You can expect a demanding hike from Warmbad up to Bad Bleiberg.
The first stage of the round trail around the Dobratsch leads from the periphery of the city of Villach around the Dobratsch to the remote high valley of Bad Bleiberg. You can expect not only to enjoy a nearly untouched nature but you can also gain a first insight into the rich cultural history of Villach. In the first section of the stage, there are several attractions, including two caves and the small hill “ Tscheltschnigkogel” , the site of an ancient settlement. From here, follow an old mule track to the north side of the Dobratsch where you can make a culinary pause at the Hundsmarhof. Follow the way to Heiligengeist, from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of Villach. The next section will lead you past a former mining village in the shadow of the mountain. Here, you enter a world of its own, which for centuries was dominated by mining and which has also created a distinctive architecture. When you reach the main square in Bad Bleiberg you will fully appreciate Bad Bleiberg´s special character and succumb to the austere charm of the area.
The park was constructed in the early 19th century as a spa. In 1965, it was officially named after a military regiment that fought in World War 1 against Italian troops. The regiment’s commander, Colonel Georg Teppner, was co-owner of Warmbad and is buried in a chapel that is designed in the style of the late Gothic period. The Chapel lies at the edge of the forest near “Maibachl,” a thermal spring that was declared a natural monument in 2005.
Eggerloch (Egger Hole)
Due to its unique geographical structure, the Dobratsch contains countless caves, of which only a fraction can be explored. The largest cave is the “Eggerloch,” a giant hollow that is visible from a great distance. The 700 meter long passageway is home to approximately 90 different animal species, including the black ground beetle and 17 different species of bats. The cave was opened up in the 1930s by Oskar Hosse, who was said to have also discovered a hatch to another supposedly giant cave. In 1939, the “Eggerloch” was the scene of the Nazi propaganda film, "Miracle in the mountain." To this day, the cave is a reminder of Hosse’s legacy. Also present is an underground connection to the Durezza Shaft, where the bones of 138 people and numerous animals were found. Some archaeologists claim that this was a prehistoric burial ground, while others say it was the site of human and animal sacrifices in the period between the Hallstatt and Celtic eras.
This gorgeous rocky outcrop stands at nearly 700 meters. In addition to the beautiful view, “Tscheltschnigkogel” is the most important archaeological site on the Dobratsch. There are many notable places to visit, including the remnants of a defensive wall and a hilltop settlement from late antiquity, and the foundations of an early Christian church. In addition, you will find the remains of a sprawling fortress from the 5th century.
This landmark house dates back to the 16th century and is situated just under 1,000 meters above sea level. It has provided hikers with food and drink for generations. The name is derived from its former owners, the Humb family from Villach. An Interesting part of Hundsmarhof is the wood-paneled parlor with historic furniture, as well as the equally comfortable garden.
Heiligengeist (Holy Spirit)
Tourism has played a role on the Dobratsch since before World War I. The Ebner family were the original pioneers, constructing a simple chalet on the Dobratsch in 1910. In its heyday in the 1970s, the previously rural Dobratsch underwent a transformation. First, a ski lift was constructed. Next, the legenday “V 73” ski slopes on the north side of the Dobratsch were expanded. Today the simple chalet has been turned into a four-star hotel.
The Bleiberg Valley
This is the most densely populated mountain valley in Carinthia and was dominated by the mining industry from the middle ages to the end of the 20th century. By 1850, there were 4,000 inhabitants, while the city of Villach had only 2,700 inhabitants at the same time. The majority of the population was formed by miners and their families, while the rest were mine owners, traders or farmers. Since the lead and zinc mines were shut down in 1993, the population has shrunk to 2,300. The narrow, 6 km long valley floor lies at an elevation of 900 meters and is home to four different villages, some of which have merged while retaining their own peculiarities.
At the center of the town lies a vacant space, going by the name of the “Avalanche Place,” in remembrance of a devastating avalanche in 1879. 39 people were killed in the avalanche and over thirty houses destroyed. Only a few of the homes were ever rebuilt. The names of the victims are engraved in obelisk-like fountains in the “Avalanche Place.” Even the medieval village and the old church fell victim to the avalanche, which helps explain why Bleiberg seems strangely incomplete today. By the end of the 20th century avalanches occurred annually and often cut the residents off from the outside world for weeks. The Main Street also had to be relocated after a fire in 1893, further scarring the city. Nonetheless, Bad Bleiberg has a wealth of historic buildings and industrial heritage, which blend in often beautiful ways with the natural landscape.
You can find architectural examples of the impressive homes of the mine owners and mining officials in the current town hall, which was renovated from remains of 17th century homes. Further examples can be found at the "Baron Cafè" as well as in the old elementary school. Opposite the homes of the mining barons were workers' homes, which sat impoverished in the shadows of the mine owners’ homes. A relic of the Nazi era is the neighboring miner's house, then called “the followers house." The foyer of the cultural hall was frescoed by the nationalist painter Suitbert Lobisser with a painting designed to pay homage to the mining industry and the profession of the miners. The common use of the followers’ house was the personal care of the miners and their families. However, it later served as a bathhouse. It now it houses a kindergarten and accommodation for the staff at the school.
On the western edge of the valley is one of the most important industrial monuments of the valley: the headframe of Rudolf’s Shaft which was built in 1869 and expanded in 1910. The large spoil heap at the foot of the tower is evidence of the headframe’s past capability. The spa was later built on this "dump.”
In 1926 the miners managed to reach a depth of 386 meters, at which point they could enter the Rudolf-Blind Shaft, which was even deeper at 850 meters. The lowest point of the Berger lead mines was thus only 87 meters above sea level! Much of the Rudolf-Blind Shaft eventually filled with water, but in all about 1,300 km of shafts and tunnels were dug into the mountain over the centuries.
You can reach Villach-Warmbad easily by train (S2 Line).
Leave the A2 motorway at the exit "Villach-Warmbad" and follow the signs towards the "Kärnten Therme".