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 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 serious 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, hop on a mountain bike and break a sweat in the Dolomites, or pedal and sip your way through 16 wine villages dotted along the South Tyrolean Wine Road.
But that’s just the tip of the mountain peak so to speak. Below are a few of our favorite South Tyrolean wanderings worth exploring when you visit.
We Be Waalwegging
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. These casual hiking paths ascend easily and wind through miles of meadows, forests, vineyards and orchards. 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 awe struck. Cafes and mountain huts well placed along the paths serve as resting spots to grab a crisp refreshment and a traditional South Tyrolean dish or two. The views from these wayside haunts is 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 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 encounter the Tirol Castle, Thurnstein Castle and Brunnenberg Castle 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 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 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 cool beverage. Our favorite to sip is the Veneziano, a fusion of prosecco wine, Campari liqueur and sparkling water.
Explore the Heart of the Dolomites
“Behold the mighty Dolomites” someone once said…I think. The best place to do just that is Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm — the largest meadowland and mountain plateau in Europe. The moment you arrive at top of the plateau your mouth will drop. Our first time here was heart-pounding spectacular. Nothing prepared us for the immense mountain views that unfolded before your eyes.
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.
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 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.
Feed Your 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 million other hikes and bike rides available, your experience will build an enduring bond with this land born for the wandering kind. Like you. Like us.
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