As I pass one picturesque wooden chalet after another, each one overflowing with red geraniums, I feel as if I’ve been transported into the pages of a fairy-tale picture book. Alpbach is said to be the prettiest village in Austria but, as I discovered on a recent trip to the Tirol, there’s so much more to this gem of the Alpbachtal than picture-postcard scenery and pretty houses tumbling down the hillside, although these alone would be reasons enough to visit.
With thanks to Inghams and Tirol Tourism for inviting me on this press trip. My travel, accommodation, meals and excursions were complimentary for review purposes, but as always, I retain the right to publish whatever I like and will only share with you my honest opinions.
Having flown into Innsbruck (Kranebitten) Airport, it’s not long before we are heading out of the city and driving through the stunning scenery of the Tirol. It’s over forty years since I visited the area on a school trip, and I couldn’t be more excited to be back again.
Tucked between the Karwendel Mountains and the Tux Alps we follow the path of the Inn River heading east-northeast to the valley of Alpbachtal (tal means valley btw). We pass noble castles and pretty churches peeping out between the treetops on the pineclad hillsides. The forests interspersed with green meadows lead up to the still snow-capped mountain peaks towering above us.
We drive through winding lanes in the dappled sunshine beneath a lush green canopy. When the pretty wooden chalets go one step beyond chocolate box perfection, I know we have arrived in Alpbach.
Things to do in Alpbachtal | A 4-day Alpbach itinerary
We arrive at Alpbach in the late afternoon. It’s a glorious day so there’s no time to waste. Having checked-in to the four-star superior Hotel Böglerhof (pictured below), we head out to explore. Since 1953 all buildings in the village have had to be built in the traditional style, which no doubt contributed to Alpbach being awarded the title ‘The Most Beautiful Village in Austria’.
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Take the Path of Contemplation
A short walk through the village brings us to the Path of Contemplation. It’s the perfect way to stretch your legs before tackling a more serious hike. Alpbach is at an altitude of 975 m. While this is not high enough to cause altitude sickness, it’s still a good idea to take it easy on your first day, if like me you’re a sea-level dweller.
The path climbs gently through the tranquil woods. Periodically, we stop to check out the sculptures along the way. And then I find my happy place! I sit back on a large wooden recliner. Surrounded by trees with views across the valley to the mountain tops this spot is so enchanting that I find it hard to pull myself away. But dinner awaits and we’ve some way to go.
below: The photograph I’m taking in the picture above
Head for the hills
Instead of completing the circular route of the Path of Contemplation we follow the road a short way and head to the footpath that runs east to west along the lower slopes of the mountains to the north of Alpbach.
It’s well worth it. The views looking down on the village and across to the mountains on the other side of the valley are stunning and we pass this delightful little chapel.
You’ll find a map of the route for this 2.4 mile (3.9km) circular walk here.
We’re staying half-board at Hotel Böglerhof, and an excellent five-course meal awaits us that evening in the charming restaurant. The waiters are suitably dressed in traditional lederhosen and the waitresses in dirndl dresses.
Day 2 in Alpbach
Watch the sunrise from Wierdersbergerhorn
Our first morning in the Tirol starts early. We leave the hotel just after 4 am and take a short drive to the gondola station at Wierdersbergerhorn. It’s still dark as we head up the mountainside and the golden lights of the towns in the valley stretch out beneath us. At the top station, we’re at 1,850 m, and it’s 6 °C (43 °F). As we start our walk to the peak, the sound of the traditional Alpine horn drifts towards us. Onwards we go, climbing higher, passing a heard of cows their bells tinkling in the darkness.
As it starts to get lighter, the clouds gleam in shades of pinks and oranges. Watching the sunrise from on top of a mountain in the Tirol is the undisputed highlight of the trip. It’s a magical memory to treasure. I’m grateful that I’m fit enough to do this hike thanks to all the walking I’ve been doing back home recently. This experience inspires me to want to do more.
As the sun climbs in the sky, the hillside takes on a golden glow. It’s spectacular as we make our way down and then around the mountain top. A well-earned breakfast awaits.
The walk itself isn’t far, about 4 miles in total, but at altitude and with much of it being uphill, I found it was plenty far enough.
Eat breakfast on top of a mountain
Is it the crisp Alpine air, the exhilarating sunrise or the satisfaction of having walked up a mountain? Either way, bacon and eggs have never tasted so good. Mugs of coffee, orange juice, cheese, cold cuts and freshly baked rolls complete our feast at Hornhalm, a café on top of the mountain, over 2,000 metres above sea level.
