Hiking in Austria’s Hohe Tauern


THE HOHE TAUERN — Hiking in Austria’s Ost-Tirol

July 1 – 13, 2017

Tucked into the flank of Austria’s highest mountain chain the Hohe Tauern—are two delightful valleys: the Virgental and the Defereggental. When Austria surrendered the South Tirol to Italy in the aftermath of World War One, the East Tirol was left geographically isolated from the North Tirol by a narrow strip of Land Salzburg and the Italian South Tirol. This small isolated region retains its alpine traditions and is a popular destination, summer and winter, for hikers and those who enjoy majestic mountain scenery.

Heading south from Munich or Salzburg and through the Felbertauern Tunnel, you arrive in the heart of the Nationalpark Hohe Tauern. The 130 km-long Hohe Tauern range is the highest in Austria and includes the famous 12,028 ft. Grossglockner. Near the small town of Matrei, the Virgental and the Defereggental valleys jut westward. Both valleys offer superb hiking for those who want a challenge as well as those who want to explore the mountains and streams at a more leisurely pace.

The quickest way to make a reservation is to call Academic Travel Abroad at 202.785.9000 or 800.556.7896.

We accept VISA, MasterCard, and American Express credit cards. Early reservation is recommended to ensure your space on this program. You may also email HERE.

Download the full itinerary in the link below.


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guide expert

Joe Carper (front), Caroline Ogden (center), Dave Parry (back) Experienced Guides/Hikers

Joe Carper has led Smithsonian hikers for nearly 30 years on treks through Glacier National Park, the Canadian Rockies, the Maine Woods, along the Milford Track in New Zealand and, since 1987, on numerous hikes throughout Europe and the Alps. Joe has enjoyed some of the classic Alpine adventures, including the Tour of Mont Blanc, the Monte Rosa circuit, the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, much of the GR5 in France, and treks through the Dolomites and the Bernese Oberland. And in 2013 he and his wife hiked the entire Wainwright Coast to Coast trail across England. For 15 years, Joe oversaw membership programming and later retail and business operations for the Smithsonian. More recently, he served as Director of Operations for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston where he managed educational programming and the Club’s extensive lodge and mountain hut operations in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. He and his wife reside in Newburyport, MA.

Caroline Ogden finds herself at home hiking throughout the Alps as well as in her own red-rock backyard – the Rocky Mountains and Colorado. A longtime member of the Academic Travel family, where she coordinated and designed cultural travel programs worldwide, Caroline has a special fondness for Austria from Vienna to its remote mountain villages. When not at home hiking, cycling, or yoga-ing, Caroline is leading tours on Switzerland’s Glacier Express into Italy, navigating groups through Cuba, Yellowstone and Northern Ireland. Her fluency in German and love of Strudels will enhance our appreciation of the Ost Tirol, Prosit!

Dave Parry proves that there is no cure for the itch to hike amongst the Alps. For more than 25 years, he has hiked somewhere in the long Alpine chain with a group of dedicated Smithsonian hikers. Memorable hikes include from Chamonix to Zermatt; Italy’s Dolomites; the Iceman’s grave at the top of the Alps where Austria and Italy meet; and, in 1993, across Switzerland from Lake Constance to Lake Geneva. When not enjoying mornings watching the sun rise over the Alps, Dave serves as a consultant to Academic Travel Abroad. Before that, he was a college professor, university administrator, and congressional staff member. Besides travel, his other passions include reading history, Willa Cather’s novels, riding trains, and spending time with his granddaughter and grandson.



Saturday, July 1, 2017

Individual departures from the United States.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Arrive at Munich Airport this morning and transfer by private bus to your home for the next five nights, Hinterbichl in the Virgental Valley of Austria’s Ost Tirol.

Monday, July 3, 2017 to Thursday, July 6, 2017


The collection of rustic buildings and a historic mill at Islitzeralm in Hinterbichl comprise the last settlement in the upper Virgental. Your welcoming and attentive hosts at the well-situated Gasthof Islitzer continue a 400-year family tradition of innkeeping in the valley. Trails lead from the hotel’s front door to the high peaks or along the close-by Isel River.


The Virgen Valley begins high on the southern flank of the Hohe Tauern. Dozens of trails climb the steep sides of the valley while other, gentler ones follow the course of the river. Every day we offer a choice of a demanding hike and a less arduous walk.

Follow the river past thundering Umbal Falls toward Ochsner Hut, where you may stop and enjoy morning coffee, or continue above treeline to the park boundary at the Clara Hut for a lunch of traditional Austrian alpine fare.

