The amount of peculiarities, different landscapes as well as the multitude of cultures which are present within the alpine area is astonishing, resulting in a very diverse environment which often is very difficult to capture within a coherent picture. The route of the Via Transalpina is divided into 5 main sections which focus on specific themes that will accompany you along your travels.
In the first section, leading you from Oberstdorf, Germany, to Landeck, located in Western Tyrol, you will experience the initial theme Hiking Passion of the Via Transalpina, theme which unites hikers along the stages, resulting often in interesting encounters, the exchange of valuable information, impressions and experiences and even leading to lasting friendships.
The second section, leading from Landeck, Austria, to Bolzano, Italy, offers you the unique possibility to hike on the tracks of Ötzi the Iceman, one of the most famous naturally preserved mummies, which was discovered by chance in 1991 near the Tisenjoch/Giogo di Tisa in the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley.
During the third section of the Via Transalpina, leading from Bolzano to Calalzo, you will hike in the shade of the Dolomites, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009 and one of the most well-known mountain massifs of the world, being composed of fossilized coral riffs and marine sediments and including a unique vegetation and wildlife.
During the fourth section, leading from Calalzo to Gorizia, you will dive into the pristine nature and the Alpine Wilderness of the eastern Alps, a truly idyllic area of tranquility and natural purity.
The fifth and final section of the Via Transalpina, leading from Gorizia to Trieste, gives you the possibility to discover and savor the Alpine Enogastronomy within the multitude of local establishments and vineries along the Via Transalpina. Furthermore, during this section, you will notice the drastic change of the landscape from a high alpine scenery to the vastness of the Adriatic Sea.
The first section of the Via Transalpina from Oberstdorf, Germany, to Landeck, located in Western Tyrol, known as the land of castles and palaces, comprises 8 stages and encompasses approximately 4.000 high meters in altitude along its 57 km of length. It will surprise you with well-preserved medieval buildings within which you embark on a journey to the past, discovering the glorious history of the region. Just a few of the highlights are Knappenwelt Gurgltal, Castle Biedenegg and Castle Wiesberg.
The section, passing the High Alps of Allgäu, one of the largest natural reserves in Germany and Western Tyrol, immersed in untouched nature with its marvelous flora and fauna, is also the ideal area to forget about the everyday stress. Following the theme Hiking Passion in the Alps, you can easily find glimpses of the serenity and wellbeing of the rural idyll within the multitude of villages and museums as well as at the numerous natural attractions, such as gorges, lakes and mountain peaks. Coinciding with the popular Alp crossing E5 and overlapping partly with the long haul trail Adlerweg, this stage gives you also the possibility to meet other hikers along the way and exchange valuable information, impressions and experiences, which often leads even to lasting friendships united by the same hiking passion. Furthermore, a positive side effect of the concentration of long haul trails along the same route is the high quality of the infrastructure, such as well-maintained trails, clear signposting, good and many accommodation possibilities as well as good public transportation between the high number of entry and exit points.
The second section of the Via Transalpina from Landeck, Austria, to Bolzano, Italy, leads you the Ötztal and Schnalstal Alps, granting you the unique possibility of hiking while discovering Ötzi the Iceman.
Starting with a visit of the marvelous Castle Landeck, within which the impressive history of Tyrol is displayed and the ruins of Castle Schrofenstein, this section comprises 31 stages, covers approximately 8.500 high meters and has a total length of 162 km. Thanks to its wide area and its diverse altitudes, crossing the Texelgruppe Nature Park by foot gives you the possibility to discover the large variety of different types of vegetation and wildlife and to experience the fascinating landscapes of the alpine mountain range. The nature park comprises also the territory of the Ötztal and Schnalstal Alps, two of the most significant watersheds and natural borders of the Alpine Area, which in ancient times used to be crossed by hunters and shepherds. Within this area is also located the site where the world-famous naturally preserved mummy was discovered by chance in 1991: Ötzi, the Iceman. Along this section you will pass the place of discovery of Ötzi near the Tisenjoch/Giogo di Tisa in the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley, the archeoParc, which encompasses a museum about the age of the Iceman and, in Bolzano, meet Ötzi himself!
Moreover, within this section the probability to meet other hikers is very high, due to the overlapping with and crossing of other trails. Due to its easy accessibility and the flatness of the trail, day tourists and families can often be encountered especially in the last stages of the section, in the area of Merano and Bolzano, during which you will also have a marvelous view on the vineyards and apple growing area of the Etsch Valley.
One of the highlights of this section is also reaching the highest point of the Via Transalpina next to the hut Similaunhütte, which is located at 3.019 m above the sea level.
During the section from Bolzano to Calalzo, comprising 26 stages for a total 131 km, you hike in the shade of the impressive Dolomites, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009. Being composed of fossilized coral riffs and marine sediments and due to their unique flora and fauna, the Dolomites are one of the most unique mountain massifs of the world and attract thousands of hikers every year, allowing them to gaze at the most spectacular mountain scenery along the entire Via Transalpina. Among the most impressive mountain peaks within the area of the Via Transalpina you can find the Sciliar (2.563 m), the Sassolungo (3.181 m), the Marmolata (3.342 m, also called “The Queen of the Dolomites”), the Piz Boè (3.152 m, the highest peak within the Sella Group), the Civetta (3.220 m), the Monte Pelmo (3.168 m), the Tofane Mountain Group (with the Tofana di Rozes – 3.225 m, Tofana di Mezzo – 3.224 m and Tofana di Dentro – 3.238), the Monte Cristallo (3.221 m), the Campanile di Val Montanaia (2.173 m), the Monte Caninc (2.587 m) and the Monte Antelao (3.264 m, also called “King of the Dolomites”).
