About this Austria walking region
The great writer Ernest Hemingway spent two seasons in the Vorarlberg's Montafon Valley during the 1920s. "It's damned beautiful to see the mountains again," he famously said on his second séjour. And he is not the only one to be captivated by the beauty of this region's alpine vistas. It may be Austria's second smallest province and somewhat tucked away in the far west, but it is home to scenery which easily rivals that of its larger neighbours.
The snow-capped peaks of Vorarlberg's skyline are awesome to look at but also invite further exploration. The region is a gateway to the incredible Silvretta Alps (Silvretta Alpen) in the south and the Arlberg massif in the east. However, Vorarlberg is also a feast for the senses in its own right, offering wonderful walks in alpine meadows and more challenging mountaineering exploits, as well as being an excellent base for winter sports.
Vorarlberg - 'the land before the Arlberg' – spans from Lake Constance (Bodensee) in the north to Mt. Piz Buin (3,312m/10,863ft) in the southerly Silvretta range. Some of the best-loved walking areas include the Bregenzerwald, where rugged peaks give way to pretty pastoral scenes, and the resort of Lech (Lech am Arlberg) – a skiing sports Mecca in winter but a walkers' paradise in summer.
The only other Austrian state that shares borders with Vorarlberg is Tyrol. The capital of Vorarlberg is Bregenz.
Bregenz is surprisingly small and a curious blend of a relaxed lakeside resort and a buzzing cultural centre. Stretched along the eastern shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee), Bregenz is a fun place to spend some time, offering a wide range of sights, entertainment and cultural pursuits – probably more than any other town west of Innsbruck. One of the best-known events in this region is the annual Bregenzer Festspiele, a flamboyant summer carnival of opera and classical music, with al fresco performances on a floating stage.
Walking in Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg is a rugged and mountainous region offering superlative opportunities for outdoor pursuits. It boasts an excellent network of both hiking and biking trails. The scenery is characterized by alpine vistas, rolling green hills and limestone cliffs with several deep valleys cut into the landscape, just some of the highlights include the Montafon Valley between the Verwall and Rätikon Mountains, the Brandnertal Valley – considered by many to be the most beautiful in the entire Alps - the impressive V-shaped Grosses Walsertal Valley with its UNESCO biosphere park connecting the Rhine Valley with the Bregenzerwald and the Klostertal Valley – which leads to the popular Arlberg hiking and skiing areas.
The Arlberg mountain range forms the border between Vorarlberg and Tyrol. Its highest peak is the "Valluga" at 2,809 metres (9,216 ft). The name Arlberg derives from the tradition of the "Arlenburg," who are said to have once established themselves on the Tyrolean side of the Arlberg passes, in the village of Arlenburg.
Vorarlberg's natural beauty arguably makes it one of the finest walking regions in Europe.
Alpine Region Bludenz
Two striking Alpine valleys, Brandnertal and Klostertal ● The charms of Bludenz town, with its quaint, medieval centre ● 800km (497mi) of hiking trails and well-maintained footpaths, 3 cable cars, 300km (186mi) of mountain bike routes ● Experience the buzz and fun atmosphere of the annual ‘Milka Chocolate Festival’.
The region between Bregenz and Arlberg ● Renowned for excellent mountain cheese ● High mountain peaks in the southeast ● Low wooded hills in the west ● Idyllic, rural villages, undulating pastures, true mountain bliss! ● Schwarzenberg, famed for its annual Schubertiade music festival (Franz Peter Schubert; 1797–1828).
The “little Walser valley” is part of Austria, but it’s only accessible from Germany ● One of Austria’s prime hiking and skiing areas ● The area’s highest mountain: Mt. Hoher Ifen (2,230m/7,316ft) ● More than 150km (93mi) of mountain trails for all abilities ● Take one of the various cable cars and marvel at the peaks around you.
Lake Constance (Bodensee) & Bregenz
Bregenz, on the eastern shore of Lake Bodensee ● Many watersports and attractions ● The Pfänder hills (1,062m/3,484ft) are the lake’s backdrop ● Venue of the Bregenz Festival ● Dornbirn, Hohenems and Feldkirch are the major towns of the area ● Superb for combining cultural events and sightseeing with easy rambles and cycling.
Lech-Zürs (Arlberg West)
The name of Lech is synonymous with excellent skiing ● In summer however, this is one of the finest destinations for hiking in Austria ● Straddling Vorarlberg and Tyrol ● Pretty Lech, at 1,450m (4,757ft) is the largest village ● Over 350km (217mi) of well-maintained walking trails ● Large network of cable cars and ‘walker’s buses’.
Beautiful high-alpine valley in Vorarlberg’s south ● Presided over by stunning mountain peaks ● The Silvretta and the Rätikon mountain ranges ● Mt. Piz Buin (3,312m/10,866ft) ● Picturesque mountain villages ● One of Austria’s most impressive alpine itineraries: Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse (Silvretta high alpine road).
Walsertal Valley (Biosphere Reserve)
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve ● Pristine alpine area ● Prime example of a living cultural landscape, surrounded by magnificent mountains ● Extensive guided hiking programme organised by the local tourist office (Jun–Sep) ● Scarcely populated with a rich history ● Walser people from Switzerland moved here in the 13th century.
More great places to go walking in Austria:
Wachau Valley & Krems, Upper Austria, Steiermark (Styria), Salzkammergut, Salzburger Land,
Tyrol - Central Tyrol & Innsbruck, Tyrol - North-Eastern Tyrol, Tyrol - Western Tyrol, East Tyrol, Carinthia