The lake is elongated, about 20 km long and 1–2 km wide.It stretches from the Carinthian capital Klagenfurt in the east to Velden in the west. It is flanked to the north and south by steep alpine foothills covered with dense forests, beyond which snow-capped alpine peaks are visible. The lake's water is a distinctive blue-green colour and transparent.
In the early nineteenth century the marshy shores were home only to a handful of poor peasants. The building of the Austrian Southern Railway (Südbahn), in the middle of the nineteenth century quickly turned the Wörthersee into an exclusive summer retreat for Vienna's nobility.
The southern shore is quieter and less developed.
In winter, the region is often covered by snow and approximately every 10 years the lake freezes over, attracting numerous ice skaters.
Most tourists visit the Lake in the months of July and August when water temperatures reach 25°C. A large proportion of visitors return every summer and some own or rent holiday homes along the shore. The vast majority of visitors come from Vienna, northern Germany and the Netherlands. The largest Volkswagen Golf GTI meeting in Europe is held here (usually May) every year and since 1981.
Lake Wörth and its basin in the central Carinthian foothills were largely formed by glaciers during the last ice age. It is Carinthia's largest lake. The lake is divided into three basins by islands and peninsulas. The western basin stretches from Velden to Pörtschach, the central basin from Pörtschach to Maria Wörth and the eastern basin from Maria Wörth to Klagenfurt. The lake's distributary is the Glanfurt, eventually flowing into the Drau river via the Glan and Gurk rivers.
The lake's name originates from its islands (Schlangeninsel and Kapuzinerinsel; the former islands Maria Wörth and Maria Loretto are now peninsulas). Until the 19th century the lake was called "Werdersee", or island lake.