The Etschradroute Introduction

Published on:  | Last updated: 27 February 2020

Cyclists near Kastelbell-Tschars

Cyclists on the Vinschgau Radweg/Via Claudia near Kastelbell-Tschars (Castelbello-Ciardes)

Overview

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).

Apples in the trees beside the cycleway near Kaselbell (Castelbello)

Apples in the trees beside the cycleway near Kaselbell (Castelbello)

At a glance

Distance

149 kilometres

Difficulty/terrain

Easy.

Traffic

Almost entirely on traffic-free cycleways.

Surfaces

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.

Signs

Well signposted

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).

Connections

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.

Notes

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.


Cyclists on a section of the Etschradroute near Laatsch (Laudes)

Cyclists on a section of the Etschradroute near Laatsch (Laudes)

Map and altitude profile

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Distances

Distances
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.


Making hay beside the Etschradroute cycleway on the western shore of the Reschensee (Lago di Resia)

Making hay beside the Etschradroute cycleway on the western shore of the Reschensee (Lago di Resia)

Getting there … and getting back

By train

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.

The Etschradroute near Naturns with the Schloss Juval on the heights above the river

The Etschradroute near Naturns with the Schloss Juval on the heights above the river

By plane

The closest airport is Innsbruck. München airport is also easy to get to by train —⁠ ⁠simply get off at München’s Ostbahnhof and take the S-Bahn to the airport.

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’.

The  Etschradroute cycleway near Bozen (Bolzano)

The Etschradroute cycleway near Bozen (Bolzano)

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).

Riding through the village of Burgeis (Burgusio)

Riding through the village of Burgeis (Burgusio)

Cyclist on the Etschradweg near Algund

Cyclist on the Etschradweg near Algund

Connections and options for a longer itinerary

Heading south

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).

Heading north

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.

Glurns cyclist and dog

Cyclist on the Vinschgau Radweg/Via Claudia at Glurns

Cycleway beside the Reschensee

Cycleway beside the Reschensee

Articles in this series

Via Claudia near Schluderns

The Vinschgau Radweg/Via Claudia near Schluderns

More information

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.

Hostels

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.

Campsites

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.

  Map:  Südtirol-campsites-map-show Südtirol campsites map in overlay    |    Südtirol-campsites-map-show map in new window   

Services

Bike shops

The individual articles in this guide list bike shops.

Bike hire

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.

Other services

Basecamp Dolomites offer luggage, and bike, storage at Bozen station. See their website for prices. They also offer a luggage transport service.

Transport

Trains

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

Resources

General tourist information

The Südtirol has excellent regional tourist inform­ation website: suedtirol.info. Useful local sites include:

Transport information

You can download the current timetable for flights to and from Innsbruck from this page: innsbruck-airport.com: timetable.

Swimming pools

Castles

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.

Websites:

Downloads

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

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).

 sample map page.

Links open in new windows unless you ‘save as’ etc.

GPS files

  •  Etschradroute gps files
    (.zip file containing ten gpx files)
  • Italy Points of Interest

    About POIs

    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.


The Stift Marienberg (Marienberg Abbey) near Burgeis (Burgusio)

The Stift Marienberg (Marienberg Abbey) near Burgeis (Burgusio)


Get in touch

Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.

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