Forget the car and traffic. In Plan you are surrounded only by mountains (the Italian Alps), the sound of cowbells and rivers. The cheerful voice of children playing in the streets welcome us in this wonderful carfree village of Passeiertal (Val Passiria, in Italian), South Tyrol.
Our journey to discover the Alpine Pearls starts from Plan (Pfelders in German), one of the best examples of sustainable tourism in the Alps. We are at 1,600 meters above sea level, surrounded by the unspoilt nature of the the Nature Park Gruppo di Tessa, 50 minutes from Merano and less than an hour from Austria.
Plan is one of the Alpine Pearls, but not only. Let’s discover Top 10 adventures that made our family trip memorable, and that your children will love!
1. Travelling by carriage (or sled) horse drawn
The cheerful trotting of two cute blond horses marks the rhythm of our carriage ride through the streets of the center of Plan. We meet pastures, meadows and forests, until to Maso Lazins. If your children have never got on a real horse-drawn carriage, this adventure will be unforgettable!
The driver is Albrich, who with his German accent tells us about his passion for horses, transmitted by her father who raised horses in Val Passiria. The avellinese race horses are tireless horses, ideal for working in the Alps, and also very gentle. Albrich transmitted his passion to his daughters, and one of them is with us in the carriage tour. Together also they organize horseback riding, both for beginners and experts.
Do not miss: in winter, the romantic itineraries in horse-drawn sleigh in the snowy landscape of the Passeiertal. Here you can book your romantic carriage ride.
2. Get lost in a maze of rocks in the clouds
Who does not love the intricate and mysterious paths to get lost and then find the path? We will add to our list of the most beautiful mazes in Italy this unique maze of rocks on the Alps.
It is not a traditional maze of green hedges. It’s a natural maze marked by rocks, trees and water.
We follow the children who discover narrow passages between stones. They follow a path, and then another, until you reach a small pond, or a vantage point over the valley.
The labyrinth of stones is very recent (inaugurated in July 2016) and can be visited free of charge, starting from the top station of the cable car “Grünboden-Express” at an altitude of 2000. The new gondola in fact part of the Plan of center and get to Malga Grunbode, where It is the beginning of the path in the rock labyrinth. At this link the information with costs and times of Grünboden Express cable car to reach the maze of Rocks by Plan
3. Walking along the panoramic trail, from hut to hut
From the rock labyrinth you can walk in an other amazing trail. It starts at Malga Grünboden, in the heart of the Natural Park of the Gruppo di Tessa. A quick stop to taste the notes of traditional music and a fragrant mountain herbal tea, and we are ready to start our journey in alpine hut.
After a few meters uphill, the trail becomes almost flat and opens on Lazins valley with a breathtaking view. It is ideal for families and children. They go through soft pastures dotted with grazing cows, with a fantastic view of huts and shelters.
The next stop is Malga Zeppichl, where we expect a lunch you beer and local cheese. Then Lazins, a group of huts oldest inhabited throughout the year, where it seems to go back in time. Here the cars do not exist and every corner moves with antique wooden objects and wild animals. Children play to milk a cow toy in wood, or to explore barefoot play area surrounded by greenery. Parents can relax in front of a good beer.
This is just one of many possibilities: the Passeiertal offers over 300 km of trails waiting to be explored, and more than 50 huts to discover!
4. Shop at local farmers’ shops
Zeppichl is a small group of traditional farms, less than one kilometer from Plan. Here live only a dozen families, the air is pure and the place offers a breathtaking views across the valley.
TheMartin‘s shop was opened a few years ago and offers local specialties and special products. Among the files of sausages hanging on the wall, you can find the speck of the valley, the local beer, jams of wild strawberries, and wild blueberry juice.
A little further on we stop at Seppnerhof. Here Marlies and Berta tell us about their special chees with milk from cows grazing at high altitude. The same cows that we met during our journey on foot from hut to hut. They produce delicious cheese and yogurt, which you can taste and buy in their small shop.
A curiosity: this exquisite mountain organic cheese has won the first prize “Gold Kase” (Golden Cheese) in 2016.
5. Organize a picnic to the Plan Pond
The pond Plan is the perfect place for a picnic with the kids. The route is easy and winds through the woods starting from the small mountain village of Plan. After 20 minutes through pine and fir trees we come to the small alpine lake surrounded by woods. Here there is a magical silence and a wonderful atmosphere. The children dip their feet in the icy water of the lake, watching the small fish and salamanders that live in this natural reservoir. We prepare a picnic on the banks of the lake, admiring the green trees that are reflected on the water surface.
6. Swim in the pool with mountain views
After a day’s walk between pastures and woods, it’s time to immerse yourself in the warm water and the scent of essential oils. The Pfeldererhof Hotel’s pool surprises us with its spectacular mountain views. The water temperature is perfect and the pool also extends the outdoor terrace. We swim admiring the mountains. The view is even more amazing from here!
