Tirol: The Austrian mountain region ideal for hikers, bikers and skiers
Tucked in the western corner of Austria, the alpine region of Tirol is a must-visit for outdoor adventurers.
While the scenery is spectacular whatever the time of year, the summer months are perfect for exploring the rolling mountains on foot. In winter, skiers take to the slopes in their thousands.
“Currently we have 55 per cent of all of our overnight stays in winter and 45 per cent in summer," explains Karin Seiler, Managing Director of the Tirol tourist board.
"But summer is increasing. We are still known as a winter destination, but we have huge potential in summer and the season between.”
It is a popular destination for returning visitors who spend their days trekking through 24,000 kilometres of winding trails and their evenings relaxing in elegant spa resorts. The region is great for families as well.
“When you come with your family we have great family resorts in the Kitzbühel Alps, which is well known for an amazing vacation because it offers a lot of experiences in the mountains for kids of all ages.”
Where is the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships 2023?
With so many mountain trails to explore, it’s no surprise that Tirol attracts international events too. This year, the alpine region will host the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships (WMTRC) from 6 to 10 June.
“Our biggest event this year is the trail running event, the first one was in Chiang Mai, Thailand and now it’s the second year and it’s in Innsbruck and the Stubai valley. So it’s really big, there will be 60 nations from all over the world,” says Seiler.
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Can I get to Tirol by train?
If you’re planning to visit, you should consider leaving the car at home. Tirol has great rail connections with neighbouring European countries, and now, 30 destinations out of 34 in the area have free public transport.
While there is still work to be done on connecting people to their final destinations - especially more remote resorts - Seiler is confident that the number of tourists coming by train will increase in the coming years.
“At the moment, 5 per cent of our guests are coming on the train, and our goal is to increase that in the next few years to 10 per cent,” she explains.
“We have to work on the last mile, but we have good connections with the train, especially from Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland.”
Is Tirol a good summer destination?
While the Austrian Alps are usually a winter destination, summer is proving increasingly popular, as Seiler explains.
“Currently we have 55 per cent of all of our overnight stays in winter and 45 per cent in summer. But summer is increasing.”
Talk of trail running might make the Austrian Alps sound like it’s only for athletes, but Seiler is keen to stress that this isn’t the case.
“85 per cent of our market are normal hikers, not the climbers, not the extreme ones, but people who do a two or three hour hike and then sit in a nice hut and enjoy spas and swimming pools in the evening.”
Other popular places to visit in the warmer months include the charming village of Ellmau, which sits between the Kitzbüheler Alps and Wilder Kaiser mountains. Head to the village in May to catch the Ellmau Kaiserschmarren Festival, which celebrates the classic Austrian dish of shredded pancakes mixed with plum jam and sprinkled with icing sugar.
Expect savoury alternatives too, including pancakes with beef and herbs, complemented by music from traditional Austrian brass bands.
Is Tirol good for skiing?
After the summer tourists have left, it’s not long before the locals and regulars start dusting off their ski gear. There are over 80 ski areas in the region, with 3,400 kilometres of trails winding their way down the mountains.
If you’re not confident in the snow, there are plenty of ski schools in the area. There are also activities such as tobogganing and snowshoeing which require a little less dexterity.
After spending the day in the mountains, the best way to ease your aching muscles is to head to one of Tirol’s relaxing spa hotels. If you’re looking to find the very best, make sure to check out the Relax Guide, described as the Michelin Guide of the spa world.