Swanning around the Austrian lakes: a trip to Carinthia

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Austria’s southernmost province has 200 pristine, swimmable lakes, adrenaline-fuelled activities – and saunas with a view

The lake was perfectly still, larch trees reflected in its glassy surface, hills folding into each other in the distance. I thought about swimming across it – a distance of about 1km – but once I was immersed in the cool, tranquil water, front-crawling through it with my head down lost its appeal. This was a moment to stop and take in the beauty of my surroundings.

Bordering Italy and Slovenia, Carinthia is Austria’s southernmost region, a sparsely populated land of gentle mountain peaks – the Nockberge. But its bigger claim to fame is its 1,200 lakes, of which 200 are swimmable. Each has its own highlight: Wörthersee – on which the regional capital, Klagenfurt, sits – is the largest, at 10 miles long, and known for the 100m-high Pyramidenkogel viewing platform; Klopeiner See is one of the warmest lakes in Europe; Faaker See is Austria’s answer to the Everglades, thanks to the reed beds visitors can glide through on Canadian canoes. But they all have one thing in common – clear, clean water that’s pure enough to drink. This alone is worth travelling for if you live in the UK, land of polluted rivers, lakes and sea, where even the tap water can make you sick.

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