Karavankas, Karavanks

View to Eastern Karawanks from Mt. Stol/Hochstuhl
Highest point
Peak Hochstuhl/Veliki Stol
Elevation 2,236 m (7,336 ft)
Coordinates 46°26′3″N 14°10′24″E / 46.43417°N 14.17333°E / 46.43417; 14.17333
Length 120 km (75 mi)

The Karawanks (red, left) and Pohorje (red, right)

Countries Slovenia and Austria
Range coordinates 46°25′N 14°25′E / 46.42°N 14.42°E / 46.42; 14.42Coordinates: 46°25′N 14°25′E / 46.42°N 14.42°E / 46.42; 14.42
Parent range Southern Limestone Alps
Carinthian-Slovenian Alps

The Karawanks[1][2] or Karavankas[3][4] or Karavanks[5][6] (Slovene: Karavanke, German: Karawanken) are a mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps on the border between Slovenia to the south and Austria to the north. With a total length of 120 kilometres (75 mi) in an east-west direction, the Karawanks chain is one of the longest ranges in Europe.[7] It is traversed by important trade routes and has a great tourist significance. Geographically and geologically, it is divided into the higher Western Karawanks and the lower-lying Eastern Karawanks. It is traversed by the Periadriatic Seam, separating the Apulian tectonic plate from the Eurasian Plate.


Koschuta/Košuta massif near Zell

The Karawanks form the continuation of the Carnic Alps east of the Slizza stream near the tripoint of Austria, Slovenia and Italy at Arnoldstein. They are confined by the Drava Valley in the north (called Rosental/Rož) and the Sava in the south, separating it from the adjacent Julian Alps. In the east, they border on the Kamnik–Savinja Alps and Pohorje ranges.

A number of mountain passes on important trade routes cross the range, like Wurzen (Koreno), Loibl (Ljubelj) or Seeberg (Jezero), which have been used since prehistory. Nowadays the Austrian Karawanken Autobahn (A11) runs from Villach to the Karavanke motorway tunnel, which traverses the Western Karawanks connecting it with the Slovenian A2 motorway at Jesenice. A parallel railway line crosses the range through the Karawanks railway tunnel.

The Karawanks are a popular mountaineering area with numerous mountain huts. Many of the peaks offer a good view of the Klagenfurt basin on the Austrian side and the Ljubljana basin on the Slovene side. The northern Austrian side is rocky and precipitous while the Slovenian side is less steep, covered with spruce forests and low bushy pine at lower elevations with grass higher up.


Hochstuhl / Veliki Stol, view from Zasip

The Karawanks were settled already in the Stone Age, as indicated particularly by findings from the Potok Cave. In Roman times, they represented the southern border of the Noricum province, and later, of the Slavic principality of Carantania. The ancient geographer Claudius Ptolemy mentioned the Karwankas mountains about 150 AD. The name probably is derived from Celtic karv ("deer"), a tradition that has survived in the Košuta (Slovene for "hind") massif.

From the first half of the 11th century, the Karawanks formed the border between the territory of the Duchy of Carinthia and the adjacent March of Carniola in the south. After Carniola had been elevated to a duchy in 1364, both lands became part of Inner Austria and were crown lands of the Habsburg Monarchy from 1526 up to World War I. The northern slopes of the Karawanks were a historic settlement area of Carinthian Slovenes, nevertheless in October 1920, the crest was decided with the Carinthian Plebiscite as the border between the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia); only the municipality of Jezersko had already passed from Carinthia to Yugoslavia.

In the final weeks of the Second World War the Karawanks passes witnessed intense fighting. The 24th SS Kampfgruppe (battlegroup) commanded by SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS (Brigadier) Heinz Harmel was ordered to keep the Karawanken passes open between Yugoslavia and Austria. This task was critical in allowing German forces to withdraw from Yugoslavia in order to surrender to British rather than Yugoslav forces. The Kampfgruppe succeeded in its final task, and was one of the last German units to surrender, when it encountered the British 6th Armoured Division on 9 May 1945.[8]

After World War II the Karawanks remained the border between Austria and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and finally the independent Slovenia from 1991. Since the entry of Slovenia to the Schengen Area in 2007, a free movement of people and goods across the Karawanks has been allowed, and the two countries started to aim for an economic integration of their border areas.[9]

Notable peaks

Boden Valley and Mt. Vertatscha/Vrtača

Several place names also have German names, and today the peaks along the main chain of the Karawanks are usually displayed in Slovene and German on hiking maps:

See also


  1. Flügel, Helmut W., & Peter Faupl (eds.). 1987. Geodynamics of the Eastern Alps. Vienna: Franz Deuticke, p. 374.
  2. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, vol. 6. 2002. New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education, p. 708.
  3. Murray, John. 1871. Handbook for Travellers in Southern Germany. London: John Murray, p. 369.
  4. Raos, Ivan, & Miodrag Stojanović. 1966. The Beauties of Yugoslavia. Ljubljana: Delo.
  5. Pavlakovich-Kochi, Vera, Barbara Jo Morehouse, & Doris Wastl-Walter. 2004. Challenged Borderlands: Transcending Political and Cultural Boundaries Aldershot: Ashgate, p. 58.
  6. Kmecl, Matjaž, & Joco Žnidaršič. 1987. Treasure Chest of Slovenia. Ljubljana: Cankarjeva založba.
  7. http://www.karavanke.eu/
  8. Williamson, Gordon (2004). The Waffen SS (4): 24. to 38. Divisions, & Volunteer Legions. p. 4.
  9. "Operational Programme: Cross-Border Cooperation Slovenia–Austria 2007–2013" (PDF). European Territorial Co-operation SI-AT. December 2007 [2007-12-21]. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
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