Published on: 26 April 2018 | Last updated: 9 January 2020
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.
Well signposted in both directions.
The cycleway connects with the Drauradweg which follows the Drau (Drava) river as it flows from its source near Toblach to, eventually, join the Donau (Danube).
The Fahrradroute Pustertal cycleway also 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. There are a couple of bus services with bike transport along the route, so you could do it as a side-trip.
Options and variants
You can ride the cycle route in both directions - going east to west there’s a downhill gradient but there really isn’t a lot in it.
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).
At the end of the cycle route you can take the Brennerradroute cycleway to Brixen.
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.
Map and altitude profile
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|Innichen (San Candido) to Toblach (Dobbiaco)
|Toblach to Niederdorf (Villabassa)
|Niederdorf to Bruneck (Brunico)
|Bruneck to Sankt Lorenzen (San Lorenzo di Sebato)
|Detour to the Pragser Wildsee (Lago di Braies)
|Sankt Lorenzen to Muhlbach (Rio di Pusteria)
|Bruneck to Fortezza Franzensfeste
|Muhlbach to Fortezza Franzensfeste
Getting there … and getting back
The two options for getting to the cycleway are to come via Lienz in Austria or Fortezza Franzensfeste.
Lienz has good rail connections with Salzburg and Wien as well as with Villach and Klagenfurt. At Lienz you can either get an ÖBB train, or a train operated by the SAD regional train company. (Note that not all of the ÖBB trains go all the way you Innichen).
The other alternative is to go via Fortezza Franzensfeste which is on the main rail line between Innsbruck and Bozen (Bolzano). From Fortezza Franzensfeste there are frequent bike-friendly SAD trains to Innichen (San Candido). Or of course, you could simply opt to start at Fortezza Franzensfeste.
The rail line through Brenner and Bozen is the main rail connection between Italy, Austria and southern Germany. Heading south to services run to Trento, Verona and Bologna. Three train companies operate services along the line:
- Trenitalia offer bike-friendly regional services to Bologna (via Bozen, Trento, and Verona)
- the SAD regional train company operates services north to Brenner and to Lienz
- the Deutsche Bahn-ÖBB Eurocity services to Innsbruck and München in the north and Bozen, Trento, Bologna, Verona and Venezia to the south.
To travel on the Eurocity services you need to reserve a bike place (cost 10€) in advance, and so far as I know, you can’t do this online. The DB-ÖBB service is the best option if you want to travel to Innsbruck or München, but the other companies’ services may be a better choice for other destinations.
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 à 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.
Toblach to Bruneck (Brunico)
Toblach to Niederdorf and Olang
After Toblach the next town on the route is Niederdorf (Villabassa). Niederdorf is very much a tourism centre, especially after 1871 when the when it became accessible by rail. The views between Toblach and Olang are superb — this is possibly the most scenic section of the whole cycleway, as you ride through Alpine meadows with the Sextner Dolomites on your left.
Welsberg to the Olanger See and Oberolang
The cycleway skirts around Welsberg (Monguelfo). If you want to go into the village, just stay on the road (the Brunecker Straße) when the cycle route turns right at the Karosserie Oberhammer.
After Welsberg the cycleway heads for the Olanger See and Oberolang (Valdaora di Sopra). The bad news for people who don’t like aggregate-surfaced bike paths is that there’s a 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.
After the Olanger See there’s a short climb. At the top is the pretty Friedhofskapelle (chapel).
Oberolang translates as Upper Olang, and the next villages along are Olang (Valdaora) and Niederolang (Valdaora di Sotto) — Lower Olang.
As you leave Olang, 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.
The church in Niederolang is well worth a few minutes for the sake of its glorious baroque interior. There’s a play area on the route as you leave the village.
Niederolang to Bruneck
Between Niederolang and Bruneck there are a couple of stretches of aggregate-surfaced bike path. The first section is 1.2 kilometres long. This is then followed by a second section that is 2.6 kilometres long. The second section is on very smooth, compacted-aggregate cycleway which is in excellent condition, while the first is a little bit coarser. They 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 descent. At the top of the descent, you should be able to see the Schloss Bruneck castle.
Coming into Bruneck the route follows a cyclist/pedestrian way along the bank of the river Rienz. The route passes the freibad (swimming pool).
The route, follows the river, around Bruneck’s altstadt (old town). But it would be silly to miss it. Look out for the turning on the left (and a bridge over the river on your right) that leads through an archway into the Mühlgasse. If you miss it, there’s another gate, the Florianitor. The gate is in a tower with a three-panelled mural above it. The tower is between the Volksbank and an optician.
Both gateways bring 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 Mühlbach
After Bruneck the Fahrradroute Pustertal continues to Sankt Lorenzen (San Lorenzo di Sebato). There are two cycleways you can take: I think the most scenic option is to continue following the river. The main road through the valley bypasses Sant Lorenzen, so the village centre is a peaceful place to stop.
