Published on: 9 January 2018 | Last updated: 13 March 2018
At a glance
Easy, on the whole the gradients are fairly gentle, but note that, going north to south, there are a couple of short, but relatively steep, climbs between Schwarzach and Bad Gastein in the Austrian section. Going the other way, there's a fairly tough climb to Mallnitz. You can avoid both by taking the train.
The route is mainly on traffic-free cycleways or quiet roads. However, in the Austrian section, the route between Golling and Werfen is on a main road. Again, this bit can be avoided by taking the train.
Mixed. The Austrian section ot the route includes a significant proportion of aggregate-surfaced bike paths. These are in good condition.
The signposting is generally good, but it mainly relies on existing cycle route signs, so it's a good idea to know the names of the towns along the way as well as the names of the cycle routes along the way.
Also known as …
The Italian section of the route is called the FVG1 (FVG stands for the region Friuli Venezia Giulia).
Weather and when to go
May to September is probably the best time to go. You could go in April or May, but expect the sections in the mountains to be cold — with average temperatures in the single figures. Bear in mind that in the mountains the June, July and August are the rainiest months, both in terms of the overall amount, and the number of days on which it rains. However, this often takes the form of a thunderstorm in the late afternoon or early evening.
The route can be divided into five main parts:
- from Salzburg it follows the Salzach river as it heads south. From Schwarzbach it climbs to the Klammtunnel (a road tunnel with a protected cycleway) that leads to the Gasteinertal (Gastein valley)
- it heads through the Gasteinertal towards Bad Gastein and Böckstein where you pick up the Tauerntunnel motorrail shuttle that takes you to Mallnitz
- from Mallnitz there's a big descent to connect with the Drauradweg as it follows the Drau river heads for Spittal an der Drau and Villach. From Villach, the route heads for the border with Italy
- in Italy you pick up the FVG1, a traffic-free, surfaced, cycleway that follows the course of an old rail line for most of the way to Venzone
- from Venzone, south to Udine and Grado the route follows a mixture of cycleways and quiet country roads
- from Cervignano del Friuli to Grado it takes a tarmac-surfaced, traffic-free cycleway on the old railway line that ran between Cervignano, Aquileia and Belvedere on the shores of the Grado lagoon. There is a dedicated cycleway on the causeway that links Grado with the mainland.
Map and altitude profile
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|Salzburg - Werfen||48 kms|
|Werfen - Böckstein||34 kms|
|Mallnitz - Spittal an der Drau||43 kms|
|Spittal an der Drau - Villach||39 kms|
|Villach - Tarvisio||36 kms|
|Tarvisio - Venzone||62 kms|
|Venzone - Udine||55 kms|
|Udine - Grado||55 kms|
Options and variations
Most people riding the route head north to south, but there is no reason why you couldn't go the other way. Bear in mind that there's a fairly tough climb from Obervellach to Mallnitz.
You don't need to start at Salzburg. There are several cycleways that meet at the city: you could, for example, follow the Tauernradweg from Braunau am Inn where it connects with the Innradweg.
The Tauernradweg runs from the source of the Salzach at Krimml to Passau on the Donau (Danube). So you could start or finish at Passau (or indeed continue following the Donauradweg.
At Salzburg, the route connects with the Mozart Radweg, a 390-kilometre route in Salzburgerland and Bavaria that you can start and finish in Salzburg. Alternatively, you could use it to continue towards Rosenheim (for example).
At the southern end of the Austrian section, you could follow the Drauradweg as it leads from Spittal An der Drau towards Lienz and the river's source near Toblach (Dobbiaco). Or you could continue from Villach following the river as it flows into Slovenija.
A little further on, just outside Tarvisio, you have the option of following the FVG1A cycleway as it heads for the border with Slovenija, following another old railway. At the border, it continues (as the D2 cycleway) to Kranjska Gora and Jeseniče.
It's a beautiful cycleway and a very attractive option, but it would be a shame to miss the next section of the route as it heads into Italy. For me, it is one of the highlights of the whole route.
