National Park

Thayatal National Park

Green Canyon
of the Cats

In conjunction with Národni Park Podyjí, the Thayatal National Park protects one of the finest and most biodiverse valley landscapes in all of Europe. With its forest wilderness and idyllic river landscape, this gem in the High North provides a habitat to animals such as the European wildcat, which seemed to have disappeared from Austria a long time ago.



The national park area in Lower Austria is 1,360 ha. Together with the Czech share, about 7,700 ha are protected.


92% forest

4% meadows

3% bodies of water

1% dry grasslands & rocks


The Thayatal National Park was established in 2000 and recognised by the IUCN as a protected area under category II in 2001.

Good to know

The protected area combines 44% of native flora into just 0.016% of the land area of Austria.

(c)D. Manhart

Natural Environment Thaya Valley

Nature knows no boundaries: this is why two protected areas, the Thayatal National Park and its Czech neighbour, preserve one of the last natural valley landscapes in all of Europe, generating rich biodiversity thanks to Pannonian and Atlantic climatic influences.

In addition to dense oak, hornbeam, copper beech, linden and sycamore forests, which cover around 90% of the National Park area, rich and meagre pastures, dry grasslands and the free-flowing Thaya create a habitat for numerous rare animal and plant species.

The long loops of the river dominate the face of the hilly landscape in particular: the fact that the Thaya has burrowed deep into the hard, crystalline rock of the Bohemian Massif over millions of years has ensured the development of various slopes and biotopes, making it the lifeline of this valley of breakthrough.


A cat on a branch
(c)Claudia Ebner
A lizard on a branch
(c)D. Manhart

Fauna of the Thaya Valley

Animals that would be categorised as belonging to Pannonian-Central European fauna, such as dice snakes and green lizards, can primarily be found in the Thayatal National Park.

The fact evidence that wild cats are living here was first detected in 2007 is regarded as nothing less than a small miracle: for many decades the extremely shy forest inhabitants were thought to have disappeared from Austria. Although the animals can rarely be seen in the wild, a visit to the National Park gives you the chance to possible come across these cats: two members of this rare species, Carlo and Frieda, can be observed in the enclosure of the National Park House.


A stork flies over the water
(c)NPTT Marek

The black stork can often be spotted when fishing between Hardegg and Überstieg. This distinctive black wader already starts to return from its East African winter habitat in the middle of March and is one of the first animals that hail the arrival of spring in the Thaya Valley.

A crayfish under the water
(c)M. Graf

The once widespread European crayfish is one of the highly endangered species due to river engineering and pollution as well as “crayfish plague” and displacement by North American species. Animals that are active at night find an ideal, protected habitat in the Kajabachtal valley.

A big beetle on a wood
(c)Sendor Zeman

The larva of the stag beetle develops into an adult beetle over a lengthy period of three to eight years. During this time the insect eats its way through decaying wood, which serves as a source of food, breeding ground and shelter. The deadwood found in the forest national park is therefore very suited to the largest beetle in Europe.

Flowers in the colour yellow
(c)D. Manhart

Flora of the Thayatal

The “Green Canyon” in the north of Austria is home to large populations of beech and oak forests as well as a wide variety of shrubs. This includes the yellow cornel (cornelian cherry), the fruits of which are commonly known as “dirndl”.

In addition to typical members of Pannonian-Central European flora, endangered and highly threatened plant species can also be found in the National Park. This includes for example the first recently discovered plantain thrift.

(c)Ch. Übl

You could search throughout the whole of Austria, but Siberian melic grass can only be found on one of the dry rocky locations of the Thaya Valley. The plant, which reaches a height of up to two metres, prefers light, dry forests with rocky ground and tilts its flowers to the side, resembling a string of pearls.

Flowers in the colour yellow
(c)D. Manhart

Thanks to its fragrant roots and the attractive shape of the flower, the Hungarian iris was pleasing to botanists way back as early as ancient Athens (278 BC). The Thayatal National Park is home to a particularly rare and endangered species of bright, golden yellow flowers.

A tree with yellow flowers
(c)M. Graf

The unimposing shrub of the yellow cornel can frequently be found in the National Park area. You can only notice it in early spring when its flower heads shine out and cover the Überstieg at the Umlaufberg mountain in an intense yellow colour. However, the fact that this fauna flowers early and produces fruit late (dirndl) make it one thing in particular: a rich source of food.

Discover Nature

Natural Oasis

Impressive silence and a surprisingly imposing valley landscape make Austria’s smallest national park an attractive walking destination and refuge.

Trailer Thayatal National Park

(c)R. Mirau
(c)Popp Hackner
(c)Claudia Ebner
The entire richness of the National Park

Always something to discover

(c)R. Mirau

Überstieg and Umlaufberg Mountain

The landscape-shaping force and life-giving energy of the Thaya becomes impressively tangible at the Überstieg viewing point. With its magnificent view of the meandering river and Umlaufberg mountain, this is one of the hotspots of the Thayatal trail – the most beautiful route in the National Park area.

(c)Popp Hackner
(c)D. Manhart


The cool, wild, romantic Kajabachtal valley allows for diverse encounters with the flora and fauna in the protected area: botanic rarities, such as the Turk’s cap lily and lush mountain pasture vegetation can also be found here, as well as rare river crayfish and fire salamanders. Anyone looking out from the forest near the mouth of the Kajabach stream (in the Thaya) should look up towards the skies: if you’re lucky you’ll spot the black stork and common buzzard exploiting thermal forces at that very moment.

(c)D. Manhart
(c)D. Manhart


The 5 km long circular trail gets its name from a legendary hermit from the time of the crusades, who is said to have lived in a rock face here. With the wild cat trail, the first stage also includes a themed path for the entire family, allowing us to get a deeper insight into the living environment and behaviour of what is probably the shyest inhabitant in the National Park. 

Experience even more

The Best Start
to Experiencing Nature

The varied range of information and activities for visitors to the Thayatal National Park invite us to uncover the secrets of the “Green Canyon”.

(c)Astrid Bartl

National Park House

The National Park House near Hardegg is a central point of contact for guests. In addition to an information point, nature research workplace, “Natur-Geschichten” exhibition, large adventure playground and café, the house offers the option of booking ranger-guided tours, renting e-bikes or making use of one of the National Park’s eight caravan parking spaces. The visitor facility also has a wild cat enclosure on an area of 450 m², which allows visitors to encounter the otherwise very shy inhabitants of the Thaya Valley.



National Park House Thaya Valley-Podyjí

Merkersdorf 90, 2082 Hardegg
Tel.: +43 (2949) 7005



Project weeks and summer camps

(c)Waldviertel Tourismus Studio Kerschbaum
Children with suitcases and a ranger in front of a building
(c)Waldviertel Tourismus Studio Kerschbaum
(c)A. Bartl


The Wildkatzencamp is located in the immediate vicinity of the National Park House and directly on the edge of the National Park forest. School classes and youth groups with up to 60 participants are very welcome here. Our rangers accompany the adventure days and an evening programme during the stay. In their free time, the pupils can explore the forest with its wild play elements such as a tree house or a cave, become active themselves in building the camp or in the clay pit or let off steam on the forest course.



National Park House Thayatal-Podyjí

Merkersdorf 90, 2082 Hardegg
Tel.: +43 (2949) 7005 0

Contact and Directions

Nationalpark Thayatal GmbH


2082 Hardegg
Tel.: +43 (2949) 7005 0


Supported by the Federal Government and the European Union.

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