The geological peculiarities, which you can observe by hiking in the Dolomites on the Via Transalpina, are subject of a multitude of different studies, whose insights are made accessible through different facilities, such as the Geoparc Bletterbach, the Geo Museum, the Mineralogy Museum Monzoni, the Educational Trail of Arabba and the Geological Museum of the Dolomites. Being one of the most exciting area to hike, this section is also characterized by the harshness of this mountain massif: The climate can change very drastically, resulting in temperature differences of more than 20 degrees Celsius between morning hours and noon, even during summer. Hiking here sometimes can get rough, therefore stable mountain trekking shoes are advised. This section is also very frequented by short-distance hikers.
Being the frontline between Italy and Austro-Hungary during the First World War, the Dolomites have also been a fierce battleground of trench warfare, whose atrocities can be experienced even today. Especially along the trail towards the Passo Pordoi there are a multitude of remains such as trenches, tunnels and forts, which were installed to increase the survival odds of the soldiers. Moreover, the cruelty of the war is depicted in various sites, such as the German Military Cemetery Pordoi and indoor and outdoor museums.
The fourth section of the Via Transalpina, leading from Calalzo to Gorizia , including 30 stages for a total length of 325 km and approximately 18.000 high meters, will let you discover the peculiarities of the Alpine Wilderness and pristine nature of the eastern Alps. The valleys, through which the stages lead include gorges, rivers, lakes and mountain peaks. Moreover, this section is characterized by different rock formations which originated from alpine erosion. The combination of these attributes results in a complete immersion in the nature and the perception of tranquility and natural purity, which is also enhanced by the fact, that the different stages of this section, on which it is more likely to encounter local people than tourists, are not overrun by other hikers.
A variety of nature park houses and nature museums offer their insights about the biodiversity of this area and can easily be reached from the Via Transalpina. Along this section it is also possible to explore a multitude of churches, temples and monasteries, such as the church Pieve di Gorto and the church of Timau, which will bestow you with a deep feeling of peace and spirituality.
Enjoying the tranquility and purity of the destination, it will be very difficult for you to imagine that the area also has a dark past. During the First World War, it was the stage of fierce battles between the Italian and the Austro-Hungarian army. Especially in the city of Gorizia the confrontations of the two sides were intense, Gorizia being a trench town. You can explore the proves of it within the numerous museums and at memorials, such as the First World War Museum in Gorizia and the memorial of Oslavia.
Entering the city of Cividale, you have the unique opportunity to discover the first Lombard duchy in Italy. Among many cultural sites within the city, the Lombard Temple, one of the significant symbols of the Lombard power in Italy, allowed the city in 2011 to officially being accepted as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The final section of the Via Transalpina, leading from Gorizia to Trieste with a total length of 73 km, covering approximately 1.800 high meters, is dedicated to the Alpine Enogastronomy which can be enjoyed within the multitude of local establishments and vineries along the 8 stages, while admiring the drastic change of the landscape from a high alpine scenery to the vastness of the Adriatic Sea.
It also leads through the high plains of the Carso, letting its adventurers experience the rare beauty of the Triestine wine region. Its wine, which already has been savored in ancient times, nowadays gained an even higher reputation through the development of different varieties such as the Vitovska and Glera. In the immediate surroundings of the wine-producing area of Collio some of the most distinct wines of Italy are produced to this date. The landscape is characterized by a high presence of vineyards and farms, whose ancient methods of wine production can be experienced through dedicated tours. One interesting and also delicious peculiarity of this area, is the “Vino della Pace” (Wine of Peace), a wine created during a Project which was initialized in 1983 by combining grape varieties of the 5 continents in order to promote the understanding and love among the nations, and was subsequently sent to the Pope and other heads of state, a practice which is used even today. Furthermore, it is quite ironic that a symbol of peace and international understanding is produced close to the town Brazzano, within which the first act of war of the First World War between Italy and Austria was executed.
During the descent towards Gorizia, you will already have experienced a drastic change of the landscape, finding yourself being able to enjoy beautiful views back on the snowy Alps and forward towards the Adriatic Sea. Most of the section overlaps with the Alpe Adria Trail, allowing interesting encounters with other hikers. Moreover, there is a multitude of accommodation possibilities along the way. Although this area is popular between hikers, you can experience moments of absolute spirituality and tranquility over the wide and easy to walk paths through foothills and forests. The well-known Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke already discovered the uniqueness and serenity of this area during his stay at Duino, where he started to write his famous “Duino Elegies”.
Also the province of Friuli Venezia Giulia has not been spared by the horrors of the First World War, being the battleground of confrontations between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian army. In order not to forget one of the great tragedies of mankind and to preserve the contemporary witnesses, the traces of the First World War are displayed on the high plains of the Carso through outdoor museums, memorials, monuments and other exhibitions.