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Mountain walking in the Austrian Tirol

PatrickLondon

100+ Posts
About the village and the Tirol

For the last few years, I have been joining my brother and sister-in-law on their annual walking holiday in the Austrian Tirol (they’ve been going to the same hotel in the Stubaital, near Innsbruck for the best part of twenty years, and I think visited there for the winter sports season before that). You can’t get much slower travel than walking, even if it’s downhill after a cable-car ride up.


The Stubaital runs south from Innsbruck and the Inn valley towards the Stubai glacier and the mountains bordering Italy. No doubt many other mountain valleys are as beautiful and offer the same attractions, but this is the only one I know. Almost within living memory it was relatively remote and rural, and still retains a strong farming tradition, but nowadays roads and transport into Innsbruck are so good as to have allowed a light industrial sector to develop, and to make it relatively easy to commute into the city. Which is not to say it is over-developed or urbanised: rather, it is a chain of villages bound in by the steep mountain-sides around it.

Each village has a fair range of hotels, guest-houses and self-catering apartments; the main centres have a cable-car up to starting points for winter ski-ing and summer activities. You can tell the popularity of the place for winter sports by the size of the valley station for the cable-car(s) up to the glacier – and the size of the café-restaurant and sports supply shop up on top. Even in the summer there can usually be enough snow still on the top for some people to be ski-ing.

Likewise, each village has cafés and restaurants, though some are larger and busier than others. Neustift, the village where we stay, is not the biggest – round the village square there are about half a dozen cafés and restaurants, with a few more along the streets around. There are two supermarkets, a bank and a very helpful tourist information office. Fulpmes, further down the valley is a larger centre with rather more going on, and a direct tram into central Innsbruck (but it's very hilly in the centre).

The area, apart perhaps from Fulpmes, isn’t exactly humming with night-life: a lot of the hotels, like the one we stay in, run on a half-board (bed, breakfast, evening meal) basis, and people of my generation tend to go to bed early after a day’s walking. It has its community events – in Neustift, a Friday night concert by the village band (it’s impressive how each village can gather a group of 40-60 musicians of pretty good quality), sometimes a band festival for the whole valley, and processions for the major religious festivals (this is a strongly Catholic community).


Walking and activities


The area offers plenty of walking opportunities, along well-mapped and signposted routes allowing plenty of mountain vistas, alpine meadows and flowers; most people take the bus to the cable-car up and walk down to the valley road for a bus back to their hotel. There are more strenuous summer activities, such as paragliding, and at one place a summer toboggan track. It is, of course, also possible to walk up as well, or to walk at the highest level between the mountain huts - if you’re that fit.

You would not be remote from civilisation, except at the highest mountain-top level. Every cable-car has a café-restaurant (or Alm) at the top, so you could, if you felt like it, just go up for a coffee or hot chocolate, a short walk around, and (at the right spots) a look at the people paragliding down to the valley floor, or on the summer toboggan track at one place. Recommended walking routes all pass more café-restaurants, allowing convenient coffee-breaks, lunch and rest-stops. Many also have some additional features, like children’s play equipment, chickens and rabbits to look at, or at one place their own trout-pond, at another a friendly dog who won’t let you go without throwing a stick – several times.



Innsbruck

On days with doubtful weather, Innsbruck offers plenty of things to see. There’s the Hofburg, and Schloß Ambras, for people who like museums and palaces; the Grassmayr bell foundry is interesting and offers opportunities for banging things, or there’s a funicular up to the Nordkette for panoramic views; there are also plenty of shopping opportunities and a good food market. A short train and bus ride away are the silver mines at Hall, and the Swarovski Kristallwelten.



Practicalities and links

For walking, you will need good shoes or boots with a reasonable tread on the sole. Increasingly, paths are being widened and gravelled to cater for a wider range of users (we’ve certainly shared one of the highest but best-kept paths with families complete with push-chaired toddlers), but sometimes the forest roads can be quite steep, and no matter how broad, it could be easy to slip on the gravel. So walking poles are also useful, as brakes as much as for additional support over rough and muddy patches. To allow for all eventualities, it’s also advisable to take rainproofs, perhaps an additional light layer of clothing, but also suncream (the valley floor is already at 1000m above sea-level so the sun higher up can be quite intense) – and don’t forget a first-aid kit and a bottle of water.

There is a local transport pass, which certainly the hotel we stay in (and, I think, most other hotels) includes in its weekly rate, which includes bus and tram transport up and down the valley between the villages and cable-car stations and into Innsbruck, and cable car rides.

Innsbruck is in the "far west" of Austria (Vienna is five hours away by train, Salzburg just under two), and Innsbruck airport has a rather limited range of services. We find it more convenient to fly into Munich, staying there a couple of nights and then taking the two-hour train ride down.

Stubaital tourist information
Innsbruck tourist information
My photos: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
My blogposts
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
That looks like a great area! Thanks for the detailed report.

For the past three summers we have been going to a similar sounding area in Switzerland - Lenk, near Saanen/Gstaad. We are booked again for August. We are enjoying returning to an area we know, but really need to give Austria a try (and the Dolomites in Italy).
 

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