Published on: 12 April 2019 | Last updated: 27 February 2020
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).
From its starting-point the the Etschradroute follows the Etsch through the Vinschgau (Val Venosta) on its way to Meran (Merano), the area’s main town. It’s downhill all the way, and hard to resist the temptation to blast through, but there’s a lot to see and do along the way so it’s really worth taking your time.
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 …
This section of the Etschradroute is also known as the Vinschgau Radweg (Ciclabile della Val Venosta).
The Etsch river is known as the Adige in Italian. The Etsch Radroute/Adige cycleway is a core part of the Via Claudia Augusta the southern section is also part of the Ciclopista del Sole which is is in turn part of eurovelo 7.
The Etschradroute is probably the most well-connected cycleway in Italy. To the north it connects with the Inn Radweg (and with the with the Via Claudia Augusta). 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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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).
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|Nauders to Reschen||7 kms|
|Reschensee to Burgeis||16 kms|
|Burgeis to Glurns (Glorenza)||6 kms|
|Glurns to Prad am Stilfserjoch to (Prato allo Stelvio)||9 kms|
|Prad am Stilfserjoch to Laas (Lasa)||9 kms|
|Laas to Latsch (Laces)||14 kms|
|Latsch to Naturns (Naturno)||11 kms|
|Naturns to Algund (Lagundo)||11 kms|
|Algund (Lagundo) to Meran (Merano)||3.5 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.
Variants and options
The official starting point of the Etschradroute is the Italy-Austria border, near to the source of the Etsch. It probably makes most sense to either start at Nauders in Austria or at Reschen (Resia) on the Reschensee (Lago di Resia).
The official route sticks to the western shore of the Reschensee. You could opt to follow the cycle route on the eastern shore. The main reason why you’d want to do this is to get a close-up view of the sunken tower of the old church at Graun in Vinschgau (Cures Venosta) which was submerged when a dam was built at the lake in 1950. The church has now become a symbol for the whole area. The western shore involves a fair amount of up and down, and, at the end of a long day, this may come as unwelcome news to your weary legs, but, while the route on the eastern shore is flatter, it runs very close to the main road, so you never escape the traffic noise, and more than half of it is aggregate-surfaced.
The main variant for this route is that, instead of heading for Meran, you could turn off the main route at Algund (Lagundo) and head for Marling (Marlengo). You can then either rejoin the main route near Andrian (Andriano) or continue to San Michele where you join the Überetsch Radweg as it heads into the wine country around Kaltern (Caldaro).
In more detail
From Nauders to the Reschensee
If you opt to start from Nauders you need to pick up the signposted radweg as it follows the old road from Nauders to the Reschenpass (Passo di Resia) at 1504m. There’s an initial climb through alpine meadows to the lake .
At this point you are crossing a watershed. Before this point, all the rivers flowed into the Danube and then the Black Sea; after it, they flow into the Adriatic. The source of the Etsch (the Etschquelle) is close by.
It’s pretty much all downhill from here to Meran (altitude: 325) 78 kilometres further on. While it’s tempting to profit from the downhill and the excellent cycleway, it would be a mistake to take this section too quickly: there’s far too much to see and enjoy on the way.
The cycleway runs on the western shore of the lake, with the option of following the eastern shore. It’s very scenic with views south towards the Ortler mountain and the Ortler group. The Ortler is 3,905metres high, so even in summer the peak is covered with snow.
From the dam at the southern end of the Reschensee, the cycleway takes you past the Haidersee (Lago della Muta) to the lovely village of Burgeis (Burgusio) a little way further on. Look out for the Kloster Marienburg on your right-hand side. The Abbey also owns the nearby Castel Fürstenberg — now a college for agriculture and forestry.
Burgeis (Burgusio) is the first of three villages on the way to Glurns (Glorenza) — the others are Schleis (Clusio) and Laatsch (Lauders). Although tourism is an important money-earner in the area, these are still very much working farming villages, and if you come through in September, you’ll almost certainly meet farmers in their tractors bringing back trailer-loads of hay to store in the haylofts that are part of their homes.
In the village square of Burgeis there’s a water fountain with a statue of Saint Michael the Archangel. In one hand the saint holds a sword and in the other a pair of scales: on one side of the balance there’s a small human figure and on the other a millstone. The scales reflect the saint’s role on Judgement Day.
