After the past few years, the chance of a summer escape to the mountains has never been more welcome. The good news is that Austria’s Tirol region is just a very short trip away, so you can pop over for a quick ‘fresh air and freedom fix’ in the Alps over a weekend or perhaps midweek, or you could take a more indulgent, longer holiday to fully recharge your body and soul.
While staying in one of Europe’s most beautiful regions you have the choice of just sitting back and doing next to nothing, or going for a full-on active escape.
Tirol has hiking trails aplenty from gentle strolls to stunning multi-day mountain-top hikes for the most determined. It’s a similar story for road or mountain biking, with increasingly-popular E-biking as an option for either. Or you could take to the region’s fast-flowing waterways or placid, pristine mountains for some wild swimming, stand-up paddleboarding or rafting, to name but a few of the options.
Whether you go for full-on action or utter relaxation, or perhaps a bit of both, the Tirol is the perfect summer spot to reconnect with family and friends, enjoy good times and great food together.
Hiking, in its myriad of variations, is the most popular summer activity in Tirol and the different resorts all offer a plethora of possibilities whatever your taste.
If you’re a very early riser the Zillertal has you covered. The region, just a short distance from Innsbruck, offers a choice of sunrise hikes, which typically involve a pre-dawn start to be on a mountain top before the sunshine is. The quickest and easiest option is a gondola ride up Mount Ahorn from which you can walk down after a hearty breakfast after soaking up the dawn rays. Other options can involve biking up some or all of the route.
For more experienced hikers the easy to moderately difficult hike on the Gedrechter in Kaltenbach takes you on an initially wide path before narrowing to wind its way up towards the summit. Hikers should reserve a space for a lengthy breakfast at the Wedelhütte after witnessing the sunrise where owner Manni and the team will spoil you with culinary delights to power you up for the easier return walk.
Kitzbühel offers a huge choice of hikes for all abilities and tastes from beginner trails in the valleys to strenuous summit-conquering routes. Guiding companies offer expert support and can lead you to the best spots, including on themed walks with English-spoken of course. You can even bring together watersports and hiking if you wish with the popular ‘Four Lakes Hike’ that takes you from one to another of the region’s most popular and beautiful lakes.
St. Anton sits at the heart of another vast network of maintained hiking trails, which add up to some 300km in total. Again, there are options for all ability levels from gentle strolls along the valley floor to long-distance routes crossing the high slopes above the village and potentially linking into other sections of long-distance trails. Between these two extremes, Senn’s Wunder Wander Wegg (It’s a great name and it translates to “the wonder hiking trail for the senses”) on Mount Rendl is a marvel for nature lovers with all the senses heightened by the stunning display of wildflowers and the sights and enticing smells on the walk. In addition, everyone staying overnight in St. Anton and the wider region receives a visitor card with many benefits including the option to enjoy a free guided hike once a week.
One of Austria’s most famous long-distance hiking routes for serious walkers, the Adlerweg (Eagle’s Trail) resembles the shape of an eagle’s wings on the map starts in St. Johann in Tirol and proceeds through the Karwendel range to St. Anton am Arlberg and beyond. The entire route covers around 420 kilometres. Following the route traces the silhouette of a flying eagle, it comprises a total of 33 daily stages and 31,000 metres in altitude difference.
It’s one of, once again, a huge choice of hiking routes in the Kitzbühel Alps region around St. Johann in Tirol along forest trails, over Alpine pastures, high mountain peaks and past romantic mountain lakes and waterfalls.
The “Koasa Trail” – a long-distance hike with five marvellous hikes within it through the most beautiful spots of the region is another great call for hiking enthusiasts. These include the famed Eifersbacher Waterfall and spectacular Griesbach Gorge.
Innsbruck too of course has a huge range of hikes available for the whole family from themed hikes to summit conquests, all part of the region’s mountain hiking programme. Together with qualified mountain guides, hiking enthusiasts of all ages can experience the beauty of the area and a free Welcome Card given to overnight guests staying two or more nights here includes the option to join in the guided mountain hiking tour programme.
One option in Innsbruck is a multi-day hike with the luxury of having your luggage transported between your overnight stops for you whilst you hike-light during the day. The seven-day trekking tour combines the most beautiful hikes in the Innsbruck region and includes luggage transport between selected, pre-booked 3-star hotels. You can travel with a guide or hike solo.
Along with the endless peaceful road-biking routes you can tackle on a regular bike or an e-bike, most mountain resorts in Tirol offer downhill biking and full MTB facilities from spring to autumn, with the option of a comfortable lift ride with your bike up the mountain. Again many have electric mountain bikes available to rent and instructors and guides to show you how to make the best of your bike and your location.
Bikepark Innsbruck is one of the world’s big attractions for downhill bikers and Crankworx Innsbruck draws the international biking elite to town each year on their limited-stop world tour of the planet’s best park. This year they’re in town from 15–19 June 2022. The Crankworx programme isn’t just for pros though with events for amateurs on the programme too. But the seven pro events which eventually lead to the “King and Queen of Crankworx” titles decided is quite something to see.
