Oetz, 820 m
Towering over Oetz, from which the valley derives its name, is the Hohe Acherkogel, the village’s imposing Alpine landmark which soars up to a height of 3,008 m. The village is characterised by its mild climate which is comparable with that of the Vinschgau Valley. The old saying “In Oetz you wear shirt sleeves, in Umhausen you wear a jacket, in Sölden you wear a coat”, is not without truth. In the village’s well-tended orchards you can come across peach trees and even sweet chestnuts flourishing at an altitude of 820 m. Built at the beginning of the 14th century and renovated in the 17th century, the Parish Church of St. George and St. Nicholas, with its Engelsaltar (angels’ altar) created in 1683 by Ignaz Waibl, constitutes an artistic and historical treasure. During the Middle Ages, court days were held in the “Gasthof zum Stern” and a part of the cellar was, supposedly, used as a prison from time to time. The building was renovated by Christian Rott in 1573 and its intricate fresco decorations are world famous. With its picturesque location and relatively pleasant water temperatures during the summer months, the Piburger See lake is a popular place to visit.
Umhausen, 1.036 m
Umhausen is thought to be the oldest village in the Ötztal valley. Even before the first permanent settlers put down roots, the lower parts of the valley here were used for grazing livestock. Frequent natural disasters, landslides in particular, played a major role in the history of the village. The once treacherous stream that runs through the village has now been tamed. Records of tourists recounting the friendly hospitality of the inhabitants of Umhausen and the surrounding area date back to the 1930s. Today, Umhausen’s best known attraction is the Stuibenfall, the biggest waterfall in the Tyrol. The 160 m-high waterfall was created some 9,000 years ago after the last Ice Age. A further attraction is the so-called “Ötzidorf”. The discovery of the “man in the ice”, known as “Ötzi”, near Hauslabjoch in 1991, added another sensational, cultural string to the bow of the Ötztal valley. Following the remarkable discovery, an open-air archaeological museum was set up giving visitors a taste of life in the New Stone Age.
Längenfeld, 1.178 m
Up until the 10th century, the Längenfeld basin valley was, in fact, a lake which gradually became silted up. The Längenfeld district has always been afflicted by avalanches, mudslides and flooding. The flood disasters of 1965 and 1987 are still fresh in the memories of many. One distinctive feature of the village is the sulphur springs, the soothing, healing effects of which were discovered early on by the inhabitants. As a consequence, a simple Bauernbadl (literally a farmers’ bath) was set up in Längenfeld, the reputation of which gradually extended over the borders and in 1893 the “Cur- und Badeanstalt Längenfeld” (spa and bathhouse) was opened. The “Aqua Dome”, a state-of-the-art thermal spa, stands on the same site today amidst the same stunning Alpine surroundings. Two further highlights which particularly appeal to budding alpinists are the practice via ferrata located beside the Lehner Waterfall and the Reinhart Schiestl via ferrata.
Sölden, 1.377 m
Covering an area of 468 km², Sölden is the largest municipality in Austria in terms of land area. What began as a little cluster of houses around the magnificent, towering Gothic church was transformed during the 20th century into one of the best known tourist resorts in the Alpine region. The foundations for this transformation were laid back in the mid-19th century by the eminent priest Franz Senn. Known locally as the “glacier priest”, he was also one of the founding members of the Alpine Association. It was his initiative that brought about the construction of the first Alpine accommodation facilities in the Alps. The first ski lifts went into operation in Gurgl and Sölden in 1948, and the years from 1975 to 1981 saw the development of the Rettenbachferner and Tiefenbachferner glacial ski areas. Today, Sölden is home to the traditional opening of the Ski World Cup.
Obergrurgl, 1.927 m
Obergurl, Austria’s highest church village, is a much-loved high-altitude spa resort as well as a world famous summer and winter holiday resort. It’s name possibly derives from the many gurgling glacial streams. It was purely by accident that, in May 1931, the tiny village became famous overnight. Auguste Piccard, a Swiss professor of physics, and his assistant, succeeded, as the first men ever, in reaching the stratosphere with a high-altitude balloon. The “gondola” cockpit they were travelling in, reached a record-breaking height of 16,000 m, an altitude that had been hitherto unthinkable. It began, however, to leak and so the two men had to make an emergency landing – on the Gurgler glacier. The two scientists naturally had no idea where they had landed and they were discovered next day by locals. The news of the sensational landing spread like wild fire bringing unanticipated renown to Obergurgl. Today, a monument in the village centre serves as a reminder of the curious event.