You’ll also see lots of religious imagery, with crucifixes and murals. Look out for Saint Florian and Saint John of Nepomuk. Saint Florian is the protector against fires, and he’s usually shown casually emptying a bucket of water on a house. Saint John of Nepomuk is the protector against floods, and it’s very common to see figures depicting him on bridges (there’s one on the bridge at Laatsch and another on the bridge at Glurns).
Approaching Glurns, the cycleway also takes you past a concrete bunker, one of several defensive positions built by Mussolini to defend the passes into Italy. Some of the bunkers are now in use as cellars for the Puni whisky distillery in Glurns.
A section of riverside cycleway brings you to Glurns (Glorenza). Glurns’ medieval city walls have survived almost completely intact, and you’ll see the massive fortified gatehouses as you approach.
If you’ve taken the train to Mals, there’s a branch of the cycle route that takes you into Glurns.
Officially Italy’s smallest city, Glurns is a must-see, even if all you do is make a short detour to have a quick look at the main square and the surrounding porticoed streets, or make a tour of the city walls.
If you have more time, you could visit the Schloss Churburg (Castel Coira), one of the region’s most beautiful castles. There’s also the Puni distillery, housed a stylish contemporary building whose brick façade echoes the traditional brickwork used in local agricultural buildings.
From Glurns you could make a side-trip into Switzerland to visit the Kloster of Saint John in the Val Müstair.
Glurns to Laas (Lasa)
Glurns is at 907 metres altitude. This is also about the limit for commercial apple-growing, and, as you descend below 900 metres the hay meadows and alpine pastures give way to fields planted with row upon row of apple trees.
From Glurns the Etschradroute heads for the Prad am Stilfserjoch (Prato allo Stelvio). A 6-kilometre riverside cruise through woodlands brings you to a group of small lakes (the Biotop Prader Sand) where the cycleway makes a brief detour away from the river. There’s a nice little café on the main lake, that is a popular stop.
A short section of aggregate-surfaced bike path brings you out onto a quiet road that passes a swimming pool and the Camping Kiefernhain. At the next junction turn left onto Reutweg (Via Nova). The Reutweg brings you to a junction with the main SS38 where you turn left and then, take the next right. You are only on the SS38 for a hundred metres, and, because it is going through a village, the traffic isn’t moving fast, but it’s still an unpleasant surprise. However, if it’s any compensation, this is the only section of the route that isn’t either traffic-free or on very quiet roads.
Prad am Stilfserjoch is on one of the roads that lead to/from the Stilfserjoch (Stelvio) mountain pass. As you head on from the village, look out for the square tower of the Romanesque church of Sankt Johann, which has a gorgeous frescoed interior. The church is not usually open, but in summer, there are guided visits.
From Prad am Stilfserjoch the Etschradroute heads for Laas (Lasa), skirting round Tschenglsburg (Castelletto di Cengles). There’s a short section of cycleway beside the LS108 before the route crosses over the road and continues beside the river for 3.5 kilometres.
The radroute brings you into the village of Laas. Laas is famous for its white marble: look out for a sculpture of a person with a bird sat on their head. A little further on, you come to a level crossing over a rail line. The tracks are still in use to bring blocks of marble down from the mountain above.
Laas to Naturns (Naturno)
The cycle route continues on a quiet road (Schiessstandweg — Via al Bersaglio) through the village. The traffic-free cycleway resumes on the other side of a small river and continues past a hydroelectric plant.
A little further on there’s a stretch of unsurfaced cycleway as the route passes through a nature reserve. You return to the tarmac a little under 4 kilometres further on. The route then continues through Göflans (Covelano) and on towards Latsch (Laces).
The cycleway follows the river as it passes Latsch bringing you to the seilbahn (cable car) station where you cross the road (there’s a pedestrian crossing), and the cycle path continues on the other side of the road.
If you don’t mind a short detour you can visit the Spitalkirche Zur Heilig Dreifaltigkeit (Church of the Holy Trinity) to see one of the area’s cultural jewels: the altar by sculptor Jörg Lederer. There’s a picture and more information in the Etschradroute places page. If you do plan to visit the church, please check the places page for more details as there are two entrances and at first sight, you may think that it is closed.
