Published on: 13 January 2018 | Last updated: 10 March 2018
At a glance
Easy, although there are some small climbs.
Mainly on traffic-free cycleways, but with some stretches of quiet road.
Mainly on surfaced cycleways or roads, but there are a couple of longer stretches of bike path with compacted aggregate surfaces — about 11 kilometres in total.
This section of the route connects with the Ciclabile delle Dolomiti at Toblach. The Ciclabile follows the course of an old railway line through the Dolomites to Cortina and on into the Veneto.
The route also connects with the Drauradweg which follows the Drau (Drava) river as it flows from its source near Toblach, to eventually join the Donau (Danube).
Options and variants
The detour to the Pragser Wildsee (Lago di Braies) is definitely worth the effort. If you have the time, you could continue to Lienz in Austria and then come back to train — or make the very short detour to Innichen (Candido).
Also known as …
This route was previously known as the Pusterbike. It is also referred to as the Pustertal Radweg and the Ciclabile della Val Pusteria. It also forms part of the eurovelo 7 cycle route.
At Fortezza Franzensfeste the München-Venezia cycle route turns east into the Pustertal following the Fahrradroute Pustertal as it heads through Bruneck (Brunico) and on towards Toblach (Dobbiaco) and the Dolomites.
Map and altitude profile
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|Fortezza Franzensfeste - Bruneck (Brunico)||34 kms|
|Fortezza Franzensfeste - Muhlbach (Rio di Pusteria)||7 kms|
|Muhlbach - Sankt Lorenzen (San Lorenzo di Sebato)||23 kms|
|Sankt Lorenzen - Bruneck||3 kms|
|Detour to the Pragser Wildsee (Lago di Braies)||16 kms|
|Bruneck - Toblach||29 kms|
|Bruneck - Niederdorf (Villabassa)||24 kms|
|Niederdorf - Toblach (Dobbiaco)||5 kms|
Festung Franzensfeste to Mühlbach and Bruneck
The route brings you to a crossing on the other side of the Festung Franzensfeste (Forte di Fortezza) where you cross the road. The route then runs mainly beside the LS/SP94 road for a little under 3 kilometres. The road takes you under the main Pustertaler Staatsstraße (SS49 Bis). You turn left and skirt round behind a petrol station, and a bar, before you pick up a section of road that has been closed to traffic, this takes you to a junction with the main road where there is a crossing. The cycleway continues on the left-hand side of the main road.
The cycleway takes you back over the SS49 Bis and over the railway line. Unfortunately, just when you need the most, the cycleway signs disappear. The cycleway restarts in front of the Hotel Sonneck to your right — look for the 'no vehicles' sign, and just below it a cycleway sign. What you need to do is follow the cycleway as it curves to the left, cross over the road, and turn right, going through the parking area. Stick to the edge of the road as you pass Hotel Sonneck, to pick up the cycleway running on the left-hand side of the busy main road.
From here on, the route is straightforward. The next section of cycleway beside the main road isn't a great introduction to the Pustertal, but it's soon over. The cycleway takes you past the Lanz cafe, and then a little further on, you bear right onto a very quiet, restricted, country lane which leads away from the main road. The cycle route climbs gently, clinging to the valley side, while the main road is some distance below in the valley bottom. The route takes you past the Stöcklvater Kapelle — a little chapel with a clapperboard roof and frescoes from the 18th century.
The road then descends to Mühlbach (Rio di Pusteria). As you go downhill, you should see the spire of the parish church gleaming in the sunlight. Don't miss the very pretty Kirchplatz (church square) which is just off the route to the left as you come into Mühlbach. If it's open, the church is also worth a look, and alongside it the Florian Kapelle. Sadly, there are only fragments of the interior frescoes. There are a couple of cafes in the church square that looked like a good place to stop for a drink or something to eat.
Mühlbach to Niedervintl
There's another treasure as you come out of Mühlbach – the little chapel of Maria-Hilfe.
The signs coming out of the village are a little confusing. You need to turn left and take to the road for 200 metres, before picking up the cycleway, on the right-hand side of the road. There's then a stretch of three kilometres or so where the railway line and two roads, share a narrow strip of land between the valley side and the Rienz (Rienza) river.
Along the way, you come to the Mühlbacher Klause – the fortifications which once controlled the entrance to the valley and passage through it. After the Klause, the cycle route ducks under the road and then follows the riverside. This is a much nicer and more peaceful section, although the road is never far away.
