Sandwiched between the Tuxer Voralpen and the Kitzbüheler Alpen, the Zillertal (Ziller Valley) is storybook Tyrol. A steam train chugs through the broad valley, passing fertile farmland and wooded mountains, and affording snatched glimpses of snowy peaks and the fast-flowing Ziller River.
What a view! Ah yes, the locals proudly agree, Bregenz does indeed have the loveliest of views: before you the Bodensee, Europe’s third-largest lake, spreads out like a liquid mirror; behind you the Pfänder (1064m) climbs to the Alps; to the right you see Germany, to the left the faint outline of Switzerland. Just wow.
Ask an Austrian to rattle off the top ski resorts in the country, and Kitzbühel will invariably make the grade. Ever since Franz Reisch slipped on skis and whizzed down the slopes of Kitzbüheler Horn way back in 1893, so christening the first alpine ski run in Austria, Kitzbühel has carved out its reputation as one of Europe's foremost ski resorts.
St Anton am Arlberg
Once upon a time St Anton was but a sleepy village, defined by the falling and melting of snow and the coming and going of cattle, until one day the locals beheld the virgin powder on their doorstep and discovered their happy-ever-after… In 1901 the resort founded the first ski club in the Alps and downhill skiing was born, so if ever the ski bug is going to bite you it will .
The wild and austerely beautiful Arlberg region, shared by Vorarlberg and Tyrol, comprises several linked resorts and offers some of Austria’s finest skiing. Heralded as the cradle of alpine skiing, St Anton am Arlberg is undoubtedly the best known and most popular resort.
Grazing the Swiss border and running west of the Inntal, the Paznauntal (Paznaun Valley) is a dramatic landscape overshadowed by the pearly white peaks of the Silvretta range. The villages are sleepy in summer, a lull that is broken in winter when skiers descend on party-hearty resorts like Ischgl.
On the banks of the turquoise Ill River, Feldkirch sits prettily at the foot of wooded mountains, vineyards and a castle-crowned hill. It’s a joy to stroll the well-preserved old town, which wings you back to late-medieval times with its cobbled, arcaded lanes, towers and pastel-coloured townhouses. The town springs to life in summer with pavement cafes and open-air festivals.
The wooded limestone peaks, cow-nibbled pastures and bucolic villages of the Bregenzerwald unfold to the south of Bregenz. This rural region is great for getting back to nature for a few days, whether cheese-tasting in alpine dairies, testing out hay and herbal treatments in spa hotels, or curling up by the fireside in a cosy farmhouse.
The Alps provide a spectacular backdrop to Bludenz, the only town in Austria – perhaps the world – that can lay claim to having purple cows; the Milka ones churned out from the Suchard factory. Gorging on chocolate aside, Bludenz’ arcaded old town takes you back to its heyday as the seat of the Habsburg governors from 1418 to 1806.
Zell am Ziller
Scenically located at the foot of knife-edge Reichenspitze (3303m), Zell am Ziller is a former goldmining centre. There’s now less sparkle and more swoosh about this rural and deeply traditional little village, with its fine skiing and thrilling 7.5km floodlit toboggan run.