Winter at Lake Weissensee in Carinthia, southern Austria. Many still consider it a “natural insider tip”, to visit this pristine lake with its “largest groomed natural ice surface in Europe”. However, this superlative already suggests that winter is also a popular travel season for the “white lake” at the foothills of the Gailtaler Alps.
If you choose to be smart, you will not come to Lake Weissensee in January (like almost all winter guests) but travel here instead at the end of February / beginning of March. Likewise, you will have the natural spectacle of a huge ice rink amidst picturesque mountain landscapes all to yourself.
And where best to relax in an environment like this? That’s right, at the Weissenseerhof Hotel: Austria’s first hotel when it comes to four star luxury and promoting a 100% vegan/vegetarian diet.
The Weissenseerhof is not only committed to environmentally friendly practices regarding nutrition – the photovoltaic system on the roof is proof to their commitment as well. In the SeeSpa (“lake spa”) located directly on the lake shore, the Weissensee itself doubles as a cold dip after the sauna, and the modern, light (wood) furnishings in the rooms serve to underline the philosophy of the “Austrian Eco Label” that the Weissenseerhof has been awarded for quite some years.
The SeeSpa, which has also received many awards, should be high on your list. They also have DaySpa options (how I wish I would live any closer!), and many tasty vegetarian snacks are served here. Weissenseerhof proves: Luxury, sustainability & vegan / vegetarian foodie options can go perfectly together in a pristine surrounding such as this one.
As you will notice, Weissenseerhof hotel has really made an impression on us.
But it would not be the Weissensee if we did not also venture out to meet some of its famous local people, and learn about their natural surroundings from an interesting insider’s point of view. One such “storyteller” is craftsman Michael Winkler, of Bootsbau Domenig, who runs one of the last highly specialized wooden boat building companies. He produces keelboats, pointed flatboats, paddleboats and many more, spilling out technical names and details of boating on Lake Weissensee as we would hashtags. The hour spent in his workshop passes in no time at all.
How to turn sustainability into practice? The example of Lake Weissensee.
Franz Schier tells us that Lake Weissensee has already received special nature protection status as “Nature Park” in 2006, and is also a European protected area, known under the label “Natura 2000“. Since 2010, nature park buses have been running every half hour to encourage day visitors and long-term holiday-makers to leave their cars behind. Shuttles from nearby train stations and issues such as wheel chair accessibility have long been addressed and implemented here.
“Nature-based tourism is simply what draws our visitors to come here” emphasises his colleague Christoph Puntigam, who describes Lake Weissensee as the “living room of nature”. There are also E5 communities here. This rather technical term refers to energy-efficient public buildings with photovoltaic systems, new glass fibre cabling, wood chip heating in private houses, a relatively high density of passive houses, and the likely construction of further small power plants along the surrounding steep slopes and its small river courses down into the lake.
“Although we have already achieved all five ‘E’s’ for energy efficiency”, Franz smiles at us with satisfaction, “the way into the future will only lead to further, joint citizens’ decisions in order to anchor sustainability in the minds of locals and guests alike.”
Check out more of my pictures from Lake Weissensee here, also InstaStories if you like watching them:
My fellow travel writers Christina and Anita, who have joined me on this trip, have written the following blog posts:
- “Wellness am See: Im 1. vegetarisch und vegan geführten 4 Sterne-Superior-Hotel Österreichs“
- “Winterwellness im Naturpark Weissensee” & “Vegetarisches Hotel: Sich im Weissenseerhof um die eigene Freude kümmern“
Disclaimer: We have been invited by the Austrian Eco Label and Weissenseerhof Hotel to travel to Lake Weissensee in Carinthia. All opinions are my own.