The Gemütlichkeit Glow

Pull on your lederhosen and go looking for kicks in Mayrhofen, Austria's Tyrolean treasure

May 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
mayrhofen austria

Till the cows come home: The misty Tyrolean Valley    Photo: Corel

FORTY MILES SOUTHEAST OF INNSBRUCK, in southwestern Austria, Mayrhofen is what so many American mountain towns aspire to be. The authentic Tyrolean chalets (dating back 400 years), 3,600 year-round working-class residents (including cowherds in honest-to-god lederhosen), and absurdly picturesque location—in the nook of the spiny Ziller and Tuxer mountain ranges—exude what locals proudly call gemütlichkeit: a warm, friendly, welcoming vibe. But once you leave Mayrhofen's quaint cobblestone streets—and the German tourists drinking Zillertal Bier on sunny café patios—the atmosphere changes dramatically. Atop the 10,000-foot mountains, storms move in and out quickly, adding a touch of excitement even to hiking. In the Zimmer Valley, the buzz comes from outings on the wild, glacier-fed Ziller and Zemm rivers. What you find in Mayrhofen is every Euro traveler's dream: a charming Alpine village where gemütlichkeit meets adrenaline rush.
WHERE TO PLAY Mayrhofen's most popular activities are whitewater rafting and peak-to-peak hiking; local guides can also take you paragliding, horseback riding, mountain biking, climbing, and glacier skiing. Pick up a trekking map at Tourismusverband Mayrhofen (011-43-5285-67600,, the tourism office in the Europahaus on Dursterstrasse, then choose from hundreds of miles of trails, many of which eventually return to bus stops in the valley. For a warm-up outing (and awesome views of the glaciated spires in the heart of the Alps), hike the Steinerkogl trail, a steep two-mile climb gaining 3,500 feet from downtown to the shoulder of Brandberg Mountain. Serious thrill seekers can sign on for a guided canyoneering tour and spend an afternoon climbing waterfalls and rappelling into gorges. One-stop shopping for all activities starts with Action Club Zillertal (011-43-5285-62977,

APRÉS–ADVENTURE You can always slug flaming schnapps with young Austrians, Swedes, Aussies, and the odd Canadian at the downtown Scotland Yard Pub (011-43-5285-62339,, but the best summer nightlife is found in restaurants, not bars. At Brugger Stube (011-43-5285-63793), you're likely to share chateaubriand and a beer with a 70-year-old farmer from nearby Hollenzen. Don't miss the Wirtshaus zum Griena (011-43-5285-62778,, a 440-year-old tavern with soot-stained timbers and fewer than 20 tables, where local specialties like wilderer sandel (braised venison served with bread dumplings) are perfect for end-of-the-day refueling.
WHERE TO STAY The English-speaking Hubers—third-generation residents of Mayrhofen who also lead tandem paragliding flights—built Apparthotel Veronika (doubles, $135; 011-43-5285-633470, as a traditional chalet in 1985, and they've recently added a lavish, modern spa. Of the ten apartments, all with kitchens, 700-square-foot Suite Zillertal has the best views, overlooking the Zillertal Valley.
HOW TO GET THERE Fly to Innsbruck on Austrian Airlines (800-843-0002, or Lufthansa (800-645-3880,, then catch one of the hourly trains east to Jenbach ($5, 30 minutes), where you'll transfer to a southbound Mayrhofen train ($6, one hour). Train seats can easily be booked at the station; contact Austrian Federal Railways ( for more information.

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