© NP Thayatal Mirau

A wildcat is sitting on a rock and one half of the cat is covered by a deadwood

© NP Thayatal D. Manhart

The Thaya Bridge which unites Austria and the Czech Republic in the Thayatal national park

© NP Thayatal C. Übl

A black stork which has a black body and only a white stomach is standing in the water while it is starting to fly

© NP Thayatal Neffe Marek

A rock is lying on the left side of the river Thaya.In the background are many Stones in the water and trees are growing on the shore.

© NP Thayatal Neffe Marek

4 people are sitting on a rock which is located about 100 metres above the river Thaya

© NP Thayatal C. Übl

A group of visitors is following a ranger on a hiking trail through the forest. Behind the hikers is a big rock

© NP Thayatal M. Kainz

On a meadow are standing some remains of the Iron Curtain

(c) NP Thayatal C. Übl

A dry hillside with big, mossy stones where grass and some oaks are growing

© NP Thayatal C.Übl

Around the castle of Hardegg are some houses and much forest. At the left side of the picture, you can see the river "Thaya".

View to the castle of Hardegg

(c) NP Thayatal M. Graf

Thayatal National Park

• Covering part of the Thaya valley in Lower Austria and the Czech Republic
• Established in 2000
• Covering one single local authority area: Hardegg
• The smallest national park, with just 1,330 hectares in Austria
• 500 species of lichen, 950 species of butterfly, 20 species of bat, 100 species of birds and 1,288 species of plants
• 90% forest, 3% open water areas, 3% wetland meadows

The 1,330 hectare Thayatal National Park - one of the last near-natural valleys in Central Europe - was established in 2000 and includes the Czech Národní Park Podyjí. The conservation area is located on a distinct climatic border where Continental and Central European flora and fauna mix. The more than 40 hectares of meadows make a particularly important contribution to biological diversity.

In addition to the traditional high-fertility meadows, the area is mainly rough pastures rich in biodiversity. The magic of the Thaya Valley also lies in its especially great diversity of plant species in close proximity to each other. Until now, 1,288 species of plants have been identified in both national parks of the Thaya Valley (the Czech section covers 6,260 hectares). The park is also home to otters, black stork, more than 500 different species of lichen, more than 950 species of butterfly, 20 species of bat and - a special highlight - wildcats, which have been found again in Austria after decades.

The national park centre of the Thayatal National park
© NP Thayatal D. Manhart

The national park centre of the Thayatal National park
© NP Thayatal D. Manhart

Hardegg National Park Centre

The National Park Centre is the first point of call for visitors. At the information point, there are hiking guides, hiking maps, nature information, the current events programme as well as information on tourist offerings in the region surrounding the national park.

The core of the visitor centre is the multimedia and multilingual exhibition "Natur-Geschichten”. It takes you through a journey of discovery through the valley landscape of Thaya. The huge aerial image invites you to experience the valley in its full glory and study it in every detail.

The national park shop, the café restaurant, the large adventure playground, the natural science workshop and the caravan parking area complete the service facilities for visitors.

© NP Thayatal D. Manhart

© NP Thayatal D. Manhart

Wildcat enclosure with Frieda & Carlo

They are considered to be extinct in Austria, but they were rediscovered in the Thayatal National Park. Visit the two wildcats Frieda and Carlo in their large viewing enclosure in the National Park Centre. Our wildcat facility is the largest in Austria at 450 m², thanks to the incorporation of the adjacent woodland.

You can observe the animals climbing, lazing around and searching for food in the compound from the foyer and the event hall of the National Park Centre. The feeding shows are a highlight for visitors. Following a film projection on the biology of wildcats and a brief introduction, a national park ranger enters the enclosed area of the facility and hides some pieces of food. The two wildcats are then allowed to enter and the visitors experience the skill with which Frieda and Carlo seek out the pieces of food and the power, elegance and speed with which they climb the shrubs and trees.

Hiking routes

© NP Thayatal Mirau

© NP Thayatal Mirau

Thayatal trail 1

Walking time: 2 hours/6 kilometres or 3 hours/9.5 km for a circuit

The trail leads over long distances along the Thaya to the Umlaufberg, one of the most impressive parts of the national park, as well as through untouched nature and delightful landscapes. Admittedly, the route has some steeper trail sections. Sturdy footwear and endurance are required. The hike can be started in Hardegg or in Merkersdorf. The return trail most runs on a bicycle and footpath (not included in the walking time, duration: 1 hour/4 km).

Beginning in Hardegg, the Thaya bridge is the starting point. The trail becomes easier after the steep ascent over the Gabrielensteig. Einsiedler trail 2 forks left at the trail crossing.

The Thayatal trail then goes downhill again. Even in high summer, it is pleasantly cool by the Thaya. Very rare yews are scattered around here. A short distance after the hillside footbridge, the Merkersdorf circular route 4 turns right and makes a steep ascent.

