Our walking holiday in Austria with Headwater Holidays had taken us along the picturesque Gaistal Valley, up to the high peak of Seefelder Spitz and we’d enjoyed the traditional Rifleman’s parade at Seefeld. On our final day of hiking in Austria, my friend Julia and I found that the best was yet to come, as we explored the wild, rocky landscapes of the Leutasch Gorge and the picturesque painted houses of Mittenwald, before a final lakeside walk through glorious mountain scenery.
From Hotel Xander we took a 10 minute taxi ride down the valley to the entrance of the Leutasch Gorge which spans the border between Austria and Germany. On reading the information signs it was clear that we were entering a mysterious watery realm, owned by the fairies and goblins that live in the gorge, where the water swirls in a fast moving torrent between high rocky cliffs.
Along the wooded path we took the turning that leads into the gorge itself, along metal walkways from which we could see the water foaming in pools of milky-green below us. The metal walkways, a complex feat of engineering completed in 2005, followed one side of the gorge until we crossed a bridge to the other side.
Dizzyingly far below us, the rushing water made a ribbon of green, while above us the pine trees shot tall towards the sky from the grey rocky side of the gorge. We walked in dappled sunshine, stopping every now and then to read the information boards with stories of mountain fairies and the dramatic names of this watery world, such as Hell’s Bridge and the Devil’s Cauldron.
At the end of our walk through the main gorge, the path descended to a cafe and kiosk where we found the entrance to a smaller gorge. While the main gorge walk had been free, we now paid €3 to enter the gorge, in order the see the rushing waterfall at the end, which was well worth the additional cost. This time the gorge was narrow and the air refreshingly cool, as we zig-zagged along the walkway just above the green-blue water.
After 10 minutes we reached the waterfall at the end of the gorge, a deafening torrent of water that created spray all around us. Although the day had been warm, I was pleased to have my waterproof jacket to stay dry and found a small alcove to the side of the viewing platform to unpack my camera for a quick photo.
Retracing our steps along the walkway through the gorge, Julia and I stopped to eat our picnic lunch by a flower filled meadow, then followed our printed notes from Headwater Holidays to follow the river past pretty Alpine houses to reach the town Mittenwald on the German side of the border.
As we entered the centre of Mittenwald we noticed the painted houses for which the town is well known. The murals often have a religious story or meaning behind them and the local tourist office runs guided tours where you can discover more about them.
We walked along the main pedestrianised street, past many attractive pavement cafes, to the painted church tower of St. Peter and Paul at the end. We found a shady cafe to have a beer and then inquired at the tourist office about the bus up to the lakes of Lautersee and Ferchensee above Mittenwald.
Other hotel guests had recommended these lakes and since I’d hurt my ankle in a fall on the first day, we were looking for a gentle walk rather than the arduous Frenchman’s Climb described in the Headwater Holidays walking notes. Enquiring at the tourist office we were directed to the train station where we found the number 1 bus to take us up to the two lakes, from where we could walk back down into Mittenwald.
The bus dropped us off at the furthest lake of Ferchensee, at a convenient cafe with cheerful yellow sun umbrellas, where we couldn’t resist stopping for an apple strudel and a creamy iced coffee. Our table on the lakeside terrrace was perfectly placed to watch the trout and larger perch swimming around the jetty, in a scene that was pure Austrian holiday brochure
As the afternoon wore on and the sun cast its golden glow across the lake, it was tempting to just sit and enjoy the idyllic mountain scenery. Reluctantly we continued on the lake side path, knowing that if we delayed too long we’d miss the last bus from Mittenwald back to our hotel.
We reached the grassy swimming place where Julia decided to go for a swim and I waited on a bench while she gently breaststroked up and down serenely like a swan. At the end of the lake, the path took us through forest past a pretty little shrine and in another 15 minutes we reached the second lake of Lautersee. Not daring to stop too long we continued as the track took us now steeply down to Mittenwald past several cascades and waterfalls which streamed down the mountain.
