Burrowed within Austria’s Kitzbühal Alps are two neighbouring valleys – Alpbachtal on the one side and Wildschönau on the other, where you can meet halfway up on the Schatzberg Mountain.
A valley of four villages, each increases in altitude as they climb towards the adjacent Zillertaler Alpen. First Niederau at 824m and the starting point to the Markbachjoch mountain, Oberau at 938m, Auffach standing at 869m before the climb to the Schatzberg and Thierbach at 1175m.
Based in the centre, in Oberau, I spent two days exploring the valley before moving on to Alpbachtal. From the ground to the skies, village to high alpine, Wildschönau is a nature haven, cheese heaven and the European hotspot for sky-high adrenalin.
Biking and Hiking the
Before I took to the mountains for adventure, I decided to explore a little on ground by e-bike, casually drifting through the villages filled with traditional farmhouses. Starting at my hotel in Oberau (where I was able to hire my e-bike) and ending in Niederau, it was a casual three hours of bike riding within a peaceful and idilyic setting and provided the chance to explore without taking on anything too strenuous.
These two villages in particular are easily connected but a straight main road, making it easy to navigate between the two while getting off-track along the way, like on secluded-feeling forest track that runs behind the Bergbauernmusuem.
Wildschönau is also perfect to explore by foot with an extensive network of walking paths – over 300km of tracks through valleys beds and farms, high pastures and pine forests and more challenging, mountainous terrain. A series of weekday walks are free with the Wildschönau Card, including Schrofen mountain, which is well-known for its restaurant serving some of the best traditional dishes from the region, Birgit farm and its herb garden at 1030m, where a local expert brews up some great herbal teas and natural remedies and the Minz path from Oberau eventually leads you up to the Kragenjoch Mountain, flanked by a pathway of wild flowers.
Markbachjoch Mountain Views – Valley Panorama
As the Summer days draw to a close, cooler autumn air sets in and the cows live out their last days up high on the alpine before they return to the valleys below. I enjoy these months of alpine green against the endless mountain backdrops, before waiting for the snow and the ski season sets in.
However, the Markbachjoch Mountain at 1500m has one of the best panorama views of the ranges in Tirol, including the Rofan and Wilder Kaiser Mountains. These elevated alpine heights are great for short strolls or longer hikes, where people walk to the Holz Alm for the cheese and to the Horler Stiegl chapel at the Rosskopf peak.
Paragliding in Wildschönau – Summer in the Skies
After paragliding in the neighbouring state of Vorarlberg, I wasn’t going to decline a chance to take to the skies in Tirol with local experts from Flugschule Wildschönau.
The mountain top may have been shrouded in mist on the day I was due to fly, but I soon learnt not to discount a cloudy day when it comes to this kind of adventure. I went paragliding in Wildschönau when the clouds were rolling in high up on the Zillertal Alps, and my tandem pilot said we should take the opportunity to float through them and find ‘the hole’ from which we entered the valley bed below. It felt like we had found a magical portal to another world.
Despite the slightly wracking-run off the mountain (although I enjoy the adrenalin kick I get from it), paragliding is actually a relaxing way to glide freely through nature, picking up a little speed before slowing down to take in the views. I also had the opportunity to take control of the suspensions lines/strings, understand more about the air pressure and was able to change direction myself. Ask nicely, and your pilot might also agree to a fast spin session if you want to play with the wind and really feel the force of it.
Wildschonau is one of the best regions for paragliding in Tirol as it is said the winds here are near perfect because of the protected location. Because of this, it is also considered one of the safest flight areas in Europe, and the ideal place to perfect your skills if you are looking to take a full paragliding course. The special microclimate here means you can take to the skies for up to 300 days per year.
A tandem flight with Flugschule Wildschönau costs €110 for a 20 minute flight session. You will meet your instructor at the bottom of the Markbachjoch cable car.
Meeting Johann Schönauer – The Master Cheese Maker of Schönanger Pasture
People and personalities make up just as much of a region’s makeup as the surroundings. In Wildschönau, you can’t miss a chance to meet master cheese maker, Johann Schönauer. The second you spot him as he comes out of the wooden hut, you know he’s a real character with a happy presence.
Johann is one of the 24 farmers on the Schönanger pasture in Wildschönau, Tirol who spend the summer making award-winning alpine cheeses, which you can sample and buy at the restaurant at the Schönangeralm. After a quick look around his cheese-making stronghold, Johann gave us enough cheese to feed 20 people, as we stopped for a coffee and a quick chat.
A local legend that has racked up many gold awards at the annual ‘Cheese Olympics’ (yes, that’s really a thing in Austria), he might well invite you in for a cheeky serving of Schnapps if you happen to be passing by on a hike. This area has some of the highest peaks in the region and there’s always a need to re-fuel – local produce being the best choice.
Things to Know:
The Wildschönau valley is made up of the four villages of Niederau, Oberau, Auffach and Thierbach lies in the Kitzbühel Alps region.
Where to stay in Wildschönau
I stayed in the Hotel Tirolerhof in Wildschönau-Oberau – a family-run, 3-star spa hotel in the heart of the village. It’s modern, yet homely keeping with the family feel, with staff readily on hand to help you book trips, hire e-bikes or simply impart their tips. The bar and restaurant are open during the day, with themed buffets in the evening.
The Wildschönau Card
The Wildschönau Card gives access to free and discounted services, including:
- Daily free journeys with the Markbachjochbahn, Niederau cable car
- Use of public buses in the whole of the Wildschönau region
- Daily free admission to several museums including the Lehenlahn silver mine and various discounts for e-bike hire, paragliding sessions, and the high ropes course, among others.
More Suggested Excursions from Wildschönau
The Kundl Gorge in Wildschönau, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful gorges in Austria. It connects the Wildschönau Valley with the village of Kundl in the Inn Valley.
Take a Sunrise Walk up over the Kragenjoch peak for panorama views at 1425m.
Go on the Herbal Walk to the Herb Garden and learn all about healing herbs from expert Birgit Haas.
Further information about spring and summer in Wildschönau
Visit the Wildschönau website for a comprehensive list of activities, events and accommodation options.
My time in the Wildschönau valley was a part of my ‘Year in Austria’ project, as the UK ambassador for the Austrian National Tourist Office. I visited various destinations across the country (from my home base of Vienna) over a period of 12 months, showcasing a variety of regions and activities. Follow #YearInAustria for all the stories through the seasons.