The Fahrradroute Pustertal (Pustertal cycleway)

Published on:  | Last updated: 3 November 2018

Cyclist on the Fahrradroute Pustertal near Innichen (San Candido)

Cyclist on the Fahrradroute Pustertal near Innichen (San Candido)

At a glance

Distance

67 kilometres

Difficulty/​terrain

Easy, although there are some small climbs.

Traffic

Mainly on traffic-free cycleways, but with some stretches of quiet road.

Surfaces

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.

Signs

Well signposted in both direc­tions.

Connections

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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Distances
Innichen (San Candido) - Toblach (Dobbiaco) ? kms
Toblach - Niederdorf (Villabassa) 5 kms
Niederdorf - Bruneck (Brunico) 24 kms
Bruneck - Sankt Lorenzen (San Lorenzo di Sebato) 3 kms
Detour to the Pragser Wildsee (Lago di Braies) 16 kms
Sankt Lorenzen - Muhlbach (Rio di Pusteria) 23 kms
Bruneck - Fortezza Franzensfeste 34 kms
Muhlbach - Fortezza Franzensfeste 7 kms

Getting there … and getting back

By train

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 in Austria
  • 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.

You can download the timetable for the DB-ÖBB EuroCity service DB-ÖBB Eurocity service 2018 timetable   and route map.

By plane

The closest airport is probably destin­a­tions and airlines>). München airport is also easy to get to —simply get off at München's's Ostbahnhof and take the S-Bahn to the airport.

Klagenfurt airport but it serves only a limited range of destin­a­tions. the next closest airport in Austria is Salzburg airport.

Route description

Toblach

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.

The Lerschachkapelle near Toblach (Dobbiaco)

The Lerschachkapelle near Toblach (Dobbiaco)

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).

Friedhofskapelle (cemetery chapel) near Oberolang (Valdaora di Sopra)

Friedhofskapelle (cemetery chapel) near Oberolang (Valdaora di Sopra)

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.

Mural on the Baumgartner Stöckl depicting the execution of Peter Sigmayr

Mural on the Baumgartner Stöckl depicting the execution of Peter Sigmayr

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 kms 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).

Bruneck (Brunico)

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.

Shopfront in Bruneck

Shopfront in Bruneck

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.

The Muhlbacher Klause near Muhlbach (Rio di Pusteria)

The Muhlbacher Klause near Muhlbach (Rio di Pusteria)

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 cafe.

After the Lanz cafe 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.

Visitors to the Festung Franzensfeste (Forte Fortezza)

Visitors to the Festung Franzensfeste (Forte Fortezza)

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.

Cycle route signs near Schabs (Sciaves)

Cycle route signs near Schabs (Sciaves)

More information

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.

Hostels

The only hostel on the route is the Jugendherberge Toblach). There's also a hostels at Brixen (the Jugendherberge Brixen).

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

Campsites

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):

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

Transport and services

Trains

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.

Bike shops

If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.

  Map:  Südtirol-bike-shops-map - show Südtirol bike shops map in overlay    |  Südtirol-bike-shops-map - show map in new window   

Resources

Tourist information websites

Cycling resources


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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