There are few destinations in the world that are equally attractive during snowy winter months and warm summer days, but Tyrol is definitely one of them. Austria’s Tyrolean Alps, with its towering mountains, evergreen forests, and quaint villages are a particularly privileged place, drawing skiers in winter and hikers in summer.
With temperatures rising in spring, the snow gives way to blooming meadows, crystal-clear lakes, and an extensive network of hiking trails. And during a summer vacation in Tyrol, you get to take advantage of it all: Hike some of Austria’s most prominent elevations, such as the Kitzbühler Horn or the Wilder Kaiser, dip into clear mountain lakes fueled by underground springs, and recharge with Austrian specialities served at rustic mountain huts. Summer days in Tyrol will be an experience for all your senses.
Up until recently, a summer vacation, for me, always had to involve some beachside fun. After all, summer is all about lying on the beach, roaming Mediterranean cities, and munching fresh seafood. Or is it? A trip to Tyrol taught me otherwise. And I dare you to change the beach for the mountains, too. Here is my curated list of best things to do in Tyrol in summer.
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Where to Stay in Tyrol, Austria
Tyrol is a state in western Austria, with the city of Innsbruck serving as its capital. The province is further subdivided into different regions, one of the most prominent being the Kitzbühel Alps. Here lies not only the famous township of Kitzbühel, but also equally attractive communities such as St. Johann, Kirchdorf, and Erpfendorf, each boasting an excellent infrastructure for travelers and a wide range of accommodation for all budgets.
For instance, if you are looking to splurge, there is Der Lärchenhof, a luxurious 5* hotel set amidst the Kitzbühel mountains in an idyllic location in Erpfendorf. The hotel includes a gourmet restaurant, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a huge spa area. Plus, it even has its own golf course.
Even more dramatic in terms of location is the Bichel Alm, an exceptional property with magnificent views. The hotel is only reachable by double-chair lift and thrones 1,600 m / ft above Kitzbühel.
Lastly, a very warm personal recommendation, there are the recently renovated apartments at Blattlhof in St. Johann (pictured below), located right on the foot of the Kitzbühler Horn. A well-equipped kitchen and a modern yet rustic design provide for a very homey feel. The self-catering apartments are great value for money and an excellent choice for a summer vacation in Tyrol based on your own schedule. The jaw-dropping views of both the Kitzbühler Horn and the Wilder Kaiser Mountains right from your balcony are an added bonus.
Best Things to Do in Tyrol in Summer
1. Hit The Trails: Hiking in Tyrol
Unsurprisingly, one of the best things to do in Tyrol in summer is to hit the trails and hike the beautiful mountain scenery. And you have quite a few options at hand: The Tyrolean Mountains boast some 24,000 km / 15,000 mi of marked hiking trails, which may pose a challenge when deciding between the many routes. Here is my personal pick of three of the best hikes in Tyrol.
Griessbachklamm Gorge Circular Trail
⛰ Medium / 10 km / 6.2 mi / 4.5 h
A hike along the Griessbachklamm Gorge is a perfect introduction to Tyrol and an excellent summer activity. The circular trail starts in Erpfendorf, with a designated parking site located right next to the entrance (day ticket: 6 € / from 3:00 p.m.: 3 €). From the parking lot, the first section of the trail leads along a wooden path into the gorge, following the crystal-clear stream of the Griessbach.
Midway into the gorge, the trail starts to climbs steadily, along towering rocks and waterfalls. The hike then continues on into the forest, where a narrow path leads up to the Angerlalm (1,100 m / 3,600 ft). Here, you have the option to either recharge at the Angerlal mountain hut or continue on to neighboring Huberalm, past lush meadows and grazing cows.
Huberalm is a great place to take a rest and try a few Austrian specialties, before starting your hike back to Erpfendorf via the well-signed trails. The variety of scenery of the Griessbachklamm Gorge Circular Trail makes this a perfect start into your summer vacation in Tyrol. Stunning vistas across the Tyrolean Mountains are guaranteed.
Tauernblick Panorama Circular Trail
⛰ Intermediate / 13.5 km / 8.4 mi / 6 h
This slightly more challenging hike leads you along the sunny side of the slopes of the Wilder Kaiser Mountains, one of the most distinct scenery in Tyrol! The trail starts at the lake in Going and leads on a first steep incline along a forest road and past a small chapel all the way up to the Schleier Waterfall.
The waterfall is one of the highlights of this route, with a veil of water flowing from the overhanging rock formations. This is a perfect location for a first extended break, as the next section requires a steeper hike across both natural stairs and open terrain, all the way up to the Obere Regalm mountain hut (1,310 m / 4,300 ft).
Here, you are rewarded with one of the most panoramic views across the Wilder Kaiser mountain range. This will be a highlight of any summer vacation in Austria and the accompanying hike easily ranks as one of the best things to do in Tyrol.
One you have soaked up this view, continue on across the Alpine meadows and up the Brennender Palven Mountain (1,520 m / 4,990 ft), which is the highest point of this hike. Be aware that this is one of the few sections of this hike where you might need your hands for a steady grip.
Continue downhill in a westerly direction to the Gaudeamushütte mountain hut, known for its homemade specialties and the spectacular views over the Ellmauer Tor rock saddle. From the hut, a forest road leads down to Going, the start and finish point of this trail.