From Sankt Lorenzen, you continue following the left bank (looking downstream) of the river. This is much quieter than the right bank, but it has the disadvantage that the towns along the route are on the other bank and you have to turn off the cycleway to get to them.
Near Niedervintl (Vandoies di Sotto), an old wooden cyclist-pedestrian bridge takes you over the river.
As you approach Mühlbach (Rio di Pusteria), you go under the road and then come to the Mühlbacher Klause – the fortifications which once controlled the entrance to the valley and passage through it.
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. Coming into Mühlbach, you need to take the road for 200 metres or so into the village itself. Look out for the little chapel of Maria-Hilfe on the corner where you turn left and onto Mühlbach’s traffic-free main street.
The main street takes you through, and out of, Mühlbach. Don’t miss the very pretty Kirchplatz (church square) which is just off the route on the right-hand side just before you leave the village. 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.
A short climb that takes you to the Stöcklvater Kapelle — a little chapel with a clapperboard roof and frescoes from the 18th century. After the chapel, the cycle route descends gently, on a quiet country lane that clings to the valley side, towards the main road in the valley bottom.
At the bottom of the descent, there’s then a cycleway on the right-hand side of the road. The cycleway takes you past the Lanz café.
After the Lanz café things get a little messy as the cycleway seems to come to an abrupt end at a road junction. You need to continue on, passing the Hotel Sonneck, and through the hotel’s parking area, and go over the pedestrian crossing, and then pick up the cycleway where it resumes on the other side.
You then continue on the right-hand side of the main road. This brings you to another crossing after the crossing you turn right, onto a lane that runs in parallel with the main road. The lane takes you behind a bar and petrol station before turning right and going under the main road.
The route then runs mainly beside the LS/SP94 road for a little under 3 kilometres to the Festung Franzensfeste (Forte di Fortezza).
The Festung Franzensfeste (Forte di Fortezza)
The Festung Franzensfeste was constructed by the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is one of many military follies built in the nineteenth and twentieth century across the arc of the Alps.
The fortress was built of blocks of granite brought here from Pfalzen five hours away by horse-drawn cart. A stonecutter needed four days to create a perfect block by hand. Not surprisingly the fortress cost a huge amount of money to build (the equivalent of 400 million euros), and the Kaiser Ferdinand I is alleged to have said at the opening ceremony that, given the cost, he had been expecting a fortress of pure silver.
Today the building has been converted into a series of atmospheric exhibition spaces and is well worth the short detour to get to it.
The permanent exhibition about the history of the fortress itself is in three languages. There is then an exhibition dedicated to the history of the railways in the area which is in Italian and German only. There’s also an InfoPoint dedicated to the Brenner Base tunnel project. If you’re interested, they offer visits to the tunnel itself on Fridays at 10:00 and 14:00 (reservation required). For information and reservations see bbtinfo.eu.
Options at the end of the cycleway
At the Festung Franzensfeste there’s a pedestrian crossing. On the other side of the road, you need to turn right and continue following the cycleway for nearly 400 metres, going under the autobahnto the junction with the Brennerradroute. At the junction, you can either go straight on towards the train station (and Sterzing and Brenner), or you can turn left, going under the railway line, and then follow the Brennerradroute towards Brixen (Bressanone). Note that the cycleway north of Fortezza Franzensfeste has been closed due to tunnelling work, so you have to ride on the main road for a few kilometres.
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:
Innichen (San Candido) | Toblach (Dobbiaco) | Niederdorf (Villabassa) | Welsberg (Monguelfo) | Prags (Braies) | Olang (Valdaora) | Kiens (Chienes) | Sankt Lorenzen (San Lorenzo di Sebato) | Bruneck (Brunico) | Mühlbach (Rio di Pusteria) | Brixen (Bressanone)
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:
- the Camping Toblachersee overlooks the beautiful Toblacher See (Lago di Dobbiaco) and has a large area for tents.
- 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 Residence Corones is near Olang (Valdaora)
- 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
- 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
There are a couple of campsites a little way north of Brixen (Bressanone):
- the Camping Vahrner See at Vahrn (Varna) and
- the Hotel/Camping Löwenhof on the outskirts of Brixen (Bressanone)
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.
- Niederdorf (Villabassa): Bike Store (Bahnhofstraße 1a)
- Bruneck (Brunico): Fahrradhaus | Fahrradhaus Mahlknecht | Sportler Bruneck
If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.
Tourist information websites
- drei-zinnen.info (Niederdorf, Prags, Toblach, Innichen, )
- drei-zinnen.info: Toblach
- kronplatz.com (Bruneck-Brunico)
- gitschberg-jochtal.com (Muhlbach-Rio Pusteria)
- 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
Maps to print out or view offline
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.
- Fahrradroute Pustertal gps files
(.zip file containing 2 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.