This year, on Saturday June 18th thousands of bonfires across the peaks of SalzburgerLand and Tirol will set the mountains aglow to feed the sun and welcome the summer. Most villages have their own particular customs dating back in some cases to the Middle Ages. Below are five of the most interesting to visit.
Summer Solstice at Innsbruck’s Nordkette
The mountains to north and south of Innsbruck, including the Hafelekar (2334m) and Patscherkofel (2250m), appear to be on fire. Bonfires big and small light up the sky bringing the whole community on to the streets to celebrate. Views are breathtaking from below or above: the Nordkettenbahnen cable car, will run up to midnight from the heart of Innsbruck, with music and culinary treats at every stop. More: www.innsbruckmarketing.at
STAY: Relais & Châteaux Spa Hotel Jagdhof. This 70-room hotel is located in the beautiful Stubai Valley, 20 minutes’ drive from Innsbruck and the Nordkettenbahnen. Offering classic Tyrolean-style decor, a warm welcome, spectacular views, gourmet cuisine and a prestigious wine cellar. It offers relaxation in the sprawling SPA with its extensive saunas, in/outdoor pools and private SPA suite and SPA chalet.
Summer Solstice in the Steinernes Meer, Saalfelden
One of the most spectacular bonfire traditions is that of the pretty mountain villages of SalzburgerLand’s Pinzgau region around Saalfelden, Leogang and Maria Alm. Fuelled by logs, wood chips and thousands of candle stubs collected over the year, the pièce de resistance is on the peaks of the Steinernes Meer chain in the Berchtesgaden Alps, which straddles the Austro-German border. 800 fires in the shape of an Edelweiss over 100m x 180m in the snow, are lit to thrilling effect. Catch the best views from Leogang’s Asitzbahn cable car, which runs through the evening, and join the Sonnwendfeuerfest bonfire party on the shores of Lake Ritzensee. More: www.saalfelden-leogang.com
STAY: Ritzenhof Hotel & Spa am See. This 72-room hotel is located on the shores of the Ritzensee lake with amazing views. It has direct access to the swimming area and is equally well-situated for cycling, walking or golf in breathtaking countryside. Décor throughout is contemporary in style with elegant overtones. Gourmet cuisine specialising in seasonal and sustainable menus is created with locally-sourced produce. The hotel is only an hour from the sights and shopping attractions of Salzburg.
Summer Solstice in the Kitzbühel Alps
According to the ancient traditions of Kitzbühel’s neighbouring villages – Oberndorf, Kirchdorf, Erpfendorf and St Johann in Tirol – bonfires across the Wilder Kaiser, Kalkstein, Kitzbüheler Horn and Leogang Mountains are believed to fortify the early summer sun and ward off evil spirits. Take the cable car up to Harschbichl after dark for a breathtaking view from the summit at 1700m. More: www.kitzbuehler-alpen.com
STAY: Simon Taxacher’s Relais & Châteaux Rosengarten. Situated in Kirchberg in the Kitzbühel Alps, a natural environment as harmonious as it is idyllic. Four-toque chef Simon Taxacher has poured passion and delight into 26 lavish rooms and suites decorated with natural timbers, sumptuous fabrics and organic colours. Cuisine is at the heart of the experience: RestaurantSimon Taxacher, among Austria’s finest, is ranked 75 in La Liste (an authoritative French list of the world’s 1000 best restaurants), Bistro Rosengarten Light serves fresh daily menus and cookery classes are also available. More facilities include a bar, library, smoking lounge the Rosengarten SPA and an outdoor swimming pool.
Summer Solstice in the Grossarl Valley
At the heart of the bucolic meadows and high pastures of the Grossarl valley, less than an hour from Salzburg, the Sonnwendfeier Bonfire Party on the Laireiteralm, at the top of the Panoramabahn, is not to be missed. This celebration of light, fire, music, food and drink is the hub of the area’s summer solstice celebrations; for a truly spectacular view across the valley, continue on foot (45 minutes) to the summit of the Kreuzkogel (2027m). More: www.grossarltal.info
STAY: Grossarlerhof Hof. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, this sophisticated chalet-style hotel surrounded by meadows, mountains and forests on the edge of Europe’s largest national park, the Hohe Tauern. A warm ambience, 49 rooms and suites, beautiful décor sensitively blends tradition and the present-day, excellent cuisine (al fresco dining weather permitting) and the outstanding Erlenreich Relax & SPA. A trip to the hotel’s romantic Mooslehenalm Alpine lodge – offering overnight accommodation – is a must.
Summer Solstice in Zugspitz Arena
The midsummer bonfires above Ehrwald, Lermoos and Biberwier are so impressive and famous that in 2010 they were declared part of Austria’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. This year 8000 fires will be lit at 10 pm, creating a huge 360° panorama of bonfire art: flaming symbolic figures include representations of Christ, crucifixes and deer. More: www.zugspitzarena.com
STAY: Relais & Châteaux Singer Sporthotel & Spa. This family hotel is situated in Berwang, at the heart of the Zugspitz Arena. It has a three-storey Spa a la Singer provides 1800m² dedicated to relaxation and rejuvenation: saunas, steam rooms, glacier ice fountain, in and outdoor pools, sunbathing terrace and a breathtaking 10,000m² Alpine Relaxation Garden.