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The Austrian Tirol has thousands of kilometres of trails for mountain bikers and hikers among its craggy peaks and alpine meadows. Here we pick five of the best locations to explore it by bike and on foot.

Zillertal Valley: for a pure love of biking

The beautiful countryside with its wide valley floor, mountain pastures and magnificent panoramas of dazzling 3,000m peaks provide ideal conditions for exploring.

With more than 1,200km of mountain bike trails, the Zillertal Valley has been crowned the best biking region in Austria. You'll find paths to suit every taste, from the valley floor and wide Alpine tracks to spectacular trails with challenging differences in altitude - such as the 5km downhill trail 'Wiesenalm' into the Zillertal Arena. What's more, hikers and mountain bikers rarely cross paths on the extensive trail network. Then, there's the ideal altitude: from 1,000m, the air is pollen-free and the slightly reduced oxygen content stimulates the entire body.

Bikers don't always have to rely on muscle power alone to reach the peaks of the Zillertal and Tux Alps. They can ride Zillertal's cable cars, which offer one return trip every day as long as they have the Zillertal Activcard in their pocket. At the bottom stations, mountain bikers can cycle up convenient access ramps and then board the spacious cars at ground level. This saves them from having to remove their front wheels and means that anyone can reach the most beautiful starting points for stunning panoramic tours with very little effort.

E-mountain bike tours are also available. With state-of-the-art mountain bikes with electric motor you head up to one of Zillertal's 150 mountain huts to feast on Zillertal delicacies or coffee specialities with homemade sweet dishes.

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But for a serious biking assault, look no further than the 9th Zillertal Bike Challenge from 30 June to 2 July 2017 - one of the greatest mountain biking challenges in the Alps: roughly 200km over three days and about 9,000m difference in altitude have to be conquered.

zillertal.at/en 

 

St Johann in Tirol in the centre of Kitzbüheler Alps: for e-bike exploring

To say that the Tirol has embraced e-bike adventure is an understatement, with the Kitzbüheler Alps now established as the biggest e-bike region in Austria. 1,000km of bike paths link the Kitzbüheler Alps with the craggy Kaiser Mountain Range, stretching across nine tourist areas and 45 villages and towns. More than 300 pedelec e-bikes - bikes which offer electrical assistance as you pedal, feeding in more power when you need it on the climbs, and cutting out on the descents or when you brake - can be rented at 43 rental points around the region, with 60+ charging stations for topping up your battery.

One of the finest day-ride routes for an e-bike adventurer is the TransKitzAlp E 4 - the fourth and final day of the 187km route from Maria Stein to Fieberbrunn. This last day takes you 59km, with 2,400m of climbing across the Kitbühel Horn Peak, descending to the Baroque town of St Johann in Tirol, on across upland pastures with breathtaking views of the Wilder Kaiser Range, and finally along the St Jakob in Haus Cycle Path to Fieberbrunn.

kitzalps.cc

 

Kitzbühel: hike one of the world's most challenging ski runs

Every January, the world's fastest skiers take on Kitzbühel's Streif, a notorious downhill run featuring 85-degree steeps and testing jumps. Once the snow melts, it turns into a 3.8 kilometres hiking path showcasing the race's most infamous sections.

The best skiers make it down the Streif in less than two minutes, but on foot it takes two and a half hours to negotiate the 900m drop in altitude. It begins at the race's start house, close to the top of the Hahnenkamm Gondola, with views over green pastures to the jagged peaks of the Wilder Kaiser region. From there, the hike passes through spots like Mausefalle (mousetrap), an 85-degree jump that tests the nerves of the world's best skiers and Steilhang, a steep section that has ended many a competitor's World Cup dreams. The Streif hike ends in the valley just after the Hausberg, a jump known for being one of the hardest in skiing.

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Each of the sections is marked with racing gates with information about the event and screens along the route show archive footage from past races. By the time you cross the finish line, you'll have more respect than ever for the skiers who hurtle down the course in 120 seconds flat.

kitzbuehel.com

 

Alpbachtal: off-road trails for every ability in the Alpbachtal Seenland

Its location just 50 kilometres from Innsbruck and the fact that it has hosted the famous and epic Transalp Challenge mountain bike race four times, the Alpbachtal Seenland region is renowned among expert mountain bikers. Its network of well-signed biking trails makes it a magnet for leisure and family cyclists too. For the adventurous there are some 20 mountain bike tours in this region, as well as the popular flat and traffic-free Innradweg inn cycling path which runs along the Inn valley through the Alpbachtal Seenland.

If you're up for a moderate off-road cycling challenge with incredible views and a traditional Tirolean meal at a mountain refuge to look forward to, then the MTB-Route 304 Alpbach-Holzalm mountain bike tour is one to plan in. Starting amongst the wood-built traditional Tirolean houses and wild-flower meadows of Alpbach on its sunny 1,000m plateau, this 7.9km tour takes you from one of Austria's most beautiful villages to the Berggasthof Holzalm mountain refuge at 1,459m above sea level.

alpbachtal.at/en 

 

Wildschönau: a remote valley full of hiking wonders

Found in the west of the Kitzbüheler Alps approximately 1,000m above sea level the Wildschönau region lives up to its name as a remote, beautiful haven for mountain pursuits. Walking the 300km of trails through this high valley on the western slopes of the Kitzbüheler Alps you'll pass traditional farms and mountain huts where cheese is still made in the old ways, quaint Tirolean churches and high alpine meadows spread with wild flowers. Above it all is the region's highest mountain, the 2,309m Großer Beil, which is a pull for ski tourers in winter and hikers once the snow melts.

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Another must-visit for hikers is a cable-car ride from Niederau village centre to the Markbachjoch at 1,500m where numerous walking itineraries start, including the four-hour, 7.2km Markbachjochj to Rosskopf panorama walk, with its fantastic views across the Wildschönau valley. Head back down to find a family-perfect three-hour hike from Niederau to Filzmoos Moor - a wetland 1,000m above sea level that is rich with mountain flora and fauna.

wildschoenau.com/en 

 

How to get to the Austrian Tirol

Innsbruck Airport is the gateway to the Tirol. Direct charter flights are available from UK airports, such as London and Manchester, to Innsbruck. Non-direct charter flights (to Innsbruck) are available from Dublin, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Durham, Birmingham and Bristol. Alternatively, Munich airport is roughly a two-hour drive, with transfers operated by Taxi Tirol.

For more information visit visittirol.co.uk