Timeless natural beauty flourishes in Tyrol

Timeless natural beauty flourishes in Tyrol

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

If you’ve been searching for the perfect place to become one with nature, the historical region of Tyrol in Northern Italy and western Austria is ideal. It was once the country of Tyrol from the 12th century to 1919. Today the largest cities in the region include Innsbruck, Treno and Bolzano; however, the best part about Tyrol is that it is entirely within the Alps and overflowing with natural beauty. Towering mountains, plunging valleys, fairy tale towns, cow pastures, wildflower fields and half-timbered houses are just a few of the reasons you should spend time in Tyrol. 

Marvelous mountain adventures

For an outdoor adventure you won’t soon forget, visit Hohe Tauern National Park. It is the largest national park in the Alps and is home to forests, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, peaks, valleys and alpine pastures. This place has it all! Visit the oldest mountain huts in Austria at the end of Defereggental Valley or view Austria’s highest peak, Lucknerhaus. Wander on the Umbalfälle Nature Trail to see a series of waterfalls on the Isel River and relax amongst some of Austria’s most stunning natural wonders. 

If you want to be around water, head to Lake Achensee, known as the “Sea of Tyrol.” It is the most popular and largest swimming lake in the region. This area has over 300 miles of maintained and signposted hiking trails, so it’s perfect for taking a hike and cooling off with a swim. Of course, there are numerous water sports and opportunities to go on a boat ride around the lake as well. 

A great hike for the whole family can be found in Reutte. Highline 179 and Castle World Ehrenberg offer history, hiking and an adrenaline rush all mixed together. For the ultimate hiking and bridge experience, start your expedition by hiking to Fortress Schlosskopf from the parking lot at Ehrenberg. From the fortress, hike down the mountain toward the ruins of Ehrenberg Castle. For the adrenaline junkies, continue on your journey via the highline 179 suspension bridge. This bridge is the longest Tibet-style footbridge and hovers above the ground at 374 feet. You’ll feel a floating sensation as the bridge bobs and sways. After crossing the highline bridge, you’ll arrive at the Fort Claudia ruins where you’ll see the last of the ruins.

Take a tour

If you want to see a more intact piece of history, Kufstein Fortress is a great place to stop. It towers over the town and was first mentioned in 1205. Take the panorama gondola to the top of the hill to explore. Here, you’ll find the world’s largest outdoor organ, as well as underground passageways and prison cells inside. Become submersed in history with knights, princesses and fortress life while touring this beautiful structure. 

Not only are the towering mountains incredible in Tyrol, the underground mines also pack a punch. Schwaz Silver Mine, fondly referred to as “The Mother of all Mines,” will take you back in time to the Middle Ages, when it was the largest and wealthiest silver mine in the world. On a tour you can learn about the mine’s glorious past as you ride on a mini train through the bowels of the earth. 

City sights

If you want the natural beauty of the mountains mixed with the convenience of the city, Innsbruck is the place to go. To get a great view of the medieval city, head up City Tower, where guards once kept watch here to warn of fire or invasions. This landmark in the Old Town has just 133 steps to the viewing platform. The bottom of the tower was a prison for a while but isn’t nearly so dismal now. 

To view an imposing piece of royal architecture, visit Imperial Court Palace. It was completed in 1500 under Emperor Maximilian I. There is a special room for hunting trophies, a silver chamber, guard hall and a festival hall as well as imperial apartments with a beauty salon and several bedrooms. By the 1770s, the palace had been redone in the Viennese late Baroque style at the request of Maria Theresa. Take a tour to get a taste of how lavish the emperors’ lives used to be. 

For something a little different, visit Swarovski Crystal Worlds. This is Swarovski’s museum and theme park. Perhaps the most interesting creation is the “giant” whose mouth spews a waterfall into the lake below. The giant guards more than 12 crystal chambers beneath the hill that looks like the giant’s back. Don’t miss the Chambers of Wonder exhibition, where millions of glittering crystals come together to create a magical atmosphere. 

Unparalleled natural beauty, historical cities and castles abound are just a few of the reasons to plan a trip to Tyrol. Take your family, your dog and anyone else who wants to be surrounded by fresh air in the mighty Alps.

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