Taxis take us up to the Wetterkreuz Hut where we begin our hike along the Lasörlinggruppe Ridge and enjoy spectacular views of the high peaks to the north and south. Set out for the Zupalsee Hut and, if you like, continue on to the Merchenalm Hut before returning to the Wetterkreuz Hut for a taxi transfer back to the hotel.

Choose between a challenging hike up to the Neue Nilljochhütte or a fascinating walk along the Isel River from Hinterbichl to Prägraten and the town of Virgen. The Neue Nilljochhütte hike begins with a steep climb past Stations of the Cross created by mountain artisans before reaching high mountain pastures and the hut, where scenic views and refreshments compete.

Travel deep into the Maurer Valley and climb to the Essener-Rotstock Hut and then on to the nearby mountain tarn, the Simonysee, just below the glaciers descending from the ridge above. Or choose to hike only as far as the Ochsner Hut to enjoy your picnic lunch. On the return down the Maurer Valley, all can stop for apple streudel at Jausenstation Stoanalm before continuing on to the Gasthof Islitzer.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Today we leave the Virgental. But first, enjoy a day in Lienz, the administrative center of the Ost Tirol, stopping at Aguntum, one of the best Roman archeological sites in Austria and where archaeologists are still at work, for a guided tour of the museum and the site’s extensive ruins and current excavations.

Continue to the heart of Lienz for a brief walking tour. After time to explore the town’s charming shops and for lunch on your own al fresco in the central plaza, we transfer to St. Veit in the Defereggental, our home for the next five nights.

Saturday, July 8, 2017 to Tuesday, July 11, 2017


The small village of St. Veit  in Defereggental sits on a shelf high above the valley. We will stay at another exceptional family-owned hotel, the Alpengasthof Pichler. The Defereggental is parallel to and just south of the Virgental, with the Hoch Pustertal the next valley to the south. At the Defereggental’s westernmost end, it adjoins Italy’s South Tirol whose farmers still have summer pasture rights in the high meadows on the Austrian side.


While the valley has many similarities to the neighboring Virgental, you will notice a different feel, as St. Veit and its neighboring villages perched high above the valley floor allow more expansive and open views southward to the ridgelines in the far distance. Again, each day you can select the style of walk that you desire, or simply enjoy a day exploring the village or relaxing in the hotel’s delightful gardens.

Choose to climb a high peak, or instead explore the life and culture of the high pasturelands on the mountain shelf. The Donnerstein looms high above St.Veit to the north, and our intrepid hikers will first hike up to Speikboden before gaining Donnerstein’s summit for fabulous views. Others can follow the interesting Leben und Kulturweg am Steilhang (Life and Culture Cliff Path) past mountain farms down to the Schwarzach River and then along the river’s right bank to St. Veit.

The mountain pasture at Jagdhausalm is one of the highest in Austria and is famous for its old stone houses, barns, and tiny chapel. The well-maintained trail follows the river into the high valley where farmers still harvest hay for winter feed.

Trek along the Alpenblumen-Lehrweg (Alpine Flowers Path) up to the Seespitzhutte and then even higher to Oberseeitsee. Taxis take you to the Trojer Almbach stream above St. Jakob to follow a long traverse rich with mountain flowers. At the Seespitzhutte the path climbs to Oberseeitsee. Return via a lower trail to the awaiting taxis to St. Veit.

Or you can choose to follow the Wassererlebnisweg  (Water Adventure Path) from St Jakob, where you will visit the National Park Museum before hiking past the ruins of the Trojer Mill and a forest of old Swiss Pine to the small village of Maria Hilf. After a visit to the House of Waters exhibit, cross over the Schwarzach River to the Stallebach Waterfall. Continue along varied trails and sites to St. Jakob and the bus back to St. Veit.

High above St. Veit is the Gritzer Hörndle peak. We will travel a short distance by taxi to Gritzer Alm and begin the walk via Seiternegge to the Gritzer Seen, a small lake beneath the peak. Adventurous hikers can continue up to the peak itself at 2,631m before descending to the parking area and the return to St. Veit for our farewell celebration.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Transfer to the Eurostars Grand Central Hotel in the center of Munich with time, if you so choose, to visit the Globetrotter, one of the world’s largest outdoor sports stores. Then celebrate with a traditional, Bavarian farewell dinner in the Augustinergarten.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Individual departures.



Price based on double occupancy          $4,975.

Additional for single occupancy              $   180.


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