Winner in the Tourism and Local Gastronomy category
The 'Moststrasse' or 'Cider Trail' lies in the western part of the cider-producing Mostviertel region in Lower Austria, stretching for around 200 kilometres. Since 2000, it has established itself in the Austrian tourism sector as one of the most well-known thematic routes in the country.
Mostviertel is a region where people have dedicated themselves to pure pear cider. As other cider-producing regions predominantly grow apples, this makes Mostviertel unique in Europe. Benefiting from the mild climate on the southern side of the Danube, over 300 different varieties of pear are grown on several hundred thousand gnarled trees along the Cider Trail. The high-quality pear cider is obtained from around 30 indigenous varieties, and pears are harvested, chopped and pressed by hand before the juice is stored in cellars on the farms from six to eight weeks to ferment.
Fruit trees covered in colourful blossoms, gentle hills, verdant fields and the amber-coloured juice that gave the region its name – these are the ingredients of the Mostviertel, Europe’s largest contiguous area devoted to cultivating pear trees.
Along the 200 km of the Moststrasse, visitors will find inns, Moststrasse Heurigen (cider-makers’ restaurants) and producers selling home-pressed cider, providing plenty of opportunities to become more familiar with this sparkling beverage that was already known to the Celts in ancient times. Speckbirne, Pichlbirne, Dorschbirne or Stieglbirne - no pear is the same and there's only one way to find out which cider you like best: tasting, tasting, and tasting again, while the 'cider barons' explain the process from fruit to bottled cider.
Pear cider is not only refreshing, but healthy too! If you are looking to get in shape, what better way than exploring the unique rolling hills of the Mostviertel region with its scattered hamlets and farms with their enclosed courtyards, along the countless themed walks and nature trails, on foot or by bike?
There are 300 different varieties of cider pear grown along the Moststrasse, with around 30 varieties native to the area. Some of the pear trees are over 100 years old, most are approximately 30-40 years old, and in good years they can produce up to 1 tonne of pears per tree.
With great commitment, a wealth of innovative ideas and the latest cider-making technology, the cider-makers transform the fruits into (mainly) liquid delights: juices, liqueurs, spirits, and of course cider. Anyone sampling these modestly-alcoholic ciders for the first time will be amazed by the variety of aromas and nuances in taste. After just a few tastings, visitors will have discovered their personal favourites and learned how to match cider to a particular occasion or meal.
The enterprises operated by the 'cider barons', Lower Austrian fine dining establishments, inns run by the growers and TOP Heurigen treat visitors to unique traditional dishes such as Mostschaumsuppe or fresh contemporary cuisine featuring dishes flavoured with gourmet cider, cider jelly or balsamic pear vinegar. Gourmet diners will also delight in innovative variants like the sparkling, fruity Mostschaumweine and the lively fresh ciders such as Gödnmost and Jungspund.
Winner in the Accessible Tourism category
The Kaunertal Valley, with its wonderful natural scenery and picturesque mountain villages, is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Tyrol.
It is a land of continuous contrasts which mirror the changing of the seasons. Luscious green, eternal ice, babbling brooks, sweet-smelling pastures and snow-covered forests are all made accessible to guests with reduced mobility, guaranteeing an unforgettable experience.
Nature and culture, past and present – in Kaunertal, it is all woven into the fabric of daily life.
For over 30 years, Kaunertal has hosted initiatives for barrier-free holidays. People with physical disabilities can enjoy a fully accessible holiday. What is on offer is suitable for wheelchair users, mobility-impaired individuals, and families with small children and pushchairs.
Barrier-free cars and lifts on the Kaunertal glacier offer a complete range of activities for this target group, both in summer and in winter. The Kaunergrat Nature Park is wheelchair accessible all the way from the exhibition space to the terrace. Innovation is key and new developments are regularly introduced. The real key to success however, is the highly-trained staff with their years of experience in hosting people with disabilities.
Sustainable tourism is also a priority in Kaunertal. A holiday in the valley offers personal contact through the option of staying with local hosts, letting you enjoy home-cooked food and local produce in a beautiful natural setting. You can also stay in private rooms and apartments.
Winner in the Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites category
The small medieval town of Gmund is hidden in southern Austria, on the edge of Hohe Tauern and Nockberge national parks. Its prime location between three hiking and skiing resorts ensures that there is something for everyone to explore.
