During the summer Ischgl is a rather tasty destination. With great hiking trails and Michelin starred food in remote mountain huts, it is possibly the best gourmet walking holiday destination on the planet. In this Ischgl trekking review I will discuss the food and the range of trails, proving there is something to suit all tastes.
Ischgl is famed for its skiing and energetic après scene, but this Austrian resort has a more relaxed atmosphere in the summer. Ischgl and its neighbouring villages of Galtür, Kappl and See are located in the Paznaun valley in west Austria. Very close to the Swiss border to the south, it is nestled in the Silvretta range of the central eastern Alps, in the Tirol region.
Although the Ischgl town has a more relaxed vibe in the summer the surrounding mountains are a world class destination for hiking, mountain biking and climbing. So the Ischgl maxim of “Relax. If you can…” could not be more apt.
Accessing this summer adventure is easy due to cable cars, chairlifts and public transport which is free with the Silvretta Card. The card comes with all overnight stays in Paznaun and also includes access to the sport and water park, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, Kids Club and guided themed-walks.
Ischgl trekking review
There are more than 1000km of hiking trails in the Ischgl area suitable for all levels of fitness and all types of hikers. Whether you want an easy, uplift assisted walk or a multi-day trekking adventure, there is something to keep you putting one foot in front of the other.
During the summer there are eight chairlifts and cable cars running in the Paznaun valley, of which five run from Ischgl linking with Samnaun in Switzerland. This opens a huge range of high altitude trails without the hard work of hiking to the top. There are also well placed roads with car parks half way up valleys allowing easy access to difficult to reach places. All this might seem a little like cheating, however a helping hand means you can experience the best the area has to offer.
Hiking in Ischgl is a very well documented activity. With your Sivretta pass you get the Hiking Arena pack which includes a 1:50000 map and a 111 page booklet detailing 79 trails in the area. Similar to skiing trails they are graded blue, red and black signifying easy, moderate and difficult.
Blue trails are located within the settlement or on asphalt paths, red and black are mountain trails with steep sections, uneven paths and drops to the side. Red trails are all less than 25km long and have no more than 1300m of altitude gain, black trails are either more than 25km long, have over 1300m of uphill or both.
For this Ischgl trekking review I will look at easy walks, tough full-day hikes and multi-day trekking options.
Most, but not all, of the easy walks are near the floor of the Paznaun valley. There are easy walks all the way from See through Kappl, Ischgl, Galtür and on to Kopssee lake. Two easy walks that I enjoyed outside the valley floor are part of the Culinary Jakobsweg (St James) initiative, which uses the old pilgrims path through the mountains.
The first is the walk from Ischgl to Heidelberger Hütte. It is classified as a red walk of 15km and 7 hours duration, however the first 300m of ascent can be avoided by taking the cable car to the midstation. From here the first half of the walk is on asphalt and can be driven if you wish to further reduce the difficulty. Once the asphalt ends you are on an easy gravel path with alpine cows and little bridges across streams being the most taxing obstacles. The reward at the Heidelberger Hutte is stunning views and delicious food, including a dish designed by Michelin starred, Italian chef Alfio Ghezzi.
The second is from Galtür to Jamtalhütte. The guide book says it is 20km long and will take 5 hours, however this walk can be shortened by driving the first half. In fact the whole route is on a asphalt road to you could catch a taxi up and just walk back down. This walk is through one of the most beautiful valleys in all of Austria, with steep mountains rising above you, waterfalls cascading down to a fast flowing river and views towards the Jamtal Glacier. In keeping with this being one of the best gourmet walking holiday destinations you can enjoy a dish created by Russell Brown, a British Michelin starred chef.
A lovely, easy but rewarding, trail is the Walk of Lyrics from the midstation down into Ischgl. It takes about an hour and crosses two swaying suspension bridges and pays homage to many of the performers who have played at Ischgl’s famous winter concerts. I did not experience this walk but there is a great article about it on Travel Trunk.
For an easy walk with great views, take the cable-car to the top and then the chairlift to Flimjochbahn mountain station. From here just a 20 minute walk takes you to the 2871m Greitspitz peak. It is the highest point in the Silvretta ski area and a great taster for what the red and black trails are like. Walking along the Austrian/Swiss border you climb a short roped section and find yourself with arguably the best view in the Silvretta ski area.
