Never. Stop. Exploring. Three simple words to some, but a clear and commanding clarion call to those with adventure running deep in their veins.
If you’re an explorer at heart you’ll find no better place to heed the call than South Tyrol. The land was born to lift the wandering spirit to new heights. With its medley of Alpine and Mediterranean climates, your wanderlusting ways will be amplified by hiking among a vastly diverse playground unlike anywhere else on Earth. Every step. Every sight. Lures you into a new discovery.
Here, you can embark on a jaw-dropping high-mountain trek using South Tyrol’s world-class lift systems, take a leisurely stroll in ancient valleys and hills nestled between the snow-capped peaks or give the bottom of your feet a break by hopping on a mountain bike. And if breaking a sweat in the Dolomites by bike isn’t your speed, then pedal and sip your way through medieval wine villages along the South Tyrolean Wine Road.
But that’s just the tip of the mountain peak so to speak. Below we highlight a few of our favorite South Tyrol hiking outings to give you a taste of the adventure waiting for you.
By the way, if this post makes you want to lace up your hiking boots, be sure to browse our South Tyrol itinerary ideas page for more enticing adventures.
All Along the Waalwegs
South Tyrol provides a one-of-a-kind hiking experience along ancient irrigation channels called Waalwegs. Waalweg what? Don’t let the name scare you off. The name translates to irrigation path. These casual hiking trails ascend easily and wind through miles of meadows, forests, vineyards and orchards.
They follow water channels carved long ago to usher melting snow packs down the mountainsides. Along the way you can enjoy stunning castles, villages, churches and alpine wayside shrines up close and from afar. The paths ramble along next to flowing Alpine water offering the soothing gurgle of a stream with each step.
Regardless of age or hiking skill level, you can walk or even jog along these gently sloping trails. The strikingly diverse landscapes they cover will leave you awestruck. Cafes and mountain huts well placed along the paths serve as resting spots to grab a crisp refreshment such as a Hugo, a South Tyrol original, and an ample helping of tasty pasta or an authentic Tyrolean dish. The views from these wayside haunts are enough to keep your feet and gaze firmly planted.
A couple of the most scenic and popular Waalwegs to add to your trip plans are the Lagundo/Algunder and the Marlinger/Marlengo near Merano. The Marlengo Waalweg follows the longest irrigation channel in the area and gives you ample views of the Etschtal valley and Lebenberg Castle.
The Algunder route is exceptionally suited for families with young children or older adults, but no matter your age you’ll find it fascinating. Along this Waalweg you’ll get to visit Castle Tirol, Thurnstein Castle and Brunnenberg Castle, as well as endlessly capture them from many photo-worthy angles. Walking here you may just wonder if you wandered into Westeros. That’s Game of Thrones speak for the uninformed.
A Palm-Drenched Promenade
The Tappeiner Promenade (Tappeinerweg) above Merano is a meanders dream. Mediterranean beauty abounds all around this delightful trail. Countless palm trees, eucalyptus, cacti, agave, olive trees and other flora follow the promenade from beginning to end. It is one of Italy’s best walks.
As you stroll along ever more breathtaking panoramas of Merano come into view. You also get 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 Tappeiner Promenade connects with several other walks and eventually winds its way into the village of Dorf Tirol. But you can also take a side trail down to the old town center of Merano where you can relax along the Passer river.
Several cafes dot the river making it an ideal place to sit back and enjoy gelato or a refreshing beverage. Kate’s favorite to sip here is the Veneziano, a fusion of prosecco wine, Campari liqueur and sparkling water while Vin likes to cool off with a frosty beer from Forst, a local brewer in nearby Algund.
Explore the Heart of the Dolomites
The Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) in the Dolomites holds the largest mountain plateau in Europe. It is immense in every sense of the word. The moment you arrive at the top of the plateau your mouth will drop. Our first time here was heart-pounding spectacular. Nothing prepared us for the sprawling greenery and mountain views that unfurled before our eyes.
Bursting with hiking, biking, skiing and snowshoe trails of various levels of difficulty, Alpe di Siusi offers 900 miles of trails over an of 34 square miles. From the plateau, 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.
Getting to this Alpine wonderland is easy thanks to South Tyrol’s swift lift system. Once at the top, all ages and skill levels can enjoy the prairie no matter the season you choose to visit. See our step-by-step guide to hiking Alpe di Siusi.
An Alpe di Siusi hike that winds through South Tyrol’s ancient history is to the “Witches’ Benches”. It brings you to a mystical rock formation that has spawned tales of curses and witches going back to the Dark Ages.
As much as we love hiking, sometimes nothing beats a bike ride. There is perhaps no better way to explore the heart of the Dolomites than by mountain bike. And the Alpe di Siusi 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.
To the east of Alpe di Siusi rises another hiker’s paradise in Val Gardena: Seceda mountain. Hiking to its mammoth spear tip peaks is a thrill every mountain lover should experience.
The hike can be as easy or challenging as you wish. We recommend taking the lifts from Ortisei to the summit and then hiking back down to the Church of St. Jakob — a medieval masterpiece that is the oldest church in Val Gardena. Our post about hiking Seceda gives you a step-by-step guide to an unforgettable day roaming this icon of the Dolomites.
Pristine Alpine lakes sit patiently waiting for admirers throughout the Dolomites. The most popular is the famous Lago di Braies. For good reason. It is one of the most striking natural gems in the world.
But in the age of over-tourism, exploring Lago di Braies must be done right in order to get the most out of a visit. Our guide to The Emerald of the Dolomites walks through how to enjoy your time perfectly lost in the luster of lake’s blue-green aura.
By the way, if you are interested in war history, another hike in the Dolomites to consider is in nearby Trento to the Pordoi Pass where there is a German war memorial. It’s hard to believe, but the steep, crags of the Dolomites saw some of the most horrific fighting in World War I. When hiking at these heights, it will give you a profound respect for the hardships too many soldiers had to needlessly suffer.
Another valley you should not miss while hiking in South Tyrol is Val di Funes. It lies just to the north of Val Gardena and possesses Alpine scenery torn from the pages of a fairytale.
We provide you a detailed Val di Funes itinerary to help you explore the top sights of this treasured valley of the Dolomites. The alluring landscapes you encounter here will detoxify your mind, body and soul.
Begin Planning Your South Tyrol Hiking Adventure
The one thing South Tyrol will never run short of is adventure. Well, it likely won’t run short of wine, apples, speck, pasta or beer either.
Whether you embark on any of these outings or pursue any of the countless other hikes and bike rides available, your experience will build an enduring bond with this land born for the wandering kind.
Visiting South Tyrol is an easy trip add-on if you’re pining for natural beauty after a stroll through Venice or craving more mountain hikes after trekking other nearby trails like the Tour du Mont Blanc. We developed Throne & Vine to make it easy for you to plan your escape to this hidden gem. Discover more of the outdoor adventures waiting for you in South Tyrol.