From sweet-smelling cornfields to a ski resort open 365 days a year – the wide Zillertal Valley leads gently uphill from the small town of Mayrhofen to the high mountain village of Hintertux.
The first section of the Zillertal Valley, shortly after it branches off from the Inntal Valley near the town of Jenbach, is wide and sunny. It lies 40km east of the regional capital Innsbruck and leads south, flanked by the Kitzbühel Alps to the east and the Tux Alps to the west. Unlike the craggy peaks found at the end of the valley, the first few villages are surrounded by lush green meadows and gently sloping mountains. The Zillertal Valley is considered the cradle of alpine mountaineering, and even today the local farmers continue to use traditional methods to look after their crops and animals. The result is fine local produce such as the Heumilchkäse, a tangy cheese made from milk given by cows fed only on fresh mountain hay. The 40km valley, which comprises 25 municipalities if you include those in the side valleys, is more or less flat until Mayrhofen, where it divides into the narrow Zemmtal Valley, with its popular hiking village of Ginzling, and the Tuxertal Valley. From here on the valley rises steeply towards the Hintertux Glacier, the only ski resort in Austria open all year round.
Locomotive excursions and hiking in the nature park
The Zillertal Valley is both traditional and full of action, offering outdoor enthusiasts everything from mountain biking to whitewater rafting. Centuries-old customs and celebrations such as the annual Gauderfest in Zell am Ziller show that, despite its state-of-the-art tourist infrastructure, the valley has managed to preserve its heritage. Part of this heritage is the Zillertalbahn, a modern railway track where steam engines are sometimes still used. Without a doubt the star of the show in the area is the Zillertal Alps Nature Park with its 80 glaciers and numerous peaks over 3,000m, with the highest being the Hochfeiler at 3,509m. The pristine landscape in the park is ideal for hiking and rock climbing. During the cold winter months visitors will find a network of cross-country skiing and winter hiking trails as well as six ski resorts with hundreds of kilometres of slopes catering for all abilities.