Things get even better as the main road and the railway line turn away from the river, heading for Niedervintl (Vandoies di Sotto), and an old wooden cyclist-pedestrian bridge takes you over the river.
The left bank (looking downstream) of the river is much quieter than the right bank, but it has the disadvantage is that the towns along the route are on the other bank and you have to turn off the cycleway to get to them.
The next village on the route itself is Sankt Lorenzen (San Lorenzo di Sebato). Just outside the village, you come to a fork where, if you're in a hurry, you can continue straight on to Bruneck (Brunico), or you can go under the underpass of the railway line and into the village centre which is a peaceful place to stop (fortunately the main road bypasses the town). The village is well worth seeing, and you can continue on from here, following the river, to Bruneck.
The route itself continues, following the river, around Bruneck's altstadt (old town). But it would be silly to miss it. Going through the centre of Bruneck, the cycleway runs between two rows of trees on the right-hand side of the road. When the two rows of trees come to an end, there's a set of traffic lights on your left and a tower on your right, between the Volksbank and an optician. Look for an archway with a three-panelled mural above it. This is the Florianitor, one of the entrances to the old city. Go through it. (Don't worry if you miss the turning, you can also turn right at the next gateway on Mühlgasse).
This street brings you out into the Stadtgasse, the main street of Bruneck's historic centre. Turning right, the Stadtgasse takes you into the centre of town, turning left it takes you through another gate below the castle (the Schloss Bruneck). The castle is now a museum: the MMM Ripa. One of six museums in the region operated by former mountaineer Reinhold Messner (MMM stands for Messner Mountain Museum).
The castle was built for the Prince-Bishop of Brixen in 1250. The Bishop of Brixen had the status of a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Although it was increasingly overshadowed by the power of the Counts of Tyrol, the bishopric continued as a more or less independent state until 1803 when it was annexed by Austria (for a little more detail see wikipedia.org: Bishopric of Brixen.
Bruneck to Toblach
Coming out of Bruneck the route follows a cyclist/pedestrian way along the bank of the river Rienz. The route passes the freibad (swimming pool).
There is then a section of 2.6 kms on very smooth, compacted-aggregate cycleway which is in excellent condition. It shouldn't present any problems even on a road bike: in fact as I rode section a group of Americans came past on road-touring bikes. This part follows an old railway line, and along the way, there are a couple of short tunnels (200m and 220m). Both are well illuminated. The aggregate surface comes to an end with a brief steep climb.
A bit further along there's a second stretch of aggregate-surfaced bike path. This section is 1.2 kilometres long. The surface is slightly coarser than the previous bit, but it is just as beautiful.
Niederolang (Valdaora di Sotto)
The route then brings you into the village of Niederolang (Valdaora di Sotto). There is a play area on the route on the approach to the village.
You can see the white steeple of the village church framed against the mountains. The church is well worth a few minutes for the sake of its glorious baroque interior.
As you come into Olang itself look out for the little chapel which commemorates Peter Sigmayr who was one of the leaders of the Tyrolean resistance against the French and Bavarians during the Napoleonic wars and was shot at his farm in 1810.
Oberolang to the Olanger See and Welsberg
Leaving Oberolang the route takes you past the pretty Friedhofskapelle (chapel). After the chapel, you turn left and head downhill (sign of Welsberg (Monguelfo)). The road is the Stauseestraße (Reservoir Road), or Via della Diga (Dam Way) in Italian, and, as you've probably guessed, it brings you to a dam and an artificial lake: the Olanger See (Lago di Valdaora).
The bad news for people who don't like aggregate-surfaced bike paths is that there's another section of aggregate-surfaced cycleway (with some short stretches on tarmac) which lasts for about 4.5 kms in total. This part isn't quite as smooth as the other sections but again shouldn't present any problems.
The cycleway skirts around the village of Welsberg (Monguelfo). If you want to go into the town, just stay on the road (the Brunecker Straße) when the cycle route turns right at the Karosserie Oberhammer.
As you skirt round Welsberg, the first views of the Dolomites open up. The views on this next section are some of the best so far. You ride through Alpine meadows with the Sextner Dolomites ahead.
Olang to Niederdorf and Toblach
After Olang the next town that the route passes through is Niederdorf (Villabassa). Niederdorf is very much a tourism centre, especially after 1871 when the when it became accessible by rail. The views between here and Toblach are superb.
