The thoroughly marked Alpe-Adria-Trail is a varied, cross-border, 750-kilometre long journey of discovery through three countries—Austria, Italy and Slovenia—and three cultures. The route stretches from the foot of the majestic Grossglockner Mountain to the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea, with views of a magnificent mix of natural backdrops, alpine water adventures and fascinating flora and fauna. Hikers travel along lakes, rivers and streams to the Adriatic Sea. Especially useful in this context: the Alpe-Adria-Trail Booking Centre, for all your organisational needs.
From the foot of Austria’s highest mountain, the 3,798 metre high Grossglockner mountain, to the Adriatic Sea: in 43 stages, each with an average length of 17 kilometres, lead through Carinthia, Slovenia and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. The mild climate promises many hours of sunshine and pleasant temperatures for a total of approximately 750 kilometres to the south. The Alpe-Adria-Trail info points, in the shape of three pillars on a platform, help give location details for each stage.
Trekking enthusiasts and their friends can book route packages with a simple call to the Alpe-Adria-Trail Booking Centre or at the click of a mouse on www.alpe-adria-trail.com. This allows you to select various packages consisting of two to eight stages, or to design your personalized tour with advice from the experts. Travel literature on the Alpe-Adria-Trail has also been archived for your convenience: two hiking guides available in bookshops offer valuable tips and information for individuals in the planning process. The complimentary Alpe-Adria-Trail app is also an ideal trip planner to use at home or on the road.
The Goal is the Journey
The geographical endpoint of the Alpe-Adria-Trail is called Muggia, just south of the Italian port city of Trieste. The trail follows the flow water in throughout of its various forms, from the eternal ice of the Glockner, over waterfalls, through rivers and lakes, and finally down to the sea. This is the way it has always existed, but now the course has been mapped in its entirety. Anyone who does not want to conquer the entire route can choose their most favourite stages, which have quite a lot in common with the Garden of Eden: the paradisiacal views, the beautiful natural spectacles, sparkling lakes, majestic mountain peaks and finally the azure Adriatic Sea.
The First Steps
The trail’s first seven stages carve across Carinthia, through sunny, idyllic Möll Valley with unique panoramic views of the impressive mountain scenery amidst 3000 metres peaks. The starting point is at the foot of the Pasterze Glacier, Austria’s largest, in the middle of National Park Hohe Tauern. The trail then leads towards Heiligenblut and Grosskirchheim. Here you will pass the so-called “Apriacher Stockmühlen,” a collection of wooden grain mills that were used by farmers in the area as early as the 17th century. The medieval town of Gmünd, which received an EDEN-Award for excellence in professional cultural work in 2011, also lies en route.
The Millstätter Alp is definitely one of Carinthia’s most beautiful hiking areas. This is partially due to its soft, rolling hills and breath-taking views of Lake Millstätter See below. Hikers here also find themselves in the middle of the gentle landscape of the Nockberge Biosphere Park, with stages 15 and 16 leading through the well-known spa resort town of Bad Kleinkirchheim. Arriach prides itself on the fact that it is the geographical centre of Carinthia. It is also the starting point of the stage leading up the Gerlitzen Alp. After a glimpse of Lake Ossiacher See, the last stage within Carinthia leads from Velden am Wörthersee to Baumgartnerhöhe near Lake Faaker See. Shortly before the endpoint of the stage you’ll see the ruins of Finkenstein Castle, now a theatre and concert arena with impressive views and magnificent sunsets.
