Austrian Alps the slow way

Sep 30th, 2019, 02:49 AM
  #1  
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Austrian Alps the slow way

We have 5 weeks to spend in the Austrian Alps and the Dolomites next June/early July. We're keen walkers, but will be doing day walks only, no multi-day hikes.

This will be our third visit to the Dolomites, but our first time in Austria. We'll have a car but want to travel slowly and leisurely: at least 4 nights in each location, and we'd like those locations to be mostly small towns or villages, from which we could head out on walks.

At present, I assume we'll fly into Vienna (from Australia) and fly home out of Venice. I'd be grateful for any suggestions about an itinerary that would take us slowly down through central/southern/eastern Austria before dropping into the Dolomites.

RosBlack is offline  
Sep 30th, 2019, 06:01 AM
  #2  
 
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I just returned from an Austria and Dolomites trip, flew into Vienna, out of Innsbruck.

I believe you would have to go out to Innsbruck before crossing into Italy. But depends on which part of the Dolomites you plan to visit.

I stayed mostly in Val Gardena which is south of Innsbruck. Cortina di Ampezzo is about 2 hours east of Val Gardena but till well west of Salzburg. When I checked directions on Google Maps or ViaMichelin they routed you out to Innsbruck and then south.

Vienna to Salzburg is 3.5 hours by train or car. Innsbruck is another 2 hours and Ortisei is 2 more hours from Innsbruck.

So I went Vienna to St. Wolfgang and then Val Gardena, two long drives with 3 nights in St. Wolfgang. No Alps yet, though beautiful scenery. There are certainly many mountains within an hour to 90 minutes drive from Salzburg but you really get into the Alps from Innsbruck and points west of it.

So if you want to get to the Alps, Innsbruck or Munich might be a better starting point.

One thing to be aware of I would check one way car rentals. I ended up doing Austria pickup and return. Drop off in Italy was prohibitive. Within Italy rental was cheaper but only if you picked up and returned to Verona so no way to get a reasonable rental for both countries.
scrb11 is offline  
Sep 30th, 2019, 08:17 AM
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I'm by no means an expert on the Dolomites, but it just so happens one of our favorite hotels of all time is in that area.. The Uhrerhof Deur is worth building an itinerary around. We stayed there in 2006 and loved it so much we brought the kids back in 2016. Not the cheapest place to stay, but by far the most enjoyable place we've ever stayed.
Wekiva is offline  
Sep 30th, 2019, 02:23 PM
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"One thing to be aware of I would check one way car rentals. I ended up doing Austria pickup and return. Drop off in Italy was prohibitive. Within Italy rental was cheaper but only if you picked up and returned to Verona so no way to get a reasonable rental for both countries."

1)That's a very good point. It's still worth to check if you can find a rental agency which does a foreign country drop off for a reasonable price, but don't waste too much time on this, most likely you won't find any. Just drop off the car in Austria near the Italian border(Innsbruck, Villach. Klagenfurt) and take a train to Venice. Driving the Austrian rental car in Italy is not expensive it's just returning it abroad which is. As I said just drive back the car to Austria after doing the Dolomites.

You could even return the car in Vienna(than taking the train to Venice) to complete a nice circle around Austria, which gives more opportunities to see diffrent places than a one-way itinerary.

2) It's not really your first time in Austria if you've been to the Dolomites 3 times. I don't where in the Dolomites you've been, but I hope you realised that most of the Dolomites are in South Tyrol which is every bit as Austrian as Tyrol proper. It is of course officially your first time in Austria, but it'll be pretty similar like the Dolomites(the part in South Tyrol)

3) Austria is more than just the Alps and 5 weeks is ample time to discover other parts of Austria, like Vienna, the Danube Valley, Lower Austria, Burgenland, Styria. With so much time you shouldn't miss some short cross border trips either. It would be silly to miss some wonderful places only 1-2 hour drive away in Czechia or Slovenia, only because it's in another country. Remember it used to be one country for hundreds of years until 1919.

Last edited by BDKR; Sep 30th, 2019 at 02:25 PM.
BDKR is offline  
Oct 1st, 2019, 04:16 AM
  #5  
 
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Consider flying into Munich rather than Vienna; you'll save yourself the time driving into the alpine region.

In summer 2018 DH and I spent 9 nights on a hiking/wandering holiday that might fit into your itinerary; we traveled this route with our personal vehicle. The nights were split 3/6 between Seefeld in Tirol and the Öztal. The former is an Olympic region with numerous trails of varying levels; from there we took day trips to Eng Alm and Innsbruck for wanders. While in the Öztal we took advantage of the Öztal Card provided by nearly every hotel and guest house that covers the cable car rides up and down the many, many mountains to climb around, including Sölden, where the James Bond movie Spectre was filmed.