Hochgurgl, 2.150 m
Hochgurgl, the highest hotel village in Austria, only came into existence after the completion of the Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road. Its location is quite unique offering stunning views of the surrounding glaciers, and there is a huge array of lift facilities for winter sports enthusiasts. Worthy of particular mention are the “Top Express Gurgl” which connects the two ski areas of Obergurgl and Hochgurgl thus creating a huge ski region with 110 kilometres of slopes, and the “Top Mountain Star” panoramic restaurant which boldly perches on a narrow, 3,000-metre high mountain ridge.
The idyllic little mountain village of Pfelders, in the heart of the Texelgruppe nature reserve, holds countless secrets and wonders of nature for you to discover as you walk along the breathtaking hiking trails. Lush, green meadows tenderly cling to the steep slopes of the magnificent 3,000-metre peaks; enchanting Alpine huts offer stunning views of the surrounding mountain countryside; every now and then the unmistakable whistle of a marmot pierces the air – the perfect place to get away from the toils and troubles of daily life. Whether you prefer breathtaking hikes over hill and dale, challenging climbing on craggy rock faces or endless mountain bike tours towards the peaks – the picturesque landscape in and around Pfelders is well worth a visit!
Moos, Stuls, Platt und Rabenstein
A varied, colourful landscape almost too beautiful for words. The picturesque mountain backdrop of the Passeiertal valley, with the hamlets of Moos, Stuls, Platt and Rabenstein, presents a fascinating spectrum of flora and fauna with a diversity of species that is hard to beat. Rustic, traditional farms nestle snugly into the Alpine landscape and hikers and lovers of the outdoor life will appreciate the dense forests, clear mountain air and crystal blue lakes. Tradition comes to life in the village centres where musicians wearing ornate traditional costumes celebrate lively festivities and perform exuberant concerts. And with centuries-old farmsteads and mills and Europe’s highest mine, there’s also something for lovers of history and culture.
St. Leonhard, the main town in the Passeiertal valley, is situated in an idyllic spot at the foot of the Jaufen Pass and at the edge of the Naturpark Texelgruppe, South Tyrol’s biggest nature reserve. The stunning landscape and the pleasant climate make St. Leonhard an ideal destination for a holiday, both for those who enjoy an active holiday as well as those looking for peace, relaxation and a desire to be at one with nature. As the birth place of the Tyrolean freedom fighter Andreas Hofer, the village in the heart of the Passeiertal valley has plenty to offer as regards culture - the “Sandwirt”, where the legendary hero was born, the Passeier Museum, Jaufenburg Castle and lots more besides.
Located just 16 km from Meran, St. Martin is the biggest built-up area in the Passeiertal valley. The quiet village derived its name from the parish church which dates back to the 12th century and which set the foundations for the village that stands here today. St. Martin is a popular holiday resort which distinguishes itself, above all, through the blend of tradition and modernity. Guild houses stand shoulder to shoulder with modern shops in the village centre, traditional taverns decorated with ornate frescoes can be found here alongside fashionable cafés. No less varied is the surrounding landscape with its colourful orchards, fragrant meadows and craggy rock faces which offer a wealth of recreational activities from hiking to cycling to Nordic walking.
Saltaus and Quellenhof
The picturesque little village of Saltaus and the hamlet of Quellenhof are situated at the foot of the Texel mountain range and the Hirzer plateau, where the municipality of Meran and the Passeiertal valley come together. The Hirzer cable car opens up a world of trails and tracks to hiking enthusiasts along which to explore the beauty of the Passeiertal valley mountains. There are countless possibilities - hiking paths covering all elevations, Waalwege (irrigation channel tracks) suitable for families and challenging, exposed high-altitude trails to name but a few. With a broad spectrum of sporting and leisure activities and a wide choice of accommodation ranging from cosy bed and breakfasts to luxurious 4-star hotels, this is the perfect place to enjoy a holiday close to the well-known spa two of Meran.