The FVG1A, (and its continuation in Slovenija, the D2), is well worth a detour: you could, for example, make a side-trip and spend the night in Kranjska Gora.
If you want to continue to Slovenija but don't want to miss the FVG1 then the options would be:
- continue to Carnia and then catch the train back to Tarvisio Bosco Verde;
- take the FVG1 cycleway down to Chiusaforte and then climb from there on the road to Sella Nevea. And from there into Slovenija. This is a fairly challenging climb;
- from Venzone head to Gemona del Friuli and from there to Cividale del Friuli. From Cividale del Friuli there you there is a cycle route which takes you over the border and to Kobarid and the beautiful Soča valley.
There are several connecting routes, which mean you can use the FVG1 as part of a longer tour:
- at the northern end it connects with the Drauradweg (Ciclabile della Drava) which runs between Toblach (Dobbiaco) in Italy via Lienz to Maribor in Slovenija. You could take the Drauradweg from Toblach and then the Ciclovia Alpe-Adria-Radweg from Spittal;
- at Cervignano the FVG1 connects with the FVG2 (eurovelo 8) you can then head for Venezia or continue on to Grado from where you can continue on to Trieste and into Slovenija
What to see along the way
Salzburg at the start of the route is a major tourist draw, and definitely worth a day of anyone's time, but it would be a mistake to ignore the sights along the way. Hallein, Golling, Dorfgastein, and Obervellach have charming and attractive historic centres.
The Schloss Hellbrunn (Hellbrunn Palace) is a short detour off the route south of Salzburg. It's star attraction is the wasserspiele which translates, very roughly, as trick fountains.
The Burg Hohenwerfen at Werfen was built to control the narrow river valley as it carves its way through the mountains. It would be hard to find a more dramatic location.
Possibly the star sights are the natural wonders. The Lichtensteinklamm near Sankt Johann in Pongau was closed in 2017 so I wasn't able to get to see it, but I would definitely put it on the list of must-sees.
There are also the Eisriesenwelt caves near Werfen. These are one of the region's most popular tourist attractions, and they are popular for a reason. This is a memorable experience even if you would normally go out of your way to avoid tourist attractions.
The section of the route on the old railway line via Tarvisio to Resiutta is one of Italy's most scenic traffic-free cycleways, especially on the sections south of Pontebba where the cycleway follows the river Fella over a series of spectacular rail bridges. There are also a couple of lovely woodland sections as the route follows country roads beside the Tagliamento river. As you get further south the major interest is in the towns and villages you pass through, and in particular:
- Venzone a medieval walled city that was painstakingly rebuilt after being almost entirely destroyed in an earthquake in the 1970s;
- Udine and its Piazza della Libertà - one of Italy's most elegant city piazzas
- the medieval borgo of Strassoldo — a hidden gem that's easy to miss
- the star-shaped town of Palmanova with its Gran Piazza
- the world-heritage listed site of Aquileia. The mosaics of its duomo are another must-see.
Grado at the end of the route was once a rival to Venezia but was long ago eclipsed by its neighbour. Today it's a modern, attractive, seaside resort - although there is a very small centro storico.
Getting there … and getting back
There are direct flights to Salzburg airport from Berlin, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Cologne, London, Paris and Vienna. List of airlines offering flights to Salzburg airport. The airport is to the west of the city, four kilometres from the city centre; there's no train service, but it looks like it is connected to the city's network of bike paths. The major airports at München and Wien are between two and three hours away by train. For more information see: salzburg.info: Arrival by Air
The nearest airport to the end of the route is the Trieste-FVG airport at Ronchi dei Legionari near Monfalcone. Treviso and Venezia airports are also within reasonably easy reach by train.
Salzburg has train connections with a wide range of cities including (as you'd expect) the main rail hubs at München (Munich) and Wien (Vienna). For information on all of the rail options see salzburg.info: Arrival by Train.
Getting back by train is a bit more complicated. Here is my, probably doomed, attempt to explain.
