Lounging by the lake or high-octane mountain biking? Farm stay or campsite? June or September? There’s a lot to consider when planning a trip to the Tirol. But worry not — after living in this special part of the world for four years, I have a few tips to share. Just follow my five-step guide and start planning your dream holiday in the Tirol.
Step 1. Choose your dream itinerary
One of my favourite things about living in the Tirol is that life can be fast-paced and adventurous or slow and relaxing — it’s totally up to you. You can easily spend a week trying a new adventure every day, or use it for sightseeing, tasting local specialities or simply relaxing by the lake. Personally, I like to fill up my weekends doing a bit of both! Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Taste the culture
The Austrian Tirol is as much about culture as it is about adventure. Just wander through the charming, museum-filled old town of Innsbruck, the region’s capital, to see what I mean. Foodies will not be disappointed either — my favourite dishes include Kaiserschmarrn (a chopped pancake dish), Spinatknödel (spinach dumplings) and Käsespätzle (cheesy pasta).
Take a dip
Tirol’s mountain lakes are the ideal place to cool off on a hot summer’s day. My favourite spots for wild swimming are the silky-green waters of Piburgersee and refreshing Achensee (warning, wait until late summer for this one — it takes a long time to warm up!).
There’s nothing quite like walking up to a distant mountain hut under your own steam, enjoying some freshly-made knödel (dumplings) and a pint of Radler before spending the night 2,000m above sea level. There are more than 70 mountain huts in the Tirol, so it’s easy to work an overnight trip into your holiday. Or, if you have time, try a long distance hut hike like the breathtakingly-beautiful Kaiser Krone (The Emperor’s Crown), a six-day trek through the Wilder Kaiser Mountain range.
When the snow melts, many of the Tirol’s finest resorts turn into mountain biking havens — with everything from long climbs to technical single trails on offer. Bikepark Innsbruck, just 15 minutes from the city centre, is the latest mountain biking hotspot with both family-friendly and world-class trails to play on.
Reach new heights
Climbers flock to the Tirol to experience some of its 8,000 alpine and sport climbing routes. Classic climbing areas include the Ötztal Valley and the Wilder Kaiser mountains. If you want a taste of climbing but don’t have the skills yet, give Via Ferrata a go. Secured with a harness and clip, you follow a route made up of steel ropes and ladders to otherwise unreachable peaks.
Step 2: Pick a date
I moved to the Alps for skiing — but I soon realised that the Tirol is as much about summer as it is about snow.
Come May, the meadows are alive with vivid greens and sprinkled with sweet-scented wildflowers; the mild temperatures making it ideal for the first biking and hiking adventures of the season.
Things tend to heat up in June, July and August — that’s when I visit one of the many mountain lakes dotted around the Tirol for a spot of wild swimming or head up high for a multiday hike.
But the best month, in my opinion, is September. It’s usually still warm enough for a dip in the lake or high mountain escapade, but cool enough to don your mountain biking gear and explore some of the twisting single track trails. You can even sneak in some skiing at glaciers like Stubai and Hintertux. And if the weather turns grim, there’s always museums to explore and spas to relax in.
Step 3: Where to stay
Hotels. Campsites. Mountain huts. Name your dream accommodation and you can be pretty sure that Tirol has it. Here are a few of my favourite places to stay.
A stay on a traditional working farm is a great option for families. At spots like the Albeinelerhof, in Pitztal Valley, the kids can ride tractors, ride ponies and collect eggs. Or if you want to combine a city visit with nights under canvas, Natterersee is my pick. Just 10 minutes from Innsbruck, it’s a family-friendly campsite set on a natural swimming lake.
Also there are many quality-approved accommodations for families in Tirol: just check www.tyrol.com to learn more.
Few things beat falling asleep high in the mountains in one the Tirol’s mountain huts. Usually run by the Austrian or German Alpine Associations, they offer good food, cheap beds and out-of-this-world views. A couple of my favourites include Nordlinger Hütte (just wait until you see the sunset) and the slick, modern Dolomittenhütte in East Tirol.
For culture junkies
If you love museums and architecture, then Innsbruck is the place to stay — and you are truly spoilt for hotels. Nala is my top pick, with quirky, unique rooms close to the city centre at prices that won’t make you squirm. Mondschein, just over the river from the Old Town, is a more traditional alternative.
Step 4: Plan your journey
You can fly directly to Innsbruck, in the heart of the Tirol, from London Gatwick with EasyJet or from London Heathrow with British Airways. Both airlines run flights about three times a week, ideal for mini breaks as well as longer trips. My tip? Avoid flying on Saturdays if you want to nab a bargain. Visit www.airport-innsbruck.at to check out the timetable.
From Innsbruck, you can reach most parts of the Tirol within an hour or two, either via the excellent public transport system (oebb.at) or car.
If the London airports aren’t convenient for direct flights to Innsbruck, consider flying to Munich instead — it has a wider choice of routes and is around two-three hours from most of the Tirol.
Step 5: Start packing!
With oodles of activities on offer, it’s hard to know what to bring to the Tirol. A master of evading airline luggage charges, I’ve whittled it down to the ultimate essentials for a week-long multi-activity trip in the Tirol:
- One 35-40 litre rucksack — this should fit within most airlines hand-luggage restrictions, but check before you travel.
- A lightweight raincoat — sudden summer thunderstorms come with the territory
- One mid layer for cool evenings
- A few fast-wicking t-shirts — I like those with merino wool because it keeps you cool and stays stink-free for days at a time
- Hiking trousers — something comfortable enough that you can wear it on the plane
- One “smart” outfit — in general, things are pretty relaxed in Tirol, but it’s nice to have something a little more classy just in case
- Socks — again, merino wool is worth the investment
- Swimming gear — including a lightweight, quick-dry towel
- Sleeping bag liner — only necessary if you’re planning an overnight hut trip
- Shorts — for those warmer days
- Suncream and a sunhat
- Water bottle or flask
- Toiletry kit
- Basic first aid kit — especially important for adventurers
With your accommodation booked, flights sorted and suitcase packed, you’re ready to enjoy a summer holiday in the Austrian Tirol!