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Selected departures up to October 2016 & May to October 2017
A tour experiencing some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery including the Italian Tyrol and Innsbruck.
Stunning pink and grey snow-capped mountain peaks; sparklingly clear and torrentially flowing streams; verdant meadows; swathes of densely forested hillsides; shimmering lakes; wooden chalets bedecked with bright flowerboxes; iconic onionshaped church spires. Coupled with a tradition of genuine hospitality, tasty cuisine, excellent local wine, schnapps and great beer, plus an intriguing history stretching back to pre-historic times – all the unmistakable hallmarks of the astonishingly beautiful Tyrol. We stay in the utterly charming alpine village of Seefeld, a perfect spot from which to explore the many and varied highlights of this mountainous province, bisected by the twisting river Inn.
We enjoy the culture, imperial history and historic treasures of the region’s capital Innsbruck, marvel at the mountain vistas and the awe inspiring natural beauty of the glaciers and towering summits of the Oetz valley. See Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze and the towering turrets of the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. Travel by train on one of the world’s oldest steam railways, still using original locomotives from the line’s 1888 opening. Plus venture along the outstandingly beautiful Brenner Pass, guarded at every twist and turn by a host of medieval castles, to explore the melting pot of architecture and language where north meets south in the Südtirol. Once an integral piece of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now the northernmost part of Italy, culturally the area is unmistakably part of the Tyrol. In its capital Bolzano, you can visit one of the planet’s oldest men - Oetzi the Iceman – a remarkably preserved Stone Age mountain dweller. It is clear there is so much more to the Austrian Tyrol and its surroundings than at first meets the eye.
Of course you will adore some of the world’s most outstandingly beautiful Alpine scenery but also discover some real hidden treasures: delightfully medieval Rattenberg, once a silver mining centre, now an atmospheric village; the gorgeous stucco work and gilded altar of Stams Monastery; Innsbruck’s glittering polished copper ‘Golden Roof’ and fabulously decorated Hofkirche founded by the Habsburgs; Merano’s affluent spa town, Belle Époque elegance and a host of other gems just cry out to be explored. You will be enchanted by this amazing blend of gorgeous scenery, crisp mountain air, immense glaciers, and sloping chalet-style wooden buildings in perfect harmony with their stunning surroundings and the host of fascinating towns and places of interest at the heart of one of Europe’s most fascinating regions.
The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a standard twin room: return flights; seven night’s four-star accommodation with breakfast and dinner; sightseeing guided tour of Innsbruck; entrance and guided tour of Stams Monastery and Neuschwanstein Castle; a journey on the Aachensee Cog Steam Railway; all tours and transport as mentioned; services of a Riviera Tour Manager
Please note – opening and closing dates of some mountain passes are dependent on local weather conditions, therefore some of the routes mentioned may be subject to change.
Suite upgrade; from £89 (£95 for 2017) per person
Single supplement; from £95 (£99 for 2017) per person
Please note in Austria beds are generally one base with two mattresses and individual bed linen
Fly to Munich or Salzburg then drive over the Austrian border to Seefeld one of the Tyrol’s most attractive villages with its chalet-style, wooden buildings bursting with colour from countless window boxes. We stay seven nights with dinner at the superior four-star Krumers Post hotel, parts of which are 300 years old, perfectly situated on the main village square opposite Seefeld’s charming church. Built in typically Tyrolean style with the classic low sloping roofs and wooden exterior, rooms are generously sized and are very well appointed featuring all the facilities you would expect from such a rating. The hotel’s terrace on the main square (heated when necessary), serves drinks from the bar and snacks, including an excellent apple strudel. There is also a coffee shop, interior bar with occasional live music, and the excellent spa, with indoor pool affording views over the attractive village and the mountains beyond. You may upgrade to a suite - even more spacious plus added features to make your stay special. For the finest view of all though, visit the rooftop sun terrace equipped with sun loungers. The restaurant - decorated extensively with wood, reflecting the local style - serves very good quality Tyrolean specialties and international cuisine. Managed by the same caring family for generations, the staff members are what really make the Krumers Post special - many have been here for years, offering friendly and helpful service, always wearing a genuine smile, and continuing the true tradition of Austrian hospitality. It’s ideal for a comfortable stay.