For something less strenuous the cycle paths of the wide Ziller valley are ideal for family tours and leisurely cyclists. The Zillertal cycle path is particularly family-friendly, being wide, well-built and almost 31 km long running almost flat from Strass to Mayrhofen. You can even do a ‘culinary’ tour of the route on an e-bike so minimal cycling effort is required and maximum cake and coffee stops permitted!
Just because you’re in a region with no coast, that doesn’t mean there aren’t beaches and there’s certainly plenty of chance to get very wet indeed!
In St. Anton am Arlberg most of the water is fast flowing, downhill, just like their winter ski slopes. In fact, all the water movement here generates hydroelectricity too which has kept the region self-sufficient in green power for the past few decades now. Activities like white water rafting and kayaking are popular with several specialist schools to help you try and enjoy these adventures to the max, but safely too.
If you prefer your water surfaces just a little more placid for wild swimming, less frantic boating or perhaps a gentle bit of SUPing then Kitzbühel could be a good destination choice. Swimming is popular in the Schwarzsee lake while the Torsee and Blaue Lacke are famed for their fabulous biodiversity.
Believe it or not, you can ski or snowboard in Tirol right through the summer! The Hintertux glacier in the stunning Ziller valley is one of only two ski areas in the world that aims to open every day of the year for snow sports and has about 15 miles of ski slopes open in mid-summer high on the glacier. You can also visit a spectacular ice cave in the glacier there whether you go skiing or snowboarding or not. Two more glaciers – the Stubai near Innsbruck and the Kaunertal down on the Italian border are open until early June then re-open in early autumn. Another two, the Pitztal and Sölden are closed in summer but also re-open from around mid-September.
The Tirol may be a land of towering mountains, lush valleys and plenty of lakes and streams, but they still manage to squeeze some great golf courses into the limited amount of level land.
In Zillertal they actually dedicate 65 hectares to their five-star superior-rated, 71-par 18-hole championship course at Uderns, giving you the option to ski at Hintertux in the morning they play a round in the afternoon.
Near St. Anton, the nine-hole course located in the village’s Nasserein sector is a popular draw but you will need to bring along your handicap certificate to be allowed to play it, so it is not one for newbies unless you book a lesson.
When it comes to reconnecting with family, the mountains trump the beach hands down. Imagine spending time together in a beautiful place, with clear air, good food and healthy activities you can all enjoy together.
You might also be surprised how many activities are available designed specifically for families and children on top of all the family versions of hiking, biking, skiing and the various water sports options you can enjoy.
For example, Murmelland is a marmot paradise in the heart of the Zillertal Alps where children will be amazed and delighted at how close they can get to these giant mountain rodents. There’s a petting zoo here too so the kids can meet and greet goats, sheep, rabbits, alpacas and more.
For older children, there are lots of high adrenaline activities too, if Mum and Dad can keep up. Rafting, canyoning, abseiling, cave trekking, paragliding …the list goes on.
The Zillertal has counted all its family-friendly hotels and there are 296 to choose from, along with 74 farms for the perfect family holiday. Besides the many special family attractions and facilities, there are no less than 51 adventure playgrounds, so you’re never far from one, and a summer toboggan run.
The villages of St. Johann in Tirol and its neighbours Oberndorf, Kirchdorf and Erpfendorf in the Kitzbühel Alps are another great choice for families of all ages. At the more active end, activities to get the adrenalin pumping include mountain karting, high ropes course with flying fox, ballooning, canyoning and rafting. Older teens can also join in skydiving or tandem paragliding. For younger children, there’s a summer ‘play street’ for children, the “Moor & More adventure park” and several great indoor and outdoor leisure pools with water slides (and sauna worlds for Mum and dad to take turns in whilst the other watches the kids!).
Fabulous food is always the icing on the cake for a successful summer holiday and in Tirol, it’s part of everyday life in every establishment. Enjoy home-cooked Alpine specialities in beautiful locations as a reward for your hiking or biking exertions or just because you’re on holiday so why not?
The region’s towns and villages and the farmland in between are full of great food producers, from cheese farms to fresh vegetable markets. There are a host of food-themed festivals and events across Tirol running through the summer months and if you want to get as close to it all as you possibly can, there are plenty of working farms where you’re welcome to stay, Such as the Dumpling Festival in St. Johann.
If you have battled through the many examples of great places to stay in Tirol and activities to enjoy, you’ll have worked out by now the big problem you’ll have is deciding what to do first. Particularly as I’ve only covered a tiny fraction of the possibilities here!
The main thing to keep in mind is it’s all good and whatever you go for, you can’t go wrong. So why not set your summer free this year and head to Tirol?
Tirol is easy to reach by air, rail or self-driving and the choice of flight routes continues to expand as travel recovers following the pandemic.
Innsbruck is the main air-route in and EasyJet is operating up to four flights per week from London Gatwick (LGW) direct to the city’s airport this summer. Jet2.com has also begun operating new weekly flights from Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham to Innsbruck.
You can also easily reach the Tirol from nearby airports including Munich, Friedrickshafen, Memmingen, Salzburg, Zurich or Vienna, with rail, bus, taxi or hire car transfers possible from most, for a still greater choice of routes.
Find Out More
You can find out everything you need to know about summer holidays in Tirol, including how to get there and how to access activities when you do via: visittirol.co.uk