A rich cultural programme all year round allows visitors to experience the diverse heritage of the town and its surrounding area. You can attend concerts and theatre productions, watch dance shows, visit several exhibitions, and meet some of the resident artists during their workshops. The whole town celebrates art and is rightfully known as the artists’ city.
For the local authorities and residents, the protection and upkeep of the old town and its architectural and cultural heritage has always been very important. The city has witnessed large-scale renovation projects aimed at preserving its flair and ambience, while also protecting its historic structures in an innovative way. The historical buildings have been carefully renovated and repainted.
For the last 20 years, Gmünd has consistently focused on art and culture, and today the city is a fine example of how a strong cultural commitment can enable the development of a city. Over the same period, 15 abandoned historic buildings have been carefully converted into stunning public spaces, such as galleries, arts and crafts workshops, artists’ studios and sculpture gardens, all of which add to the enchanting appearance and atmosphere of Gmünd.
The cultural initiative, ‘Kulturinitiative’, the city’s administration, and various networks of cultural and marketing organisations have worked together to strengthen the local economy and improve the quality of life for inhabitants and visitors.
Winner in the Aquatic Tourism category
Austra’s Seelentium is famous for its beautiful lakes, nature reserves and pristine nature. It is a paradise for those looking for an aquatic holiday as water is everywhere in Seelentium and visitors have a unique opportunity to feel the soul of the water in its various forms. Nine lakes, five nature reserves along the waterfront, and the largest moor complex in Austria contribute to the feeling of peace and solitude.
If you want to relax, you can enjoy the warm-water moor lakes for bathing, which offer a great experience for enjoying the picture-perfect natural scenery, while washing away stress. Hiking around the Salzach River is also a must as this trail reveals the stunning charm of the river shores, valleys and hills.
A series of measures have been implemented to mark the movement towards more ‘gentle tourism’. The project, ‘Feeling the Soul of Water’ is very important for the region as it promotes the value of water and strives to protect the area and ensure its long life.
The nearby city of Burghausen offers plenty of opportunities for historical and cultural activities. The Burgenhausen castle is the longest in Europe, and is another must when visiting the Seelentium area.
Seelentium is a paradise for those looking for an aquatic holiday. The authenticity of the lakes and rivers give the area a truly unique character. The three lakes situated in the area are great examples of special allure. The western shore of Lake Holzöstersee and the Schwingrasen Moor have been maintained in their original pristine form. Other lakes also remain undiscovered and pure. The balance between water and the surroundings is especially visible in this area.
Winner in the Tourism and Protected Areas category
Grosses Walsertal Biosphere Park is located in western Austria, in the heart of the Austrian Alps. The Park is a masterpiece of man working with nature in a cultural setting. Rising 2,500m high through the brisk alpine air, the park offers a variety of gourmet cheeses, exotic oils and diverse sustainable activities to enjoy.
An array of activities that range from guided garden tours to cooking classes make for a memorable experience. The region boasts some of the most exotic flowers and herbs in the country and one can experience first-hand how the women in the area have, for centuries, created some of the finest products from the Alchemilla plant, such as oils and soaps.
In 2004, a new community centre opened that set the course for modern, ecological and energy-efficient architecture. Using wood and other natural materials from its own backyard, the ever-expanding centre echoes in the minds of the locals, who envision a beautiful and natural environment.
Centuries of farming and producing some of the finest dairy products in Europe have made this region fundamental to Austria. Grosses Walsertal Biosphere Park shows a real concern for the environment through innovative farming and building methods.
For over 1,000 years, man has worked and inhabited the land in the rich valleys of the park. In 2007, the Grosses Walsertal won an energy award for their development of two biomass heating plants that saved nearly 280,000 litres of heating oil in one year.
Modern life and a proud history continue to shape this region's developing future.
Winner in the Tourism and Local Intangible Heritage category
Steirisches Vulkanland (or 'Styrian Volcano Land') comprises four districts – Feldbach, Radkersburg, Weiz and Fürstenfeld – in the southeast of the province of Styria. As a rural area that boasts outstanding natural conditions, a high degree of individuality, and a diverse natural potential, Steirisches Vulkanland offers guests the experience of a combination of cuisine, handcrafts and life force in a way that is meaningful and authentic.
