Want to give your muscles a workout whilst enjoying some of the finest landscapes in Europe? With mountain biking, hiking, rafting and more to choose from in the Austrian Alps, it’s surprisingly easy. Here’s how you can be both fit and healthy on a seven-day holiday in the Tirol.
Day 1: Skip the car hire
You’ve arrived at Innsbruck airport, sailed through the security queue and grabbed your rucksack. Your next move is crucial: Do not walk up to the car hire desk. Instead, hop on the F bus and get off at Triumphpforte, in the city centre.
Just a few metres from the bus stop is Die Börse. Go in and rent yourself a bike — not only is it cheaper, but it’s also your first step to Tirolean-style fitness. If you’re staying in the Innsbruck area you can cycle straight to the hotel. If not, head to the main train station and take a bus or train to your fitness base camp.
Day 2: Jump right in
Time to ease yourself into a week of exercise. After a hearty but healthy bowl of muesli, get back on your bike with a map in hand. Locate your nearest lake and start pedalling. It shouldn’t be hard to find one, Tirol is full of them, but a few suggestions include warm, inviting Reintaler See near Kramsach, cobalt-blue Blindsee near Ehrwald and scenic, refreshing Hintersteiner See in Wilder Kaiser.
These lakes are the perfect place to cool off after cycling along mountain roads. Have a picnic on the water’s edge, enjoy the view and, if you still have energy, go for an afternoon swim. Then it’s back on your bike for the journey home and a well-deserved evening in.
Day 3: Head for heights
Leave the bike at home today—it’s time to explore the mountains by foot. The Tirol is dotted with quaint mountain huts where you can stay overnight and enjoy traditional dishes like Knödel (dumplings) and Schnitzel. These huts can usually only be reached by foot, so it’s a great way to sneak some exercise in. Some are more remote or harder to reach than others, so be sure to pick one within your comfort levels.
For an easy overnight tour from Innsbruck, Pfeishütte, in the Karwendel Alpine Park is an excellent choice. You can take the cable car up from the city to Hafelekar, and then walk along the panorama-filled Goetheweg to the hut in about 2 hours.
Day 4: Sunrise at 2000 m
If the weather forecast looks good, set your alarm clock early. There’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise in the Alps, with its first rays creating a pinkish glow that fills you with energy for the rest of the day.
After an early start, you have the rest of the day to make your way back down to the valley, taking in the stunning scenes as you go.
Day 5: Relax and revive
You deserve a day off. Thankfully the Tiroleans are almost as into their saunas as the Finns, meaning there are quite a few spas to pick from. The 22,000 m² Aqua Dome in Ötztal is possibly the best known, but a few local favourites include the Alpenbad in Leutasch and the Wörgler Wasserwelt (Wörgl Waterworld).
Soak in the whirlpool. Relax in the tepidarium. Reflect in the steam room. After a few hours of spa goodness, your muscles pains will be long gone and your mind clear.
Day 6: Get paddling
Another day, another activity. This time it’s rafting. All those steep valley sides and gushing rivers make for excellent whitewater conditions. Plus, rafting is one of those sports where you exercise without really realising it: Not only can you burn up to 350 calories an hour, but it’s also excellent for both muscle training and stress relief. Classic rafting spots include the Ötztal and the Lechtal Nature Park, where you can take your pick of rafting guides.
Day 7: Hit the trails
It’s your last day in Tirol. But before you go to the airport try to squeeze one more activity in. With a 24,000 km network of paths to choose from, the Tirol is a trail runner’s paradise. It’s simply a case of putting on your running shoes and opening the front door.
Of course, you can always adapt this programme to your level of fitness, swapping out trail running for sightseeing, or cycling for e-biking. After all, a week of mountain air, clean water and even just a little bit of exercise is sure to leave you feeling both happier and healthier.
Photo Credits: Mary Creighton