Hike the world, all in one place
One of the world’s premier hiking destinations, South Tyrol boasts over 16,000 kilometres of sign posted trails. Criss-crossing through vineyards and orchards, past imposing castles and enchanting lakes, all the way from the lush meadows of Val Venosta/Vinschgau valley to the highest peaks of the Dolomites, these scenic routes will take you through every aspect of European terrain, all without leaving the neighbourhood. What’s more, with the sheer variety of routes available, you can decide how you see it. Hardened hikers can spend weeks crossing rolling valleys and scaling steep mountain peaks, but there is also a wide range of more gentle trips for those who prefer their hikes on the level. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer seeking new challenges or a casual hiker looking for a scenic family stroll, South Tyrol has a route for all occasions.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the majestic Dolomites offer beautiful panoramas both to the casual day-tripper and the hardy multi-day voyager. The scenic Alpine ridgeways are linked by diverse hiking trails, the majority of which do not have any great altitude gain, allowing hikers of all ages and ability to take in stunning views, pausing only to taste the authentic South Tyrolean cuisine offered at one of the region’s many traditional Alpine lodges. For those wanting a sterner test, the Dolomites are home to any number of long-distance hiking trails, and hardened mountaineers can get the adrenaline flowing as they scale the ‘iron roads’ of the via Ferrata, used by soldiers to traverse the mountains during the First World War.
Away from the mountains, the lush meadows and rolling valleys of Merano/Meran and Bolzano/Bozen offer the perfect setting for a scenic stroll. Follow cleverly designed paths along old irrigation canals, take tranquil trails through chestnut groves, or walk old Roman roads past villas, castles and monasteries – whether you want to see culture, nature, or a mix of the two, there’s a route for you in South Tyrol. And as an added bonus, along every trail you are sure to find a place to stop and partake in some of the delicious food and exquisite wines that make the region famous.
Reach the peak of Italy
The most beautiful mountain range in the world, the Dolomites are not to be missed – which is why a network of cable cars and lifts have been installed to whisk visitors up to easy circular trails and 360-degree panoramic viewpoints.
The symbol of the Dolomites, the Three Peaks are definitely not to be missed. Take the circular hike, an easy tour round these imposing rock towers, to experience some unforgettable views across the Dolomites and their surrounding valleys. The route takes just three hours to complete, with an elevation gain of just 304m, but the sights you see will definitely leave you feeling on top of the world.
For mountaineers and climbers there are a number of more gruelling challenges desperate to reward your exertions with stunning panoramas. The famous via ferrata (“iron roads”) were originally used by soldiers to traverse the mountains during the First World War, but now provide over 50 testing routes for climbers. With the aid of iron ladders and steel cables strung along narrow ledges and death-defying drops, adrenaline junkies can truly put their skills to the test. If the ascent doesn’t take your breath away, the views certainly will.
Whichever route you take, enjoy the authentic Alpine experience by staying in one of many Vitalpina Hotels, and dining out in the mountain huts scattered throughout the Dolomites. Vitalpina stands for an authentic standard of living typical of the Alpine lifestyle, and that is exactly what these hotels provide. Hoteliers are not only enthusiastic hiking guides and mountain climbers but also herbalists, fitness trainers, bike guides, photographers and chefs who see mountain nature as a valuable resource, and will do all they can to help you enjoy the genuine South Tyrolean experience. Top of their recommendations will likely be the nearest mountain huts and Alpine farms, homey lodges that offer traditional local cuisine and a wide choice of wines. South Tyrol’s Real Quality in the Mountains initiative ensures these huts are checked for impeccable quality, meaning everything you taste will be of gourmet standard. For more information
An air of the Mediterranean
In addition to its striking Alpine routes, South Tyrol boasts a glorious Mediterranean landscape perfect for hiking – and with 300 days of sunshine a year, you can soak up the rays all year round. The area of Merano is peppered with palm and olive trees, and exhibits historical architecture typical of the Austro-Hungarian era, sitting side by side with contemporary designs. It is the ideal place for visitors looking to explore South Tyrol’s award winning wine scene, and for those looking to relax and indulge in the region’s spa tradition.
The area is also home to the Waalwege, ancient paths following historic irrigation channels that offer an easy, scenic hike throughout the year. Meandering through lush meadows, vibrant forests and aromatic vineyards, the waterways have no significant slopes and offer beautiful views across the valleys. There are over a dozen Waalwege trails crisscrossing the region, each taking in a different aspect of the South Tyrolean scenery – and each offering different vineyards to sample! For those who can’t decide, the Meraner Waalrunde Circuit Trail connects 11 Waalwege on an 80km route that will take you through the best of the South Tyrolean valleys.
A must-see route is the Chestnut Trail through the Valle Isarco/Eisacktal valley. Vibrant and colourful, the trail follows lines of chestnut groves from the historic Abbey of Novacella/Neutstift all along the slopes of the Isarco Valley to the famous frescos of Runkelstein Castle. The route is especially beautiful during the Törggelen in late summer and autumn, a South Tyrolean tradition where locals gather to taste the freshly harvested wine at the many vineyards and wineries along the route.