If you are heading back to or through Austria then there are two main options: go back via Tarvisio and from there to Villach and on from there, or head via the Brenner pass to Innsbruck and then continue towards Rosenheim etc.
The most bike-friendly option for returning to Villach is probably the MiCoTra train from Udine which goes to Villach, and from there you can get an ÖBB Railjet train back to Salzburg and Wien. This service has a dedicated wagon that can take a huge number of bikes.
The only problem is that there are only two trains a day: one in the early morning and the other in the late afternoon. If you want to make the early morning train, you'll probably need to stay overnight in Udine the night before.
There is the option of an ÖBB Railjet train that leaves Udine at 11:46 and arrives in Wien in the late afternoon. You can take bikes on Railjet services, but you need to book, and they can only carry a limited number of bikes. There's another Railjet service for Wien that leaves Venezia at 15:55. It also stops in Udine.
If you prefer the Brenner option then probably your best bet is to stay overnight in Verona and then catch one of the Deutsche Bahn-ÖBB Eurocity services from there. There are a couple of Eurocity trains that leave from Venezia in the afternoon, but these trains don't arrive into Innsbruck or München until the evening.
If I haven't put you off already, I've one more piece of bad news: the nearest station to the end of the route is Cervignano-Aquileia-Grado, which, as you've probably guessed, is at Cervignano del Friuli (17 kilometres from Grado). There are direct services from there to Udine, Trieste and Venezia.
The regional government has introduced a 'Bici-Bus service between Grado and Udine (and one between Grado and Trieste). The service is designed to connect with the MiCoTra trains and offers 20 bike places. There are intermediate stops at Aquileia and Palmanova. It runs every day from mid-June to the end of August (see the timetable for more information).
You can reserve places by email - for more information and a timetable you can download the pdf leaflet (it/de) from alpe-adria-radweg.com or from the bus company's website saf.ud.it . Alternative download link from this site: Grado-Udine Bici-Bus 2017. (Note these links are to the 2017 timetable as this was the only one available at the time of writing).
Bad news for riders of tandems, recumbents and other non-standard bikes
The flyer includes a paragraph on the type of bikes that you can't take on the Bici-Bus. The major exclusions are tandems, recumbents, trikes, e-bikes that weigh more than 25 kilos, and bikes with tyres that are larger than 2.5 inches. You also can't take biciclette carenate/semicarenate —I've no idea what they are called in English, but a Google image search suggests they are bikes with a fairing.
Kärtner Linien have made a neat little 45-second promo video for the service.
Private road transfers
Oberkofler Touristik operates a bus between Grado and Salzburg, on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays between April and October. Prices from 85€/person for Grado to Villach. "Rad-taxi" services are available on other days.
Places to stay
The official route is divided into stages. However, there are plenty of other options, and I wouldn't stick rigidly to the official sections, especially if you want to see some of the sights along the way. For example, a stopover in Golling might be the best option if you want to spend time visiting the Golling Falls and the Salzachöfen, and Werfen is the best base if you plan to visit the castle and the ice caves. Dorfgastein looked a much nicer place to stay than the more famous Bad Gastein further on.
One of the official stages ends at the lovely walled town of Venzone. While I'd recommend stopping off there, note that there's only one place to stay in the town itself (the excellent Locanda al Municipio).
There are plenty of hostels on the Austrian section of the route, although most are in Salzburg itself — in fact, there are more in Salzburg than on the whole of the rest of the route. Outside Salzburg, there are hostels in Sankt Johann im Pongau, Bad Gastein and Villach. There are two hostels on the Italian section at Valbruna and Aquileia. There are a couple of hostels in Kranjska Gora if you fancy the side-trip.
There are about 15 campsites along the Austrian section of the route, giving a reasonable amount of flexibility for trip-planning. On the Italian section, the only campsites before you get to the coast are at Gemona del Friuli and Aquileia. There is a campsite at Kranjska Gora.