The Schloss Kastelbell
The Schloss Kastellbell (Castello di Castellbello) is above the route at Kastelbell (Castelbello), a little under 3 kilometres from Latsch. The castle is open to visitors if you have time (check opening times: schloss-kastelbell.com: opening times).
Look out for the castle (the Schloss Juval) on a rocky outcrop on the other side of the river above the point where the SS 38 disappears into the hillside. The Schloss Juval is now the Juval Messner Mountain Museum (more information on access and opening hours on the places page).
Into apple country
You are now in the heart of Italy’s apple country. This area accounts for half of Italy’s apple production, and if you add in neighbouring Trentino, they produce three-quarters of Italy’s apples (1.5 million tonnes a year). If you’re imagining orchards I’m going to have to disappoint you - ‘apple plantations’ might be a better term as the apple trees are trained along steel wires strung between concrete posts. Sadly, while many native varieties of apple face extinction, the apples produced in the apple plantations are the same varieties you’ll find on supermarket shelves the world over (with the same names too).
You’ll see people drinking local apple juice in the bars, but strangely, they don’t make cider (or at least it seems strange to someone who comes from Britain’s West Country where cider has always rivalled beer).
Look out for the stall beside the cycleway selling apple juice (there’s an honesty box system) with a choice of juice made from different varieties. On the wall there’s a text in praise of the apple which among other things tells you:
“ One thing you must always remember
when you feel weak.
Apples give you strength.
Apples are the best food,
for when you’re at home, for when you’re travelling
Show full text and translation
“ Eines musst du dir stets merken,
wenn du schwach bist,
Äpfel sind die beste Speise,
für zu Hause, für die Reise,
für den Alten, für die Kinder,
für den Sommer, für den Winter.
Äpfel glätten deine Stirn,
bringen Phosphor ins Gehirn.
Äpfel geben Kraft und Mut, und erneuern dir dein Blut.
Darum Freund, so lass dir raten,
esse frisch, gebackt, gebraten,
täglich ihrer fünf bis zehn
Wirst nicht dick.
doch jung und schön,
und kriegst Nerven wie ein Strick.
Mensch - im Apfel liegt dein Glück!
One thing you must always remember
when you feel weak.
Apples give you strength.
Apples are the best food,
for when you’re at home, for when you’re travelling,
for young and old,
for summer and winter.
Apples smooth your wrinkles,
And bring phosphorus for your brain.
Apples give strength and courage
And give you fresh blood.
That’s why, Friend, as you can guess,
Eat them fresh, baked or fried
From five to ten a day
You won’t get fat
But young and beautiful
with nerves of steel
Man, in the apple lies happiness! ”
Naturns to Meran (Merano)
From Naturns there’s a long section of traffic-free cycleway to Algund (Lagundo), almost 11 kilometres further on. At Töll (Tel) you have to cross the main road (the SS38), and then the Etschradroute continues beside the LS52. It runs beside the road (more or less) for a little over a kilometre before turning right and descending fairly steeply through a series of switchbacks. Just before it starts to descend, look out for a turning on your right that leads to the Trauttmansdorffer Thronsessel (Castel Trauttmansdorf Throne). The ‘throne’ is, in fact, a couple of giant chairs and a viewpoint with panoramic views over the valley (follow the link for pictures).
The radroute brings you into the outskirts of Algund (Lagundo). Just off the cycleway, as you approach a wooden bridge, is one of the few visible traces of the old Roman Via Claudia Augusta: the Brückenkopf — one of the ends of the bridge that once spanned the river. The remains have now been enclosed to form a museum — open every day from 08:00 to 18:00.
On the other side of the wooden bridge is the Forst Brauerei. Forst is one of the very few Italian breweries that isn’t owned by one of the global brewing companies. The Forst family own the Schloss Forst on the other side of the river. The Forst brewery is worth a look even if you plan to continue towards Meran. There’s also a Braugarten (Beer Garden). (Note that the main entrance to the Bräustüberl is on the main SS38, and there’s what seems at first sight to be a No-Bikes sign, this is qualified by a notice below nach 520 metres — ie the road is closed to bikes 520 metres further on).