The trail splits at the first fishing huts. Toward the right, uphill, the shorter alternative leads to the crossing, an observation point. It is fascinating how the narrow river bends form two facing meander cut-offs. The Neuhäusel ruins can be seen only approx. 1.3 km upstream on the Czech side.

The trail around the meander cut-off along Thaya 1a is easier (walking time: 1 hour/3.5 km). The meadows and forests alternate and hikers are accompanied by the noise of the water.

The trails meet again below the crossing. The ruins of Neuhäusel can be seen once again, this time downstream, at the mouth of the Kajabach. In the Kajabach moat by the bridge, a shortcut to the parking area turns right, or straight ahead there is a forest road by the ruins of Kaja to Merkersdorf (Kaja trail 5). Hiking trail 630 turns towards Retz before the ruins.

A Little house in the rocks built with stone bricks
© NP Thayatal C. Übl

A Little house in the rocks built with stone bricks
© NP Thayatal C. Übl

Einsiedler trail 2

Walking time: 2.5 hours/5 km

At the entrance to the National Park Centre, you cross the Landesstraße and reach the edge of the forest via a track. The national park begins here, and a forest road leads you to the middle of nature. Part of the trail is designed as a wildcat themed trail. There, where Thayatal trail 1 crosses Einsiedler trail 2, begins a romantic hollow-way that leads to the Bärmühl meadow by the Thaya and ends at a rock face. A rock dwelling approx. 5 m in height can be seen. The legend tells of a hermit who lived here at the time of the crusades and helped the Hardegg habitants to a silver mine. The trail goes back along the hollow-way for a short distance, a steep path turns right and uphill and passes through oak and hornbeam populations. Two observation points boast the impressive river landscape of Thaya. The Einsiedler trail joins Thayatal trail 1 again at a fork. The trail descends down to Hardegg over the steep Gabrielensteig. You will arrive back at the National Park Centre via the Kirchensteig, which starts behind the fire station or opposite the parking area of the Hardegg castle.

A small observation tower with Hardegg in the background

A small observation tower with Hardegg in the background

Hardegg observation tower Hardeggská vyhlídka A

Walking time: 1.5 hours/4 km

The Hardegg observation tower can be found high above Hardegg on the Czech side. Roughly 25 km after the border post, a marked path forks left which leads through the forest to Thaya. From here, you can enjoy the view of Hardegg over the dam. The natural vegetation in this stretch was virtually untouched during the time of the Iron Curtain. Some concrete bunkers are evidence of the previous fortification. In one , the trail turns right and leads through the forest on the high plain to an asphalted road.

It turns left towards Čížov (1 km), where the information point of the Czech national park Podyjí is located and a relict from the Iron Curtain remains. A right turn will take you back to Hardegg. After 1 km, a path branches off to the Hardegg observation point. This view of Thayatal and Hardegg is not to be missed. Once you are back on the road, it makes a steep ascent to the national border.

Travel information

By car
From Vienna:
A 22 until Stockerau, B 303 to Hollabrunn and onwards via Guntersdorf and Retz to Merkersdorf and Hardegg (approx. 95 km).

From the west:
A 1 Linz - St. Pölten, St. Pölten express road - Krems, via Eggenburg and Pulkau to Hardegg.

From the north:
In Znojmo (Znaim) after Thayabrücke turn right towards Retz. In Mitterretzbach turn right towards Hardegg via Niederfladnitz; or from Vranov (Frain) via Šafov, Langau to Hardegg.

GPS coordinates for your car GPS:
Latitude: N: 48 ° 50' 40,438"
Longitude: E: 15° 51' 36.072"
Elevation: 424 m

By public transport
Train and bus:
Vienna railway - Retz or Znojmo - Retz, Retz bus - Hardegg
Train information desk: 05/1717,
Bus information desk: 01/711 01,

Reblaus Express and adventure bus:
The "Reblaus Express” travels from Retz to the Waldviertel ["Forest Quarter”] on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays (1 May to 26 October 2016). The journey with the nostalgic train connects you to a bicycle tour and a trip in the national park. You can take your bicycle with you for free. The adventure bus also goes directly to the national park. Holders of the NÖ card travel with the Reblaus Express for free.
Information: 02942/2415, 0664/6176579

Other transport options
Bicycle rentals:
Thayatal National Park (including e-bikes): 02949/7005
Hotel Althof Retz: 02942/3711-0
Retz Tourism Association (only e-bikes): 02942/2700
Pulkau Tourism Board: 02946/27080
Next Bike at Retz train station, information:

Taxi services:
Dietrich (Mallersbach): 0664/4239199
Weinviertler taxi service (Retz): 0664/2806970


Thayatal National Park

National Park Centre
2082 Hardegg

T +43 (0) 2949 / 7005 - 0
F +43 (0) 2949 / 7005 - 50

Office hours
Monday to Thursday: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Friday: 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Closed on public holidays. Subject to modifications.