A paradise on two wheels
Hurtle down steep mountain passes, glide through lush valleys or speed across challenging road race routes – in South Tyrol, there is a tour for every kind of cyclist. Over 600km of cycle paths crisscross the region, and a comprehensive network of trains and bike lifts means all trails are reachable, even by less experienced riders. The sheer variety of its offering, from the casual excursion to the hardcore adrenaline fix, makes South Tyrol the ultimate summer biking destination.
To make things even easier, cyclists can stay in one of 36 Bike Hotels scattered all over South Tyrol. These hotels work together to provide a seamless cycling experience for guests, suggesting routes, arranging expert guides and even moving your luggage for you whilst you cycle. For more information
Visitors can also take advantage of South Tyrol’s Bikemobil Card, which provides unlimited access to buses, local trains, and certain cable cars throughout the region, as well as the single use of a rented bicycle. It can be purchased for one, three or seven days’ duration. For more information
Cycling at its peak
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dolomites offer the perfect combination of stunning panoramas and adrenaline-inducing downhill pursuits. Even better, thanks to an extensive network of mountain lifts, repurposed from ski lifts in the summer to transport bikes, the four Dolomite passes of Gardena, Campolongo, Pordoi and Sella can now be experienced with ease. At any level of ability, mountain bikers can find their flow across magnificent peaks and shaded forest trails.
The Sellaronda MTB Tour takes full advantage of these assets. Accessible from any of the four valleys surrounding the Sella Massif – Val Gardena/Grödner Tal, Alta Badia, Arabba and Val di Fassa – the tour is split into two routes, clockwise and anticlockwise, and can be tackled by both mountain bike and e-bikes, new electric powered cycles, with 20 charging points scattered throughout the mountains. The clockwise route makes extensive use of the bike lifts to cut down on climbing time, creating a descent-heavy, high-octane experience across some of the most scenic cycle trails in the world. For those who love the climb, the anticlockwise route includes over 1,000m of uphill riding, and rewards the ascent with spectacular panoramas and quick, short descents through narrow forest roads.
For the real fanatics, the Sellaronda Hero Bike Festival is a must. Taking place in June each year, the four-day event is a celebration of Dolomite mountain biking, featuring competitors from 50 different nations. As well as the main event, an intense race across some of the finest MTB routes in the world, the festival includes a bike and tech expo, a several children’s events, a charity fashion night, and of course an after-race party where you can swap stories and celebrate your achievements. For those not confident enough to pit themselves against others, there is also a Dolomites Bike Day after the race where riders can enjoy the route at their own pace.
For those looking for a more leisurely ride, South Tyrol’s rolling valleys hide a wealth of treasures. Villas, castles, orchards and vineyards can be absorbed at your own speed, perfect for families, whilst the huge range of gourmet Alpine–Mediterranean cuisine and exquisite wines on offer along the way make the routes a treat for the all-adult parties as well. The via Claudia Augusta is a definite highlight. Running along an old Roman road, the route follows the Adige/Etsch River almost continually downhill from the Passo di Resia/Reschen Pass to Salorno/Salurn at South Tyrol’s southernmost tip. Highlights include the Lago di Resia/Reschensee Lake, where an eerily beautiful church tower emerges from beneath the water, as well as numerous monasteries and castles, and the luscious landscapes and the picturesque town of Merano/Meran. The route can be split into two routes, one 80km long from Rechensee Lake to Merano, the second 58km from Merano to Salorno, and both can be shortened or simplified at any time by taking the train, with flexible bike rental stops at each station meaning you don’t even need to take your own – simply rent a bike at one stop, then return it to a different one after your journey.
For the complete South Tyrolean experience, make the most of the region’s Bike and Wine initiative by taking part of one of three gourmet tours along the South Tyrolean Wine Road, packed with wine tours and tastings. Each route passes through a different area, and is lined with beautiful churches, manors and – of course – vineyards, where you can taste the wine each region is famous for. Take the northern route through Bolzano/Bozen to sample delicious Lagrein and Sauvignon, travel through the centre for a taste of lovely Pinot Blanc and Schiava, or head south to Termeno/Tramin for Pinot Noir and the famous Gewürztraminer, named after the town.
Take it up a gear
With a combination of winding corners, long, level stretches and steep ascents, South Tyrol is a paradise for road racers. A nine-month racing season runs from March to November, and professionals and amateurs alike will be rewarded for their efforts with stunning views across Mediterranean and Alpine scenery that is second to none.
A perfect example of this is the Passo del Rombo/Timmelsjoch Pass. Surrounded by majestic 3,000m peaks, this 29km route rewards strenuous ascents with spectacular switchbacks and the unforgettable panorama of the Ötztal Alps glaciers. Though it sounds short compared to other routes, the Timmelsjoch is amongst the toughest passes in the Alps, with taxing climbs and an altitude differential of nearly 2km. With views like those, though, you’ll wish it goes on forever.
First organized way back in 1986 by a group of local cyclists, the Maratona dles Dolomites has developed into one of the world’s great cycling events. Sweeping through seven spectacular Dolomite peaks, the race has been described by National Geographic as ‘one of the biggest, most passionate, and most chaotic bike rides on Earth’. The full route covers over 138km, with an altitude gain of 4230m, but can be broken down into a ‘Middle Course’ of 106km (3130m altitude gain) or the 55km Sellaronda course, with an altitude gain of 1780m.
The cycle from Prato/Prad to Passo dello Stelvio/Stilfser Joch is known as a classic one in the cycling scene. It is not only the 25 km and the roughly 1800 meters of difference in altitude that are particularly appealing. It is as well the total of 48 hairpin turns that, starting from Prato via Gomagoi, Trafoi and Franzenshöhe, raise to the second highest tarmaced mountain pass of Europe. Near Trafoi, the cyclist will be offered an unrestricted view of the glacier and rock formations of the Ortles range that will be present until the pass is reached. For the descent, the route via the Umbrail pass and Switzerland to Prato is recommended.