Happy Planning! Tirol is our very favorite place in Austria.
fourfortravel is offline  
Oct 1st, 2019, 08:46 AM
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The heart of the Austrian Alps is close to the small local airports of Innsbruck, Bolzano/Bozen, Salzburg and Klagenfurt and more or less aequidistant to the intercontinental airports of Munich, Vienna, Venice and Zurich.
If Venice is a must, you may rent your car at Venice airport and do a loop like VCE - motorway - Pontebba - Nassfeld - Tauern - Grossglockner - Zell am See - Krimml - Zillertal - Innsbruck - Oetztal - Timmelsjoch - Dolomites - Venice.
You may also rent your car at Vienna, proceed up to Tyrol and the Dolomites, re-enter Austria at Innichen/San Candido, drop off your car at Villach and reach Venice by train from there (3 hrs train journey).
neckervd is offline  
Oct 1st, 2019, 01:15 PM
  #7  
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Thanks so much to everyone for all of this invaluable advice. We'll give some serious thought to the round trip that has been suggested: we would never have thought about entering via Munich, for example. That's because we're thinking like Australians, in terms of borders rather than actual distances and locations! We clearly need to think more like Europeans. Thanks again!
RosBlack is offline  
Oct 1st, 2019, 01:43 PM
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Has anyone spent time walking in the Bregenzerwald? How would this compare to the Otztal, for example?
RosBlack is offline  
Oct 1st, 2019, 02:25 PM
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I haven't been to the Bregenzerwald, only to the Ötztal and not for hiking, but here are my 2 cents(without personal experience):

Bergenzerwald - lower mountains, forests(Wald=wood/forest)

Ötztal(Tal=valley) - high Alpine peaks, glaciers(as long as they last), rocks, more challenging hiking

With 5 weeks you can see both and a lot more.

You may leave the Ötztal for the end of your trip(late June/July) when the snow melts and most of the high passes will be passable without crampons and ice axe.
BDKR is offline  
Oct 1st, 2019, 05:22 PM
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Yeah I spent 2-3 weeks all in Australia, in and out of Munich. Drove 1-2 hours from Munich to Zugspitze Arena, spend several days there, then over to Innsbruck, then Salzburg, then Hallstatt, then St. Wolfgang and then drove 2-3 hours back to Munich for one night before flying back out.

You could spend a couple of weeks in the Dolomites, buy one of the passes like the Val Gardena card or the Super Dolomiti pass which gets you on a lot of cable cars.

One thing to be aware, in the Dolomites at least, a lot of cable cars don't get going until mid or late June. In fact it's not unknown for it to snow into early June, closing down some roads and things. In fact in my Austria trip it snowed in August. Well it rained a lot in Hallstatt and when it finally cleared up and I went up to 5 Fingers Dachstein nearby, there was a couple of inches of snow up at the top and you had to hike for about 30 minutes in the snow to get to the 5 Fingers platform. But it was cool, I was wearing shorts and a windbreaker and it was sunny.


I am not familiar with Villach. I would check the car rental sites. It's one thing for one-way rentals between bigger cities, especially those with airports. I wouldn't assume you'd be able to return a car rented in Vienna to a smaller town. I know that I looked into flying into Venice, renting a car there, then returning in Bolzano and it wasn't going to work, the closest i could return to would be Verona. And of course returning in Austria made it prohibitively expensive.
scrb11 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2019, 05:07 AM
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If Villach doesn't work, check Klagenfurt International airport, some 20 miles east of Villach. Venice bound trains stop at Klagenfurt too.

Bregenzerwald: hilly midlands between Zurich airport (90 miles) and Munich airport (140 miles). 400 miles from Vienna airport (via Munich).
Tons of hiking trails through forests and grassland. Some nice views from the westernmost end (Pfaender) to Lake Bodensee (1300 ft above sea level).
Highest gondola station: Diedamskopf (6800 ft), one of the highest peaks of the area.No alpine panorama, just woodland and grassland.
Boats plying Lake Bodensee and Rhine river from Bregenz (Austria) through Germany up to Schaffhausen/Rhine Falls in Switzerland: Bregenz dp 9.10 - Schaffhausen ar 18.15

If you like mountain scenery, you best forget Bregenzerwald and go to Oetztal, Stubaital or Zillertal.
neckervd is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2019, 11:39 PM
  #12  
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Thanks again to everyone who has shared ideas with us. I'd love some feedback on our draft itinerary now. The whole trip takes place over 5 weeks from 31 May to 3 July:

- arrive Vienna. Stay 2 nights then pick up car
- drive to St Wolfgang im Salzkammergut. Stay 3 nights, including day trip to Salzburg
- drive to Zell am See. Stay 5 nights and use as base for walking in the Hohe Tauern National Park, walking the Pinzgauer Spaziergang, and driving the Grossglockner Road
- drive to Seefeld. Stay 4 nights and use as base for walking in that area
- drive to Sölden. Stay 5 nights and use as base for walking in the Ötztal valley
- cross into Dolomites and drive to Cortina d’Ampezzo via Innsbruck. Stay Cortina d’Ampezzo 5 nights and use as base for walking
- drive to a second Dolomites base (to be identified). Stay another 5 nights for walking
- cross back into Austria and drive to Graz?? We know this is a long trip, but we don't know where to break our stay in between. Stay in Graz 2 nights
- drive to Vienna and return car. Stay in Vienna final 2 nights before flying home.

