Welcome to the Austrian Alps
The Tyrol & Bavarian Alps. Dramatic peaks, exquisite flora and pristine lakes
The Zugspitz Arena is an alpine phenomenon, a vast natural bowl formed by a seemingly unending rim of high peaks that converge on it from all directions. Named after the highest of these peaks (the Zugspitze – 2962m), these mountains form the beautiful backdrops that define Ehrwald as one of the most spectacularly located villages in the Alps and the perfect springboard for those who come to explore the network of trails that traverse these mountains at low, medium and high level.
The Zugspitze at 2962m is Germany’s highest mountain and Austria’s 14th. The border of the two countries passes through its summit glacier. Its northern face dominates the sought-after Bavarian resort of Garmisch, whilst on its southern and Austrian side, described by locals as the sunny side, it converges with other prominent massifs to form a remarkable natural bowl known as the Zugspitz Arena.
Walking in Austria’s Tyrol & Bavarian Alps on a Collett’s holiday
Ehrwald is an unrivalled base for exploring the Zugspitz Arena. There are beautiful walks of all grades. Here you will see fascinating fauna and flora, classic alpine hamlets and farmsteads, lakes and tarns, welcoming huts and the fabulous scenery of the Wetterstein, Ammergauer, Mieminger and Lechtaler Alps on walks that are off the beaten track and truly memorable.
As for levels of fitness and ambition, the Zugspitz Arena has amazing variety, from idyllic easy strolls in flower-strewn meadows that meander between pretty Tyrolean hamlets and villages, to challenging high trails on precarious rocky ridges – and lots in between. Whichever walks you do, the scenery is inspirational in every direction and you will be bewitched by the towering peaks and rock walls of the Lechtal, Mieminger and Wetterstein groups, not to mention the Zugspitze itself.
Our Easy & Idyllic walks in the Zugspitz Arena
There are countless easy and moderate walks here. Idyllic tracks traverse the flower meadows that stretch out from Ehrwald towards Lermoos and Biberwier, which share the Zugspitz Arena with Ehrwald. For a sensational view of Ehrwald with the Zugspitze behind, you can stroll up to the Wolfrathauser Hutte. There are walks along the banks of the River Losaich, which springs forth close to the village of Biberwier, crossing the Moos at Ehrwald before descending to Garmisch and then into the Danube. You can also wander to the local waterfall on the Rundwasserfall weg, or along the old mill path, flanked by the crystal clear waters of the River Gaisbach on one side and vivid flower pastures on the other. The Partnach Klamm is perhaps our easiest stroll and takes its name from the Partnach river, which originates high up on the Zugspitze glacier, then plummets dramatically into a ravine, which is the backdrop for much of this walk.
Waterfalls are an absorbing feature of the walking here. High above Ehrwald, the glacial lakes of Sebensee and Drachensee send their icy water crashing to the valley bottom and many walks are punctuated by waterfalls. There are also some vast and dramatic gorges, notably in the Wetterstein group, which are spellbinding options for easier walks. Many of the lakes near Ehrwald are ideal for picnics and swimming and also have idyllic tracks that take you around the lake on walks that are easy and pleasant.
Our Moderate Classics
Our moderate walks have been meticulously researched and you would not piece together many of these routes if you came here independently. These breathtaking hikes are a mix of flower pastures, woodland tracks, remote lakes (in which we occasionally swim!), scree traverses and ascents to some of the easier peaks with views to die for. A real gem is our spectacular ascent of the Hollentalklamm, a gorge above Grainau to an old German Hutte with views of the Zugspitze glacier. This is a showstopper and includes an impressive network of tunnels, caves, gorges and crashing waterfalls, before traversing a high bridge and descending into an enchanting Bavarian village.
Our Challenging Treks
Our challenging treks naturally unfold in the higher rocky reaches of the surrounding peaks, leaving every hiker enthralled. In Ehrwald, we have excellent access to many challenging, high-level routes, comprised largely of the dramatic rocky terrain that comes after the upland pastures above the treeline. Here, you can venture into wild corries and walk paths that traverse towering cliffs, where gams and marmots can be seen. The exhilaration is considerable on these walks and a head for heights is certainly necessary for some of the lofty ridge trails that snake their way between beautiful high lakes and tarns, such as the Drachensee and Seebensee. Of course, when it comes, the sight of a hospitable mountain hut is always welcome on these remote trails and you can enjoy well-earned refreshment and hearty home-made Tyrolean specialities on sun terraces with formidable views.
