Bordering on Switzerland, Germany and Liechenstein, the Vorarlberg region lies nestled in the farthest western reaches of Austria. With splendid lakes and mountains, this is a veritable paradise for hikers and lovers of the great outdoors.
About this Austria walking region
The great writer Ernest Hemingway spent two seasons in the Vorarlberg’s Montafon Valley during the 1920s. “It’s damned beautiful to see the mountains again,” he famously said on his second séjour. And he is not the only one to be captivated by the beauty of this region’s alpine vistas. It may be Austria’s second smallest province and somewhat tucked away in the far west, but it is home to scenery which easily rivals that of its larger neighbours.
The snow-capped peaks of Vorarlberg’s skyline are awesome to look at but also invite further exploration. The region is a gateway to the incredible Silvretta Alps (Silvretta Alpen) in the south and the Arlberg massif in the east. However, Vorarlberg is also a feast for the senses in its own right, offering wonderful walks in alpine meadows and more challenging mountaineering exploits, as well as being an excellent base for winter sports.
Vorarlberg – ‘the land before the Arlberg’ – spans from Lake Constance (Bodensee) in the north to Mt. Piz Buin (3,312m/10,863ft) in the southerly Silvretta range. Some of the best-loved walking areas include the Bregenzerwald, where rugged peaks give way to pretty pastoral scenes, and the resort of Lech (Lech am Arlberg) – a skiing sports Mecca in winter but a walkers’ paradise in summer.
The only other Austrian state that shares borders with Vorarlberg is Tyrol. The capital of Vorarlberg is Bregenz.
Bregenz is surprisingly small and a curious blend of a relaxed lakeside resort and a buzzing cultural centre. Stretched along the eastern shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee), Bregenz is a fun place to spend some time, offering a wide range of sights, entertainment and cultural pursuits – probably more than any other town west of Innsbruck. One of the best-known events in this region is the annual Bregenzer Festspiele, a flamboyant summer carnival of opera and classical music, with al fresco performances on a floating stage.
Walking in Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg is a rugged and mountainous region offering superlative opportunities for outdoor pursuits. It boasts an excellent network of both hiking and biking trails. The scenery is characterized by alpine vistas, rolling green hills and limestone cliffs with several deep valleys cut into the landscape, just some of the highlights include the Montafon Valley between the Verwall and Rätikon Mountains, the Brandnertal Valley – considered by many to be the most beautiful in the entire Alps – the impressive V-shaped Grosses Walsertal Valley with its UNESCO biosphere park connecting the Rhine Valley with the Bregenzerwald and the Klostertal Valley – which leads to the popular Arlberg hiking and skiing areas.
The Arlberg mountain range forms the border between Vorarlberg and Tyrol. Its highest peak is the “Valluga” at 2,809 metres (9,216 ft). The name Arlberg derives from the tradition of the “Arlenburg,” who are said to have once established themselves on the Tyrolean side of the Arlberg passes, in the village of Arlenburg.
Vorarlberg’s natural beauty arguably makes it one of the finest walking regions in Europe.