Encounters with Slovenia
For the following stages of the Alpe-Adria-Trail, hikers leave Austria to embark on a journey into Slovenian territory and a stop at ski world cup venue Kranjska Gora. The trail here follows the Soča River, which is called the Isonzo in Italian territory, cutting directly across Triglav National Park (Slovenia’s only national park) amidst the mysterious Julian Alps. With a bit of luck you may spot some alpine wild animals such as ibex, chamois, red deer or grouse. The trail then continues up the highest mountain pass in Slovenia, the Vršič, and then further to Bovec, the popular centre for water sports and also Slovenia’s highest ski area. Here you can enjoy the untouched Sočatal (Soča Valley), also part of the park and recipient of the EDEN-Award for excellence in 2008, a true jewel featuring various natural attractions such as waterfalls, caves and remote river valleys. Finally you reach Kobarid, a town rich in unique cultural heritage dating back the First World War, and then the town of Tolmin. The valley’s beauty is accentuated by the turquoise-blue waters of the river, thanks to a karst spring near Trenta, on stage 23 of the trail in northwest Slovenia. A great place for water sport enthusiasts and anglers, some are lucky enough to pull a so-called “marble trout,” a species of freshwater fish from the salmon family, from the cool waters. The further south you travel along the gurgling Soča River, the sweeter the landscape becomes. The far west of the trail crosses the Goriška Brda region of Slovenia, where a centuries-old tradition of winegrowing continues today. The unique location has produced many international award-winning wines. At the end of the trail, within the forested Karst region, a cultural monument recognised within Europe as well as world-wide is well worth the visit: the stud farm and equestrian centre of Lipica, founded in 1580 by Archduke Karl II.
The Light of the Adriatic Sea
In Collio you’ll cross the border to Italy for the first time, and you’ll literally feel the southern serenity emitting westward from the tradition-rich city Cividale del Fruili. Originally a Celtic settlement, the city was founded as a Roman municipality by Julius Caesar. Since June of 2011, the capital of the first Lombard dukedom in Italy has belonged to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. At this stage, blissful moments come with the territory, and anyone who chooses to complete this leg should make sure to have a culinary guide in his or her baggage, and also plan to visit the winegrowers of Collio. They are known for their high quality wines, which have followed strict production regulations for over 40 years. The most important place in the charming hills is Cormòns, a beautiful little town built in the Habsburg style. Not only are the churches worth seeing, but also the numerous wine cellars. The next destination is Karst, a plateau that rose from the sea floor approximately 30 million years ago, often gusted by powerful bora winds. A rough and fascinating landscape, to be sure! In Duino, where Rainer Maria Rilke wrote his famous Duino Elegies, you reach the sea. Only a few metres down the road you’ll feel a sense of achievement when reaching the end destination of Muggia. Hikers will welcome an idyllic port town, clearly marked by the influences of Venetian culture. Here you can listen to the rattle of sail masts, with the fragrant air of the Adriatic carrying the smells from the excellent seafood restaurants, while enjoying the incredible views of the picturesque Gulf of Trieste. The heart of the port and city, which until 1918 served as Austria’s only naval port, is the Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia (Unity of Italy Square). This is the seaside rectangular main square, which is surrounded on three sizes by prestigious neo-classical buildings.
A Shortened Version of the Trail:
The 3-Country Circuit For those who want to discover the beauty of the tree countries but who know that the entire trail is too long, the shortened version of the Alpe-Adria-Trail may provide an attractive alternative: in seven stages, the 3-Country Circuit (3-Länder-Rundtour) covers 130 kilometres of Carinthia, Fruili-Venezia-Giulia and Slovenia. The trail starts in Carinthia at the Baumgartner Höhe near Lake Faaker See, heading first toward Warmbad Villach through Dobratsch Nature Park, then continuing to Nötsch and Feistritz before heading through Italy’s Kanaltal Valley toward the town of Valbruna and the shopping city of Tarvis. After passing the famous shrine of Monte Santo di Lussari, the Lakes of Fusine and the base of one of the highest mountains of the Julian Alps, the Mangart, hikers will reach the internationally known winter sport town of Kranjska Gora before heading back to the starting point in Carinthia.
An encounter with nature is also an encounter with yourself: Breathing deeply, coming to rest, sharpening your senses. And in doing so finding your own rhythm.