The Gartner Wand is a real high level classic, which requires a degree of alpine experience and a good head for heights. The reward, however, is one of the best days out you could have in Austria. Indeed, it is one of the most stunning ridge walks you will find anywhere in the Alps. Accessed by cable car in the first instance, it takes in two summits, a long ridge with awe-inspiring views either side and a few cabled sections for protection. The walk returns the same way via the Grubig Hutte and then a cable car descent.
Our most spectacularly-located alpine village destination?
In alpine terms Ehrwald lies in a superlative location. Nestled at the heart of the majestic Zugspitz Arena, this is somewhere special, pretty and unspoilt. The views in all directions will absorb you for hours. It enjoys an easy-going pace of life, which reflects its status as both an authentic working village and a place that attracts walkers, alpine enthusiasts and other visitors.
The main street and square is a pleasantly tree-lined area and there are several attractive green spaces in the village centre. There are cafes and bars with sun terraces, from which you can gaze at the stunning 360° panoramas. There are also shops, banks, a tourist office and all the amenities you would expect from a village that is home to a mountain dwelling community that wants to accommodate its visitors well. The village indoor swimming pool has landscaped grounds for outdoor sunbathing and makes a pleasant alternative (or addition) to walking.
The Zugspitz Arena
One of the most attractive features of Ehrwald is the Moos, which is effectively the flat bottom of the natural bowl that is the Zugspitz Arena. Perfect for a pre-breakfast stretch of the legs or a post-dinner evening stroll, it is an extensive labyrinth of tracks and trails that link Ehrwald to the neighbouring villages of Biberweir and Lermoos. As you can imagine, it is surrounded by magnificent peaks, so the views are fabulous and you will constantly reach for your camera. It is also a wealth of flora and fauna, as it is quite marshy in places. Sightings of beavers are not uncommon here. If every village had a Moos, the world would be a better place!
Walkers who visit Ehrwald benefit from extensive, efficient and impressive local infrastructure, provided specifically to facilitate their easy access to the mountains. You can, of course, venture out on trails that start from the village, but there are also local shuttle buses (some of them free) that take you to key trailheads just outside the village or in neighbouring villages – or to local chairlifts and cable cars, as well as the railway station, which can also be used to good effect by walkers and day trippers.
Ehrwald and the Zugspitz Arena boast a vibrant arts and cultural scene with art galleries, museums, music, dance festivals, and folkloric events. Walkers during summer months can stumble upon traditional celebrations and village festivals, providing a window into local heritage. The region’s towns offer a harmonious co-existence of old and new, with modern buildings alongside centuries-old castles.
Ehrwald provides a breathtaking vantage point for observing the higher hamlets of the area. The annual Almabtrieb, where cattle are decorated with flowers, is a custom celebrated before winter. The Tirol’s stunning landscapes have made it a popular film location, earning it the nickname ‘Tirollywood’. Shaped by centuries of interaction, the region’s cultural diversity is rich with different dialects and traditions celebrated with pride and joy through a busy calendar of special events, so each year Collett’s spends the summer in this spectacular location, sharing the area with friends old and new.
Tirol’s cuisine honors its agricultural heritage and mountain culture, with locally-sourced food in traditional recipes. Popular dishes include cheese dumplings, Tiroler Gröstl (a fry-up of bacon, onion, potato, and fried egg), Schlutzkrapfen (pasta parcels with potato filling), and Tirolean Marend (a plate of dry-cured and smoked specialties like speck, sausages, mountain cheeses, gerkins, and specialty breads).
Indulge in delicious puddings like Moosbeernocken (pancakes with wild mountain blueberries) and Kaiserschmarren (fluffy shredded pancake with stewed plums).
Tirol is also known for its artisan distilleries and award-winning schnapps, with a Schnapps Route of 41 distilleries to explore. A local schnapps is the perfect digestif after a hearty Tirolean meal, ensuring you’ll never be down in the dump(ling)s.
When you’re with Collett’s in Austria, your dining will be dependent on your choice of accommodation. While hotel Sonnenspitz offers fantastic food on a half board basis, our self-catered options allow for exploration of Tyrolean local delicacies daily.