Innsbruck’s high life

The opportunities for outdoor adventure in Innsbruck and its 25 holiday villages are boundless – from Natters and its beautiful lake to Igls with its Olympic bobsleigh run.

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Words by Kerry Christiani | Photos by Christian Vorhofer and Lackner Zimmermann

Arriving at the top of Hafelekar is a surreal experience. The journey from bustling central Innsbruck to the top station, at 2,269m, may only take 20 minutes – thanks in part to the futuristic-looking funicular designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid – but the place feels truly remote.

Here the views stretch deep into the wild, ragged limestone peaks of the Karwendel range, razoring above the gorges, valleys and torrents that carve up Naturpark Karwendel, Austria’s biggest nature park. Hiking trails fan out in all directions, including the memorable 10km Goetheweg Trail, which leads walkers through flower-freckled meadows and from peak to peak to the rustic Pfeis Hut for a night among the elements. Listen carefully and you might hear the rumble of distant thunder from a summer storm, or the screech of a golden eagle as it swoops to its eyrie.

Up here in the Nordkette range, the crowds become thinner and the Tirolean capital appears toy-town tiny – as does the Inn River, snaking its way through the broad Alpine valley. No matter how busy the city gets in summer, with day-trippers milling around the medieval old town, up here peace prevails. It isn’t until you ascend to these giddy heights that you understand why the Innsbruck locals look so pleased with their lot; few cities, after all, manage to step so effortlessly between the urban and the outdoors.

The Adlerweg, or Eagle Walk – a mammoth 280km trek that ticks off nature’s greatest hits in Tirol – stops off in Innsbruck for a shot of culture. But this long-distance route is just tip-of-the-iceberg stuff. The opportunities for outdoor adventure in Innsbruck and its 25 holiday villages are boundless – from Natters and its beautiful lake to Igls with its Olympic bobsleigh run. Whether you want to explore the Karwendel mountains, go mountain carting in Mutters or test your nerve rock climbing, bouldering or downhill biking, there’s a trail with your name on it in Innsbruck. Click for more information

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Top five outdoor thrills:

  • Innsbruck’s via ferrata [pictured top] At times this challenging via ferrata (fixed-rope course) feels like a tightrope act, with stunning views of the Alps. Beginning at Hafelekar, the 7-hour trail is spectacular and not for the fainthearted!
  • Bikepark Innsbruck Die-hard mountain bikers will be in their element in the villages Mutters and Götzens, where four cool routes offer easy-to-difficult rides. Airtime, roots, steep curves, jumps: there’s something for everyone, plus a bike centre offering rental, shop, workshops and guiding. On the opposite Nordkette mountain, find a thrilling 4.2km track, which blazes 1,030m down to the valley, from Seegrube, in a series of rock drops and tight bends. Click for more on biking in Innsbruck.
  • Walk Zirbenweg Expect spirit-lifting views of the Inn Valley and the Karwendel range on this 7.4km, 2.5-hour hike. From the trailhead at Patscherkofel cable car top station, this memorable walk – which is stage 13 of the Eagle Walk – takes you deep into one of Europe’s largest stone pine forests.
  • Action and adventure For something more adrenaline-fuelled, Inntour (inntour.at) obliges with everything from canyoning to whitewater rafting, bungee jumping and paragliding.
  • Free guided hikes From June to October, Innsbruck Tourism arranges daily guided hikes – from sunrise walks to half-day mountain treks – that are free to anyone with a Guest Card (you will receive one from your accommodation provider). The Guest Card also offers other free activities, see innsbruck.info for details.
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