After breakfast, we take the short drive along Inn valley to the Tyrolean capital, Innsbruck, for a guided tour of this delightful city. An important trading centre since Celtic times, then capital of a Dukedom before being incorporated in the Habsburg Empire, today your eyes can feast on the historic architecture. There is the famous Golden Roof, the magnificent baroque St Jakob’s cathedral and the former Imperial Palace, once home of Empress Maria Theresa, the Stadtturm belfry tower with its excellent views across the city and Schloss Ambras, the Renaissance castle and palace. Today Innsbruck is delightful - wander its medieval streets, absorb the genteel ambience or just listen to the talented street musicians before we return to Seefeld mid-afternoon.
The Tyrol was first documented as a Province in 1271 and history still has a key role in today’s as we take the historic Roman “Via Claudia Augusta”, flirting with the Swiss border. The route overflows with astonishing Alpine scenery – rolling hills, studded with apple orchards, majestic snow-capped peaks, roaring rivers, shimmering lakes, and the occasional village – a kaleidoscope of the perfect Alpine landscape. The Südtirol (South Tirol) was always a frontier region, regarded by the Romans as the start of “The North” and by German and French Emperors as start of “The South” and because this key mountain trade route traversed their lands, the Tyroleans became rich on tolls and taxes, eventually becoming incorporated in the mighty Austro- Hungarian Empire.
Firstly we visit opulent Merano, a lovely spa town where it’s just lovely to just wander, taking in the glorious Belle Époque buildings, fine gardens and excellent cafes which line a leafy river bank walk, all set in a theatre of high mountain peaks.
After the First World War the Südtirol became Italian but even today this fiercely independent region is undoubtedly Austrian in style and outlook, retains its German language, its culture and unique architecture. Bolzano, the region’s capital, gives you the opportunity to experience this fascinating mix of modern Italian and historic Tyrolean lifestyles - classic Italian coffee and delicious Tyrolean cakes make a great match! Bolzano’s strategic location is one reason for its many castles and fortified buildings, plus its historic centre and gothic cathedral complete with colourful mosaic roof are fascinating. But for something different, in 1991 an amazingly mummified 5,000 year old man was discovered high in the Alps. Now preserved at the Archaeological Museum you can view his body – which staggeringly, in addition to tattoo’s, carries evidence of rudimentary treatment of arthritic pain! His clothes and weapons are displayed too, and we have surprisingly detailed information on his life - he was 45 years old when he died, had no tooth decay, carried a sophisticated fire lighting kit and even wore thermal shoes. An internationally significant source of research, knowledge gained from “Oetzi”, as he is nicknamed, has changed our view of human history!
Our return to Seefeld takes us through the famous Brenner Pass - one of the most important transalpine trade routes since earliest times, as evidenced by the host of ruined castles guarding seemingly every hilltop. The scenery is simply stunning here, as mountain top after mountain top just gets higher and more colourful, with most way above the tree line.
Today we drive up the ever narrowing Oetztal valley to the high mountain resort of Soelden, enjoying ever more scenic views. Despite being almost 5000 feet high, this remote village is dwarfed by surrounding giant snow-capped mountains. Our spectacular drive continues up the Oetztaler Glacier Road into the heart of the mountains for stunning views of glaciers and peaks, ice and snow covered throughout the summer. Breathe deeply for several minutes - the rarefied air deep in your lungs has an almost medicinal quality! Keep your eyes peeled for the mountain wildlife here, including eagles and those delightful indigenous rodents, marmots - hugely entertaining bundles of fur with a spine tingling whistle. It was near here that Oetzi the Iceman met his fate all those millennia ago, the victim of a Bronze Age arrow, why he was attacked, we shall never know.
