Lake Neusiedl – Seewinkel National Park
Central Europe’s only National Park set within the landscape of the steppes is strongly reminiscent of the unique charm of the puszta with its salt ponds, its meadows and pastures. But this National Park is best-known as a sanctuary for thousands of migrating birds in spring and autumn.
Danube Meadows National Park
Central Europe’s largest continuous landscape of riverside meadows serves as the ideal habitat for some 5,000 animal species. This unspoilt natural paradise almost on Vienna’s doorstep makes a fascinating recreational area for those who want to explore the countryside on foot and marvel at its hushed natural beauty. The National Park authorities offer various excursions, on foot and by boat.
Thaya Valley National Park
The River Thaya has dug its course up to 150 metres deep in the hard rock of the Waldviertel, creating a valley landscape of great beauty. On the strength of the huge diversity of its natural attractions, it was declared a National Park at the beginning of 2000. The meadows, wooded hillsides, cliffs and stretches of grassland provide a habitat for numerous rare animal and plant species like the eagle owl, the black stork, the green lizard, fraxinella and the coloured iris. The valley’s unique enchantment is perhaps best experienced at the “Umlaufberg”, a narrow ridge of rock which separates the two sections of the river. Another aspect of this National Park’s charm is its wealth of castles and ruined fortresses – and the many legends that have grown up around them.
Hohe Tauern National Park
Central Europe’s largest area of protected landscape extends over three Austrian provinces: Tirol, Carinthia and Salzburg. It is a region of ancient forests, lush green alpine pastures, rugged mountainsides and spectacular waterfalls. The park contains more than a hundred peaks over 3,000 metres high and a great diversity of alpine flora and fauna. The National Park authorities run a programme of activities which include forest hikes and gold panning.
Limestone Alps National Park
The Limestone Alps National Park in the south of Upper Austria covers the region of the Sensengebirge and Reichraminger Hintergebirge mountains and encompasses the largest unpopulated stretch of wooded mountains and the longest untouched system of mountain torrents in the Eastern Alps. Forests and streams, cliff faces and alpine pastures are the predominant natural features of this beautiful landscape.
Gesäuse National Park
The latest addition to the national park family is located in northern Styria in the Ennstal Alps. On approximately 12,500 ha rare fauna (such as the wood grouse and the groundhog) and flora (e.g. orchids) are still to be found here.
On romantic walks through gorges formed by the Enns river or on climbing tours in the bizarre mountain world of the Gesäuse, visitors will experience the unique nature of the region up close.
Nockberge National Park
The Nockberge are Europe’s only high mountain national park and boasts the East Alps’ largest pine, larch and spruce forest. The distinctive shape of the gently rolling Nockberge Mountains is rare in the history of geology and unique in the Alps. The mountains developed some hundred million years ago thanks to an interchange of lands, seas, desserts and jungles. This pristine mountain landscape with its soft hills and endless pastures is so exceptional that it was put under nature conservation laws in 1987.
www.nationalparknockberge.at and www.kaernten.at
Did you know that with over 6,000 kilometres of public and private railways running throughout Austria, travelling by train is the perfect way to enjoy our beautiful country? To help visitors learn more, author and photographer Mervyn Jones has written a comprehensive guide to Austria’s railways. Visit his website www.rail-guides.eu