Transport and services
The whole of the route is within easy reach of the main rail line between Salzburg, Spittal and Villach. You need to buy a bike ticket, and on the long-distance Railjet services, you also need to reserve a bike place. For more information see: oebb.at: Your bicycle on the train.
- Information from Austrian railways about the Tauern Motorail: oebb.at" Tauern motorail
- Austrian Railways page about travelling by train with a bike oebb.at: Your bicycle on the train
Renting a bike in Salzburg
- rennradverleih.com. Seem to specialise in road bikes but may have bikes that are suitable for touring
- Radsport Wagner. Will rent a basic trekking bike for a 100€/week (80€ for additional weeks). Can also rent panniers, and GPSes etc
- Veloactive (A-Velo). At the time of writing their website had disappeared, but according to salzburg.info, they can rent city bikes, trekking bikes, mountain bikes, tricycles, transport bikes, tandems, e-bikes as well as bags and trailers and seats for children. You can email them at email@example.com
The individual sections of this guide list bike shops along the route.
The official website is alpe-adria-radweg.com/ (de/it/en).
There's also ciclovia-alpeadria-radweg.eu the site of the Friends of the Ciclovia Alpe Adria Radweg (en/it).
The CAAR project have produced a very good smartphone app Alpe Adria Biketour (available for both iOS and Android ). One of the most useful features of the app is that it enables you to save detailed map for offline viewing.
- salzburgerland.com: the Tauern Cycle Trail a guide to the Tauernradweg (Tauern cycle Trail) available in 8 languages (de/en/it/nl/da/pl/cs/hu).
- austria.info: Cycling and Biking
Tourist information websites
- General information from Austrian Railways oebb.at: Your bicycle on the train.
- Information from Austrian railways about the Tauern Motorail: oebb.at" Tauern motorail
- Austrian Railways page about travelling by train with a bike oebb.at: Your bicycle on the train
- MiCoTra wesbsite (it)
- For information about timetables and fares see oebb.at
- You can also download the 2016 MiCoTra timetable 2016 MiCoTra timetable.
Grado Bici-Bus pdf flyer: download links:alpe-adria-radweg.com or from the bus company's website saf.ud.it (it) saf.ud.it (de) . Alternative download link from this site: Grado-Udine Bici-Bus 2016. (Note these links are to the 2016 timetable as this was the only one available at the time of writing in March 2017.
Maps to print out or view offline
The zip files contain pdf files packaged together for convenience. If you are using a tablet, you may find it easier to download the individual sections.
Show map download links for individual sections
Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A4 maps
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A4 maps: Salzburg to Werfen
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A4 maps: Werfen to Böckstein
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A4 maps: Mallnitz to Tarvisio
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A4 maps: Tarvisio to Venzone
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A4 maps: Venzone to Udine
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A4 maps: Udine to Grado
Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A5 maps
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A5 maps: Salzburg to Werfen
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A5 maps: Werfen to Böckstein
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A5 maps: Mallnitz to Tarvisio
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A5 maps: Tarvisio to Venzone
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A5 maps: Venzone to Udine
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg A5 maps: Udine to Grado
About the maps
Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.
The maps are in two versions: A4 portrait format - for printing and maybe also for viewing on an iPad, and A5 for smaller tablets and smartphones. As far as eReaders are concerned so far I’ve not managed to get them to work on a Nook - but you may have more success with other devices.
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg gps files
(.zip file containing ten gpx files)
- Italy Points of Interest
POIs are like waypoints, but while you can usually only store a limited number of waypoints on a device, you can store thousands of POIs. These files include information about campsites and hostels, bike shops, train stations, drinking water sources as well as warnings for tunnels and roads where bikes are banned. Please check the ReadMe file for instructions. Updated March 2017.
Articles in this series
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg Overview
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg: 1: Salzburg to Werfen
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg:2: Werfen to Böckstein
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg: 3 Mallnitz to Villach and Tarvisio
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg: 4: Tarvisio to Venzone
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg: 5: Venzone to Udine
- Ciclovia Alpe-Adria Radweg: 6: Udine to Grado
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