the Nothklamm and Palfauer Wasserlochklamm, geology, ecology and culture can be experienced.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.