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The charm of the Tyrol calls.

FOR sheer natural charm, the Austrian Tyrol has few rivals.

You can drive for hours along green valleys, looking to pine-forested hillsides and rarely see a view spoiled by industry.

Even the toy-like farmhouses and hay-barns are superbly decorative, with traditional designs that look as though a cuckoo will pop out at any moment.

The Austrian Tyrol was an early starter in the holiday business, making its name pre-war as a prime winter sport destination. Kitzbuhel, Seefeld and St Anton are still the top resorts, with dozens more village options spread along the valleys.

Owing to the winter-sport trade, every Tyrolean resort is also well equipped for summer holidays, with a full range of hotels, friendly guest houses, self-catering apartments and youth hostels.

Hiking up mountains is a big attraction, with hundreds of waymarked paths to the alpine meadows and even to the summer snowline.

For anyone who enjoys country walking, climbing up rough woodland paths or scrambling along mountain slopes, it's almost impossible to go wrong.

Every resort, large or small, can feature a full range - from gentle strolls to more demanding mountain-climbing. Local footpath maps are always available.

Tour operators often feature walks guided by their local reps. Or the resort tourist office may offer a weekly guided programme of graded hikes.

There's every aid to easy mountain walking, with cable cars and chairlifts that operate summer and winter. In several locations you can buy a six-day pass that covers local lifts or mountain railways for around pounds 20.

If you're driving in from Switzerland, the 5,436ft Arlberg Pass is the dividing line between the provinces of Vorlberg and Tyrol.

The first main resort on the Tyrolean side of the Arlberg is St Anton - an international winter-sport centre which does big summer business with British visitors.

Morning and evening sees a daily procession of goats and brown Swiss cattle. Bells tinkle and clang as the herds go out to pasture and home again.

Husky farmers and wood-cutters go clumping off to work in shiny leather shorts with embroidered braces. They wear feathers in their Tyrolean hats. Even clerks at the the local bank are dressed in leather shorts.

During daytime in St Anton, lifts can hoist you to the Valluga peak, over 9,000ft up, past slopes richly coloured by alpine flowers.

If you enjoy the heights, consider Obergurgl - the highest village in Austria - which offers a range of challenging hikes led by Alpine School guides. Experienced walkers can stay overnight in mountain refuges.

Elsewhere, in Stubai Valley, past the village resorts of Fulpmes and Neustift, is a glacier at 10,500ft where summer skiing is possible.

The Tyrol is ideal for outdoor sport like horse-riding, white water rafting, canoeing, fishing and mountain-biking.

For a change of scenery, the region is well served by bus and train along the Inn valley, or locally organised sight-seeing coach tours.

If you want maximum sightseeing interest, centre yourself on Innsbruck or Seefield.

Innsbruck is capital of the Tyrol, packed with colourful buildings and steeped in history. It preserves all the traditional charm of its Habsburg past.

As a major crossroads, the town offers a wide choice of side-trips into Bavaria, to Salzburg, or over the Brenner Pass to the Italian Tyrol, the Dolomite Mountains and even further to Verona or Venice.

But some of the most rewarding sightseeing is to explore the Tyrolean side valleys. Villages have a musical-comedy appearance.

TRAVEL FACTS

Ask your travel agent for a selection of Lakes and Mountains brochures.

Most holiday packages are operated by air to Innsbruck or Salzburg, with onward transfer by road.

Coach tour operators can feature local pickup, with lower-cost overnight shuttle to the Tyrol.

More information: Austrian National Tourist Office, 14 Cork Street, London. W1X 1PF. Tel: 0171 629 0461.
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Article Details
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Author:Butler, Reg
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 28, 1999
Words:630
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