Being in the mountains there are plenty of tough hikes and treks to enjoy. For the purpose of this Ischgl trekking review, hiking is day-trails carrying day-packs, whilst trekking is multi-day trails carrying all your own gear.
From Kappl there is a lovely, but relatively tough, circular walk taking in Niederelbe Hütte. It is 18km with 1200m of altitude gain that takes around 7 hours. You are rewarded with views of Unteral, the crystal-clear deep-blue Riepasee lake, flowering meadows and gourmet food. In this case a dish by Belgian Michelin starred chef Giovani Oosters.
From See there are a few routes that enable you to visit Ascherhütte, including options to catch the cable car saving you 700m of ascent. You can choose from circular routes or a hike that takes you down into Fiss from where the shuttle bus will take you back to See. At Ascherhütte you can enjoy a dish by triple Michelin stared German chef, Dieter Müller, another reason why this is the best gourmet walking holiday destination.
Great trails above Ischgl include a hike between Heidelberger Hütte and Jamtalhütte, and the stunning smugglers route down into Samnaun in Switzerland. You can also hike from Galtür back to Ischgl via the 2688m Ritzenjoch peak.
There are a number of 3000m peaks you can summit on day hikes in the area. Breite Krone (3079m), Bischofspitze (3029m) or Grenzeck Kopf (3048m) are all on the route from Ischgl to Galtür. Hexenkopf (3035m), and Furgler (3004m) can be accessed from See. From Kappl you can take on the 25km, 11 hour, 2500m ascent of Hoher Riffler, which at 3168m is the highest hikeable peak in the area.
No Ischgl trekking review would be complete without discussing the multi day treks in the area. The reality is you can link together many of the day-hikes to create a multi day route of your choosing. You can also pass through the area on routes such as the Transalp trail which starts in Germany and runs through Austria and Switzerland finishing in Italy.
But the daddy of multi-day trekking in the area is the 120 km High Route Paznaun. With 11,000m of altitude gain the route is divided into 9 stages, which should each take a day. Of course you may wish to have rest days, or take in some other activities along the way. Arguably the best gourmet walking holiday on the planet, the High Route visits all four of the lodges that are part of the Culinary Jakobsweg initiative meaning your trekking can be fuelled by Michelin stars.
The best gourmet walking holiday?
The Michelin starred meals in the mountain lodges are only part of the gourmet story. Ischgl is home to the Young Austrian Chef of the Year, Benjamin Parth, and Austrian Chef of the Year Martin Sieberer, plus a host of restaurants that offer fine dining. In this section I will go into more detail about the Culinary Jakobsweg initiative and the restaurants we visited.
At this point I should let you know I am not a food-expert so this is a layman’s review of the food…
The Culinary Jakobsweg initiative is about bringing gourmet food to mountain lodges, to be enjoyed by hikers, bikers, climbers and culinary enthusiasts. Dishes have been created by four international Michelin starred chefs, and will be served all summer in Alpine Association huts on routes from Galtür, Ischgl, Kappl and See.
Jamtalhütte, Galtür: Located above Galtür at the head of Jam valley, this mountain hut comes with fantastic views of one of Austria’s most beautiful valleys. It also comes with a gorgeous dish by Michelin starred, British chef, Russell Brown. The beer braised beef cheek with textures of onion is full of flavour and melts in your mouth, it is the perfect mountain food to follow fresh air and exercise.
Heidelberger Hütte, Ischgl: This large mountain refuge is in the Fimbatal valley above Ischgl. It is on the Transalp route making it very popular with hikers and bikers. Alfio Ghezzi, a Michelin starred Italian chef, has created a tagliatelle and veal ragout with a parmesan and coffee sauce. It is a wholesome dish that combines unique flavours that work surprisingly well together.
Niederelbe Hütte, Kappl: Situated at 2310m in the Verwallgruppe this mountain lodge can be accessed by many hiking trails. Whichever route you take the effort is well worth it because of the unique dish by Michelin starred Belgian chef, Giovani Oosters. He has created a spelt risotto with local cheese, air dried bacon and beetroot carpaccio, cooked in cherry beer and served with wild alpine strawberries. It is a fairly light dish, but packed with contrasting and well balanced flavours.