Kitzbühler Horn Summit Trail
⛰ Medium / 6.2 km / 3.8 mi / 3.5 h
Standing at 1,996 m / 6,549 ft, the Kitzbühler Horn is one of the most prominent mountains in Tyrol, which makes a hike to the top almost inevitable. Almost! The attractive panorama circular route around the summit of the Kitzbühler Horn is a highlight, even among the best things to do in Tyrol, and starts with a comfortable cable-car ride with the Harschbichlbahn, from its valley station in St. Johann.
Once at the summit station, continue southward via a steep, exposed path through the rocky summit of the Kitzbüheler Horn to the Horngipfel (1,990 m / 6,530 ft). Unfortunately, the foggy weather I encountered on this hike kept me from enjoying the panoramic views, but the dramatic cliffs and the feeling of standing above the clouds made for a great experience nevertheless.
The Summit House Mountain Hut is another excellent place to recharge before making your way back to the Harschbichlbahn station, this way along the eastern ridge of the Kitzbühler Horn.
If you feel like spiking up your adrenaline level even further, exit the Harschbichlbahn at the mid-way station and change the cable car for a mountain cart. Speeding downhill on a three-wheeled bike among stunning mountain scenery is a fun summer activity and one of the best things to do in Tyrol.
2. Hop the German Border on a Rafting Tour
Embarking on a rafting tour on a hot summer day is yet another rewarding way to explore Tyrol. The most prominent section for rafting tours in Tyrol is the Ache River, with most operators being located in nearby Kössen. The regular route takes about 3 hours and involves stops for swimming and cliff jumping.
En route, the boats navigate several whitewater sections, as the clear (and cold!) water of the Ache River winds its way through lush forests and towering rocks. Particularly stunning for international visitors is the fact that you get to cross the German border by boat and re-enter Austria by bus on the return trip.
Most operators charge around 45 € for the tour, including equipment and the transfer back to the starting point by bus. I did my tour with Sport und Natur and had a great time. Adventure Club Kössen offers an action-rafting tour, which is supposed to involve slightly more action. Most operators also offer kayaking and canyoning.
3. Lounge at Idyllic Hintersteiner Lake
Even more waterside fun awaits when exploring some of Tyrol’s mountain lakes, most of them boasting splendid vistas across the mountain ranges amidst which they are based. One of the finest examples is the Hintersteiner Lake, which is located at the foot of the Wilder Kaiser Mountains, and is fueled by underground springs.
Regardless of whether you want to cool-off during an intense day of hiking or simply feel like lounging in the sun, relaxing at Hintersteiner Lake is one of the best things to do in Tyrol in summer – easy as that!
4. Explore Tyrol’s Capital: Innsbruck
Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, is a perfect day trip destination and a great opportunity to temporarily change the mountains for a bit of city life. That needs particular emphasis as Innsbruck‘s residents like to point out that their regional capital is, in fact, nothing more than an oversized village. A vibrant place it is nevertheless.
If you only have a few hours in Innsbruck, spend it in the Historical Old Town. While quite compact in size, the Old Town is packed with historical sights and traditional eateries. Pay particular attention to the Hofburg Imperial Palace, the gothic Hofkirche (Royal Court Church), City Tower and the glimmering Golden Roof, with its 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles.
Another great thing to do in Innsbruck is taking a stroll along the river that gave the city its name, for two reasons. First, you will inevitable come across Markthalle Innsbruck (🕒 Mon. to Fri. 7.00 a.m. – 6.30 p.m. / Sat. until 1.00 p.m.), which holds both a farmer’s market and a number of food stands serving local delights. Secondly, from the banks of the Inn River, you get to enjoy scenic views of multi-colored townhouses, neatly arranged in front of dramatic mountain scenery.
5. Drive Along Grossglockner High Alpine Road
Located 2,500 m / 8,200 ft above sea level, Grossglockner High Alpine Road is the highest mountain pass in Austria. Technically located in Tyrol’s neighboring municipality Kärnten, a drive along High Alpine Road, which opened in 1935, is an incredible experience. As the 48 km / 30 mi long street winds through the Hohe Tauern National Park, panoramic views await after each of the 36 turns.
There is no more comfortable way to experience the Alps than by driving along this scenic route, which blends seemingly into the Austrian mountain panorama. As of summer 2021, a day pass for one car sets you back 37.50 €, which is a reasonable toll, given you are rewarded with one of the most scenic drives in the Alps.
Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe is the declared goal of each visitor. The lookout opens up a grand view of Austria’s largest mountain and the Pasterze Glacier, which is accessible via a funicular and can be further explored during a hike.
Further essential stops along the route include the lake and the Edelweißspitze viewpoint. Should you fall in love with this view (disclaimer: you will), you may even stay here longer, for example at Kaiser-Franz-Josef Bed & Breakfast. Regardless of how you structure your visit, hands down, driving along Grossglockner High Alpine Road is one of the best things to do in Tyrol. Go, and see for yourself.
6. Do as the Austrians Do: Take a Kneipp Bath
Have you ever heard of Kneipp Baths? The accompanying ritual of wading through ice-cold water, in most cases provided by springs in the mountains, goes back to the German Vicar Sebastian Kneipp, who ascribed this practice healing powers. In the Alps, this water therapy is widespread, with many Austrian communities having installed baths in the midst of their villages. Access is usually free of charge.
A very fine example is located in the heart of Erpfendorf. Taking a Kneipp Bath is especially recommended after a long hike, as it is said to prevent sore muscles. After a hot summer day (possibly involving a hike), there is no better refreshment than a walk through the ice-cold water of the Kneipp pools found throughout the region.
This concludes my curated list of best things to do in Tyrol in summer. Do you have any further questions? Drop me a line in the comments below, I am happy to help!