South Tyrol, or Südtirol as it’s known by German speakers, is a gorgeous region in the north of Italy (yes, Italy, not Austria!) that combines Alpine and Mediterranean scenery and culture. There are so many things to do here, including hiking in the Dolomites, wine tasting in the rolling foothills, and swimming in clear Alpine lakes; this wealth of attractions makes it one of the finest places to visit in Northern Italy. So, let’s take a look at South Tyrol’s location and some of the best things to do in South Tyrol.
- Explore Bolzano
- Discover the South Tyrolean Wine Road
- Hike in the Dolomites
- Take a walk on the Waalwege canal trails
- Visit Merano
- Swim in some of the lakes
- Take a trip to a castle
Where is South Tyrol?
If you thought Tyrol was in Austria, you’d be right. North and East Tyrol are in Austria. But, we’re talking about South Tyrol today and it’s actually Italy’s northernmost province. It borders, you guessed it, Austria, and a teeny bit of Switzerland too. The biggest city and the capital of the region is Bolzano, or Bozen in German. However, even though South Tyrol is in Italy, German is the native language of about 70% of the population so it’s definitely worth learning a bit of German if you’re going to visit the region.
1. Explore Bolzano
Let’s start with the gorgeous Italian city of Bolzano. A mix of Italian and German/Austrian culture, Bolzano is a city you can fall deeply in love with. Wander the charming streets lined with pastel-colored houses, see the Gothic Duomo and go to the Museo Archeologico dell’Alto Adige to meet the famous Ötzi, the Iceman. In the lush hills surrounding the city, you can visit Castel Roncolo, where you’ll see well-preserved frescoes dating from the 14th century.
2. Discover the South Tyrolean Wine Road
The South Tyrolean Wine Road runs through the region from north to south and passes vineyards and historical wineries as well as many of the region’s medieval castles. There are several suggested routes that you can walk or cycle to discover the wineries; a great one is around the town of Terlan, the Terlaner Weinweg, where you can follow information boards to learn more about wine making here. If you prefer to explore on two wheels, cycle along the Etsch river and stop in at some of the wineries on the route. The most notable wines here are Gewürztraminer and the famous German wine, Riesling.
3. Hike in the Dolomites
One of the major attractions of this region is of course the UNESCO-listed Dolomites and there’s no better way to explore than on foot. A hike on the loop trail around the famous Tre Cime de Lavaredo gives you spectacular views of these three distinctive peaks and it’s mostly flat. For something more challenging, head for the Spronser Seen lakes. An eight-hour loop hike here takes you past ten lakes with steep climbs rewarded by stunning views.
4. Take a walk on the Waalwege canal trails
If you’re looking for an easier walk, try the Waalwege canal trails, which follow South Tyrol’s historic irrigation canals. The paths are usually well-maintained and they have picturesque views of the surrounding mountains without any very steep climbs. Some of the most popular Waalwege are around Merano, where tree-lined trails wind through the valley, past castles, palaces, and conveniently located inns.
5. Visit Merano
Speaking of Merano, our next recommendation is to visit this lovely city. It’s best known as a spa town but it’s also known as a city of gardens and it’s filled with palm trees and flowerbeds. Buildings in the Old Town date back to the medieval period so it’s a great place for a stroll. You can also take the historic chair lift to Tirolo for panoramic views of the city and the mountains that surround it.
6. Swim in some of the lakes
A visit to South Tyrol doesn’t always mean plunging into a freezing Alpine lake. Lovely Kalterer See is the warmest bathing lake in the Alps and it’s a great place to relax on sunny afternoons. A chillier but perhaps more beautiful experience can be had at Lake Braies (Pragser Wildsee in German or Lago Di Braies in Italian), a shimmering turquoise lake surrounded by jagged peaks. You can walk around the lake on the four-kilometer path, take a boat out to explore the water, or even get in for a swim if you’re feeling brave.
7. Take a trip to a castle
South Tyrol is full of castles and you’re sure to come across them wherever you are in the region. Two that you might want to check out are Tyrol Castle and Brunnenburg Castle. Both are near Merano and are situated on hills with commanding views over the surrounding countryside.
Ready to visit South Tyrol?
If you’re looking for Alpine scenery combined with a slightly warmer climate, charming medieval cities, and imposing hilltop castles, you should put South Tyrol at the top of your holiday bucket list. You’ll be able to hike in the Dolomites in the morning, go for a refreshing swim and then try some wine tasting in the afternoon. All in this one picturesque region.
Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.