"National Park" Nockberge, Carinthia

The Nockberge mountain range in Carinthia is an area of outstanding beauty, a top-notch tourist attraction, an important nature reserve with lots of endangered plant and animal species, beautiful area for hiking. There is one thing that Nockberge are not: A proper National Park. Locals just call it "National Park Nockberge" - in a combination of hyper-patriotic stupidity and isolationism that is typical for Carinthia, the provincial government refrained from banning hunting, some skiing and certain agricultural uses that would have led to an international recognition. Instead, they simply called it "National Park" and pretended that it was up to them to decide.

Well, it is not: The Nockberge are a nature reserve, but they fail to meet the criteria that the other, official Austrian National Parks do respect. Nevertheless, there are many interesting things to do and see in the Nockberge. They are situated in the Gurktaler Alpen, a mountain range in Carinthia. Its western border is the Liesertal valley, in the north, Carinthia′s borders to Salzburg and Styria mark the end of the "National Park".

The park benefits from its vicinity to Bad Kleinkirchheim, one of the ultimate tourism hubs in Carinthia. The "National Park" Nockberge is 184 square kilometres big, of which 77.3 square kilometres belong to a core area that should ultimately be the required core zone for international recognition. 47 percent of the park′s surface belong the municipality of Krems, 23 percent to Bad Kleinkirchheim, 21 percent to Radenthein, 9 percent to Reichenau. The administration of the park has its headquarter in Reichenau.

The non-creation (or failed creation) of National Park Nockberge

The story of the National Park Nockberge starts in the 1970ies, when local entrepreneurs wanted to follow the national fashion of building skiing areas on pretty much every Austrian mountain. They proposed the erection of a dense network of skiing lifts on the Nockberge. In 1979, the construction of the Nockalmstraße, a panorama road through the Nockberge mountains, was started. This road could have provided direct access to the Nockberge, a great opportunity for developing lifts, hotels, other facilities of mass tourism.

A total of 18 lifts was proposed, two hotel clusters (or tourist ghettos, depending on your view - pretty much what you see in your average Tyrolean mountain village) and a total of 3,000 beds. The local population was reluctant and a citizen movement formed for the protection of the Nockberge. In the environmentalist spirit of the late 1970ies, a memorandum was held. 94 percent of the votes was against the skiing area in the Nockberge.

As a result, the area was protected as a nature reserve, with attempts to make it a national park. Due to the limitations described above, this attempt failed, which did not keep the authorities to call the region "National Park Nockberge" since 1987. In 2004, the Nockberge were upgraded to "biosphere park", with the ultimate objective to make it a proper national park one day. A similar struggle, by the way, has occurred with the much larger National Park Hohe Tauern.

Finally, a little tale from the Nockberge: According to a local legend, the Königsstuhl, the highest mountain of the Nockberge, is home to King Fozion. He was king of the Celtic kingdom Noricum, covering much of today′s Austria except for the East and Vorarlberg. He lived in the first century B.C. and supported Julius Caesar with Noric cavalry during the Roman civil war. The locals say that he now sits on the mountain top, looking down on the valleys with a grim expression and batters the villages with heavy rain and snow.

Back to: "Carinthia Sightseeing Guide"

Sightseeing by Austrian Province

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Further Reading

Official Website of the National Park Nockberge

National Parks of Austria (overview)

Official Website of Carinthia