We take our time, enjoying each other’s company, not to mention the great food. Then it’s back around the other side of the mountain, passing some more cows on our way back to the Wierdersbergerhorn Top Station.
Tip: Take plenty of water in a refillable bottle as you’ll find you need to drink even more at higher altitudes.
Ride the Alpine Coaster
Back at the top station, we buy our tickets for the Alpine Coaster, known locally as the Alpbachtaler Lauser-Sauser, a mile long, adrenaline-fuelled ride down the mountainside. It’s great fun and easy to control. You can go as fast or as slow as you like. Once you reach the bottom, the ride automatically brings you back to the top again with some splendid views along the way.
The Alpine coaster Lauser Sauser opens at 9.30am and costs €5.
Walk the Wolfsklamm Gorge
We are all feeling tired from the earlier walk when we join an Ingham’s excursion to the Wolfsklamm and Georgenberg Monastery. I’d only recommend doing both these walks in one day if you are pretty fit. Neither route is very long but don’t underestimate how tiring walking uphill, at altitude can be.
The entrance to the gorge is about a half-hour drive from Alpbach. The lovely shady walk along a picturesque river heads up to a monastery perched on the clifftop. We chat with the other Ingham’s guest as we climb higher — they’re such a friendly and interesting bunch.
One of my favourite spots along the walk is the beach where we dipped our toes in the chilly water. My feet feel revived from the cool water. As we continue walking the monastery looms high above us. We still have some walking to do before our promised reward of a monastic lunch.
Tip: Take a small towel so you can dry your feet if you fancy a paddle in the chilly water. It’s a great way to refresh tired feet.
Eat lunch at Georgenberg Monastery
On a lovely terrace overlooking the gorge, we tuck into huge portions of a very tasty Weiner schnitzel (breaded pan-fried veal cutlet) with fries and cranberry sauce, costing €13.90 with a large beer for €3.80. Each plate would have been plenty for two, and I dread to think how much food gets wasted here every day.
Relax at the Vitalquell Spa at the Hotel Böglerhof
The rest of the day is spent relaxing in the hotel spa. As well as an outdoor and indoor pool, there’s a sauna, steam room, relaxation room and several treatment rooms.
Drink crystal beer
I was delighted to find out that Alpbachtal has its very own brewery, Kristall Brauerei which translates as crystal beer. Their four beers are made from the crystal clear waters of the valley, and you are very welcome to pay them a visit in nearby Inneralpbach for a guided tour. Frustratingly, we didn’t have time to pop by, but I did try one of their beers at the hotel.
- Das Zwickel, an unfiltered beer that should be drunk as fresh as possible
- Das Weizen, a white wheat beer made to ancient Tirolean traditions
- Das Kellerbier, an amber beer, that’s naturally sour
- Maxiator Bockbier a strong dark, malty beer (available only in winter)
Kristall Brauerei opening times: Monday, Wednesday to Friday 2 to 7 pm, Saturday 10 am to noon, closed Tuesday and Sunday.
Day 3 in Alpbach
Visit the Tirolean Farmhouses Museum
On our second morning, it’s just a short drive to the Museum of Tirolean Farmhouse, a fabulous open-air museum of 14 farmhouses and numerous outbuildings some dating back to the Middle Ages. The buildings have been collected from throughout the Tirol and painstakingly reconstructed on this 20-acre site. It was wonderful to explore the farmhouses and learn about the people that had once lived in them, their lifestyle and traditions.
Eat dumplings at Roherof Kramsach
Tirolean cuisine is hearty and filling. The restaurant at the museum was particularly superb, selling a great range of traditional local dishes. We couldn’t decide what to pick from the menu, so the restaurant brought a huge pan of numerous dishes, including four different types of dumplings or knödel.
- Schupfnudel (rye or wheat flour dumplings)
- Spinat Knödel (spinach dumplings, both with and without cheese)
- Kaspressknödel (cheese dumplings)
Other Dumplings you may come across
- Grießknödel (semolina dumplings)
- Speckknödel (bacon dumplings)
- Semmelknödel (bread dumplings)
The dumplings we had were particularly good with Schwammerlsauce, a mushroom and cream sauce. And the local St Johann’s sausage was delicious but then, so was everything we ate at Roherof.
