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Set just miles away from Italy, studded with picture-book lakes, and adorned with some of Austria's most elegant and enchanting resort hotels, the southern lake region of Carinthia easily gives the famous Salzkammergut lake district a run for its money. One of the peaks of Austrian dolce far niente is reclining on your chaise longue on a flower-bedecked bathing pier at one of the soigné castle-hotels of Pörtschach, Velden, or Maria Wörth. For comfort and smartness, these hotels lack for nothing and make the most alluring retreats—even on a wet day.
The hills and mountains scattered across Carinthia have a wealth of hiking opportunities (bookstores in your resort will have hiking maps). There is a network of footpaths comprising more than 625 mi and ranging from gentle to strenuous. Most tourist regions have marked trails and local hiking maps, called Wanderkarte, including treks to the many castle ruins that dot the landscape, and more leisurely strolls on well-marked lakeside paths. If you are planning high-altitude hiking, remember that cable cars tend to be closed for repairs out of season. Always take protection against the rain, an extra layer of clothing, and tell your hotel desk where you are going. A nice surprise: rain in the valleys may give way to sunshine above 3,000 feet.
The Austrian Riviera resorts are a paradise for water sports—from windsurfing to sailing—with lakes that have public beaches and water pure enough to drink. Swimmers delight in the late-summer water temperatures, which can reach 25°C (75°F) due to the presence of subterranean thermal springs. Most beaches also have wading or supervised areas for small children. To avoid the crowds, book at a hotel that has its own private beach—most do.
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