Visiting the Austrian Alps
Nordkette – Jewel of the Alps
We’ve all seen pictures of the Austrian Alps whether it be in magazines, books, television Wide World of Sports, Olympics, etc. Even James Bond went to the Alps! So I have to say we really didn’t see the Alps. What we saw were flat non-dimensional pictures of one of the most beautiful regions I’ve ever seen.
Like most of us, I thought the pictures we’ve seen were beautiful, inspiring and magnificent. Well, pictures don’t do the Alps justice. Without a doubt, they are the most beautiful mountains you can see in all of Europe. Magnificent, inspiring and beautiful take on a whole new meaning upfront and personal.
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The Alps run from France to Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany and Slovenia. They are span 745 miles and are 186 miles in width. There are 350 peaks at a height of approximately 9,840 feet. The highest point is Mont Blanc located in Switzerland standing tall at 4,810 meters/15,780 feet high.
The part of the Alps we visited by cable car was in Innsbruck, Austria and is called the Southern Tyrolian Alps. We also stopped in Bolzano and Trento, Italy and the Alps there known as the Dolomites. The highest point in Italy is the Ortler Peak at 12,810 feet. A post coming soon on both of these Italian towns.
We started our trip from our home base in Verona, Italy. We were lucky and took advantage of a special price Trenitalia was running and our tickets were only €29,90 to get to Innsbruck. The train is a straight shot to Austria from Verona following the Adige River most of the way.
Now we’ve been on a lot of trains in Italy this year but I have to say without a doubt none were as pretty and relaxing as this trip. We rode through some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see. The route goes through the Italian Dolomites and its beautiful valleys and towns. The trip takes about three hours and it will leave you wanting more.
Innsbruck Cable Car
In Innsbruck, to get to the top of Mount Hafelekar which is 2,256 meters (7,400 feet) high you have to take a few different stages.
- There are manned ticket offices at the Congress/Hofburg station. All the other stations have ticket machines where you can only pay by credit or debit card. This is a great place to start your adventure. This funicular departs from this station which is located just down the road from the Imperial Palace, photo below. The sleek modern design of the building was created by architect Zaha Hadid. She was inspired by the Alpine glaciers and designed all four of the stations of the Nordkette. The cost of your round trip experience is €36,50 per person. What you get for the cost is totally – PRICELESS!
- The funicular will stop at the Löwenhaus station which is a residential area on the banks of the Inn River.
- The second stop is at the Alpenzoo. Here is where you would get off if you were visiting the zoo which is the highest elevation zoo in Europe. Stay on the funicular to the first main stop, Hungerburg where you disembark.
- At the Hungerburg station, you are now at 2,820 feet. You have to leave the building and head now to the cable car which will take you to the next stop, Seegrube. It’s easy to find this building as it is across Herman Buhl square in a large white building to the left of the restaurant.
You probably will have time to take a few photos from the view in front of the station. They also sell delicious pretzels in the restaurant. We purchased two, one filled with cream cheese and onion mix and the other just butter.
- The very large cable car holds quite a few people. If you can, go to either the front or rear of the car for spectacular views. Once you have arrived at the Seegrube station, take a moment and go out the doors towards the restaurant. Here you will enjoy amazing views from the terrace. You are now at 6,250 feet!
Back inside the station, head straight to the last leg of your journey and the last cable car which will take you to the top, up to the Hafelekar station.
Final Stage and Destination
- It takes about 8 minutes to get to the final destination, Hafelekar which is at 7,400 feet. I can say that the sights from each stop get better and better as you progress up the mountain. As we stood in the front of the Seegrube Cable Car and progressed up the mountain we saw clouds above us and nothing else. I have to admit it was pretty eerie as we entered the grey clouds and couldn’t even see two feet in front of us. I could sense the uneasy feeling from the other passengers as well. Then after what seemed like an eternity we left the clouds and could see our landing dock. You could hear a sigh of relief from everyone in the car.
Getting off the car you follow a trail that takes you to a flat open area which leads to different trails you can take.
The Top of Innsbruck | Hafelekar | The Austrian Alps
We spent almost two hours at the top station, Hafelekar just walking and taking a million pictures (yes they are flat non-dimensional) of what we saw. I suggest you stop in the open field and take in the splendor of your surroundings. Any direction you look you will see awe-inspiring views that will take your breath away. For us, it wasn’t the clearest of days but still beautiful. The only thing you will hear other than a few people talking will be the quietness of the mountain, the wind blowing and an occasional bird crowing as it goes by. It is Mother Nature at her best.
We will go back to Innsbruck again and I can’t speak for Ilene, but I know I’ll be going back up that mountain again. It’s one of those things you can never get tired of. It is truly one adventure you will never forget.
For more about this area, check out our post Day in Innsbruck