I have spent two distinctly opposite seasons in Tirol taking on all manner of adventurous and adrenalin-fuelled challenges including ‘mountain summer’ canyoning and snow-trudging fatbiking, but it’s the impressive and picture-perfect landscape here that deserves its own mention.
This region – specifically the Kitzbüheler Alpen – forms a part of the seemingly endless pristine alpine image synonymous with Austria.
From up high or down below, recreationally or through sporting endeavour, the views of the dominant mountainous plateau that stands at over 3,000 metres high, and the sloping alpine terrain that blankets it below, are an all-year-round highlight.
Tirol From Up High
Whether you head out on the winding 700km of signed hiking trails or 400km of bike routes, clamber up a small hillside close to a village, or take the more relaxing bus and gondola routes to great heights, scenic viewpoints are granted from almost every gradient and every elevation.
The most scenic panoramic mountain with a 360-degree panoramic view can be found at Hohe Salve – a viewpoint that nestles between Kufstein, Wörgl and Kitzbühel. We took a Gondola (accessed from the areas of Hopfgarten or Söll) up to its panoramic platform that sits at 1829 metres, where we could circle the parameter for views of the Großglockner and Großvenediger peaks in the Hohe Tauern National Park, the Rofan mountain range, and the Wilder Kaiser.
The Highest pilgrimage church in Austria – The Salvenkirchlein – is also based up here and seen as the landmark of this mountain.
For a closer view of the dominant and mysteriously misty peaks of the jagged Wilder Kaiser, I played in the climbing forest in St. Johann – the biggest park in the Kitzbüheler Alpen. On the same Harschbichl gondola route, you can reach the Via Ferrata route, where you can inch your away up and around the mountain walls with a heart-racing survey of the panorama of the Wilder Kaiser and the Lofer and Leogang Stone Mountains.
In the winter, the Kitzbüheler Alpen becomes home to two of Austria’s largest ski areas, whose four regions cover over 1,000km of slopes and activity trails that stretch all the way to Salzburg. At times a blinding white, the land wears its powdery cloak for months.
There were no many moments up here where I had to stop to take in the winter views. I never grew up in such a climate, and nor did my childhood holidays ever include this. Maybe I am years behind playing catch up in the snow, but Austria is literally this spellbinding – a real Narnia of Europe.
Tirol From Below
People may flock to Salzburg to recreate their own Sound of Music alpine twirl, but you will soon realise that this feeling takes a hold of you everywhere in the Austrian alpine, as it did with me in Tirol.
It may be a film cliché (mostly for the Brits and Americans who flock to Austria because of it), but until you are standing in front of this kind of backdrop, you just won’t understand how that inner Maria just wants to come bursting out, especially when you get to wear a very pretty dirndl. This was shot in a field just metres away from my hotel in Kirchberg. Admit it, you want to do it too.
Being on the ground in Tirol means standing within a basin of fields and creasing hills, hugged by mountains, whose peaks sometimes disappear into the sharp blue sky. You don’t always have to climb higher! In the summer, the most scenic views came from an afternoon spent at the Kneipp facilities (water treading basins) in Spertental, where the tranquility of the fresh spring water of this healthy facility was as refreshing as the bright colour of the flowering meadow backdrop, or lounging within the fresh grasslands of the alpine meadows while taste-testing at the Cheese making farm, Kasplatzl in Kirchberg. Order a Hugo – a spritz made with elderberry syrup to compliment the alpine flora.
In winter, you can walk or take to two wheels to explore the grounds of Tirol in its majestic winter glory and get closer to nature. You don’t just have to ski to experience Tirol in this season.
There’s no one ‘best time’ to visit Tirol, and either relaxing or fuelling your sightseeing with adrenalin, it is best experienced more than once as it moves between its varying shades of green, golden brown and white.
Things to Know:
- There are four distinctive seasons in Tirol: Spring (March April May); ‘Mountain Summer’ typically starts in May; Autumn (September, October, November); Winter (December, January, February).
- Hohe Salve is one of six mountain adventure parks – Lake Filzalm in Hochbrixen, Ellmi’s Zauberwelt on the Hartkaiser, Hohe Salve Hopfgarten Söll, KasiserWelt on the Brandstadl, Hexenwasser Söll Hohe Salve and Alpinolino on the Choralpe in Westendorf. All are accessible by the gondola lift system.
- The Kitzbüheler Alpen (with over 1,000km of slopes in winter) covers four regions: Brixental, St.Johann in Tirol, Hohe Salve and Pullersee Tal in the Kitzbuhel area, including 20 traditional Tyrolean villages. St Johann is located in the middle, with readily accessible train and bus links to surrounding areas.
- For further information about the region, including transportation between areas and gondola car operators, and to plan your ski trip in the infamous Austrian Alps, visit the Kitzbüheler Alpen website.
‘Sound of Music’ images © Christian Lendl. All other images are my own.