5 reasons to visit Zillertal this summer

Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, somewhere to relax or a place to spend quality time as a family, why not adopt the Austrian way of holidaying this summer in Zillertal?

Team Wanderlust
26 March 2023
Promoted by
Austria Travel

Main image: Zillertal Tourismus/ Thomas Pfister

1. For the views

The bridge over the Schlegeis reservoir (Zillertal Tourismus/Tom Klocker)

Zillertal is flanked by some of Austria’s highest mountains, dozens of which stand more than 3,000 metres high. As temperatures rise, winter’s blanket of snow lifts to reveal a kaleidoscopic summer palette. One of the prettiest views in the area is from a suspension bridge above Schlegeis reservoir. The sound of cowbells lures walkers up a bucolic path littered with boulders. Stop to refuel at the Friesenberghaus, then pick up a balcony trail towards the Olpererhütte and a breathtaking overlook. Be sure to experience the Zillertaler Höhenstrasse too. Its hairpin bends aren’t for the fainthearted, but stress melts away when you gaze out at the panoramic mountain view from Melchboden, at 2,020 metres the road’s highest point. It’s one of Europe’s most spectacular drives and doable on two wheels if you have the stamina. To maximise your time, consider purchasing a Zillertal Activcard. This handy card includes one return trip a day on any of the area’s ten cable cars. For example, board the Gerlossteinbahn cable car to reach the Almflieger Gerlosstein. You’ll enjoy a bird’s eye view of the valley below – as long as you‘re brave enough to keep your eyes open as you whizz along this thrilling zipline.

2. For the food

Enjoy local food (Zillertal Tourismus/Kevin Ilse)

Foodies have plenty of reasons to visit Zillertal. Restaurants and cafés serving traditional fare and gourmet cuisine litter the area. When you’re feeling hungry, order a plate of Tiroler Gröstl. It combines roast pork,

sautéed potatoes and onion and is typically served with a fried egg on top. Another must-try is Pressknödl or Speckknödel soups, both of which float hearty dumplings in flavoursome broths. Don’t pass up the chance to try the area’s signature dish, Zillertaler Krapfen. Nicknamed Zillertal doughnuts, these half moon shaped pastries stuffed with potato, cheese, chopped onion and chives are fried until golden. They’re a delicious, filling snack, ideal if you’ve worked up an appetite hiking mountain trails. Traditionally, you make Zillertaler Krapfen with Graukäse (a low-fat grey cheese), named for its mouldy rind. It’s produced from hay milk, where the animals graze solely on a rich diet of summer grass and winter hay. Call in at the show dairy of Erlebnis Sennerei on the outskirts of Mayrhofen. Time your visit for a weekday morning to find out more about the process and learn why hay milk matters when it comes to the taste of its butter, cheese and yoghurt.

3. For the wildlife

Look out for marmots (Shutterstock)

Truncated spurs and knife-edge ridges are clues to the ice that shaped this region. Today, it boasts not only glaciers but also coniferous woodland and lush meadows. The high altitude High Mountain Nature Park Zillertal Alps covers 422 km2, representing around 40% of the Zillertal’s area. It’s home to abundant wildlife such as chamois, marmots, deer and ibex, the symbol of the Alps. Guided nature hikes are offered from June to September. At Steinbock.Welten, learn how the ibex was wiped out centuries ago except for a small population that survived in Sardinia. This hardy goat was successfully reintroduced to the Zillertal in the 1980s and today, there’s an estimated 100 ibexes in this part of Austria. A permanent exhibition tells their story. Step outside to swatch them scamper up and down the pine-clad slopes.

Near Kaltenbacher Skihütte, visit Murmelland (marmot park) to spot these delightful furry creatures; listen out for their distinctive whistle. Follow the kid-friendly, interactive Hubertus Wildtierpfad where the area’s biodiversity is presented in a fun way. It’s also worth catching the gondola up to Europe’s highest bird of prey station, AdlerBühne Ahorn, where you can observe eagles, falcons, hawks and owls at close quarters.

4. For the traditional art and culture

Traditions are kept alive in Zillertal (Shutterstock)

Art can be found in the most unusual of places, such as the FeuerWerk gallery at the Binderholz headquarters in Fügen. It houses a permanent exhibition space for art and sculpture using wood as a primary medium, together with a programme of live music gigs and other cultural events. In addition, old school craftsmanship and rural traditions are valued and nurtured in Zillertal. The area’s rural and farming heritage is celebrated by the many artisan producers and makers who make a living here. They create not only food and drink but also arts and crafts using methods that have changed little over the centuries. For instance, treat your feet to a pair of Doggln slippers. Günter and Marion Hartl continue a family tradition that’s so far lasted for four generations. Today’s upcyclers will be pleased to learn that this traditional hand stitched footwear relies upon leftover scraps of loden, a thick waterproof cloth made from the wool of Tirolean Steinschaf sheep. Even the glue that bonds the layers of felted and merino wool fabrics is sustainably made by mixing rye flour and water. Robust, waterproof and even compostable, they’re the most practical – and authentic – souvenir you’ll take home from Zillertal.

5. For the adventure

The Nature Ice Palace (Zillertal Tourismus/Tom Klocker)

Guaranteed to put a grin on your face between screams, the Arena Coaster near Zell am Ziller combines the adrenaline rush you get from a rollercoaster with the fresh air of a toboggan. Families should also head up onto the Hintertux glacier for year-round snow fun. Even in summer you can explore the Nature Ice Palace, an underground chamber with enormous icy walls. Maintaining a constant temperature of 0°C, Nature Ice Palace delivers icicles and an underground river. Alternatively, embark on a leisurely rafting trip or a whitewater adventure on the Ziller River. Perhaps try out a Riverbug, a highly maneouvrable boat that can pull off 360° spins. You’re likely to feel a greater connection to the water as you steer with gloves and flippers. Ditch your paddle for pedals to mosey along the riverside Zillertal Cycle Path. This wonderful 31km route loosely follows the Zillertalbahn linking Strass and Mayrhofen – ride one way and return by train. Another fun option is a climb to the Stoankasern mountain dairy on the Junsalm. Experienced mountain bikers might attempt a short but challenging gravel trail to the Rastkogelhütte.

Feeling inspired?

For more information and inspiration to help you plan your perfect summer visit to Austria, head to the official website.

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