Given the diversity of ecotourism destination choices available around the world, the Eco-Destination Friday series continues with a summary of pristine Austria. Slightly smaller than Maine and probably best known for the rolling hills featured in the film The Sound of Music, Austria is a country with an immense geographic diversity of mountains, forests, and lakes that account for a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Most of what constitutes ecotourism in Austria includes nature-based hiking or mountaineering at one of its national parks or nature reserves and staying at an eco-labeled hotel or agritourism site. The country is safe to travel, clean and offers many activities for all age groups.
Ecotourism history and top sights:
Like some other countries in Europe, Austria has developed protected area initiatives and related ecotourism activities to encourage development that is compatible with nature conservation, instead of simply forbidding development to maintain the pristine condition of an area.
Some top sights include:
- Bregenzerwald– this valley, once completely covered by forest, lies between Lake Constance and the Arlberg and is an ideal destination for gourmet culinary holidays amidst nature
- Gurnau im Almtal – this region has dense forests and tranquil lakes, which make it ideal for birdwatching
- Werfenweng– this town near Salzburg offers guests car-free holidays as pick up service via a free solar-powered / electric taxi, is available from the train station
- Grosses Walsertal – this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has the motto “use nature without harming it” offering numerous outdoor activities. Nearby in Marul is Austria’s first all organic farming village
- Danube Cycle Path – ride past valleys, farmhouse, and monasteries on this route; on some trails, you can even rent an e-bike that has been modified with a battery
How ecotourism benefits environmental aims:
In some ways, Austria is years ahead of other countries when it comes to energy-efficiency, use of renewable energies, public transport and waste management. It was the first European country to enable renewable energies, which constitutes more than 50% of its energy production, and have 60% of its waste to be recycled.
However, Austria is facing some environmental challenges including high numbers of heavy transport vehicles that drive along the Brenner Pass, and pollution that is carried from northwestern Europe and northern Italy into Austria via the Atlantic and Mediterranean weather systems.
For its part, Austrians are examining their commercial uses of the Alps including the possible damaged caused by skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. The goal is to introduce more green tourism efforts that are more compatible with the Alpine environment.
Why a good choice for a family trip:
Austria has a vast network of family-friendly Kinderhotels, which share the green habits of separating waste and investing in alternative energy and heating systems. While staying at a Kinderhotel, children also learn about nature, animals, and food production.
At one hotel, Smiley’s Working Farms, children help to look after cows, sheep, pigs, horses, and chickens. They pick fruit from the garden and learn how to bake bread. Together with the many outdoor activities offered, a Kinderhotel is an excellent and cost-effective stepping off point to discovering the rest of the country. An family ecotour through Austria will provide lasting memories for all.
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