Options at Algund
At Algund, you have a choice of routes: you could cross over the river and from there go on through Marling (Marlengo). It’s a nice route, but it completely misses out Meran. I think Meran is well worth the visit, so if you haven’t been there, I would stick with the left bank of the river and continue to Meran. If you’re in a hurry, you could also follow the river, but not go through the centre of Meran.
As the Etschradroute approaches Meran there’s a section of a bit over a kilometre and a half where it runs on a narrow strip of land between the river and the main SS38. It’s not very interesting, but it’s soon over. Look out for the Schloss Tirol (Castel Tirolo) high on the valley side. The castle was once the base of the Counts of Tirol who ruled over the region and went on to become the Habsburg dynasty with a global empire.
You come to an underpass under the main road. From here, you follow the Passer (Passirio) river into the centre of Meran a bit over a kilometre and a half further on.
If you’ve decided to bypass the centre of Meran, you need to cross over the river at the next (cyclist-pedestrian) bridge which is on your right, just after a sports ground. There’s then a cycleway that takes you to the Meran Untermais (Merano Maia Bassa) train station. follow the Rennstallweg (Via Scuderie) and rejoin the main route on the other side of Meran, as it heads back towards the riverside.
The route through the centre of the town is clearly signposted. The cycle route signs are in red.
Meran is well worth a stopover, but if you don’t do anything else, stop off to see the Laubengaße (Via dei Portici) which runs the length of the city’s medieval centre. You’ll need to get off your bike and walk with it down the street itself. (Yes, seriously: according to this local paper the number of cyclists fined for riding in the central pedestrian zone doubled between 2017 and 2018, to more than 400).
If you have the time I’d highly recommend a visit to the Schloss Tirol (take the bus up, and then walk back on the panoramic Tappeiner Weg).
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) | Lana | Merano (Meran)
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 a dozen campsites on this section of the Etschradroute. The quality is high, but so are the prices.
If you’re considering taking the Via Claudia variant via Marling, there are several campsites along the way: in Lana there are two sites: the Schlosshof Ferienresort and the Camping Arquin and in Nals (Nalles) there’s the Zum Guten Tropfen
Places to eat and drink
On the northern part of the radroute it’s very easy to find places to eat and drink, as the route tends to pass through, or close to the villages along the way.
- Nauders (kilometre -5): there are lots of places in the village, but the Baguette Café in the MPreis supermarket is a reliable choice for breakfast or a snack to eat there or take away
- Reschen (kilometre 2): there are lots of places in the village itself. There’s a restaurant-bar on the western shore (Mein Dörfl)
- Sankt Valentin auf der Haide (kilometre 11): the route passes the bar-pizzeria Zum See next door to the campsite of the same name
- Burgeis (kilometre 18): on your left as you come into Burgeis there’s the Café Gerda, and a little further on, on the village square, on your right, the Dorf Bar next door to the Genuss am Platz mini-market. A little further on, if you turn left at the t-junction where the route goes right, there’s the Schlossbar café-restaurant.
- Laatsch (kilometre 22): there’s a bar (me vivo!) on the other side of the bridge from the cycle path.
- Glurns (kilometre 24): there’s a fast food kiosk right on the cycleway, and, unsurprisingly, it does a steady trade from passing cyclists. If you can hold on a little longer there are cafes on the main square, or, if you venture a little further there’s the Riedl Bakerei on Malserstraße, and the Stadt Café on Florastraße. If you’re looking for a more economical option, there’s the Pizzeria Erika a little way out of town on the road that leads to Schluderns. Still on the same road, next door to the Camping Gloria Vallis is the Jausenstation Fischteich, which is a good place to come for a leisurely lunch. If you’re planning on visiting the Schloss Churburg, there’s the Dorflodn in Schluderns with a lovely little courtyard overlooked by the castle.
- Prad am Stilfserjoch (kilometre 33): the Fischerstube bar-ristorante at the Prader Sand nature reserve/fishing lakes, a couple of kilometres before the village, is a popular stop with those in the know: it’s a little hidden away, and easy to miss. In the village itself, there’s the Alpen Bar on Reutweg (Via Nuova).
