Italy: Hiking guide for South Tyrol: The best tours for beginners and professionals

Snow-covered mountain peaks and green wine routes, crystal-clear mountain lakes and rustic alpine huts, steep climbs and impressive views: South Tyrol is a stroke of luck for hikers.

Italy: Hiking guide for South Tyrol: The best tours for beginners and professionals

Snow-covered mountain peaks and green wine routes, crystal-clear mountain lakes and rustic alpine huts, steep climbs and impressive views: South Tyrol is a stroke of luck for hikers. It's no wonder that mountaineers and outdoor fanatics from all over Europe and much of the world are drawn to the northernmost region of Italy to trudge through the mountains on foot. In total, there are more than 21 million overnight stays in tourist accommodation every year.

Hans Kammerlander knows why it is precisely the Dolomites that inspire so many people. The extreme mountaineer from South Tyrol has already climbed the highest mountains in the world together with his colleague Reinhold Messner - but always likes to return to his homeland. “For me, it is above all the mountains that make South Tyrol so special,” he says in an interview with the star.

And the 67-year-old likes to show that to tourists today. As a mountain and hiking guide, he regularly offers tours through the region that is so close to his heart. One of his favorite hiking destinations is the area around the Three Peaks. The impressive mountain range near the mountain village of Sexten is also a popular photo opportunity for holidaymakers - and is therefore a well-visited hiking area all year round.

“You can now only find a few corners where you can explore the mountains alone,” says Kammerlander, “but they still exist, the lonely peaks in South Tyrol.” If you want to explore the Three Peaks, he recommends hiking in the mountains opposite. The reason: From there you can see the beautiful peaks - and there is less hustle and bustle on the hiking trail.

In South Tyrol, nature lovers will also find numerous great hiking routes for beginners and advanced hikers away from the Three Peaks. A South Tyrolean hiking guide told us her five favorite routes.

Admittedly, the mountain seems rather inconspicuous among the surrounding, significantly higher Dolomite peaks. But this also has some advantages: the hiking trails are not overcrowded and the climb is easier to manage than on many other mountains in South Tyrol. The starting point of the hike is the Runcaudie car park in St. Christina. From there you first go up a fairly steep forest path. After about 200 meters in altitude you reach the Sëurasas Alpine hut and can enjoy your first view of the Val Gardena. From here there are two options: experienced hikers can hike the further 250 meters to the summit of the Pic mountain, while those who don't want to climb any more can alternatively hike 500 meters further to the cross of Sëurasas. The descent is particularly worthwhile on the north side of the mountain. The path leads past a small pond and straight to the Mastle-Alm. It is still run by the farmer himself, who serves delicious homemade cakes. The total distance is seven kilometers and takes around five hours. The hike is usually possible from April onwards, weather permitting.

The Grand Canyon of South Tyrol – this is what the Bletterbachschlucht in Aldein is often called. Anyone who hikes the eight-kilometer-long and 400-meter-deep gorge will quickly know why: the path is lined with huge rock formations that are actually reminiscent of its American big brother.

But that's not the only highlight of the approximately two-hour hike. The starting point is the Geoparc visitor center in Aldein. After registering (the operators note every hiker for safety and issue helmets that must be worn in the gorge), it goes one kilometer through the forest and down wooden stairs into the gorge. Then it literally continues over hill and dale to the Butterloch waterfall - a great place to take a breather before climbing the Jägersteig, which ends with the forest nature trail. It can be a bit difficult at times, which is why the hike requires a basic level of fitness.

Hiking with fresh sea air and a view of the Dolomites panorama - that's possible at Lake Kaltern near Tramin. The nature discovery trail is 7.5 kilometers long, takes around three hours to go around the entire lake and has hardly any inclines, which makes the hike attractive for beginners and families. Hikers can also find out about the special features of the region on boards - or simply enjoy the lake, the forest and the peace and quiet. The trail is also a bird watching hotspot. And if the weather is right, it might be worth jumping into the cool water in spring. Lake Kaltern is considered the warmest swimming lake in the Alps.

Grazing cows, idyllic streams and views of high peaks – a hike through the Langental in Wolkenstein is ideal for a relaxing break in late spring. The easy-to-walk route is around five kilometers long and ideal for beginners and families. At an altitude of 1,600 meters, the flowers bloom in the most colorful colors. Locals like to compare the forest with Yosemite National Park in America - in miniature. From the Langental car park just before Wolkenstein you go directly to the green meadows, which are often still covered with snow in March. After a small climb you reach the New Year's Eve chapel, from there you go straight into the forest. There are plenty of picnic opportunities along the entire trail. In the Puez-Odle Nature Park you walk past cows and sheep grazing freely, but you can also see chamois and goats on the slopes.

What would a holiday in South Tyrol be without wine? Only half as nice, say the friends of the fine wine. You shouldn't miss the South Tyrolean Wine Route. The corresponding network of paths, which consists of different hiking trails, covers a total of 150 kilometers and connects 16 places between the popular wine-growing regions of Salurn and Nalles. Hikers can walk individual stages of the picturesque hiking trail between vineyards and the Dolomites and look around at a total of 70 wineries - and taste what South Tyrolean winegrowing has to offer. If you want to hike all of the wine routes, you will find accommodation and restaurants right along the routes to round off the experience. Alternatively, you can also take part in a guided wine hike.

Hiking in South Tyrol is varied. But regardless of which route hikers choose, there are a few things to keep in mind. “Before you head into the mountains, you should check the weather forecast very carefully,” says Kammerlander. You should also be well informed about the planned route in advance so that you are not surprised by unexpected challenges on site. You should also not overestimate yourself and set off early and have a hiking map with you in case your smartphone fails.

And according to Kammerlander, a healthy degree of openness doesn't hurt: "Many tourists who come here have a precise plan for their mountain adventures. If it doesn't work out as expected, they are immediately disappointed." You can't implement a plan on the mountain; you have to adapt to the circumstances and improvise. "In the mountains it's all about slowing down, there's already far too much stress elsewhere."

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