Austria is one of my favourite countries to visit, with Vienna, its capital, one of my all time favourite cities in the world. A place that holds a special place in my heart as I travelled there when my baby was only 5 months old and we truly had a wonderful mum and baby solo time. When the chance to visit Tirol came up, I knew I had to go. The trip was a hiking and gourmet holiday in the beautiful Tyroelan village of Ischgl , in the Paznaun valley. The resort is well known for being a skiers paradise in winter with a buzzing nightlife and a lively après-ski atmosphere, so it was interesting to see the Paznaun valley and all it has to offer during the summer.
Ischgl is rated as one of Austria’s top ski resorts.This picturesque village offers a wide choice of hotels including luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, designer stores, incredible spas and outdoor swimming pools. There is also plenty of independent restaurant serving comfort Tyrolean menu options in friendly and cosy places where the staff will serve you wearing traditional outfits.
The Culinary St Jacobs Way 2019: A hiking and Gourmet experience
I travelled to Ischgl in July for the opening of a new edition of “The culinary St Jacob’s Way”, an event that makes gourmet food available to hikers . I thought it was a wonderful idea as it combines the outdoors, and the wonderful Alpine landscapes with comfort food prepared by Michelin star chefs.
Every summer since 2008, a group of award-winning chefs from Europe, create a signature dish inspired by the Alps and Alpine gastronomy. The dishes are then available on the menu of five elected mountain inns in the Paznaun region. As a visitor, you can hike to these huts from Ischgl to enjoy the creations of the chefs.This year, the UK representative is Michelin star chef James Knappett, whose dish will be available till September at the Almstuberl hut in Kappl. Also taking part are Michelin star chefs from Germany (Tristan Brandt) , France ( Jean-Georges Klein) , the Netherlands (Onno Kokmeijer) and Paul Ivic , from Austria, who is in charge of the vegetarian dish. The patron of this project is the chef-of-the century Eckart Witzigmann who is known to every gourmet and connoisseur.
Hiking towards one of the 5 mountain huts where you can enjoy the creations of the chefs is an incredible experience as you are surrounded by the Silvretta mountain rage of the Alps. While hiking, I came across local wildlife such as Alpine marmots and the prettiest Alpine flowers.
On my first hike, we set off from Ischgl and did -in approximately 2 hours- a guided hike towards the Heidelberger Lodge, a mountain hut located in the Silvretta in the Swiss canton of Graubunden. Here, the five chefs were waiting with their creations. The dishes they prepared was comfort but sophisticated food which was a delight to eat after a long hike. These menus are available on the five elected huts for 15 Euros.
Eating in the outdoors amid impressive mountain peaks and lush green mountain was definitely a highlight of all my holidays this year.
Local hero Martin Sieberer, one of Austria’s most decorated chefs, is the chef responsible for coordinating the chefs and the dishes participating in the Culinary St Jacob’s Way.I took the pic below and I must say my idea of Michelin star chefs(maybe I’ve seen far too many episodes of Kitchen nightmares!) was pretty much that of divas. Not these lot, they were all humble, down to earth, approachable and very friendly individuals.
Hotel Trofana Royal
The Opening Gala dinner that kicked off the event, took place at the beautiful Hotel Trofana Royal where Martin Sieberer has been the chef since 1996. Dining here is a very special experience, not surprisingly the most demanding connoisseurs are raving about the creations being served in the gourmet restaurants of the Trofana Royal; “Paznaunerstube” and “Heimatbühne”.
For the opening gala dinner, the sumptuous banquet Martin Sieberer prepared, included Artic char, veal, Chanterelle ravioli, or Granité of Champagne and lemon verbena in frozen oyster.
The Hotel Trofana Royal is no question the best place to stay in Ischgl for the ultimate luxury holiday, it is the gourmet hotel in Ischgl and the only 5-star superior hotel in Austria awarded with 5 toques by Gault-Millau .
During my evenings in Ischgl, I was lucky enough to try two other very captivating restaurants: The Hotel Tirol Restaurant and Restaurant Stuva. Fine dining based on traditional Tirolean cuisine is served at the very elegant Hotel Tirol where all the dishes I tried had the best ingredients of the region. Their menu included Tyrolean mountain trout, Paznaun Alp Veal or a delicious Paznaun berry shuffle.
Restaurant Stuva made for a different experience, here the menu is bold. Chef of the year 2019, Benjamin Parth, is the head chef at this no frills location where the dishes looked as if they were making a creative statement. The menu reminded me of the visual language of the movie “Persona” by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman in its uncluttered minimalism.
Ischgl is perfect for those who love being surrounded by incredible scenery and enjoy hiking, cycling and swimming in outdoors pools. All the main summer events take place till September and the main holiday activities aside from hiking, also cover mountain biking, e-biking, bouldering, motorcycling, trail running, fishing, mini-golf and ziplining. I welcomed the mild temperatures as I usually avoid busy beach resorts and sweltering summer temperatures. There was something quite beautiful and calming watching the rain one evening from the comfortable terrace of my hotel room while reading an Eduardo Galeano book.
If you book a night at one of the hotels in the Paznaun villages of Ischgl, Galtür, Kappl and See you will receive a free Silvretta Card. The card allows free use of cablecars, buses, swimming pools, museums and exhibitions.
The nearest airport to Ischgl is Innsbruck(Easy Jet, B.A) ,with a 75 minute road transfer. You can also fly to Zurich and take a train to Landeck and from there, it is a 30 minute taxi or bus journey to Ischgl, or fly to Munich and get a shuttle.
During my visit to Ischgl I stayed at the 4* superior Hotel Fliana , which has many offers in the summer, from 390 euros pp for 2 nights with breakfast, the hotel has a wonderful outdoor pool on the 4th floor and a jacuzzi with views to the mountains. I loved how every morning I could make my own juice from a selection of vegetables and fruits ready to be juiced!
More information on www.paznaun-ischgl.com
*I was invited to Ischgl by the Paznaun-Ischgl tourism board but all views are my own