- Laas (kilometre 42): the Camping Badlerhof has a nice bar, and about a 100 metres further on, there’s the Café Rosi. If you cross over the bring and then head for the main square, you’ll find the Gasthaus Zur Krone. It’s a great place for lunch, with some of the best food I’ve had anywhere in the region — but be warned, unless you have a really big appetite, don’t even think about having the knödl followed by a main course.
- Schlanders (kilometre 49): the village is a little way off the route, but there are several restaurants and cafes in the centre.
- Goldrain (kilometre 53): as the cycleway passes the village, on the other side of the river, there’s the apfelsaft stall, where you can get a small beaker of locally-produced apple juice, with a choice of varieties. A shame about the plastic cups, but you could always use your own if you have one handy. A kilometre or so further on, also on the other side of the river from Goldrain itself, is the lakeside Jausenstation Goldrainer See, (a jausenstation is a snack-bar or informal café-restaurant).
- Latsch (kilometre 57): the Bar Seilbahn in the cable-car station is directly on the route and makes a convenient stop, but there are lots of other places in the centre of the village
- Kastelbell (kilometre 60): there’s a little place directly beside the cycleway a little over a hundred metres past the tourist office, as well as several places in the village itself.
- Staben (kilometre 65): the Stabnertreff, on the corner by the bridge, next door to the little church, is a good place for your (mandatory) coffee and apfelstrudel, but the riverside Radbar, 700 metres further on is also a popular stop-off with a selection of local beers and wines
- Naturns (kilometre 69): again, there are lots of places to eat and drink in the village centre. The Bar San Zeno is a very short hop from the route and a good place for a quick glass of local apfelsaft (apple juice), and there’s an eis-café (bar-gelateria) just around the corner. A little further on, the café-restaurant in the Naturnserhof a good place for lunch
- Plaus (kilometre 72): there’s a place beside the cycle path as you approach Rabland, and another on the corner beside the bridge that leads to the station
- Lagund (kilometre 79): there’s a bar at the Minigolf-Treff as you approach the wooden bridge at Algund. Close to route there’s also the Römerkeller , which used to be really your first opportunity to eat Italian food (ie standard Italian cuisine as opposed to the local South Tyrolean dishes), but it now seems to be morphing into a chain of steak houses. On the other side of the bridge, there’s the
- Meran (kilometre 84): loads of places in the centre of the city
Distances are from the start of the cycleway at the border with Austria. Distances are (roughly) to the nearest point on the route.
Trains in the Vinschgau (Val Venosta)
The cycleway through the Vinschgau (Val Venosta) has become so popular that, during the summer, there are restrictions on when you can get on a train with your bike — but there is a bike transport service.
In 2019, these restrictions started on the 25 April and continue until the 31 October. In addition, the northern section of the line (between Schlanders/Silandro and Mals/Malles) will be closed for most of the Summer for work to electrify the line, but never fear, there will be a bus replacement service, with separate bike transport.
You can check the current official version on the Südtirolmobil website: sii.bz.it, but at the time of writing (May 2019) the rules were:
- the restrictions apply from Monday to Friday between 9:00 and 13:00 and between 15:00 and 17:30
- at Meran (Merano), Algund (Lagundo) and Marling (Marlengo) stations you cannot load bikes onto the trains on the line to Mals (Malles)
- the first bike transport leaves Meran at 09:16 and then runs at 10:16, 11:16, 15:16, 16:16 and 17:16
- you can pick up your bike at the following stations: Naturns (Naturno), Latsch (Laces), Schlanders (Silandro), Spondinig (Spondigna) and Mals (Malles)
- you must have a day-ticket for your bike (which costs 7 euros)
There are no restrictions on using the trains to travel towards Meran.
There’s a maximum of 15 bikes per train, and, if you’re travelling as a large group, at any time, you’re asked to call +39 0473 201 500.
General tourist information
The Südtirol has excellent regional tourist information website: suedtirol.info (de/it/en/nl/cz/pl). It has useful local satellite sites including:
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 (de/it/en/nl/cs/pl/fr/ru)
- 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
Places and attractions
- listing of swimming pools in the Südtirol
- swimming pool complex at Naturns
- listing of outdoor pools/swimming facilities around Meran and Bozen.
There are more about the forty castles in the Vinschgau on vinschgau.net.