When I was invited again to visit South Tyrol for the second time, I was beyond stoked. Last summer, I visited Italy’s northernmost province for the first time and it turned out to be one of the best trips I did that year. This time, in March, I was going to experience what it looked like during winter. So I hopped on a plane from Brussels to Venice, suitcase packed with winter clothes and ski attire. Eindhoven to Innsbruck is an option too. You could then rent a car to cross the border, but we opted for Venice. During the 3 hour drive to South Tyrol, you can see the surroundings change from Mediterranean landscapes into Alpine peaks, a real joy to experience along the way.
The region in South Tyrol where I was staying last March is called Ahrntal, all the way up north in the province, near the Austrian border. It’s funny that in this Italian region over 70% of the people speak German as their first language. It actually doesn’t feel like Italy to be honest, and people certainly don’t drive as typical Italians around here. If you do find yourself in other parts of Italy, you can read my tips for driving in Italy here.
I stayed in hotel Bühelwirt, a design hotel that has recently been completely renovated using an abundance of light wood! The front part of the hotel, with the bar and reception, has been kept in a traditional style, but all the rest is completely new and designed by Pedevilla Architects. Truly a place to come back to and unwind after whatever winter activity you have been doing, whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, sledding or just a regular hike.
Rooms in hotel Bühelwirt have thick walls and doors so you don’t hear a sound of other guests around you. Every room features a large window with a plushy seating area right next to it. I could sit there for hours watching the weather conditions change in the mountains. It’s the ultimate relaxation. Rooms have a large modern bathrooms with walk-in rain shower, and what I first thought was a closet door, turned out to be the access to your private balcony.
Hotel Bühelwirt is a family hotel: owners Mattias and Michaela are always around and the friendly couple is very approachable. I love how Mattias took the time for a chat during our dinner. The cosy restaurant has large windows and serves locally sourced quality food and wines. Hotel Bühelwirt is definitely one of my top picks in Ahrntal and the entire South Tyrol!
Hiking in the Ahrntal
The original plan was to go sledding, but when we woke up the first morning, everything was covered in half a meter of fresh snow! It’s amazing how fast the weather conditions can change in Ahrntal. The day before, people had been telling how they had a warm winter and were experiencing the early signs of spring. And then BAM, suddenly winter is back in South Tyrol! So no sledding as it wasn’t going to be ideal on the carpet of fresh snow, so we went on a hike in the area and found some cute little photography spots. And as you should know, every hike needs to involve stopping for schnaps in a cozy mountain hut!
Sleeping in a mountain igloo!
In the afternoon we headed to Speikboden, one of the more famous ski locations in the area. But we didn’t plan on skiing though. We were going to do something that is way cooler than that! We took the last gondola lift up right before closing time. As we were the last on site and everything turned silent, we couldn’t believe our eyes as what we were seeing. At the top of the Speikboden ski slopes, they’ve built an igloo complex called Mountainigloo. And we were going to spend the night there!
The igloos were actually quite comfortable, we could sleep on a mattress and sleeping bags kept us very warm. Mattias from Unnavigated and I shared a family igloo with the two of us.
One of the igloos from Mountainigloo was turned into a restaurant, serving hot soup and meat. And if dinner didn’t warm us up, then drinking and sharing stories with Florian, the guy who runs the place, surely did! Florian turned out to be a free-spirited guy full of life lessons and funny stories. And what better place for sharing travel stories than in an iglu far from civilization! They have a jacuzzi and sauna right next to the igloos, so it couldn’t be more epic.
Going for a snowshoe hike
The next day we went for a sunrise hike that lasted the whole day. We hopped into the back of a snowcat that had been driving around all night preparing the slopes. It took us right to the top of the mountain. But conditions were so bad that unfortunately we couldn’t see the sun rise. But that didn’t stop us from having fun. The day turned really sunny so we did a snowshoe hike guided by Walther Lücker from Kreaktiv. Walther is actually a mountain guide in Nepal and has a lifetime full of stories, from that time he survived the avalanche in Nepal, the time he fell into a crevice with freezing water in the Pakistani Himalaya and survived. We were in good hands, and of course we found a hut somewhere down the road where we drank some fresh beers. Another day well spent in Ahrntal!
Having experienced South Tyrol during both summer and winter, the region is starting to feel like home now for me. I hope to be back soon, because the more I go, the more I realize there’s lots of areas left to be explored! If you can’t get enough, have a look at my South Tyrol post from last year or find some beautiful pics in my outdoor portfolio.
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