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Tour of the world in East Tyrol

Ever wanted to stand on a massive glacier like in the Antarctic? Or trek through a surreal moonscape like the Sahara Desert? You can do just that at the Hohe Tauern National Park in East Tyrol. On a pocket-sized tour of the world. 

A trip around the world is expensive and time-consuming. And then there is that nagging bad conscience: didn’t you want to reduce your carbon footprint, give up long-haul flights and travel to less distant holiday destinations? How about East Tyrol then? At the Hohe Tauern National Park, South Sea feeling, mountain adventure and culture await. All in one place. Yet original and authentic. 

Grossvenediger: untamed glacial landscape reminiscent of the South Pole

(c) NPHT/AKZ Tschurtschentaler

High up in the Virgental Valley, southwest of the majestic ice dome of the Grossvenediger, there is one of the largest glacier plateaus of the Eastern Alps. Vast masses of ice, howling wind and freezing cold. Civilisation? Nowhere to be found. Welcome to the Antarctic of the Hohe Tauern National Park! If you take the Venediger Taxi from Hinterbichl to Johannishütte (2,116 m a.s.l.) and then do the two-hour hike up to Defreggerhaus (2,962 m a.s.l.), the East Tyrolean Antarctic is already within reach. A cold glacial wind hits you, and in just a few minutes, you’re right in the middle of it: the eternal ice of the Venediger Group. 

Dürrenfeld: surreal moonscapes like in the Sahara Desert

(c) Peter Tembler

The so-called Sudetendeutscher Höhenweg – a ridgeway – runs between the huts Kals-Matreier-Törlhaus (2,207 m a.s.l.) and Sudetendeutsche Hütte (2,656 m a.s.l.). West of Kendlspitze (3,085 m a.s.l.), the path, which boasts some spectacular views, suddenly changes from pleasantly green mountain pastures to an almost bleak brown. Hikers are plunged into a desert-like, bizarre landscape. Bone-dry and primeval surroundings characterise a path that takes roughly one hour to walk. You will feel as if you had accidentally stepped into the hamada of the Sahara. Beyond Dürrenfeld Scharte, the trip to North Africa quickly comes to an end again: the hut Sudetendeutsche Hütte comes into view, and the lush alpine vegetation re-emerges.

The Isel: complex and untamed glacial river system like the Yukon River

(c) Tirol Werbung/Aichner Bernhard

The Isel is one of the last free-flowing glacial streams in the Alps. Over thousands of years, the river has carved out and changed its path on a distance of 54 kilometres from its source high up on Umbalkees to the district capital of Lienz. To this day, the river is allowed to choose its own path – just like the Yukon River in Northern Canada. People have refrained from trying to tame the Isel. And so, this river has remained a unique habitat for rare plants and animals. It is best explored under your own steam: on foot, by e-bike or by kayak.

Jagdhausalmen: a touch of Tibet

(c) NPHT/Johannes Geyer

Jagdhausalmen is not your typical alpine settlement. Buildings here are not made of ephemeral wood, but instead of solid stone. The oldest alpine settlement in Austria was built to last an eternity. Located at 2,000 metres above sea level and nestled between rocks and green pastures, the place is often referred to as “Little Tibet in the Alps”. But the East Tyrolean Tibet is a lot easier to get to. By e-bike, you can get to the settlement in Defereggental Valley in approximately two hours, including a lunch break. If you’re still sparking with energy, you can continue up to Klammjoch (2,298 m a.s.l.) on the border to South Tyrol. 

Zedlach Paradise: gnarled tree giants like at the Sequoia National Park in the US

(c) NPHT/Seidl Karl

Zedlach Paradise is a 600-year-old light mountain forest of larch trees on the sunny southern slopes of the Virgental Valley. Here, you will find giant knotted trees – similar to the redwoods in the US-American Sequoia National Park. They stand far enough apart to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor. Which is why the forest floor is covered in lush green vegetation. When you visit the light-flooded forests of Zedlach, you will quickly understand why the place is also called “Paradise”. On a round trail and a specially designed themed path for families, you can learn more about the forest, its animals and its unique eco-system. 

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