Austria and Italy fraternally share one of Europe’s most beautiful, exciting provinces, Tyrol. South Tyrol, on the Italian side, is one of the favourite destinations for hikers and nature lovers, regardless of the season. We have collected the most exciting excursion destinations and beautiful sights for you. These hand-selected 16 must-see attractions will be worth your time.
History of Tyrol
- Tyrol was part of Bavaria in the 12th century and then fell into the hands of the Habsburgs in the middle of the 14th century.
- Italy took the southern part after the First World War and - except for a small period during the Second World War - has remained Italian ever since. It has been an autonomous territory since 1972.
- Due to the Italian-Austrian history, virtually every place has names in both Italian and German, and it can often change where which one is used. Because of this, you’ll find both versions of the names of each attraction, always with the Italian version first.
South Tyrol consists of 4 larger territorial units:
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- Tyrol or North Tyrol (Austria)
- East Tyrol (Austria)
- South Tyrol (Italy)
- Trentino (Italy)
Map of South Tyrol
You can find a separate article on the most useful maps of Tyrol that we wrote recently. While we also wrote about Austrian Tyrol in that summary, let us now examine the map of South Tyrol separately.
Geographical features – Dolomites
The topography of the Italian part of Tyrol is defined by the Dolomites mountain range of the Alps, and most sights and destinations are also connected to it. Its highest peak is Marmolada at 3,344 meters, but another 20 peaks extend above 3,000 meters. The area is similarly good with passes; in this area, the 2,738-meter Ombretta pass is the most impressive.
#1 Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee)
With its turquoise waters, Lake Braies is undoubtedly the Dolomites' jewel. Massive mountain ranges surround the lake, and a 4-kilometre-long hiking trail runs around the waterfront. If you are courageous, you can also swim, although, for many, it may seem a better idea to take a boat on the water with a maximum of 14 degrees rather than to take a dip in it.
This short distance can be done in as little as an hour, even travelling with a small child. The reason I doubt this time is the presence of the picturesque landscape; you can get lost in the view here for long, long minutes. The area is also great for off-road hiking and cycling, while skiing is an option in winter. If you travel in winter, you should also be aware that the area is often closed for extended periods due to the risk of avalanches.
#2 Lake Carezza (Lago di Carezza / Karersee)
Lake Carezza is an emerald-green body of water in the southwestern part of the Dolomites. The area around the lake is an extremely popular excursion destination, thanks to the particularly beautiful surroundings in which it can be found. The peak of the Latemar reflected on the water's surface is an iconic picture of the place.
It would be best to visit the lake at sunrise and sunset, both events will give you a fantastic view. If only one can fit into your program, you may also want to expect that far fewer people will visit here in the morning than at sunset. One thing is for sure in both cases: you can take a wonderful photo.
Interestingly, the locals also call this place Rainbow Lake, as this phenomenon often appears above the lake. Legend has it that once a witch caught a rainbow from the sky, smashed it, and the multitude of gems that resulted from it sank deep into the lake, making it so colourful these days.
- Address: 39056 Nova Levante, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 40 minutes, 30 km
#3 Lake Reschen (Lago di Resia / Reschensee)
Lake Reschen - better known as Reschensee - is almost a triple border, as it is located in Italy but is only 2 kilometres from Austria and 3 kilometres from Switzerland. Yet this lake is not unique due to its geographical location, but from what stands out from the water. You don't have to be afraid, this isn't the winter residence of the Loch Ness monster, because a lifeless thing peeks out of the water: a church tower.
Lake Reschen is an artificially created reservoir created on the site of a former village in the mid-20th century. The former settlement was almost destroyed; its memory is preserved only by the church tower, which has been here since the 14th century.
In winter, when the lake's water freezes, you can approach the building on foot, while in milder weather, a hiking or cycling tour in the area is the best option. Legend has it that the church bells can still be heard today, although they were dismantled and transported in 1950.
- Address: 39027 Graun im Vinschgau, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour 40 minutes 105 km
#4 Lake Toblach (Lago di Dobbiaco / Toblacher See)
This small lake is next to Toblach, which, like Lake Reschen, also offers a fantastic reflection of the mountain peaks that embrace it. You can admire the view by walking on the trail around the water. If you don’t look around too much, you can walk around the lake in 2 hours, but it’s recommended to take more time than that.
In summer, you can not only go boating but also swim in the lake, but I only recommend this if you can stand the cold water. If the temperature goes up to 16 degrees, you’re already lucky because it’s not usually warmer than that.
And if you have a fishing license, you can go fishing in the lake after redeeming a day ticket. In winter, the lake freezes completely, so you can go ice skating and curling. And if you’re hungry, you can choose from delicious dishes at the lakeside restaurant.
- Address: 39034 Dobbiaco, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour 45 minutes, 105 km
#5 Three Peaks of Lavaredo (Tre Cime di Lavaredo / Drei Zinnen)
Perhaps the most characteristic peaks of the Dolomites in northern Italy are the Three Peaks of Lavaredo. In the middle stands the 2,999-meter-high Cima Grande, with the 2,973-meter Cima Ovest and the 2,857-meter Cima Piccola at its sides. Its fantastic view attracts many people, but don’t be alarmed because the vast area doesn’t create a dense mass.