Walk the Tiefenbach Gorge
After lunch, we headed to Tiefenbach Gorge (Tiefenbachklamm) which lies tucked between the towns of Kramsach and Brandenberg in Alpbachtal. This 4km (2.5 miles) walk takes about one and a half hours. Entrance to the gorge and parking are free. At the end of the hike, you’ll find a conveniently located restaurant. You can then either head back down the gorge the way you came or continue walking for about another 20 minutes to catch a bus back to the beginning.
Back at Hotel Böglerhof, there’s time for some wine tasting before dinner with the hotel’s knowledgeable and entertaining owner, Johannes Duftner. While the Tirol is not known for its wine production, Austria certainly is. We sample three whites, three reds and a dessert wine from different parts of the country in a relaxed and jovial atmosphere.
Wine tasting at Hotel Böglerhof costs €18.
Live music in Alpbach
There’s been a tradition in Alpbach stretching back over hundreds of years to hand down musical skills from one generation to the next. Every Friday evening throughout summer, locals and visitors gather by the church in Alpbach, just opposite our hotel, to listen to Bundesmusikkapelle Alpbach, the talented and versatile local brass orchestra, playing a range of traditional and modern music. It’s our last evening here, and there’s a fun atmosphere, encouraged by the girls in traditional costume selling schnapps for €1 a shot served from small barrels hung across their shoulders.
I can’t believe it’s nearly time to leave Alpbach. We’ve done so much and made so many memories that I know will stay with me forever, especially the sunrise walk — a truly magical experience. Despite my being considerably overweight, I was chuffed to be able to keep up with the others, thanks to the many walks I’ve been doing in the South Downs back in England. And I couldn’t have asked for better company, namely Mel from MelBTravel, an impressive bundle of energy who doesn’t let anything stop her and my dear friend of many years’, Suzanne, aka The Travelbunny.
I take a stroll around the village before breakfast, then spend a lazy morning at the hotel. I’m going to miss the mountain views from my sofa and balcony. The staff here have all been superb. It’s very much a family-run hotel, and I’m sure they attract many repeat guests.
At the airport, we check out the new Tyrol Lounge and enjoy the views across the runway to the mountains, complimentary snacks and drinks, although I did feel very sad to be leaving.
What to wear in Alpbach in the summer?
Despite it being summer, it was chilly up on the mountain top early in the morning. It was 6 °C at the top station where we started our sunrise hike and got chillier as we climbed higher, with patches of snow still on the ground. I was glad I had some gloves with me and several layers of clothing from the excellent Rohan range to put on or remove as the temperature changed throughout the day.
A wicking, quick-drying base layer, such as the Stria Top, is a good idea as you can get a little sweaty, particularly under your backpack I find. The material wicks the sweat away from your body and dries out quickly if need be. My Ambler Trousers were perfect for all the hiking we did and never felt too hot or too cold. As the day got warmer, my extra layers packed away neatly in my rucksack with plenty of room for my waterproof Elite Jacket which I needed on a couple of occasions. A comfy pair of walking shoes with a good grip is also essential. I wore my Skechers, which I love – they’re the comfiest shoes for walking I’ve ever had – but something with a better grip would have been preferable.
How long to stay in Alpbach?
A one-week holiday would be more than enough time to replicate our itinerary at a slightly more leisurely pace and to fit in a few things we didn’t have time for (see below). I’d recommend you take it easy on your first day as you acclimatise to the altitude. I still can’t believe that the walks we did weren’t longer. They certainly felt it but, boy, were they worth it!
Other summer activities in Alpbachtal
It’s a shame we weren’t here longer; you’d never run out of things to do in Alpbach. Schnapps tasting, craft classes, cycling (including e-bikes), kayaking, white water rafting and tubing, mountain yoga and lake swimming are just some of the other activities on offer in Alpbachtal in summer. So don’t just think of the Tirolean mountains as a ski destination. I think you’ll agree, it’s fabulous in the summer too.
Inghams Lakes and Mountains
Inghams offers a seven-night stay on a half board basis at the four-star superior Hotel Böglerhof in Alpbach, Austria, from £833 per person based on two sharing in August 2020. Price includes return flights, airport transfers and the services of the in-resort Inghams Representative. To book, visit Inghams.co.uk/lakes-mountains-holidays or call 01483 494 826.
Guests benefit from the free Alpbachtal Seenland Guest Card which covers complimentary use of the mountain lifts, free entry into local bathing lakes and swimming pools, and free entry into attractions such as the Museum of Tyrolean Farmhouses.
For more information on the resort and what’s available to see and do, visit Alpbachtal.at/en.
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