By half past six we were down at Mittenwald again, with the evening sun lighting up the grey crag above us. Returning to the bus station we found the bus that would drop us back at our hotel in Leutasch after a day of enjoying the landscapes of Austria and Southern Germany.
It was a fabulous finale to our four days of walking with Headwater Holidays. I hope you’ll also enjoy reading about the other walks from this trip;
Day 1 – A high mountain walk (and a tumble) in the Gaistal Valley of Austria in which we set out from our hotel hoping to sample the local food served in the mountain huts of the valley but changed our plans when I took a tumble and had to hobble down the mountain.
Day 2 – Hiking in Austria – the views from the cross at Seefelder Spitze in which we took the cable car from Seefeld up the ridge of Seefelder Spitze for 360 degree views over Seefeld and the surrounding valleys.
Day 3 – Hiking in Austria – a Rifleman’s Parade and Mental Power Walk at Seefeld in which we joined a traditional parade with local regiments in colourful uniforms, then walked back to our hotel along a forest walking trail with relaxation stations on the theme of mental wellbeing.
Want to go walking in Austria’s Leutasch Valley?
Heather’s walking holiday in Austria’s Leutasch Valley was provided by Headwater Holidays – find out more about this holiday here. This 7 night walking holiday is based in Kirchplaztl at the 4 star Hotel Xander with over 450km of walking trails accessible direct from the hotel or via local bus, taxi and lifts. The holiday includes a full programme of self-guided day walks of 1 boot or 2 boot levels, depending on whether you prefer the gentle valley walks or the more challenging high altitude trails which are sometimes accessed via chair lifts and cable cars. The holiday includes detailed walking guides and maps, breakfast and dinner at the hotel, a packed lunch on walking days and flights/ transfers via Innsbruck. Prices from £669 per person.
Headwater Holidays are a leading UK specialist in self-guided walking, cycling and relaxed activity holidays that allow you to travel at your own pace and get closer to the places you visit. For more information check their Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Youtube | Pinterest | Instagram
More things to do in the Tirol region of Austria
For more information on things to do in the Tirol region of Austria visit the Tirol tourism website and follow their social media channels: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest. More information about things to do in Austria on the Visit Austria Website and information on the Seefeld Region on the Seefeld Olympia Region Website.
How to get to Leutasch Valley, Austria
Heather flew from Bristol to Munich with BMI Regional who fly 12 times each week on this route, so you often have a choice of 2 flights per day. The ticket includes 20kg checked baggage and full at-seat in-flight bar and snack service at no extra charge.
Transfers from Innsbruck airport are less than 1 hour’s drive to Leutach and included in your Headwater Holidays package. If, like us you fly into Munich Airport, the transfer to Leutasch Valley takes around 2 hours and can be arranged through your hotel or holiday provider.
Stay at Sporthotel Xander in Leutasch
Heather stayed at Sporthotel Xander in Leutasch as part of the walking holiday booked through Headwater Holidays. The hotel is a very comfortable 4 star hotel offering rooms, suites and apartments that are ideal for summer walkers or winter cross-country skiers. The other guests when we stayed at the end of August were mainly couples and a few families enjoying a late summer walking break. The hotel is used by several walking companies including Headwater Holidays.
We stayed on a full board basis, with breakfast, packed lunch and evening meal and found the food to be of a very high standard with a 4 course meal every night and a 5 course gala meal on one of the nights we were there. The hotel has an indoor pool and spa although we did not use them since we were out all day walking and making the most of the fine weather. The hamlet of Kirchplatzl where the hotel is situated is mainly residential and the nearest shops are a 15 minute walk away in Weidach. The bus to Seefeld which runs several times a day stops right by the hotel.
We think Hotel Xander is a comfortable, traditional hotel that will suit keen walkers who want a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. If you are looking for a lively atmosphere, shopping or evening entertainment then Seefeld would be a good alternative base. Check prices and book your stay here.
Read more articles about how to prepare for a hiking trip here:
Thanks to Headwater Holidays who hosted Heather’s walking holiday and to BMI regional who provided Heather’s flight to Munich.
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