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Wachau World Heritage Trail

Hikers who love life’s simple pleasures will want to explore what is probably one of Austria’s most scenic distance-hiking routes. The new Wachau World Heritage Trail opened in June 2010 and is 180 kilometers long. It is divided into 14 legs and takes you through the rich past and fascinating present of the Wachau Valley. The scenic UNESCO World Heritage landscape of the Wachau is at your feet the entire time. Fans of good food and drink will thoroughly enjoy the many great restaurants and heurige wine taverns in the area.

Hike from town to town passing through picturesque wine villages and lovely Renaissance towns. Make your way through shaded ravines, blossoming orchards and sun-drenched vineyards to magnificent cultural monuments. All the while take in the view of the Danube flowing by majestically and harmoniously. The new Wachau World Heritage Trail has been open since the start of June and gently presents the loveliest spots in the Wachau to visitors.

Hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views and a host of cultural sights along the way. The area is also a culinary paradise with a great choice of eating establishments ranging from simple heurige and wineries to cozy inns and award-winning gourmet temples. At the end of an eventful day of hiking, you either take a room directly at a winery or choose from an extensive range of private rooms, holiday apartments and top hotels available to visitors in the Wachau.

The exciting 180 kilometers are divided into 14 legs. It takes about a week to hike the south or north banks. The Wachau has three ferries traveling between the two banks. If you still have energy and time, you can add the Jauerling Circuit to your travels. The section of the Way of St. James between the Benedictine Abbeys of Göttweig and Melk are ideal for meditation and a spiritual lift.

Unique natural backdrop
The Wachau is a gesamtkunstwerk, a complete work of art, with the Danube winding its way through landscapes of scenic beauty and past imposing monasteries, fortresses and ruins. The Wachau is a product of nature and man, one of Austria's oldest cultivated landscapes. It was awarded the European Diploma of Protected Areas in 1994. In December 2000, the Wachau became the only region along the entire Danube to be put on the UNESCO World Heritage List. At the end of 2008, National Geographic Traveler Magazine dubbed it the "Best Historic Destination in the World".

Bare rock cliffs meet with gently sloping vineyards - sunny trails lead into deeply shaded ruins. The charm of contrasts accompanies hikers every step of the way. Among the highlights of the route are idyllic vineyard paths along the famed primordial stone terraces made of dry stone walls. The world famous Wachau wines flourish here and can be sampled in the evening during supper at a local heurige wine tavern.

You also pass through natural areas that have become quite rare. The Wachau is one of the most strictly protected habitats in the EU and one of the few stretches of the Danube in which the river flows in its natural bed. Rare plants like feather grass (Steinfedergras in German) grow on the typical dry grassy areas. Steinfeder is also the designation for a category of Wachau wine and for several orchid species found only in the Wachau. With a little luck, you will get a glimpse of a European green lizard in the terraced vineyards or catch the call of an owl or the flight of a kingfisher in Jauerling Nature Park. Another typical resident of the Danube riverside forests is the European otter.

Distant vistas
The beautifully situated Wachau terrace of the Nature Park Center is one of the highest points along the entire Danube. You can trace the Danube further into the distance here than perhaps anywhere else. Wonderful views of a large part of the Wachau also open up to you at these vantage points: Starhembergwarte in Dürnstein (564 meters), Ferdinandwarte on Hohe Wand in Dunkelsteinerwald (370 meters), Seekopfwarte near Rossatz (671 meters) and Dachbergwarte in Emmersdorf (383 meters).

You also have fantastic views hiking to the Aggstein Ruins, Hinterhaus and Dürnsteiner Kanzel as well as Spitzer Graben and Hoher Stein.

Famous vineyards
If you walk the Wachau World Heritage Trail you pass the most famous vineyards in the Wachau. They include Loibnerberg in Dürnstein, Ried Achleiten and Klaus in Weissenkirchen, Rotes Tor, Singerriedl, Setzberg, Tausendeimerberg and Bruck in Spitz, Kollmitz in Wösendorf, Kirnberg and Mugler in Rossatz, and Berg Trenning above Mühldorf, the highest vineyard at an elevation of 450 meters. In many places, you walk along the famous stone terraces consisting of dry stone walls so typical of the Wachau where the world famous Wachau wines flourish.

