Published on: 12 April 2019 | Last updated: 27 February 2020
The Etschradroute is deservedly one of Italy’s most popular cycleways. It’s easy to do it as one long fast cruise, but if you can resist the temptation to do it all in one go, and take your time, it will repay your patience.
The cycleway follows the Etsch river (Adige in Italian), taking you through a fertile valley filled with vineyards and apple trees. For thousands of years, this valley has always been a major route between northern and southern Europe, and a meeting point between different cultures. Historically, the Südtirol is part of the Tirol. The majority of people speak German as their first language, and there are strong ties with Austria, but it feels somehow different from the rest of the Tirol. Maybe it’s because it’s on the sunny side of the Alps, but this area definitely has a warm and mellow feel.
Using this guide
This page is the introduction to a series of articles, it is intended to provide an overview of the route, together with information on how to get to and from the start and finishing points. The downloads section at the bottom of the page includes downloads of GPS files as well as maps in PDF format.
The route is described in more detail in the articles in the series. You can navigate between them using the Next/Previous arrows at the end of the main article, or the list of links at the bottom of the page (and in the sidebar if your screen is wide enough).
At a glance
Almost entirely on traffic-free cycleways.
Mainly on surfaced roads or cycleways — there are two sections aggregate-surfaced cycleway through nature reserves, one is 4-kilometres long and the other is 1.1 kilometres.
Also known as …
The Italian name for the river is the Adige. The Etschradroute/Adige cycleway is a core part of the Via Claudia Augusta. The southern section is also part of the Ciclovia del Sole which is is in turn part of eurovelo 7.
Options and variations
You can ride the cycleway in either direction. The overall gradient is very gentle with a couple of steeper bits.
The main cycleway follows the river, but you have the option of heading through the wine country around the Kalterersee (Lago di Caldaro).
The Etschradroute is probably the most well-connected cycleway in Italy. To the north it connects with the Via Claudia Augusta and with the Inn Radweg. It connects with the Brennerradroute just south of Bozen. Further south it continues as the Ciclabile dell’Adige.
Distance: this guide isn’t divided into daily stages, as people differ in how fast and how far they want to travel each day.
‘Traffic-free’: many cycle routes include sections with roads with restricted access for residents or people working on the adjoining land. You may, very occasionally, encounter an agricultural vehicle like a tractor pulling a trailer of hay, but most of the time there is no motorised traffic. They are often indistinguishable from the cycleways that are legally set aside for the exclusive use of cyclists and pedestrians.
Map and altitude profile
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tips for using the map
Run your cursor over the graph to show the elevation, and distance from the start, for any given point on the route. (Note: the altitude graph is not shown where the route is flat).
Click the little icon in the right-hand corner to see the map fullscreen
|Nauders to Reschensee||7 kms|
|Reschensee to Glurns (Glorenza)||22 kms|
|Glurns to Naturns (Naturno)||44 kms|
|Naturns to Algund (Lagundo)||11 kms|
|Algund to Meran (Merano)||4 kms|
|Meran to Sigmundskron (Ponte d’Adige)||27 kms|
|Sigmundskron to Salurn (Salorno)||34 kms|
About this table
The table doesn’t necessarily show the distances from one city centre to the centre of the next town — if a route skirts around a town the distances are measured to the nearest point on the route from the centre.
Getting there … and getting back
The nearest station to the start of the cycleway is at Mals (Malles). Note however that the popularity of the cycle route means that during the summer there are restrictions on bikes on the line between Meran (Merano) and Mals (see the Transport and Services section below for the details).
The nearest mainline station is Bozen (Bolzano) with services to and from Innsbruck and München to the north, and Trento and Bologna to the south.
You could also take the train to Landeck in Austria and from there follow the Innradweg (also part of the Via Claudia Augusta) cycle route, via Martina in Switzerland, to Nauders.
Heading south, the nearest airport is Verona, followed by Treviso, Venezia and Bologna.
Weather and when to go
April to June and September to October are the ideal months to ride this cycleway. You could also ride it in July and August, but bear in mind that while the higher-altitude parts of the route remain relatively cool, the area around is often one of the hottest parts of Italy in mid-Summer — this shouldn’t present a problem, but think ‘start early, finish early’.
Options and variations
You could just ride the Etschradroute — there’s so much to see and do along the way that you could easily turn it into a leisurely tour for a week or so — but there are also lots of ways you can build it into a more extended tour.
The official starting point for the radroute is on the border with Austria, but you could also start from the resort town of Nauders seven kilometres from the border.
The Etschradroute doesn’t go through Bozen (Bolzano), the main city in the Südtirol, but it’s easy to make a side-trip to visit it or to make an overnight stopover. You could also continue north on the Brennerradroute.
Another option that is well worth considering, if you’re not in a tearing hurry, is to detour off the main route to go through the wine country around Kaltern (Caldaro), as well as the Kalterer See (Lago di Caldaro). There’s a cycleway on the old Überetsch rail line that will take you there, and a cycle route through the vineyards that will bring you back to the main route near to Auer (Ora). The Überetsch radweg starts at Sigmundskron (Ponte d’Adige), but you could also turn off the main route at Algund (Lagundo) and then join the Überetsch cycleway at Sankt Michael (San Michele) near Kaltern (Caldaro).
Connections and options for a longer itinerary
Heading south you also have lots of choices. You could continue, following the Adige (as the Etsch is called in the Italian-speaking parts of Italy) as it flows towards Verona, and on from there to the sea south of Venezia (see italy-cycling-guide.info: Adige valley cycleway). The cycleway is predominantly traffic free, and asphalt-surfaced, all the way to the sea.
