This is Austrian hiking for 9 months of the year!
But then the valley fills as the snow melts. And what the trails look like then is only seen with the aid of scuba gear. The resulting underwater hiking season is short, but catch it if you can!
Check out these photos: they are surreal, magical even. The crystal clear water makes it seems like you are flying. And the photos are wanderlust-inducing.
Enjoy! See you on the trails!
Situated at the base of the Hochschwab Mountains in the southeastern state of Styria, Austria, Grüner See, or Green Lake, is unlike any other park in the world. During the colder months, it’s a hiker’s paradise—miles of trails snake across the base of the mountain range’s rambling foothills. But come springtime, a flood of melted snow cascades down the mountain range, submerging the basin-like area and transforming it into a crystal-clear, 40-foot-deep lake. For several months out of the year, a scuba mask and flippers become more appropriate than a pair of hiking boots.
Because Grüner See is the result of snowmelt, its clear waters reveal a surreal scene below. Divers and swimmers can view the park’s many wooden benches, bridges, and pathways beneath the water’s surface, giving the lake an Atlantis-like feel.
The meltwater also takes on an emerald-green hue thanks to the park’s ample grasses and other vegetation, which continue to thrive under water.
One local resident who feels the pull of Grüner See’s chilly waters each spring is professional photographer and scuba diver Thomas Aichinger, who has been diving for more than 25 years.
Aichinger recommends wearing the appropriate gear when diving, which includes a wetsuit, as the water temperature rarely climbs above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
“When you’re diving, you feel like you’re flying,” he says, “since you’re swimming above the park’s submerged benches and bridges.”
The window of opportunity for travelers to see this geological phenomenon is limited to a few short weeks and usually occurs during the spring and summer months, beginning in late April or early May. Come July, the water has started to recede, causing the lake to disappear just as quickly as it formed, leaving behind nothing more than a mirage.
For travelers who want to keep their feet on solid ground, there are several hiking trails and overlooks around the perimeter of the lake that don’t get flooded out, making it an ideal place to relax or have a picnic. For hikers, the best time to visit is during the fall or winter, when the water level drops to reveal several miles of trails. The park is also a popular spot for cross-country skiing in the wintertime when the area is blanketed in snow.
Thanks to Jennifer Nalewicki and Smithsonian: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/explore-austrias-underwater-hiking-trails-