Ascherhütte, See: With stunning views of the Lechtaler Alps and Verwallgruppe this lodge is close to a popular rock climbing area and a moorland lake. The dish of roast fillet of char, herb salad and mashed potato is served with a horseradish mustard sauce and beetroot confit. Designed by triple Michelin starred, German chef Dieter Müller it is a delicious meal to help recharge the batteries.
Ischgl has more high quality restaurants than you can shake a strudel at, unfortunately we were only able to visit a few on this trip. However for my untrained taste-buds it was like a series of epiphanies that has left them with a taste for gourmet food.
Hotel Alpvita Piz Tasna, Ischgl: The head chef Roland Salner has created a menu of traditional Austrian dishes that use modern techniques and local ingredients to create a gourmet menu that I loved. Each evening they have seven courses with three options, including a vegetarian option which is pretty rare in Austria.
Hotel Fluchthorn, Galtür: We enjoyed lunch in this lovely and traditional Tiroleon restaurant that serves wholesome mountain food typical of the region. The clear soup with cheese dumplings was particularly good, and the portions were huge considering it was lunch.
Hotel Trofana Royal, Ischgl: The head chef Martin Sieberer is rated at 3 torques and 17 points and was crowned Austrian Chef of the Year. He produced a six course menu that was beautiful to look at and incredible to taste.
Wilderer Hütte, Mathon: Located just outside Ischgl this is a interesting combination of farm, hunting lodge and wildlife park. The majority of the ingredients are sourced locally and for me the stand out dish was the venison steaks.
Stüva Restaurant at Hotel Yscla, Ischgl: Recently crowned Austrian Young Chef of the Year, Benjamin Parth combines art, texture and flavour to create a gourmet experience that took my taste buds to a new level. Although most of the dishes were outstanding I particularly liked the caviare jelly on top of gin soaked lake trout.
Where to stay on a gourmet walking holiday
Ischgl has 365 accommodation options, 71 of which are four star or four star superior and one, the Hotel Trofana Royal, is five star superior. You can check out accommodation options by visiting: www.paznaun-ischgl.com
The four star superior Hotel Alpvita Piz Tasna was my home away from home. The rooms are nicely decorated and mine was huge – it could have slept four people. It comes with everything you would expect from a four star superior hotel, but the very comfy bed, high powered shower, and stunning views from the sunny balcony were my highlights.
The room also came with a comedy downside. The high-tech touch-sensitive switches for the light, radio, aircon and heating didn’t seem to like the way I touched it. After four days I still struggling to switch on the lights and resorted to pressing everything at once.
Breakfast included both cooked and continental options. I particularly liked the range of muesli and granola options you could combine to create your very own super-granuesli. There was a lot of fresh fruit and pastries options, cold meats, cheeses and different types of bread.
The wellness centre at the Hotel Alpvita Piz Tasna includes a pool, sauna, steam room, water beds, aromatherapy room and hot room. If you don’t mind paying extra there are a range of holistic and massage treatments available. It is a very relaxing atmosphere, so relaxing that I fell asleep on a water bed.
The hotel is well decorated throughout and the staff ultra-friendly and always happy to help. Rooms are available half board from €75 per person, per night. You can book a stay for a gourmet walking holiday by visiting their website: www.piztasna.at
Ischgl trekking review: Conclusions
Whether you are visiting Ischgl for hard-core trekking, a multi-activity adventure holiday with a few day hikes, or a gourmet walking holiday you will not be disappointed with the trails or the food. Ischgl is a top quality destination, with stunning views around every corner and ample facilities to help you get the most from enjoying the outdoors. It is a destination to suit all tastes.
So the burning question is it the best gourmet walking holiday? Of course I can’t say definitively that it is the best, but due to the Culinary Jacobsweg initiative, top quality restaurants, fantastic facilities and easy access to stunning walks it would take some beating.
For more information about hiking, walking and trekking in Ischgl and the Paznaun valley I recommend you visit the tourist board website: www.paznaun-ischgl.com. Innsbruck airport is just over an hour away, Zürich and Salzburg airports are around 3 hours. You can also book package holidays to Ischgl with Inghams, and tailor made packages with Zenith Holidays.