The Tyrolean Zillertal:
Hiking, Skiing & Sightseeing - Part II

After the mining had ceased and the Napoleonic Wars had left Salzburg destroyed and the new ruler Austria somewhat plucked, it took a while until the Zillertal′s economy picked up again. In the second half of the 19th century, hiking tourism started to become popular. Paths were built and new mountain cabins. Nevertheless, the Zillertal remained a very poor area of Austria until after WWII.

In the 1950ies, its economic development saw a turning point with the arrival of mass skiing tourism. Today, the ecological impact of the mass tourism on the hills of the Zillertal are one of the most burning issues of the valley. The heavy traffic and the change of the villages′ structures are other side-effects of the skiing-cash-cow. By 2003, six million B&B arrangements had been sold per year. And the numbers are still increasing.

Hiking & Folk Culture in the Zillertal

In summer, the number of tourists is much lower. Hiking opportunities are great, with a network of 1,000 kilometres of paths, numerous huts and the occasional village that is not spoilt with massive hotels. To sex up the unfashionable old "hiking holiday", the tourism boards offer additional sport activities such as rafting, climbing, paragliding or mountain biking. Tacky skiing resorts and après-ski nighlife will be best in Mayrhofen, whereas the "second city" of the Zillertal, Zell am Ziller, preserved more of its rural atmosphere.

One big deal in Zell am Ziller is the "Gauderfest" town fete, supposedly celebrated since the 17th century on the first weekend in May. Some people even claim that the Gauderfest derives from ancient pagan celebrations that marked the beginning of a new (agricultural) year.

In any case, there is a beer made upon the occasion of the Gauderfest, appropriately called "Gauderbier" and there are sport challenges and hicks getting drunk, so if you happen to be around in early May, don′t miss out on it. When my parents toured the Zillertal in 2006, they were very pleased about the friendliness of the locals - so do not fear to mingle, hop into your lederhosen and off you pop!

Classic Sightseeing &  Nearby Attractions

In terms of sightseeing of historic buildings, the Zillertal has fairly little to offer. There is an old steam engine train running on the narrow-gauge Zillertalbahn Railroad. The church Maria Brettfall in the town of Strass and Maria Rast near Zell am Ziller are local centres of pilgrimage. Learn about local wildlife in the small Tierpark zoo of Hainzenberg. There are waterfalls in Schlitters, Hart and Laimach. The Gerlosstausee Lake has some scenic vistas to offer, and so does the panoramic road Zillertaler Höhenstraße.

Nearby attractions include the massive waterfalls of Krimml in Salzburg; the National Park Hohe Tauern; the Lake Achensee; the villages of Rattenberg and Alpbach; and, a bit further away, the towns of Hall and Innsbruck.

Return to "Zillertal - Part I"

Back to "Tyrol Sightseeing Guide"

Sightseeing by Austrian Province

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Official Website of Tyrol

Tourism Website on the Zillertal Valley