The wellness center, with sauna and turkish bath, is waiting for us, but also massages and treatments, such as the one with the mountain dairy milk. The magical white liquid produced by cows in high altitude can be spread on the skin to moisturize and nourish our body.
The eco-friendly hotel Pfeldererhof captivates immediately with its refined design and with its cozy atmosphere. It seems to have arrived at home. The sweet blonde mare grazing the lawn just outside our bedroom. The stone pine scent pervades our room: around us only furniture and natural atmosphere and soft wood.
A curiosity: the hotel offers a kids-club room for children with colorful rugs and lots of games, and an outdoor park with a large trampoline (a favorite pastime of my two kids!)
7. Celebrate the return of the cattle from the mountain
The inhabitants of Plan are so proud of their traditions that every opportunity is the right one to make them live. Everytime you enter in a hut, pub or hotel, you can admire typical clothing, folk music or pictures of some traditional festival.
One of the most significant anniversaries is the return of the cattle from the mountain pastures, which takes place every year in September.
It is not an event for tourists, but a real party felt by all the inhabitants. The cows that were in the pasture during the long summer months are celebrated with wreaths, music and traditional food. The Schuachplattln is the typical folk dance performed by men dressed with traditional leather trousers.
We have put on the calendar this special event to review the Plan during an atmosphere of magical party!
8. Discover beautiful views over the mountain border
The position of the Plan and the Passeiertal invites to explore the surroundings. The sights to visit are numerous: there is Merano with its renowned Terme and the botanical gardens, Bolzano with its magnificent Old Town and the beautiful museums (do not miss the Messner Mountain Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art).
But an adventure to live with kids is definitely Passo Rombo (Timmelsjoch in German), a unique project that beyond the natural boundaries of the mountain.
This alpine pass, which connects the Passeiertal with the Oetztal in Tyrol, was built in 1955 on the trail of the ancient mule track built by Mussolini as an alternative path to the Brenner Pass to arrive in Austria. Along the scenic route there are five architectural sculptures, signed by contemporary architects, and positioned along the road to dialogue with the stunning Alpine scenery.
Are scenic stops or pauses for reflection, places to discover the history of the area and the street (it was the smugglers’ route). This spaces offer spectacular views of the Ötzi valley, the Passeiertal and the Natural Park Tessa Group. A walkway suspended in space, a large telescope, the shadow of a smuggler or a large transparent dice in which enter and be surprised by a dizzying view. Needless to say the kids were out of breath!
A curiosity: the access to all the spaces and museum points Timmelsjoch is free.
9. Entrare in un antico bunker e poi trovarsi a tu per tu con gli Stambecchi
A dark and raw bunker, remained as it was during World War II. A real place that fascinates children immediately. They hear the voices of the soldiers at the front and run through the dank corridors discovering the stories that have crossed them.
The visit to the Bunker Mooseum fascinates children already at the entrance where they must wear waterproof jackets before entering the cold spaces of bunker built by Mussolini, with the aim of defending the border from direct contact with Nazi Germany.
Today the bunker is an interactive museum where you can discover the area and the curiosities of the Natural Park Gruppo di Tessa. At the ground floor, an entire room tells about the largest of the seven nature parks in South Tyrol. A major, stunning images and extraordinary video invite you to discover the many beauties of this park.
The cold and dark atmosphere of the bunker, the museum opens to the light and the nature of the mountain. Going up a narrow spiral staircase you can find yourself surrounded by outdoor live sound of nature. Here the path is an integrated circuit with the mountain, which offers a strong contact with nature.
In a few minutes we find ourselves face to face with the ibex, fascinating animals that are also the symbol of the Natural Park Gruppo di Tessa and the Passeiertal.
In Italy this is the only area where you can closely observe the ibex. The guide of the Park, Gernot Reich, gives children the chance to get close to these elegant animals to give to them to eat. An unforgettable experience!
A curiosity: the Bunker Museum is also a museum to climbing. On the building that houses the museum it has in fact been made a climbing wall (30 meters high with many paths and different levels of difficulty from 5c to 7b +). You can have free access to the gym using their own equipment.
All information to visit the Bunker Mooseum.
10. Wonder of an example of Sustainable Tourism in the Alps
The reasons for visiting Plan are so many. More of all we have chosen this destination among the Alps for its sustainability. Talking to the locals and the young councilor for tourism, Konrad Pamer, we discovered that Plan community is really courageous, eco-friendly and enterprising. Ready to experiment with innovative proposals, such as projects to eliminate cars from the village, to promote environmentally friendly mobility or to choose clean energy. They firmly believes that the sustainable tourism is the only possible way of tourism. We will dedicate another post to the theme to tell how the community of Moos in Passeier has managed to achieve this important goal, stay tuned