This afternoon we return to the river Inn and a guided tour of the splendid Cistercian monastery at Stams. Founded in 1273, the two majestic onion shaped towers of its superb 17th century Basilica, can be seen from far and wide. This is a truly magnificent building justifiably renowned for its murals, ceiling frescoes, fine Baroque altar and breathtaking gold leaf decoration. Having suffered a turbulent history, including dissolution by the Nazis, Stams has been beautifully restored and is once again a thriving monastic community, welcoming travellers of all nations and beliefs and even baking its own delicious bread!
Today is a free day so you can take pleasure in Seefeld’s many attributes as you wish. Perhaps enjoy a round of golf, a horse drawn carriage ride or a gentle stroll around the lake before selecting a favourite café to sample some of those luscious “torte” cakes. There are several chairlifts, cable cars or a funicular railway, enabling you to explore the village’s higher reaches such as the rocky outcrops Seefelder Joch and Härmelekopf. The tourist office operates a range of guided walks, whether you choose an easy ramble or a more challenging walk, it’s an excellent way of discovering the hinterland. Explore the peaceful meadows and woodlands, hire a boat on the lake or perhaps indulge yourself in the hotel’s excellent spa. Whatever your choice, you’re assured of another splendid meal at the hotel this evening.
An increasing number of you want to stretch your legs whilst away so you may want to join our complimentary walk this morning .This gentle walk is designed to suit any occasional walker in good health, and it takes about 3 hours. (It’s not arduous, it’s best to have light walking shoes or good ‘trainers’ though). We start our leisurely walk in Seefeld and head out of the centre towards the Casino Arena, the home of the Olympic ski jump, where the original jump was first used in 1931, before continuing through the alpine meadows to Mösern. We then follow a delightful track through an unspoilt forest teeming with wildlife, with our guide describing the flora and fauna we encounter. We arrive at Lake Mösern where you can relax, take in the mountain views and after time for a coffee we head back to Seefeld through the meadows. Places are limited so please advise at time of booking.
Today’s drive takes you into nearby Bavaria seeing the might of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Some of our journey will be on the fabled ‘Romantic Road’ and the beautiful ‘Deutsche Alpenstrasse’ – the Alpine Road, leading to one of Germany’s most famous monuments and one which seems to typify an image of the country, the castle of the instantly recognisable, and equally unpronounceable, Neuschwanstein! This is the classic ‘fairytale’ castle, inspiration for so many stories and allegedly the model for Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ that has fascinated children the world over.
One of Bavaria’s most famous kings, Ludwig, modelling himself on France’s Louis XIV, embarked on an epic castle building programme, eventually bankrupting the then independent country! Indeed, one of his pet projects is the subject of our tour today. Clinging to the side of a vast valley in the most dramatic of settings, Neuschwanstein was constructed with pink granite, a symbol of Ludwig’s self-belief as divinely chosen for kingship and in homage to his idol, Wagner! The architecture inside is equally impressive, with marble everywhere; the design draws freely from different architectural styles, Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic. Tapestries and intrinsic art decorate the walls and the standard of workmanship is admirable.
After breakfast let us head back in time over 100 years, taking a journey to Jenbach where the unmistakable aroma of steam coal, which once graced every British station, fills the air and a narrow gauge railway winds away into the hills. This is a magically scenic experience on the truly historic Achenseebahn, a metre gauge railway climbing from the Inn valley using rack assistance to surmount the steep gradient. The coal-fired locomotives are amongst the world’s oldest working steam trains still doing the job they were built for in the 19th century, taking tourists at a leisurely pace up to the beautiful Achensee Lake.
Rejoining your coach, we journey even further back in time to delightful medieval Rattenberg, the Tyrol’s smallest municipality nestling by the river Inn. The gorgeous medieval stone buildings you see here are the result of growing rich on the proceeds of silver mining, then prospering from nail a glass making. It’s wonderful exploring the narrow streets, discovering the charms of this historic village. The creation of fine glassware is its major occupation today - raw materials fashioned into exquisite pieces by the skilled craftsmen – no wonder this lovely spot has such renown. Climb to the ruined castle for splendid views of the town and it surroundings – there’s also a lift, so don’t miss the fine panorama!
Today at the appropriate time you will be returned to the airport for your return flight.
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