Green Lake is an alpine meadow in Tragöss, Austria, with a point of difference. Each spring, melting snow from the Hochschwab Mountains seeps into the valley, flooding the flowering meadows and submerging it in 10 metres of pristine glacier water, turning it into an underwater wonderland for Scuba Divers.
During the winter the lake is only a couple of metres deep, and the surrounding area is used as a county park. When spring arrives, the temperature rises and the snow melts, causing the basin of land below the mountains to fill with water. The name “Green Lake” came about because of its emerald-green water, due to the light refracting through the water off the grass and rocks below.
It’s hard to believe that an alpine meadow can survive underwater. And yet, in the Austrian municipality of Tragöss in Upper Styria, just outside the small mountain hamlet of Oberort, one can experience this surreal waterscape first-hand every May, June and July. Once summer comes to the mountains, the water begins evaporating, returning the park to the hikers once again.
Scuba diving at Green Lake
During the warmer months visitors trade in hiking boots for flippers and scuba gear to explore the lake. Scuba divers from around the world gather in May and June for one of the most unique diving experiences in the world, passing over gravel paths, bushes, and swimming through the seasonal Atlantis-style environment.
The lake supports some aquatic life, such as small fish and underwater insects, but nothing larger than trout, so there’s no need to worry about losing a limb to the fearsome grass shark or evade any vicious crustacean – just enjoy the outdoors, as it sits blissfully underwater.
The water remains cold, and while swimming is not prohibited only those willing to brave the cold venture past wading. The temperature of the lake itself is between 4 and 8 °C, yet this doesn’t deter a swarm of divers each spring eager to explore the underwater majesty of the green lake.
Diving at Green Lake is controlled, and divers must possess the appropriate diver ID card. A hotel-restaurant near the shore offers the only legal access for divers to enter the water, and also provides air tank refills and gear rental.
There is also hiking at Green Lake
For most of the year it’s a good place for an Alpine hike. In the mountains with crisp air, away from the city, visitors come for a day of walking around the smallish body of water, a mountain meadow and the surrounding forest. The nature reserve offers hiking trails, park benches, bushes, grasses, and flowering plants until warm spring days bring water from the thawing mountain peaks to drown it all.
Many hiking and mountain biking trails originate in Tragoess, making the area a favourite holiday destination. A number of guest cottages, hostels and inns welcome visitors to the region year round. In winter, several ski resorts and snow-based recreational destinations make the Tragoess area popular, with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding available on the trails.
The State of Styria calls itself the ‘green heart’ of Austria, with Green Lake one of its most picturesque sights. Water from the snow melt in the region provides much of the drinking water for the city of Vienna.
When to go to diving in the Green Lake
The lake reaches its maximum depth of around 12 m from mid-May to June and is claimed to look the most beautiful at this time. In July, the water begins to recede. The lake is popular among divers who can observe the green meadows in the edge zone of the lake particularly in June when the water is at its highest.
The lake supports a variety of fauna such as snails, water fleas, small crabs, fly larvae, and different species of trout. The flora is not abundant because of the rocky bottom of the lake, but the underwater views are amazing nonetheless.
Which operator should you dive with?
There aren’t many diving operators in Grünersee, but the St Martin Chalets Resort organizes trips from the resort to Scuba Dive in Green Lake in June, depending on water levels. An up to date diving license and an active dive log book are required, and the three day trip costs $600 USD per person. Visit Holidays to Austria for more information.
The St Martin Chalets Scuba Diving trips include:
- Self-catering accommodation in the St Martin Chalets resort
- All equipment hire including air
- Pre-dive check in swimming pool
- Diving fee for Grünersee
- 2x dives in Grüner See
- Guide / Divemaster
- Transfer to and from Grüner See