Here’s something you might not know about me: Many many years ago, I lived in Austria for a while. My main reason to move there was a job in the hospitality industry which would pay for Business School later on. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the mountains, but that’s exactly what happened. I lived in Tirol, Austria’s third largest province and most popular tourist destination. Why? Think picturesque little mountain towns and rugged peaks, glaciers and waterfalls, a winter wonderland for half of the year, green rolling hills the rest of the year.
It is hands down one of the most beautiful regions of Austria. I was lucky enough to experience the mountains snow-capped during the winter and lush green during the summer – and while I initially thought I’d be whizzing down the ski slopes and turn into a winter sports fanatic, I realized that snow isn’t my best friend (which hasn’t changed until this very day!) and that I prefer walking with my own two feet instead of two wooden boards strapped to my feet. I love hiking in the mountains, and I have been returning to Austria regularly ever since my first visit to Tirol, the last time in spring 2011 (maybe it’s time to return this summer?!) and let me tell you: there’s so much more to Austria than skiing and snowboarding.If you’re still not convinced – here are six reasons to visit Tirol in the summer:
1 Have your very own ‘Maria experience’ in the mountains of Tirol
Dancing in the green fields in the mountains, face towards the sun, a big smile on your face? That’s the dream of every The Sound Of Music lover, and believe me, it’s as awesome as it looks in the movie. Of course you won’t only dance in the mountains and sing your favorite The Sound Of Music songs, but also hike along one or two or five of the hundreds of hiking paths. Tirol has nearly 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of marked hiking paths! The hikes don’t cost a thing, and the views are priceless – there’s just nothing like a good mountain hike. Some of the best hikes in Tirol? The dramatic Wilder Kaiser mountain, the Seefeld plateau near Innsbruck, the Ziller Valley and the Oetztal Valley, both filled with waterfalls, glaciers, little villages and breathtakingly beautiful mountain vistas.
2 Experience quaint little mountain towns
There are dozens of towns and villages in Austria that tick all the boxes of a picture-perfect mountain town: wooden or half-timbered houses with balconies overflowing with colorful flowers, a gorgeous church, a mountain backdrop and enough hiking paths to keep you busy for a month. One of my favorites? Seefeld in Tirol, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region both during the winter and summer months. In the winter, ski and snowboard fans come to enjoy the slopes, and in the summer months, mountain bikers and hikers come to enjoy the many trails, but it is also a great place for families. There’s a series of lakes that you can hike to, there is a castle ruin (Schlossberg) and a stunning pilgrimage church, and there several spas and indoor pools.The mountains around Seefeld are Gschwandtkopf (1,495m), Seefelder Spitze (2,215 m), Härmelekopf (2,224 m) and Reither Spitze (2,374 m) – you can climb a different mountain each day, if you want to!
Seefeld also makes a great base if you want to explore other parts of Tirol and is close to city life, with Innsbruck only half an hour away.
If you decide to base yourself in Seefeld, I recommend checking out Hotel Tyrol-Alpenhof, a gorgeous hotel that takes pride in its local heritage and is built in typical Tirol-style with wooden balconies and offers local specialties in its restaurant. The hotel also has an indoor pool and a sauna and is in walking distance from all the restaurants and shops of the village, and of course the trail heads! You can find a comprehensive overview of hiking trails around Seefeld here.
3 Swim in mountain lakes
Around Seefeld, there are several lakes which make for incredible swimming experiences during the summer. There’s nothing more refreshing than jumping into the cool waters of a mountain lake after a hike through the valley, with the majestic Alps as a stunning backdrop. Lakes worth a visit: Lake Going, which was voted Tirol’s most beautiful natural swimming lake, the large Lake Achensee, Lake Natterer See, or the stunning Lake Plansee.
4 Adrenaline galore
If you’re as adventurous as I am, you’ll be happy to hear that there are a ton of adventure activities to be enjoyed in Tirol. Mountain biking, rafting and kayaking, ziplining, climbing – there’s something for everyone, and most activities can be enjoyed with kids. The Adventure Park Kaltenbach in the beautiful Ziller Valley for example offers some of the region’s most thrilling experiences: an aerial forest, outdoor climbing – including a waterfall climb – high ropes… if you’re an adrenaline junkie, don’t miss this park!
5 Combine culture & being active
All-inclusive resorts? Not for me. Sure, I love me some beach time, but after a few days, I get bored. I prefer being active, and I learn loving about local culture. An all-inclusive at a beach in Mexico does nothing for me. Climbing pyramids, however? That gives me the chance to exercise and to learn about the rich history and culture of a country at the same time. And that’s why I love the Culture Hiking Trails in Austria. There is a trail between the two small towns of Reith and Leithen, for example, on which you pass historical monuments and learn about history and culture while enjoying a walk through beautiful scenery.Or check out the Leutasch Spirit Gorge Trail, which is home to all kinds of secrets and mysteries involving dwarfs, ghosts and gremlins. Local folklore is a big part of every country, and when you can learn about it while marveling at waterfalls, bizarre rock formations and breathtaking views over a gorge? Priceless!
6 Spa & wellness
Tirol is known for its many spa and wellness facilities, and there’s nothing more relaxing than enjoying a steam room, a massage, soaking in a whirlpool or a swimming in a pool after a day of hiking. Nearly every hotel has a wellness area, so you don’t even have to go far, but most towns also have public spas with larger pools. Seefeld for example has two indoor and four outdoor pools!