50 million years ago, we would have been deep under the Tethys Sea, swimming with trilobites. Today, however, we can sip coffee (or homemade schnapps, for non-drivers) in the sunshine outside alpine huts, well over a mile above sea level.
Times have changed, here in the Nockberge…
|Jokingly known as the Nocky Mountains, the Nockberge are unusual. Their rounded, grassy summits lack the drama of the jagged Dolomites, or the sheer size of the Swiss Alps, but what they lack in stature and looks, they make up for in terms of seniority – these are among the oldest mountains in the Alps.
In the millions of years since the Tethys Sea and its trilobites drained away, the limestone Nockberge have been worn down by wind and rain, leaving them lower (largely under 2,400m) and more dome-like than their pointier neighbours to the south and west. The landscape here feels kinder and more intimate; as the local tourist board says, this is “the gentler face of the alps”.
Despite some mineral wealth beneath the hills, this has historically been one of the poorer regions of Austria; the preserve of artisanal miners and cow-herds. In the early 1980s the local people voted against developing the Nockalm into a ski destination. Consequently, the alpine environment has been left gloriously intact, the only sign of human presence often being the small herds of dairy cows grazing freely in the wildflower meadows, or alms, that carpet the mountainsides.
Today, a single, beautiful two-lane road, the Nockalmstrasse, runs through the heart of the Nockalm. The 35-km long road cuts through stands of spruce and stone pine, curving gently before reaching the first of 52 hairpin bends. The road climbs past chalets and farms to its highest point, Eisentalhöhe, at over 2000m elevation.
With its beautiful scenery and gorgeous curves, the Nockalmstrasse attracts drivers, motorbikers and cyclists each summer during its May–October open season. Ideally, one would leave time to drive the whole route twice; once for the sheer pleasure of the drive, and once to visit all the rest stops. Within easy reach of the road, it’s possible to soak in an alpine farmers’ bath (larch wood troughs, filled with spring water and heated with hot stones), drink the freshest milk you’re ever likely to taste, refuel on homemade soup and dumplings, and sniff spike lavender – a species found only in these mountains.
The Nockalm region was recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Park in 2012. This designation is given to areas – like this one – where both the natural environment and the local culture are unique.
While Das Almdorf certainly isn’t the first luxury hotel in the Alps, it is one of a very few that devote such care and attention to providing a luxurious experience in a way that is sustainable and that chooses to blend into its natural surroundings, rather than standing out. Respecting the mountain environment and culture that inspired it – a very “Nocky” touch…
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|Explore the “Nocky Mountains”…
…and experience the best of the Alps on one of our private journeys
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… this is the journey for you!
Our next scheduled departure is Sept 16, 2017. Please enquire for more information, or view the full itinerary on our website.