- Cima Grande (2999 m)
- Cima Ovest (2973 m)
- Cima Piccola (2857 m)
A typical place for hikers is the Three Peaks of Lavaredo. The access road is not so dangerous, but rather long (10 kilometres) and in some areas, you have to drive in tight spaces. If you like hiking, you will enjoy your time here. In addition to the right clothes, it is a good idea to take liquids and food with you, because you will not have much opportunity to get them during the tour. Exceptions to this are shelters, where you can even eat cooked food.
- Address: Drei Zinnen, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 2 - 2,5 hours, 130 km
#6 Alta Via hiking trail
There are many hiking trails in the Dolomites. Their characteristic is that they were formed mainly by military routes. You can choose from tours of different lengths and durations, between 90 and 200 kilometres, and between 8 and 18 days. The best-known and most popular hiking trails are Alta Via 1 and Alta Via 2.
Alta Via 1 starts next to Lake Braies. You have to cover 150 kilometres in 13 days and get to Belluno. It is one of the easier routes, mostly on friendly roads. Alta Via 2 is not much more complicated either; it is two days and 35 kilometres longer than Alta Via 1. The only major challenge may be crossing the Marmolada Glacier, but other than that, it is also one of the more accessible routes.
- Address: Alta via n. 1, 39030 Braies, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour 30 minutes, 100 km
- Address: Alta Via Dolomiti 2, San Martin de Tor, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour 50 minutes, 100 km
#7 Reinbach waterfall
The Reinbach is a high-flowing river in South Tyrol, the most spectacular part of which is the waterfalls in the Parco Naturale Vedrette di Ries-Aurina (Naturpark Rieserferner-Ahrn). In this vast park, you can see more glaciers than anywhere else in the whole region, but the main spectacle is the waterfalls.
There is a hiking trail in the park that can be finished in about 75 minutes, along which you can pass all the waterfalls. This doesn’t sound like too much of a walk, but also keep in mind that you have to keep going uphill, with the end of the route 300 meters higher than the starting point.
The number of specialities is continued by Lake Anterselva, which can also be viewed from a train. The railway leads through 16 stations around the lake, and during it, you will be surrounded by a unique atmosphere of the landscape, it feels entirely like you are on a kind of dream trip.
- Address: Bad Winkel, 39032 Campo Tures, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour 30 minutes, 90 km
#8 Stanghe waterfall (Gilfenklamm / Le Cascate di Stanghe)
The main attraction of Le Cascate di Stanghe, like Reinbach, is a huge waterfall. The resemblance only continues in that it is also a natural wonder, and like almost everywhere, exciting hikes can be made here. However, touring the place is a trying task; it can be a more severe challenge for unprepared hikers.
Be prepared for bumpy terrain; in some places, you have to climb steeply upwards, and the humidity is exceptionally high. Don’t be surprised if you feel that the landscape is slippery; this is one of the features of the place. Regardless, the 2.5-kilometer trail awaits you here is breathtaking and can be finished in 1 hour.
- Address: 39040 Stanghe, South Tyrol, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour, 72 km
#9 Bletterbach canyon
Bletterbach is an ideal place for a cycling trip. In addition to the Geopark visitor centre, you can also rent an electric bike, so you don't have to bother carrying your bicycle.
If you have already visited the visitor centre, either for a bicycle or other reasons, it is worth looking around, as you can see fossils from the area here. The most exciting are the dinosaur remains, but the petrified fish, shells, and plants are also interesting.
The area can be easily explored on foot and a bike, even though the terrain is very gravelly. It can also be an ideal destination for travellers with children; it is relatively safe to walk here, and this is especially true for the cycling terrain. Of course, it’s also easy to find more challenging sections; everyone can find their ideal place here.
- Address: 39040 Aldein, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 50 minutes, 40 km
What is a pass?
A pass is a trail in a valley between mountains or hills. The saddle-shaped roads are designed to get you from one side to the other between mountain ranges. Because the easiest way to travel between two mountains is through the passes, they often build not only highways but also railways. In addition, hiking trails often lead through passes.
#10 Stelvio pass (Passo dello Stelvio / Stilfser Joch)
For lovers of driving and motorcycling, the Stelvio Pass is a must-see if you visit South Tyrol. Perhaps the most beautiful of the Tyrolean passes is the Stelvio Pass in the Stelvio National Park. The long journey is an adventurous, exciting, and challenging serpentine.
Sharp bends are not unusual on this road; a novice driver is guaranteed to learn how to turn here. Added to this is the beautiful landscape, which tries to persuade the traveller to stop and enjoy nature a bit.
In addition to car drivers and motorcyclists, cyclists and hikers also love to embark on conquering the Stelvio Pass. If you feel the urge to do so, you can gather lifelong memories on the uphill road. (Of course, this statement is also true for the car version.) The road is extremely steep, reaching up to 10% ascent in some places, and the average ascent is 7.4% on the pass.