The town of Toblach (Dobbiaco) marks a watershed: to the east of Toblach rivers flow into the Danube from there into the Black Sea, while to the west, they flow into the Adriatic.
Toblach was on the front lines in World War One and was heavily bombarded, so there's little left of the old village —although there are some turn-of-the-century hotels around the church that have a certain charm.
The most exceptional and interesting sight in Toblach is the Kreuzweg (Via Crucis). It dates back to 1519 and is according to the tourist information it is the oldest in the whole of the Tirol. There are five chapels along the roadside (the Maximillienstraße). Each chapel has a bas-relief depicting a scene from the story of Christ's journey to his crucifixion at Calvary. The colours are a little faded, but the dynamism of the composition is amazing. The Via Crucis leads to the circular Lerschachkapelle. The chapel was also built in 1519 and is dedicated to St Joseph and was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. You can borrow the key from the nearby Hotel Rosengarten.
The old Grand Hotel has now been turned into a Performance Center and music school, as well as the visitor centre for the park, and the jugendherberge (youth hostel).
The visitor centre has an exhibition about the Dolomites in English, German, and Italian. I found it a little bit hard to follow, but it's worth quick visit to see the animations showing the formation of the Dolomites over hundreds of millions of years, as well as and a multiscreen video with spectacular aerial photographs and video of the mountains.
Places to stay
Hotels and other accommodation
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
The Pustertal has lots of accommodation, especially around Toblach and Innichen.
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
Mühlbach (Rio di Pusteria) | Kiens (Chienes) | Sankt Lorenzen (San Lorenzo di Sebato) | Bruneck (Brunico) | Olang (Valdaora) | Welsberg (Monguelfo) | Niederdorf (Villabassa) | Toblach (Dobbiaco) | Prags (Braies) | Innichen (San Candido)
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
There are relatively few campsites in the Pustertal:
- at Sankt Lorenzen there's the Ansitz Wildberg. A nice site with a swimming pool and within easy walking distance of the village centre. The playground and assortment of animals (including chickens that wander the site) means that it's a popular choice for families with small children
- the Camping Gisser, near Sankt Sigismund (San Sigismondo) is a little bit awkward to get to as it's on the main SS49 - but you can reach it by riding on the cycleway/pavement on the right-hand (east-bound) side of the road for 1.3 kilometres
- the Camping Residence Corones is near Olang (Valdaora)
- the Camping Olympia is on the route near Niederdorf (Villabassa). It also seems to get very busy (it's one of the very few times I've been turned away from a campsite)
- the Camping Toblachersee overlooks the beautiful Toblacher See (Lago di Dobbiaco) and has a large area for tents.
Transport and services
The SAD train company run frequent train services between Fortezza Franzensfeste and Innichen (or Lienz in Austria). Note that you need a ticket (7€) for your bike — and Trenitalia bike tickets are not valid on these services.
- Bruneck (Brunico): Fahrradhaus | Fahrradhaus Mahlknecht | Sportler Bruneck
- Niederdorf (Villabassa): Bike Store (Bahnhofstraße 1a)
If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.
Map: | show bike shops map in overlay MV-bike-shops-map - show bike shops map in new window
Tourist information websites
- gitschberg-jochtal.com (Muhlbach-Rio Pusteria)
- kronplatz.com (Bruneck-Brunico)
- drei-zinnen.info (Niederdorf, Prags, Toblach, Innichen, )
- drei-zinnen.info: Toblach
- Fahrradroute Pustertal map . PDF version of the paper map that's available (hopefully) from tourist information offices. The most useful aspect is probably the information about places of interest and attractions along the route.
- kronplatz.com: Pustertal Valley Bike Route. The official guide to the route (de/it/en)
- drei-zinnen.info: Cycling and Mountain biking in the Dolomites
Articles in this series
- München-Venezia Overview
- München-Venezia: 1: München to Achenkirch
- München-Venezia: 2: Achenkirch to Hall-in-Tirol
- München-Venezia: 3: Hall-in-Tirol to Brenner
- München-Venezia: 4: Brenner to Fortezza Franzensfeste
- München-Venezia: 5: the PusterTal (Fortezza Franzensfeste to Toblach)
- München-Venezia: 6: the Ciclabile delle Dolomiti
- München-Venezia: 7: the Via Alemagna (Sotto Castello di Cadore to the Lago di Santa Croce)
- München-Venezia: 8: the Lago di Santa Croce to Treviso
- München-Venezia: 9: Treviso to Venezia