Lake Wörthersee, Austria:
Carinthia′s most Famous Lake

Lake Wörthersee (sometimes called Wörther See) is the largest of Carinthia′s many lakes. Due to its favourable location, it is also one of the warmest Alpine lakes. Lake Wörthersee is 19.4 square kilometres big and extends over 16.5 kilometres and is surrounded by hills in a plain called Klagenfurter Becken. The lake and its surroundings were shaped (or even created) by glaciers during the last ice age. The deepest spot of Lake Wörthersee is 85 metres deep. In the past, the water quality was rather bad (eutrophic) especially during the summers, but this issue gradually decreased since sewages were controlled more strictly since the 1970ies. Since around 2000, the water quality is exceptionally high.

Lake Wörthersee is sheltered against strong winds and there is little circulation in the water; few minor creeks carry water into the lake, there is only one little river from where water leaves. This relative tranquillity means that the highest water levels down to 8 metres can get up to 26 degrees warm during the summer season. As a result, Lake Wörthersee is probably Austria′s most popular and most famous summer sports location. For winter sports, the region is less popular. Parts of the lake usually freeze in January, but all of the lake freezes only in very cold winters - once every couple of years. Skating, curling and other sports are commonly done in such winters.

Geography of & Tourism at Lake Wörthersee

Lake Wörthersee had three islands: The Blumeninsel (Island of Flowers, clearly a shameless euphemism), the Kapuzinerinsel (Island of Capuchins) and the ex-island of Maria Wörth, which was artificially linked with the main land and thus qualifies only as a peninsula these days. The islands must have played a major role in the naming of the lake: "Werder" is an old German word for island (or basin), up to the 19th century, the lake was called Lake "Werdersee". The peninsula of Maria Wörth is famous for its monastery and among Carinthia′s top-attractions not concerning sports. There are other sightseeing hubs at or near Lake Wörthersee. Note Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia with its pretty town centre - found about four kilometres off the shore.

Directly at the shore, there is a peninsula with another monastery, called Maria-Loretto. Today, it is not a monastery anymore and called Schloss Maria Loretto. The spa town of Pörtschach is home to yet another peninsula. The peninsula is well-known for its rich flower decorations, which enhance the promenade during the summer. The third-largest town at the Wörthersee is also covered in a separate article: Velden am See. It is the Wörthersee′s most famous beach resort since the 19th century, which is proven by the many villas in historicist style.

Mass tourism kicked in during the early 1950ies, when the Wörthersee region became hugely popular with Wirtschaftswunder-Germany. Summer vacations in Carinthia where a big deal, and you can still see the style of the 1950ies and 1960ies in many of the (usually cheaper and now often a bit shabby) hotels, pensions and other tourism facilities. A popular attraction of the Wörthersee are the boats that offer cruises. This has been general practice since the 19th century and accompanied the development of Wörthersee tourism from the beginning. The most important ships of the fleet are called Thalia, Klagenfurt and Kärnten. They belong to the city of Klagenfurt and compete with the private ships Lorelei and Loretto.

Continue with "Wörthersee, Part II"

Back to: "Carinthia Sightseeing Guide"

Sightseeing by Austrian Province

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Official Website of the Wörthersee Region

Wikipedia on the Wörthersee in Carinthia

Official Website of Carinthia