In September 1991, German hikers Erika and Helmut Simon stumbled upon a 5000-year-old mummy in the Ötztal Alps on the border between Austria and Italy. Ötzi, as the iceman was affectionately dubbed, has become world famous since then. Ötzi-Dorf is in Umhausen in the Ötz Valley, not too far from where the mummy was originally found. The area known as Urkraft Umhausen (my dictionary tells me Urkraft means elemental force ☹) boasts three other major attractions. The highlight (for us) is the impressive Stuiben Waterfall, which is Tyrol’s highest. Visitors can also watch some Alpine birds of prey in action, or give their feet some “Kneipp” treatment after a full day of exploring.
1. Stuiben Waterfall
Long before Ötzi died, two-thirds of the mountain peaks behind Umhausen came crashing down in a massive rockslide. In fact, the rockslide of Köfels (the nearby village) is the largest known landslide in the Alps. When this happened about 9,800 years ago, the exit of the Horlach Valley was blocked. The Horlach Creek had to find a new path over the rocks, and voilá! – the Stuiben Waterfall came plunging down 159 metres.
The scenic walk from Ötzi-Dorf to the bottom of the falls takes about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace. The path is wide and the elevation gradual. Even the very young and the not so fit will do it quite comfortably. From there, the path gets a bit steeper and narrower. Try to at least make it to the next viewing platform directly opposite the waterfall to take in it’s true size and splendour. It’s only another 15-minute walk.
Get Close to the Spray
Get even closer to the healthy and refreshing spray by walking over the 80-metre long suspension bridge. It’s so sturdy that even I managed despite my fear of heights. From there, a few hundred steps take you to the top of the waterfall where the highest viewing platform gives you an entirely different impression of the thundering water. Total walking time from Ötzi-Dorf to the top of the waterfall is about 1,5 hours. That is really taking it easy, and getting back is naturally a lot quicker.
The spray from the waterfall is called Stuiben in the local dialect, hence the name. The water dust particles have been proven to improve your health, and is particularly beneficial to asthma sufferers.
- Those with climbing experience, can climb to the top along the family-friendly via ferrata to the left of the waterfall. We watched some children with their dad start off over the creek at the bottom, and it looked pretty awesome. Climbing equipment can be rented at the Kneipphäusl restaurant (next to the parking area in the valley) for €15 per set.
- The Stuiben Waterfall is floodlit every Wednesday night. Guided lantern walking tours are offered by the local tourist association from the middle of June. The cost is €7 for adults and €5 for children from 7-14 years. Bookings are required.
Since his discovery, scientists have gained a wealth of knowledge by painstakingly dissecting Ötzi and the artefacts found with him. At Ötzi-Dorf you will travel back in time to experience Ötzi’s world 5,000 years ago. The archaeological open air museum gives you an idea what everyday life was like in the Copper Age. It includes a hunting hut, granary, sacrifice site, as well as live mountain goats and ancient cattle breeds. You will also see a recreation of the scene where Ötzi was found half buried in glacial ice, and what he probably looked like when he was murdered. Yes, the poor fellow was shot in his left shoulder with a deadly arrow. The latest findings on the murder case was presented at an International Mummy Congress in Bozen, Italy in 2016.
Opening Times: May to October, daily from 9:30 to 17:30 (17:00 in October)
Admission Fees: Adults – €8,10, Children (6-15 years) – €4,00, Families (2 adults, 2 children) – €21,50
Guided Tours: Daily at 10:00, 12:00, 13:00 and 16:00 (audio guides in different languages are also available)
Tip: If you want to see the real Ötzi, you will have to travel a little further to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. A specially designed cold cell in the museum has been the mummy’s home since 1998.
3. Ötz Valley Birds of Prey Park (Greifvogelpark)
The birds of prey park is immediately adjacent to Ötzi-Dorf. It is home to around 15 species of Alpine birds of prey, including vultures, eagles, kites, hawks and owls. You can watch some of them in action during the daily flight shows presented by the park’s falconers. It is possible to walk around the park and admire the birds in their aviaries 30 minutes before and after a show.
Opening Months: May to October
Bird Shows: 11:30 and 14:30 from Monday to Saturday, 11:30, 14:30 and 16:00 on Sundays and public holidays (check the website for off-season times)
Admission Fees: Adults – €9,90, Children (6-15 years) – €5,90, Families (2 adults, 2 children) – €27,90)
Tip: Save money by buying the combo ticket for both Ötzi-Dorf and the Birds of Prey Park for €13,50 (adults), €7,40 (kids) and €37,00 (families)
4. Bischofsplatz Kneipp Treading Pools
The treading pools named after the Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp are the perfect place to end your tour of Urkraft Umhausen. Take off your shoes and socks and give your feet some Kneipp treatment in the ice-cold mountain water of the various pools. This special kind of hydrotherapy is said to boost the immune system and stimulate the circulatory and nervous system. Alternate the Kneipp treatment with some barefoot walking on the adjacent trail covered with stones, pine cones, tree bark, sand and gravel.
Children love the Kneipp pools and barefoot trail. Why not let them enjoy it while you drink a Radler or coffee at the Kneipphäusl-restaurant for a relaxing end to your day?
Tip: Other places to eat and drink include the Stuibenfall Gasthof at the top of the waterfall, the Waldcafé Stuböbele on the way to the bottom of the waterfall, and Ötzi’s Einkehr in Ötzi-Dorf.
The distance from Innsbruck to Umhausen is about 65 kms. Travel along the A12 towards Bregenz and take the Ötztal off-ramp after about 48 kms. Umhausen is 15 km down the Ötz Valley.
Parking is available in front of the Kneipphäusl at Bischofsplatz @ €4,50 for a day ticket.
- For more day trip ideas in Tyrol, also read why the Achensee is a summer holiday paradise and find inspiration for things to do in the Stubai Valley in summer.