Steirisches Vulkanland is rich in volcanic formations, thermal water resources, historic sacral and architectural monuments, and folk art, as well as in traditions expressed in its characteristic culture of festivals and celebrations. The arrangement of the land makes the 'inner energy of the region' accessible through guided tours to experience the landscape.
Steirisches Vulkanland is a holistic destination where nature, space and man are harmonious. Nature, landscapes, authentic cuisine, and immaterial and cultural heritage can be experienced with all the senses. The region lives in an equilibrium of material and immaterial values. Special accommodation allows visitors to experience 'living culture' – dialect, legends and myths, customs and traditions – as part of the region’s distinctive culture of celebration throughout the four seasons:
Steirisches Vulkanland’s greatest potential lies in its identity – scenic, socio-cultural and economic, with one of the highest qualities of life. The region’s all-round approach to marketing is based on the inhabitants who are the bearers of a special way of life with innovative products and offers.
Winner in the Best Emerging European Rural Destination of Excellence category
Pielachtal is a valley in the Mostviertel region in the Alpine foothills of the province of Lower Austria. The Mariazellerbahn railroad runs through the Pielachtal, connecting the provincial capital St Pölten with Mariazell.
In the Pielachtal, culture, nature, way of life, handcrafts and specialty foods are combined to form a network of innovative tourism offers. The 'dirndl' or 'cornelian cherry' is cultivated as a trademark of the valley. It is presented as a tourism attraction and introduced to guests in a manner both entertaining and educational. With initiatives for gentle mobility, co-operative projects that join together agriculture, handcrafts and tourism, as well as a sustainability profile that is nationally unique, the Pielachtal has succeeded in demonstrating that it deserves the title of Austria’s best emerging rural destination.
Approximately 18,000 people live in the Pielachtal. The valley has some 800 beds and records about 42,000 room nights per year. The Pielachtal is known for its beautiful landscape, as well as its exemplary sustainable development.
In Pielachtal, sustainability is a tradition. Farming shaped the life of the valley in the past and continues to do so today. Human activity revolved around cattle, chicken and sheep, herbs and fruits, in particular the most typical fruit of the area, the cider pear.
The idea for the Pielachtal Eco-Region began to take form in 1994. 'Eco' stands for both ecology and economy. The aim is for an ecologically intact and economically prosperous region for work, leisure and recreation.
The Pielachtal Regional Planning Society was founded in 1996 with the goal of implementing regional strategies.
In addition to ecology and economy, social networking and cultural resources were stressed. A multitude of cultural projects were initiated, including the 'Pielachtal Artists Days', regular performances of folk music at inns, and a cooperative venture with the director of the Vienna Boys Choir.
Integrated tourism ensures the support and encouragement of the local population in tourism.
'In the heart of nature’s plenty, in the heart of Pielachtal life'. That is the motto that inspires offers affording an authentic insight into the valley’s nature, culture, crafts and way of life.
Sustainability defines not only the character of offers, but is also a theme that they communicate.
Guests are invited to learn to read the landscape and discover the interrelationships between nature and agriculture. They have the opportunity to learn about the principles and advantages of sustainable horticulture and the processing of fruits and herbs.
There is a great variety of paths and gardens that invite guests to undertake discovery tours.
The total length of the region’s hiking paths is 1,000 km.
There is a variety of gardens: the lovingly cultivated and tended natural landscape, gardens of local people, and the Steinschaler gardens. Qualified guides impart interesting facts about hiking, caves and nature.
Gentle mobility is the central theme suggested by the Mariazeller Bahn. Hikers in particular enjoy travelling by train for at least part of their trip. An additional motivation to travel by train is the 'Steinschalerhof Soft Mobility Package', which earned the Nets Award in Berlin in 2005.
Two extraordinary vacation hotels have been created in the area:
Both hotels were originally farms and combine a high level of comfort with an emphasis on sustainability.
The two family-run 'nature-hotels' are decorated in typical regional style making extensive use of wood and incorporating innumerable charming details. Nestled in their splendid natural surroundings, the hotels offer all the latest conveniences.
Trend scouting predicts that sustainability and health will gain in importance for holidaymakers in the future. Pielachtal plans to enhance its competence in the fields of sustainability and wholesome enjoyment. A range of projects that will concentrate on the health aspect is already in planning. In addition to healthful nutrition, healthy exercise will also be promoted.
The Pielachtal region is distinguished, among others, by its: