While I prepared this voyage I first chose the Hotel Falkensteiner Hof in Vals since it has a large wellness area which I have been using extensively. In a second step I was looking for possible hiking tours. This was a bit more difficult. Apparently the region is not as popular as other parts of this northern italian region like the Dolomites. The hiking area Gitschberg/Jochtal sits between the more famous Eisack valley (Brixen) and Pustertal (Bruneck). In the hiking guides I leaved through there was just one tour to be found bringing you to the „Wilde Kreuzspitze“. During my stay I was able to explore a diversified hiking destination with lots of Trails for every shape and need. I really did like it here and would come back instantly.
Vals in southern Tirol
The tiny village sits on 4,400 ft. in the Valler valley in the middle of lush green meadows. Around the valley floor the summits of the „Gurnatsch/Gaisjoch“ with 8,650 ft., the „Seefeldspitze“ (8,900 ft.) and as the highest point the „Wilde Kreuzspitze“ with 10,300 ft. are building an impressive scenery. These mountains are part of the massif of the „Pfunderer Berge“ that are sitting right on the Austrian border in the north and geographically belong to the Zillertaler Alpen. From the village to the south you have a great view of the „Geisler“ massif and other summits of the Dolomites.
In the village there are a few hotels and about 3 shops. Apart from that there is nothing else to do. Since the hotels offer a 3/4 board (breakfast, dinner and coffe/cake or soup in the afternoon) a outside restaurant would find it difficult to survive. I bought a new camera especially for this trip which fell onto the street during my first round of the village and broke for good the very next day. What a bummer!
Vals is is a village in the district of Mühlbach at the entry to the Pustertal. There is a road through the forest leading into the valley and to the village of Meransen belonging to the same district. About Meransen I will write in a later post. All of you that are looking for tranquility and relaxation in a spectacular surrounding will find the perfect spot here.
Hotel Falkensteiner Hof
At the beginning of October you can’t be sure to always have great weather. So when I was looking for a hotel I made sure to find one with a large wellness area where I could spend a rainy day. The Falkensteiner Hof offers exactly that. On about 11,000 square feet you will find 4 different saunas, a steambath, a whirlpool and a bright relaxation area. That’s all fairly new and nicely designed. I am not so sure though if I really like the idea that the late Mrs. Falkensteiner, founder of the hotel chain, looks at me when I am sitting in the Whirlpool. One floor up there is an interior pool and a spa. I did book a Südtiroler Holzstabmassage, where they churn you with wooden sticks. A real treat and with €65.- for a 50 minute treatment really affordable.
The rooms have been renovated recently and are decorated with lots of wood from swiss stone pines which makes them very cozy. When I arrived there was a bathrobe lying on my bed and on the wardrobe was a bag with a huge sauna towel. That’s very handy when you want to use the wellness area. I had a real single room which was a bit smaller than the other rooms but sufficient for my needs. The closet did offer enough space for my belongings.
I didn’t take any pics of the interior since that would have meant that I would have to stroll through the house in the middle of the night. During the fall school holidays and with the 3rd of Ocotber (German national holiday) being on a wednesday the hotel was fully booked.
The interior is a mixture of modern elegance and a bit of regional charme. For my taste it could have been a bit more rustic and regional. The way it is, it’s very nice but somehow also exchangeable.
The breakfast buffet offers cold cuts, cheese, great selection of bread, jam and a cooking station where you can order freshly made eggs or pancakes. Perfect to get prepared for a big tour.
Dinner was served as a daily changing menu. One night italian, one night fish and on one evening also regional food. The meal started with a selection of starters on a buffet, followed by at least one more starter served at the table, main course and desert. The choice of the menu always included also a vegetarian dish. The servings weren’t too big so you left the table saturated but not full. Those who were still hungry had the possibilty to help themselves on a cheese and fruit buffet on top. The food was really very tasty.
Hike to the Jochtal
For my first day the forecast announced bad weather but when I rose that moring the sun was shining and it looked perfect. After breakfast I went to the reception and asked them for their opinion. There is a man working that is a certified mountain guide. He should know what it’ll be like. He meant that the good weather would last for a bit so I went for my first hike.
From the hotel to the valley station of the Jochtal gondola it’s about 10 minutes by foot. In the hotel rate included is the Almencard Plus. This allows you to use the Jochtal and Gitschberg gondolas as well as all public transportation. That saves quite some money. I didn’t use the public transportation since they don’t run very often in the late season and most of all they never went where I wanted to go.
Turns out that the weather is perfect for a hike and so I decide not to take the gondola to the summit but follow the signs to a trail leading up the mountain. The first stretch leads along a small tarred road uphill. The view of the valley is rather impressive. Further up the valley I can see the summit of the Seefeldspitze. I do like it here.
Just a short time later follows a crossing and the signs lead me to a small path in the forest. This mounts slowly in serpentines through the woods. Every now and then I do get a glimpse of the Gaisjoch on the opposite side and of the valley. Unhurriedly I continue my ascent. Here in the woods it’s a bit fresh and so I am happy that I brought a jacket. Unfortunately there aren’t any flowers this late in the year but I do find the first fall foliage.
About half an hour later the path ends right on the ski slopes. There are no signs so I guess I have to follow this slope upwards. As per my map I should reach the Nockalmhütte soon. While I am ascending over the slope suddenly there is a fresh wind blowing. I am walking straightforward up the mountain. That’s the most strenous part of this tour.
The wind picks up more and more and the sun is hiden behind big clouds now. Suddenly a space hopper for kids is flying my way. This can only come from the cabin. I pick it up and take it with me. Effectively I do see the Nockalmhütte a short time after. Even though I am just an hour into my tour I decide to take a break. I am the only guest and the innkeeper is really happy that I brought back the hopper.
We start talking. Due the 3/4 board in the hotels there are less guests coming for a snack. On top most of the people take the gondola to the summit and don’t walk up anymore. The cabin is very nice and has obviously been redone just a little while ago. It’s open form mid-May through the end of October and then from December to Easter. There are more guests in the winter since it sits right on the slopes. Full of hope that the weather will hold for another while I continue my tour. My drink is on the house since I brought back the toy.
When I leave the cabin I realise why this is called the Jochtal. Up to now I was climbing a mountain and there was no valley to be seen. Here on 5,800 ft. begins a valley. I like the fall colours of the blueberry bushes. They would be shining bright in the sun. The wind continues to blow and it is rather fresh now. Meanwhile I am closer to the mountain station of the gondola than to the valley and so I decide to walk at least to the summit.
The path runs almost evenly through the valley. Only at the end of it there is a short climb. Despite the weather getting worse I do enjoy my first tour here. I still have the whole week in front of me and will be going on a few more tours. And the forecast for the rest of my stay looks pretty good.
Soon I reach the Valler Jöchl, a ridge sitting on 6,350 ft. From here I could take a panoramic trail leading along the summits of the valley. This would take a couple of hours and I don’t think that there is another cabin on the way. The wind gets even stronger and I was hit by the first drops of rain. So I will walk up to the gondola and then decide if I continue to walk or go back to the hotel.
On the short stretch between the Valler Jöchl and the summit I am making only about 230 ft. The path mounts slowly alongside the mountain. During the short walk to the summit the rain gets heavier and the wind blows it horizontally over the mountain. Since I will have a few more days here I decide to go back to the hotel, warm me up in the sauna and spend a relaxed afternoon in the wellness area. During the 10 minute walk from the gondola to the hotel I get soaking wet and am looking foward even more to go hide in the sauna.
Mühlbach in Südtirol
Later in the afternoon I am warmed up and feel fresh and restored. In my room there is a fridge but it’s empty. So I decide to drive down the hill to Mühbach and buy some drinks before going to dinner.
Mühlbach sits on the entrance of the Pustertal on 2,400 ft. There is not much to see. The biggest building is the Ansitz Freyenthurn, sort of a castle, which houses a convent school called Herz-Jesu-Institut.
Meanwhile it has stopped raining but it is rather cool. So I do take a short stroll around the village before going shopping. Due to the weather it is very quiet here. Summer season is coming to an end so there aren’t that many visitors around either. After 30 minutes I have seen most of it and I do go shopping. My first day in Südtirol comes to an end. It wasn’t exactly like I had it planned but very relaxing. And I still have a couple of days to do one or the other tour. That’s what I am looking forward to now.