Main image: Vorarlberg Tourismus/ Michael Kemter
1. Fuel up for the day with a mountain breakfast
Every good day in the mountains starts with a hearty breakfast. In Vorarlberg, head to one of the area’s many Alpine inns or farmhouses before embarking on the day’s activities. Smear crusty Kaiser rolls with a thick layer of unsalted butter. Top with slices of cheese, cooked meats or locally made jam or honey. Fill up on pastries, muesli, fresh fruit or hot dishes such as bacon and eggs. Or opt for a Vorarlberg classic of riebel which is a filling dish made from cornmeal and served with either coffee or milk. Numerous sun terraces accommodate tables with panoramic views. Among the many excellent choices are Frööd, located directly on the Natursprüngeweg trail, and the architecturally magnificent The Wolf, perched above the resort of Lech.
2. Hike the Arlberg Trail
Fill up your water bottle and bundle a jacket into your day pack – just in case – as you steel yourself for the challenge of completing one of the Alps’ top long distance hiking trails. Walkers typically take three days to loop the Arlberg Trail, which is accessible from July to September. It connects three of the Vorarlberg’s prettiest resorts: Lech, Zürs and Stuben, as well as the Tirol towns of St Christoph and St Anton. To complete it you’ll have covered a little over 40 kilometres on foot and have lost yourself in the dreamy landscapes that appear in the windows of five cable cars. In between rides, climb beyond the tree line (some days, above the clouds as well) to pick your way along vertiginous knife-edge ridges. Lung-busting ascents flatten into gentle paths that provide respite for aching muscles. They traverse rock-strewn meadows, leading to lakes suspended in rocky cradles and overlooks that tease even better scenery to come.
3. Go on a culinary cycling tour
Immerse yourself in the Bregenzerwald as you explore on two wheels. Pedal along broad river valleys at a gentle pace, or up and down rolling hills on well-maintained paths flanked with pines and silver firs. You may prefer to rent an e-bike to cope with the steeper gradients of the mountains beyond. Structure your ride by booking a culinary cycling tour; two pre-determined routes are offered. The first meanders along a 36km route which takes you through six villages, giving you chance to appreciate the area’s characteristic timber architecture before looping back to Mellau. The other, an attractive 34 kilometre route that begins and ends in Lingenau, is ideally suited as an e-bike excursion. Whichever you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dessert at prearranged points along the route with plenty of time to relax before you need to get back in the saddle.
4. Hike and cook in the Alps
To a chef, an Alpine meadow isn’t just the setting for a bucolic walk; it’s a ready source of fresh produce. Lush summer grazing supports dairy farming, while wild herbs thrive on the mountain pastures. Hike to the Melköde hut in the Schwarzwassertal in the company of Herbert Edlinger, who draws on his twin passions of hiking and cooking to encourage you to reconsider this place as an outdoor Alpine kitchen. Along the way, you’ll meet farmers and innkeepers to learn about local culinary traditions. The owners of the Melköde hut maintain a herd of dairy cows whose milk is used to make cheese, buttermilk, quark and yoghurt. Nothing is wasted: they feed leftover whey from the cheese-making process to their free-range Alpine pigs. On their sunny terrace, admire Hoher Ifen mountain to a soundtrack of cascading water and cowbells as you taste homemade herb butter, dried meats and more.
5. Have fun at the Bikepark Brandnertal
Bikepark Brandnertal was the first bike park to open in Vorarlberg. A plethora of trails exist which suit varying abilities. The Tschengla Unchained and Upper Tschoy Ride flowlines provide an easy introduction to the sport if you’re a beginner, with just enough berms and small jumps to whet the appetite for more as your confidence builds. Progress to the park’s medium difficulty trails, some of which are routes shared with hikers. Combine the Tschäck the Ripper and Tscharlie Tschäplin freeride trails to create a fun six kilometre descent that includes step downs and hip jumps. The park’s most challenging runs feature tree roots, open grass runs and fast-paced changes in direction. If you think you have the skills to handle it, face the park’s legendary Tschack Norris trail, strictly for accomplished riders only. Feel the wind rattle through your helmet as you experience the area’s most thrilling descent on two wheels at high speed.
6. Hike the Montafon Alpine Mosaic
The Montafon Alpine Mosaic is a new walking guide that covers the areas of Verwall, Ration, Silvretta and Tal and is understandably popular with hikers. The Verwall is the largest protected area in Vorarlberg. Silence pervades this remote space, a treat for those who crave solitude. Golden eagles and peregrine falcons soar on thermals above rocky terrain where only the hardiest flora and fauna can survive. This part of Montafon offers unrivalled views of the Silvretta Mountains and the area’s highest peak, Piz Buin. Close up, alpinists will appreciate the chance to conquer the range’s most demanding trails, which lead to high-altitude lakes and glaciers. Beyond, loom the limestone walls of the Rätikon. The area has 300 peaks, some of which almost reach 3,000 metres, but the slightly shorter Drei Türme and Zimba are just as captivating. Rounding off Montafon’s four distinct sections is the valley below, sculpted by the Ill and Suggadin rivers, where you might hear locals using the UNESCO-recognised Montafon dialect.
7. Enjoy a boat trip on Lake Constance
Lake Constance, known as the Bodensee among German speakers, is Europe’s third largest freshwater lake after Geneva and Balaton. Boat trips open up a wealth of possibilities for shore-based excursions. Vorarlberg Lines maintains a fleet of five boats, including the Sonnenkönigin, the largest passenger vessel on the lake. Take its Three Countries Panorama tour and cruise the bay. From the water, view the Bregenz Festival site, the Rhine canal and charming Lindau in Germany – look out for the Bavarian Lion statue which guards its harbour. Back in Bregenz, be sure to spend some time on dry land, too, exploring the region’s capital city with its enviable location on the shores of the lake. Ride the Pfänderbahn for a bird’s eye view of the lake or check out the renowned Kunsthaus Bregenz, an art museum in the new town, before heading up the hill to discover the sleepy old town. This fortified part of Bregenz is frozen in time and it’s a pleasure to explore the medieval streets and architecture on foot.
For more information and inspiration to help you plan your perfect summer visit to Austria, head to the official website.