If you’re an explorer at heart you’ll find no better place to roam than South Tyrol. The medley of Alpine and Mediterranean climates creates an eco-diverse playground unlike anywhere else on Earth. The region gives you endless opportunities to explore on foot, bike, snowboard or skis.
Whether you’re a thrill seeker looking for your next adrenaline rush or a nature enthusiast seeking breathtaking vistas, every turn in South Tyrol generates a new “wow” moment. The young and old, skilled and unskilled, can enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities in every season and in each of South Tyrol’s five main regions.
Embark on a serious high-mountain trek using South Tyrol’s world-class lift systems, take a leisurely stroll in the valleys and hills nestled between the snow-capped peaks, hop on a mountain bike and break sweat in the Dolomites or pedal and sip your way through 16 wine villages dotted along the South Tyrolean Wine Road. The adventure is up to you. Here are a few to whet your wanderlust appetite.
Waalwegs & Promenades — A Walker’s Paradise
South Tyrol provides a truly unique hiking experience with treks along ancient irrigation channels called Waalwegs. These casual hiking paths ascend easily and wind through miles of meadows, forests, vineyards and orchards, allowing you to admire castles, villages, churches and alpine wayside shrines up close and from afar. The paths run directly next to flowing Alpine water offering the soothing gurgle of a stream with each step you take.
No matter your age or hiking ability you can walk or even jog along these gently sloping trails. The strikingly diverse landscapes they cover will leave you awe struck. Cafes and mountain huts well placed along the paths serve as resting spots to grab a crisp refreshment and a hearty rural meal. The views from these wayside refuges is enough to keep your feet and gaze firmly planted.
A couple of the most scenic and popular Waalwegs to add to your itinerary include the Lagundo/Algunder and the Marlinger/Marlengo. The Marlengo follows the longest irrigation channel and gives you ample views of the Etschtal valley and Castle Lebenberg.
The Algunder route is exceptionally suited for families with young children or older adults. Along this Waalweg you encounter Tirol Castle from many photo-worthy angles and venture to the Saint Magdalena Chapel.
The Tappeiner Promenade (Tappeinerweg) bathes in sunlight and is bordered by palm trees, eucalyptus, cacti, agave, olive trees and other Mediterranean vegetation. As you ramble along, the promenade reveals ever more beautiful panoramas of Merano. Just off the path you’ll have an opportunity to dazzle your nose by exploring a fragrant herb garden featuring over 230 plants, as well as climb the Powder Tower (Pulverturm) where you can imagine what it was like centuries ago to defend this corner of paradise.
The promenade connects with several other walks and branches down to the old town center of Merano where you can rest along the Passer river. Here, you can take your time enjoying a meal or a cool beverage. A popular refreshment to try is the Veneziano, a fusion of prosecco wine, Campari liquer and sparkling water.
Alpe Di Siusi / Seiser Alm — Exploring in the Heart of the Dolomites
Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm is the largest meadowland and mountain plateau in Europe. Bursting with hiking, biking, skiing and snowshoe trails of various levels of difficulty, the Seiser Alm is located in the Gardena valley (Val Gardena). From this Alpine prairie you’ll admire jutting Dolomite mountain peaks, ancient pastures and farms, cozy mountain huts and around 790 species of plants in the spring and summer.
Spring is an especially memorable time to visit as the meadowland blossoms into a radiant sea of wild flowers. The Seiser Alm is easily accessible and is suitable for all ages and skill levels no matter the season you to choose visit.
There is perhaps no better way to explore the heart of the Dolomites than by mountain bike. And the Seiser Alm is as bike-friendly as they come. You can pedal through more than 600 miles of bike trails at various altitudes — spanning from easy to technically challenging. Several tour packages are available from outfitters where you can choose from short rides of a couple of hours to rides over several days.
Odle Mountain Range — Flames Frozen in Time
Piercing the sky like flames frozen in time is the Odle Mountains — one of the most breathtaking ranges in all of the Dolomites. These massive peaks rise between the Gardena valley and Funes valley and look like they were born to haunt the pages of the Lord of the Rings.
You can get up close and personal with the Odle Mountain group by taking one of two cable cars accessible from either Ortisei or Santa Christina to the Seceda trails. Before you even set foot on the range it will be next to impossible to keep your jaw from dropping as you approach the summit.
On the well-maintained paths of Seceda you’ll pass dawdling dairy cows, lazy donkeys and religious sites as you hike your way to the Odle peaks. The view of the these jagged giants and their sheer cliffs is rivaled by none. After your trek be sure to visit a mountain hut and load up traditional Ladin fare while enjoying the striking panorama.
Lago Di Braies / Pragser Wildsee – Escape to Alpine Wonderland
Created by a landslide, Pragser Wildsee serves as a picture perfect destination for hikers seeking a place to picnic or dip their toes in emerald Alpine water. Wooden row boats for rent allow you to romantically roam around the lake. Paths encircle the shores with offshoots leading into the surrounding natural park of Parco Naturale di Fanes-Sennes-Braies.
Due to the lake’s popularity, visiting in the off season or very early in the day provides a more tranquil experience. The lake’s surface is still as glass in the morning casting off a mesmerizing reflection of the surrounding Dolomites.
If rowing a boat or trekking on foot isn’t your idea of exploring, you’re not out luck. You can enjoy Pragser Wildsee from the seat of your mountain bike. Bike trails surround the lake and lead into the neighboring nature park where you can pedal your up way to the mountain sides.
Pragser Wildsee doesn’t only offer breath-taking views, but is also shrouded in myth. According to legend, the south side of the lake conceals a gateway to the underworld where every 100 years a princess emerges at midnight to row beneath a full moon. Another fable details the creation of the lake where savages opened an underground spring to protect their treasure.
The lake also played a role in World War II. Toward the end of the war, over 100 prisoners from Dachau concentration camp were transported to Pragser Wildsee to be used as a bargaining chip for the safety of the SS officers.