My personal highlights in the side valleys of the Ziller Valley
The Zillergrund, the Stilluptal, the Zemmtal and the Tuxertal – those are the four side valleys and each of them has its own individual allure. It is worth visiting them all as no two valleys are alike! I took it upon myself to visit the side valleys and discover their individual characteristics and special features.
But first of all, I want to describe the valleys to you and whet your appetite to read about my experiences and visit the valleys yourself!
The most easterly side valley of the Ziller Valley is the Zillergrund. It is here that the namesake of the Ziller Valley, the river Ziller, has its source at an altitude of approximately 2,270m. My absolute highlight in the Zillergrund is “little Tibet”. This little gem at the end of the Zillergrund reservoir is a working mountain hut, where people and animals live in harmony together. The billy goat “Steini” looks out of his barn and smiles mischievously, whilst the pigs nudge their way between the legs of some visitors. The happy chickens cluck cheerfully. The Hohenau Alm, managed by the young and attractive landlady Kathrin, is a homage to the simplicity of mountain life. The name “little Tibet” was thought up by Kathrin’s father, who has visited Tibet several times and, out of thanks for a safe return from a mountain tour, brought a little piece of Tibet back to Tyrol – prayer wheels, prayer flags etc.
To the southeast of Mayrhofen lies the Stilluptal. The valley of the waterfalls, as it is affectionately known, is a narrow gorge until the Gasthaus Lacknerbrunn, at which point it opens into a valley lined with waterfalls to the left and right. The dam is hardly visible as, covered in greenery, it blends seamlessly into the scenery. At the end of the reservoir, a beautiful walking path leads to the Gasthaus Stillupperhaus. From there, the path continues to the Grüne Wand Hütte and the Kassler Hütte. My absolute highlight in the Stilluptal are the precipitous waterfalls which tumble over the steep walls and thunder into the valley – a true spectacle of nature!
If you have never been to the Schlegeis reservoir or done a hut to hut hike, you have never experienced the Zemmtal. But, I think there can be few people who have holidayed the Ziller Valley who haven’t done one of these things. The single lane Harpfnerwand-Tunnel which leads south from Mayrhofen is a spectacle in its own right. Every 20 minutes you can drive into the valley, but after 5 minutes, the traffic lights change again and the you must wait, with the sun laughing in your face. From the mountaineering village of Ginzling, a road to the left leads up the Floitental valley. A little further south comes the Gunggltal, and a little further still, the Zemmgrund – in each of these little valleys are some notable mountain huts, which you should really visit at least once. By taking the toll road, you can drive up to the Schlegeis reservoir at over 1,700m. And from there, it’s just a two hour hike to Italy! This summer the Schlegeis dam will become a true attraction with the opening of the first via ferrata on the dam wall. A guaranteed adrenaline rush, delivered by your own strength. That will be my highlight this summer!
The western side valley is the Tuxertal. From Mayrhofen the road snakes up to Finkenberg, the home village of the Schürzenjäger and the Olympic champion, Leonhard Stock. It continues through the valley to the villages of Tux-Vorderlanersbach, Tux-Lanersbach, Juns, Madseit and Hintertux. This is, without a doubt, the most populated side valley. Unsurprising really, as the Hintertux Glacier, Austria’s only year round ski area, lies at the end of the valley. At Hintertux, skiing fun is guaranteed all 365 days of the year – my personal highlight! The unique Natural Ice Palace is an absolute must-see. This naturally-formed glacial crevasse was discovered some years ago and made accessible to visitors. Ice stalactites and ice crystals in intensive blue tones shine in the glacial ice, an amazing natural display!
So, now that I have given you an idea of each of the side valleys, I will visit them all, one at a time, and share my experiences with you. I hope I have encouraged you to come back and read all about it!