Rich heritage
The cultural highlights of the Wachau are integral to the Wachau World Heritage Trail. Along with 20 imposing fortresses and castles perched along the 14 legs of the World Heritage Trail, you can look forward to further cultural sights such as the famed Benedictine Abbeys of Göttweig and Melk. You walk through the historical center of Dürnstein with the characteristic blue tower of the Augustinian monastery and the Teisenhoferhof in Weissenkirchen, a jewel of Renaissance architecture. The Danube once formed the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. The Roman Tower and Roman Way in Bacharnsdorf and the Roman Fort in Mautern are traces of ancient Rome that remind us of these long-ago days.

An overview of the 14 legs of the World Heritage Trail:
1. Krems, Hoher Markt - Dürnstein historical center (12.5 kilometers, 4 hours and 30 minutes of walking)
2. Dürnstein, historical center - Weissenkirchen, Marktplatz (17 kilometers, 6 hours of walking)
3. Weissenkirchen, Marktplatz - Spitz, Kirchenplatz (10.5 kilometers, 3.5 hours of walking)
4. Spitz, Kirchenplatz - Mühldorf, Marktplatz (10.5 kilometers, 4 hours of walking)
5. Mühldorf, Marktplatz - Jauerling - Maria Laach (13 kilometers, a walk of 5 hours and 30 minutes)
6. Maria Laach, Marktplatz - Aggsbach Markt, Marktplatz (7 kilometers, 2 hours of walking)
7. Aggsbach Markt, Marktplatz - Emmersdorf, Marktplatz (15.5 kilometers, 5 hours of walking)
8. Emmersdorf, Marktplatz - Melk, historical center (10 kilometers, 3 hours of walking)
9. Melk historical center - Aggsbach Dorf, hammer mill (17 kilometers, 6 hours of walking)
10. Aggsbach Dorf, hammer mill - Hofarnsdorf, castle (16 kilometers, 5.5 hours of walking)
11. Hofarnsdorf, castle - Rossatz, Kirchenplatz (17 kilometers, 6 hours and 30 minutes of walking)
12. Rossatz, Oberbergern, chapel (12 kilometers, 4 hours of walking)
13. Oberbergern, chapel - Abbey of Göttweig - Mautern, Rathausplatz (17.5 kilometers, 6 hours of walking)
14. Mautern, Rathausplatz - Krems, Hoher Markt (4 kilometers, 1 hour of walking)

The Jauerling Circuit
The Jauerling Circuit is a wonderful supplement to the World Heritage Trail. A suitable place for this Jauerling hike to begin and end is the pilgrimage site of Maria Laach. The circuit trail takes you on an appealing long-distance hike around the Jauerling-Wachau Nature Park that leads over the Waldviertel Plateau. You can explore another 90 kilometers in a total of seven legs. Rising to an elevation of 960 meters, Jauerling is the highest peak in the Wachau and known as the Roof of the Wachau.

1. Spitz Kirchenplatz - Aggsbach Markt, Marktplatz (16 kilometers, 5 hours and 30 minutes of walking)
2. Aggsbach Markt, Marktplatz - Maria Laach, Marktplatz (7 kilometers, 5 hours of walking)
3. Maria Laach, Marktplatz - Emmersdorf, Marktstrasse (14 kilometers, 4 hours of walking)
4. Emmersdorf, Marktstrasse - Weiten, Prangerplatz (17 kilometers, 5 hours of walking)
5. Weiten, Prangerplatz - Raxendorf, Marktplatz (8 kilometers, 3 hours of walking)
6. Raxendorf, Marktplatz - Mühldorf, Marktplatz (12 kilometers, 3 hours of walking)
7. Mühldorf, Marktplatz - Jauerling- Spitz, Kirchenplatz (13.5 kilometers, 5 hours of walking)

For more details, please visit www.welterbesteig.at  www.wachau.at. A hiking map is available from Holiday Information at Donau Niederösterreich Tourismus GmbH.


Holiday Information:
Donau-Niederösterreich Tourismus GmbH
Schlossgasse 3 A- 3620 Spitz, Austria
(T) +43 2713 30060-60
(F) +43 2713 30060-30
(E) urlaub@donau.com 
(U) www.wachau.at ; www.donau.com 

Media Inquiries:
Jutta Mucha-Zachar
Donau-Niederösterreich Tourismus GmbH
Schlossgasse 3 A- 3620 Spitz, Austria
(T) +43 2713 30060-24
(F) +43 2713 30060-30
(E) jutta.mucha-zachar@donau.com 
(U) www.donau.com 

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