C Lünersee © Dietmar Denger / Vorarlberg Tourismus
Probably because a lot of things come together there in the most beautiful of ways: culture, city life and nature. In fact, several other fascinating alpine valleys are situated nearby. Bludenz, however, is not only a great place to meet but also a charming place from which to set off on trips into Brandnertal, Klostertal and the Biosphere Park Großes Walsertal.
Small world on a grand scale
Sometimes it’s better to start at the end and that’s certainly the case with Brandnertal: a short cable-car ride takes visitors up to an altitude of almost 2,000 metres from where panoramic views of Lake Lünersee present themselves that are simply breathtaking. It’s beautiful! And its colours! And the mountains behind! It all looks like a painting, the sky blue, the water’s aquamarine, the washed-out grey of the steep faces that make the lake look as if it’s been set like a gem in a piece of jewellery. Would anyone want to leave here straight away? Of course not. So you set off to walk around the lake to soak in more of this panorama. And all the hikers you encounter coming the other way have all got that same rapturous look on their faces that you have. And they, too, keep stopping every 20 or 30 metres to take pictures.
It’s possible to meet the widest variety of different people in Brandnertal. That’s mainly because this valley has something for everyone. There’s a bike park and several mountain bike trails of varying levels of difficulty that lead through the beautiful landscape. There’s archery, too. And climbing, of course. Hikers will find more than 400 kilometres of hiking trails, the most charming of which take visitors to Loischkopf or Kesselfall and, when the weather is good, the high plateau of Tschengla with its Alpe Rona is so enchanting that visitors often start asking themselves why they shouldn’t actually spend their entire holiday there.
Steep slopes do not bear down on Brandnertal unlike other valleys in the eastern Alps: it’s actually possible for visitors driving up from Bürs via Bürserberg and Brand to turn right or left into the gently rising landscape wherever and whenever they want. By the way, the Tierwelten-Weg (Animal World Trail) at Alpe Parpfienz is always a delight for kids. Interactive stations have been set up where they can play hide-and-seek in marmot winter dens, join Bienen GmbH (Bees Ltd.) and learn more about birds of prey and owls.
For a valley that’s less than twenty kilometres long, it’s surprising how much there is to do in Brandnertal. And visitors shouldn’t forget to explore right to its end because there’s this lake high up that looks as if it’s been set like an aquamarine in between the mountains.
Lünersee from above
Water at its most beautiful
Klostertal is also home to a lake that plays a leading role there – Lake Formarinsee that is situated at 1793 metres above sea level with the Rote Wand in the Lechquellen Mountains. The lake is fed by melt water that flows from the peaks in spring – so it’s size varies. The body of water that frequently shimmers in an intense blue-green can be reached on foot from Klostertal, from Großes Walsertal and from Lech Zürs. Or on the hikers’ bus that travels through Zugertal directly to Lake Formarinsee.
Generally, lots of things revolve around water here. The around 30-kilometre-long Klostertal (which branches off from Walgau near Bludenz and extends to the Arlberg and the Tyrolean border) is a narrow valley with steep slopes to the right and left that have waterfalls plunging down them from seemingly everywhere. Charming circular hiking trails lead, for example, to the Allmeinwasserfall and Fallbachwasserfall waterfalls. And then there’s the Alfenz that rushes through the centre of the valley – such landscapes are always called ‘wildly romantic’ in travelogues – as well as the municipalities of Klösterle, Dalaas and Innerbraz with their beautiful hotels, good restaurants and well-established traditions that are dotted along the landscape. Travellers have always been well looked after in Klostertal: the first hostels were built in the Middle Ages because the route between the Alpine ridges used to be a long and arduous one. Merchants and packers were able to find rooms and enjoy warm meals and one or two cups of wine at these stops.
Klostertal has to this day remained a part of Vorarlberg where active visitors will feel right at home: you almost always have to climb high if you want to go hiking or mountain biking, perhaps to Lake Spullersee, to Muttjöchle or to the Wasserstuben-Alpe. Visitors not wishing to make the effort to go up that far may hike from Klösterle into the secluded Nenzigasttal up to the alp. Or even deeper into the Verwall Mountains.
People exploring the area between Bludenz and the Arlberg will at some point start asking themselves why the TV votes limit themselves to choosing just a single location as the one that’s most beautiful. Klostertal is home to many more that deserve the accolade.
Mason-waterfall above Braz, Klostertal
water wheel in Klostertal around Nenzigast-Alpe
Biosphere Park Großes Walsertal
In harmony with nature
And now just take a break somewhere, maybe just up there ahead, where there’s a nice view, stop, park the e-bike and … look. It’s really beautiful here, don’t you think? Some people even claim that Großes Walsertal was the model for all the other valleys in the Alps during the creation – although not all of them were as successful. Where else could you find 40 mountain peaks standing to attention? And where else would you feel that you’re cycling through one of those ‘Planet Earth’ documentaries that always seem to feature the most beautiful spots in the world?
The Biosphere Park Großes Walsertal is so wide in many places that it no longer looks like a valley but rather like an oversized model railway landscape. The towns and villages are marked by tapering church spires and the houses disappear behind infernos of colour in flower boxes rushing by as cyclists pass through them. And then you’re already leaving Sonntag or Fontanella behind you and its back into the expansiveness, which, with all the mountains, is really not so wide … it’s rather a depth that seems to have everything, groves, meadows and pastures, lakes and rugged peaks further up. And everywhere the apparently harmonious coexistence of the rural cultural landscape and species-rich nature, fields and villages. It makes you think that everywhere else in the world must have once looked like this valley.
Perhaps that’s what the people who first settled in the valley and named it in the 14th century also thought. The Walser, a group of people who started out from the Wallis and established settlements all across the Alps, initially came from Switzerland. They were followed by others and they all lived in and off nature. Großes Walsertal has today been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Park. The organisation is of the view that it’s a habitat worth preserving. Großes Walsertal is practically a model for people to live in harmony with nature.
Visitors feel this every time they come into contact with the local residents, at every snack that the innkeeper on the Alpe Oberüberluth serves with a proud: “It comes from happy cows!” It can often be felt out on hikes and while chatting with the people who live here. Visitors can even feel it when they just climb off their e-bikes somewhere just to take it all in.
A feast for the eyes: the Lake Seewaldsee in Großes Walsertal
View of the mountain station Sonntag Stein
Mountain station in Sonntag-Stein
Cycling and e-biking: heading off into the distance
Almost 300 kilometres of cycling and mountain-bike routes of all levels of difficulty invite visitors to discover the mountain world around Bludenz – and the most energy-saving way to do so is on e-bikes. The 155-kilometre-long five-valley mountain bike tour around Bludenz – best tackled on an e-bike – is one of the most charming. The five-day trip presents magnificent views of the Räti-kon, the Verwall and Lechquellen Mountains and the Rhine Valley.
Bludenz and the three valleys
Bludenz is a great place for visitors who want to dive into nature and culture in equal mea-sures. A special plus: guests of the Alpine city, Klostertal and Brandnertal (Nüziders has not yet joined) will be eligible for a guest card that entitles them to free travel by train and bus across Vorarlberg.