Sunny south: Hiking in one of Carinthia’s most ecologically important areas
The last stage of the Dobratsch Circular Trail starts out at the village square in Arnoldstein. After a brief walk, you reach the lovely Blockwald forest at the base of the Dobratsch (Path No. 299), where cows graze along the Gail River and you pass a friendly alpine inn. Continuing along the Gail (Path No. 1), you are accompanied by white sandbanks, polished rocks and turquoise water, as you make your way to Oberschütt/Rogaje. The name of the river – Gail/Zilja – is derived from the Illyrian term ‘galias’, meaning ‘to overflow’ or ‘to swamp’. Today, the river has been regulated, so that floodplains and marshlands have become few and far between. However, once you reach the foot of the Dobratsch, you still encounter loops in the river’s course that facilitate a number of significant wild habitats. Among the strictly protected grasslands along this route are the particularly impressive Gladiolenwiese (Gladiola Meadow), whose Illyrian gladiolas unfold their glorious blooms every spring, as well as the Weinitzenwiese (Lean Meadow). Having passed the village of Federaun/Vetrov (Path No. 17/13), you continue along the Roman Road (Path No. 16) that once connected the Noricum Province with Rome, heading towards Warmbad Villach. Along the way, you encounter the Studenca – a temporary karst spring which, following some longer rainfalls, transforms into a stunning spectacle of nature. Lastly, you pass the Napoleonwiese (Napoleon’s Meadow), featuring a field of burial mounds from the Hallstatt era. And finally, you end your journey on the Dobratsch Circular Trail at your starting point – the Kärntner Freiwillige Schützen Park in Warmbad Villach.
Level of difficulty: easy
Hiking time: 5 hours