Last edited by RosBlack; Oct 3rd, 2019 at 11:42 PM.
RosBlack is offline  
Oct 4th, 2019, 12:18 AM
  #13  
 
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Looks basically good to me. A few comments, though:
- I would skip Seefeld and go to Stubai valley instead. Or keep Seefeld and go to Stubai instead of Ötztal valley. I personally find Sölden too much of a ski resort which is quite dead in summer.

- However, if you decide to keep Sölden, then drive over Timmelsjoch and stay in Meran (or surroundings, like Dorf Tirol e.g.) before you drive to the Dolomites (Cortina). Otherwise Bruneck would make a good second base for Dolomites/southern Zillertaler Alps (Ahrntal, Antholz)

- Graz is a good idea. Very nice city (UNESCO world heritage!)
Ingo is offline  
Oct 4th, 2019, 03:58 AM
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Overall the itinerary looks fine. As much as we like Seefeld, I don't know that I would spend 4 nights there solely for hiking. If you're adding day outings to Innsbruck and Swarovski then you should be fine.

Graz is lovely. If you're looking for more hiking maybe spend a couple of nights in the Millstättersee area? Lots of hiking, plus you can hike up to (or chair-lift) to Tromeja, the tri-point of Italy, Austria and Slovenia.

One other point for consideration. Be sure to check the dress code for any resorts or guesthouses you might consider with half-board. At the place we stayed in Seefeld last summer, Trachten (and shorts) were not permitted at dinner. Thankfully we had brought along "dress clothes" anyway, but it felt odd wearing the same clothes every night to dinner.
fourfortravel is offline  
Oct 4th, 2019, 08:05 AM
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Lot of driving, maybe better to return car near Innsbruck and fly out of there.

Cortina is an extra two hours I believe from around Innsbruck. I think you'd drive pass a lot of the Dolomites before getting to Cortina.
scrb11 is offline  
Oct 4th, 2019, 08:19 AM
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I fully second Ingo: the best Oetztal - Dolomites itinerary goes via Timmelsjoch and Passeier Valley.
You told us that you already know the dolomites. so it will be up to you to decide whether you will continue from Paseirer Valley via Meran - Bozen - Karersee - Canazei to Cortina or if you prefer the Northern itinerary via Jaufen Pass - Sterzing - Pustertal.
Cortina - Graz: there is too much to see in between (Lienzer Dolomiten, Heiligenblut/Grossglockner, Carinthian Lakes....).
Lienz and the Lienzer Dolomiten could be a good second base for walking.
neckervd is offline  
Oct 8th, 2019, 04:10 PM
  #17  
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Thanks again for these excellent suggestions, everyone. I must confess that I'm now torn between the Stubai and Ötztal areas. On another tack, we're thinking of a very slight detour into Germany while we're up around St Wolfgang/St Gilgen to walk in the Berchtesgaden National Park. Any thoughts about this would be most welcome.

Drawing on your various suggestions, the trip now looks like this:
- Vienna (2 nights)
- St Gilgen and the Salzkammergut (4 nights)
- Berchtesgaden National Park (4 nights)
- Zell am See for walking in the Hohe Tauern National Park, walking the Pinzgauer Spaziergang, and driving the Grossglockner Road (5 nights)
- Sölden OR somewhere in the Stubai (5 nights)
- Cortina d’Ampezzo via Timmelsjoch and Passeier area (5 nights)
- Obertilliach for walks in the Lienz Dolomites (5 nights)
- Return the car in Innsbruck and train to Munich
- Munich 2 nights before flying home.

We realise that this cuts out Graz, but we feel that we can't do everything!
RosBlack is offline  
Oct 9th, 2019, 01:27 AM
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From the Grossglockner road, it's only a short drive to Lienz and Obertilliach.
Therefeore I suggest:
Zell am See - Grossglockner - Lienz - Obertilliach - Cortina d'Ampezzo - Sterzing
and then either
Sterzing - Brenner - Stubaital - Innsbruck
or
Sterzing - JaufenPass - Timmelsjoch - Oetztal - Innsbruck.
neckervd is offline  
Oct 9th, 2019, 01:00 PM
  #19  
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Thank you, neckervd: incredibly helpful as always!
RosBlack is offline  

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