- Address: 39029 Stilfs, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 2 hours, 105 km
#11 Groeden pass (Passo Gardena / Grödnerjoch)
To the west of the Central Dolomites lies the Gröden Valley, from which the Gröden Pass, with a peak of 2,121 meters, is named. It is preferred by skiers in winter, and when there is no snow, it is also ideal for climbing or a more extensive hike. Much of the Alta Vita 2 tour route is about conquering the Gröden Pass, but it’s still worth coming here if you’d rather miss the 185-kilometer adventure.
Professional climbers also enjoy visiting the area, mainly because of the Exner Tower. Its name is deceptive, as it is a suspension bridge, one of the most exciting and challenging parts of the Pisciadu route, a real adrenaline bomb to cross here. However, this tour is only recommended for experienced climbers.
On the uphill road, it doesn’t hurt to be attentive because many people drive motorcycles, but if you’re also enjoying two-wheeler rides, this can be an excellent alternative to walking for you. Whichever way you decide, the scenery will be fantastic.
- Address: 39033 Corvara, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour, 55 km
#12 Würz Pass (Passo delle Erbe / Würzjoch)
There are two narrow roads leading up to the Würz Pass, one from the east and one from the west. Hikers and climbers also love this place, but in the winter, cross-country skiers take their place, and tournaments are also held here. In this case, the pass is completely closed to tourists, so this place is only worth visiting during summer trips.
- Address: 39030 San Martin de Tor, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour 15 minutes, 60 km
#13 Puez Geisler park (Parco naturale Puez Odle / Naturpark Puez-Geisler)
The Puez Geisler Nature Park is also among the best places to hike in South Tyrol. The park was founded in 1977 and covers about 10 hectares. According to many from here, you can see the most beautiful part of the Dolomites, and the idyllic environment is accompanied by peace; you can only hear the sound of nature.
By the way, about the routes: depending on how much you want to walk or spend a lot of time, you can choose the hiking route that suits you best. The shortest lap can be done in 1 hour, while the largest can take 7-8 hours to complete. You may want to spend several days here, walking around different routes every day, because you are sure to find something new to enjoy.
- Address: Puez-Geisler Nature Park
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour, 50 km
#14 Schlern Rosengarten park (Parco Naturale Sciliar-Catinaccio / Naturpark Schlern Rosengarten)
The Schlern Rosengarten can be an ideal choice for hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, and nature lovers. The colossal park covers 8,900 hectares, and its highest point is Petz at 2,563 meters. The many forests, valleys, and pastures alternate here, and the varied landscape attracts visitors.
Walking in the Schlern Rosengarten Park, you should also visit the Parkhaus, located in a former hydroelectric sawmill. In addition to regular demonstrations of how an old saw works, you can also listen to detailed presentations on the beauty of nature and the characteristics of the place. It can also be great as a family program, even if the kids don’t understand the presentations, because the operation of the old saw will still be an exciting experience for them.
- Address: Schlern-Rosengarten Nature Park, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 40 minutes, 22 km
#15 Passeier Valley (Passiria / Passeier)
The valley of the Passer River, meandering between the mountains of South Tyrol, is in many ways like the rest of the region. You can go hiking and cycling here, but you can also go horseback riding in this area or even have the opportunity to join an organized program.
- In summer, food and beer festivals are held here regularly, and you can have fun surrounded by the picturesque landscape.
- In the fall, many people traditionally come to celebrate new wine, or as the locals call it, in Törggelen. In addition to tasting the succulent juice, it is also worth tasting the local specialities. You can stumble upon cosy little places while walking among the alpine pastures.
- In winter, skiers flood the Passeier Valley. If you are also a winter sports fan, you can indulge this passion in a beautiful environment.
- Address: 39015 St. Leonhard in Passeier, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 1 hour, 55 km
#16 Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle (I Giardini di Castel Trauttmansdorff / Die Gärten von Schloss Trauttmansdorff)
Built in the Neo-Gothic style, Trauttmansdorff Castle was built in the middle of the 19th century, after the castle, which had stood there until then, was almost entirely absorbed by the land. The castle houses the Touriseum, which presents the tourism history of the area.
Much more recent is the castle garden, which has been accepting visitors who want to admire plants from different parts of the world since 2001. It is no exaggeration to say this: you can come across a cactus plantation just like a Japanese garden, and in total, it is home to about 100,000 different species. The gardens possess a romantic atmosphere, perfect for long, intimate walks while more and more memorable can be seen. If you want to take a break from the long walk, you can do so in a café.
- Address: Via Lungo Rio Nova, 39012 Merano BZ, Italy
- Distance from Bolzano: 30 minutes, 32 km
The Italian part of Tyrol is organized around the Dolomites. It’s almost innumerable how many exciting hiking trails it hides, whether short hikes or more than two weeks of trying tours. South Tyrol is similarly diverse regarding natural phenomena, as mountain peaks and lakes alternate. This phenomenon can also be observed at Lake Braies, Lake Carezza, and Reschen.
The Stelvio Pass is the Mecca of motorists and cyclists, while the Gröden Pass is one of the favourite places for climbers. Even in Italy, a more romantic place than the gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle can only be found with great difficulty, but it is also a child-friendly place, just like Bletterbach.
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