A very popular option is to turn off near Mori and head for the Lago di Garda on the cycleway that takes you to Torbole on the northern end of the lake (see: italy-cycling-guide.info: Mori-Torbole cycleway).
To the north, there’s a short connection on the quiet road between Nauders and Martina in Switzerland, and from there you can pick up the Innradweg. The Innradweg is one of Austria’s premier cycleways; it follows the Inn as it flows to join the Donau (Danube) at Passau.
You could follow the Innradweg south and then climb to the Reschenpass and pick up the Etschradroute. Or going the other way, the network of cycleways along Europe’s rivers means that you have a huge number of possibilities on from Passau.
For more on the Innradweg through the Austrian Tirol, and the routes into München see italy-cycling-guide.info: The Inntal.
Articles in this series
- The Etschradroute: Introduction
- Etschradroute: Part 1: Reschensee to Meran (Merano)
- Etschradroute: Part 2: Meran to Salurn (Salorno)
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
Tourist information sites with accommodation search and booking facilities:
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
Vinschgau area page | Graun in Vinschgau (Curon Venosta) | Sankt Valentin auf der Haide (San Valentino alla Muta) | Reschen (Resia) | Burgeis (Burgusio) | Mals (Malles) | Glurns (Glorenza) | Schlanders (Silandro) | Latsch (Laces) | Naturns (Naturno) | Algund (Lagundo)
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 hostels in Meran (Jugendherberge Meran) there’s also a jugendherberge in Bozen (Jugendherberge Bozen) and Salurn (the Jugendhaus Dr Josef Noldin ). There’s also the Gästehaus Castelfeder but it’s tricky to get to without going on the busy SS48.
There are a dozen campsites . The quality is high, but so are the prices, both compared to the sites on the previous section of the route, and to prices in the rest of Italy.
The individual articles in this guide list bike shops.
The Südtirol government also seem to have worked hard to make renting a bike a convenient option with rental points at many stations. The BikeMobil a card that is valid for transport on the region’s rail and bus services, as well as some cable lifts and the Swiss Post Bus service to Müstair. The card (available for 1, 3 or 7 consecutive days) includes a day’s bike rental. Note though that you are not allowed to take your rental bike on public transport — the idea is that you rent your bike from one of the rental points in the scheme, go for a ride and then drop it off at another rental point
There’s a dedicated website (suedtirolbike.it it/de/en) with all the information you need about the 22 rental shops in the area and the range of bikes on offer. They offer one-way rental as well as sports road bikes and electric bikes.
Basecamp Dolomites offer luggage, and bike, storage at Bozen station. See their website for prices. They also offer a luggage transport service.
Almost all of the radweg is within easy reach of a train station. However, in summer there are restrictions on when you can take bikes on the train line through the Vinschgau between Meran (Merano) and Mals (Malles).
It’s generally pretty easy to travel with a bike on trains in the region, but there are some pitfalls. For information and advice see: italy-cycling-guide.info: Südtirol bike-friendly public transport
General tourist information
The Südtirol has excellent regional tourist information website: suedtirol.info. Useful local sites include:
- naturns.it (it/de/en)
- suedtirols-sueden.info (bolzanosurroundings.info) is the main tourist information website for the southern Südtirol (de/it/en)
- suedtiroler-weinstrasse.it (de/it/en) is the dedicated site for the Südtirol Weinstraße (Alto Adige Wine Road) including information about guided visits to wineries and cycle routes in the wine country
You can download the current timetable for flights to and from Innsbruck from this page: innsbruck-airport.com: timetable.
- listing of swimming pools in the Südtirol
- swimming pool complex at Naturns
- listing of outdoor pools/swimming facilities around Meran and Bozen.
There’s more about the forty castles in the Vinschgau on vinschgau.net.
Cycling information websites and resources
Ask in tourist offices for the Etsch Radroute-Ciclabile dell’Adige leaflet/map (radkarte). It’s in Italian and German, but even if you don’t speak either language, it still useful as a guide to places of interest along the route. You can download the pdf version from algund.info Etsch Radroute-Ciclabile dell’Adige leaflet/guide.
- the official regional tourist information site suedtirol.info has an excellent cycling section: suedtirol.info: biking-tours
- suedtirol-rad.com (de/it/en) is the website for a network of 16 bike rental shops in the region
- merano-suedtirol.it has a cycling section merano-suedtirol.it: cycling which includes some useful pages about the various bike-shuttle services operating along the Vinschgau valley: merano-suedtirol.it: bike-shuttles
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
Etschradroute A4 maps
- Etschradroute: Part 01: A4 maps
- Etschradroute: Part 01A (Marling variant): A4 maps
- Etschradroute: Part 02: A4 maps
- Überetsch radweg: A4 maps
Etschradweg A5 maps
About the maps
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. (A4 and A5 are international paper sizes).
Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.
- Etschradroute 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 April 2018. The file format is only compatible with Garmin GPSes .
GPX? POI? WTF? … about the GPS files
The GPS downloads are zip files containing files with tracks and waypoints. You can use these with a GPS (eg a Garmin), or using an app on a smartphone or tablet. Depending on the software you use, the track files will display the route on a map, and let you view an altitude profile. The waypoint files show the location of places of interest, as well as other useful things like drinking water sources, train stations and campsites etc.
The track files will just display a line on a map; they won’t give you turn-by-turn directions.
The POI files will only work on Garmin GPSes. They work best on the handheld receivers (eg the eTrex family). They also work, but not as well, on the Edge cycling GPSes.