The Pusterbike or Val Pusteria Cycle Path runs at the foot of the Dolomites and is one of the most beautiful cycle paths in Italy.
Departing from San Candido, last Italian town before the border with Austria, the Pusterbike follows the course of the River Rienza until it reaches Fortezza, near Bressanone, travelling near beautiful nature stops like the Lake of Valdaora and famous towns in Alto Adige like Brunico and Villabassa.
The bright colours that change with the seasons, the majesty of the Dolomites, the castles that inevitably catch the travellers’ eye, and the charm and flavours of the villages located in the valley are among the many reasons that make this itinerary a must-see.
Moreover, the trail is suitable even for families, following bicycle paths that mainly go on gentle downhill stretches. Last but not least, it is connected to a wide cycle path network like the one that follows the course of the River Drava from Dobbiaco to Lienz.
After leaving from San Candido, the first 5 km are among the very few to travel uphill – gentle, nonetheless – until Dobbiaco, ‘gateway’ to the Dolomites and highest point in the valley. It is here that the trail meets the River Rienza for the first time, which will be a travelling companion for a great part of the way.
Later, an underground passage allows travellers to overcome the railroad before going deep into a fir forest. The view opens up quickly, however, letting travellers enjoy the intense green fields and, in the distance, the bell tower of the Church of Santo Stefano in Villabassa, with its typical onion-like shape.
Once the trail leaves the town, it goes back into the forest for a stretch, allowing travellers to cool off in the shade of the trees while enjoying glimpses of the majestic mountains surrounding the valley. The trail continues, coasting Monguelfo and then on the stretch that reaches Lake Valdaora (km 19): fields and wooded areas alternate until the path reaches the shore of this beautiful artificial lake, set in the landscape to perfection.
The trail goes on a gentle uphill climb as the path turns into a dirt road near Perca, on the way to Brunico (km 34), heart of the valley and featuring a historic centre that has preserved its medieval appearance, overlooked by the Castle of Brunico, part of the Messner Mountain Museum.
From Brunico the trail returns to run along the River Rienza, which it has abandoned for just a moment after San Lorenzo di Sebato to overcome a hill, reaching Casteldarne, a small town boasting its very own castle.
Small villages and breathtaking landscapes continue all the way to Vandoies, immediately followed by Rio Pusteria, where travellers can find the homonymous sluice, perfectly preserved, overlooking the cycle path with its outer walls and fortress.
Only 10 km remain, with a few uphill and downhill stretches, before the arrival point, Fortezza, where a cycle path goes through the Austro-Hungarian fort that sets this town on the River Isarco apart.
No point requiring particular skills; the trail is suitable for everyone.
Considered the gateway to the Dolomites, the town is immersed in the nature of the Sesto Dolomites Nature Park and of the nearby Fanes-Sennes-Braies Park. It also includes two lakes of extraordinary beauty, Lake Dobbiaco and Lake Landro, while noteworthy places in the historic centre are without a doubt Castle Herbstenburg and Via Massimiliano.
Castle Brunico or Kühbergl, in German rises on a hill in the historic centre of the town. Built in 1251 by the Prince Bishop of Bressanone, Bruno von Kirchberg, the castle is easy to reach on foot, entering through the south gate where once there was the drawbridge. Inside is a courtyard with a circular tower to access the upper floors, where there is still a set of rooms that belonged to the bishop and a small chapel. Moreover, since 2011 a wing of the castle has housed part of the Messner Mountain Museum, exhibition wanted by the famous climber Reinhold Messner.
Considered the most important Romanesque monument in Tyrol and of all Eastern Alps, the complex includes a church and a monastery. Founded in the 8th century and completely rebuilt between the 12th and 13th centuries, the church houses notable works of art like the large wooden cross of the high altar and a cycle of frescoes, always dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, in the central dome. The whole building is in exposed stone blocks and features a simple Romanesque structure with a gabled facade and large bell tower.
Measuring 65,000 m², Fortezza is the largest historic complex of Alto Adige. It rises 750 m above sea level, at the junction between the Isarco Valley and Val Pusteria, and it belongs to a larger system of Austrian fortifications along the Italian border. It was built in just 5 years (1833-1838) upon the orders of Austrian Emperor Francis I as a way to create an impassable barrier to keep out invading armies. In fact, it was never attacked, and it was used as a military warehouse until the end of 1991, when it fell in disuse. Since 2005 it has been used for social and cultural events, and as a venue for art exhibitions. The complex is divided into three independent blocks: the Upper Fort (Forte Alto) overlooking the valley, the Middle Fort (Forte Medio) containing the Kaiser-Villa, and the Lower Fort (Forte Basso), divided into a number of buildings at the bottom of the Isarco Valley, easy to reach through a spectacular underground passage.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Val Pusteria, Villabassa boasts a long history and tradition when it comes to hospitality. Indeed, it is a place that has always been very popular thanks to its climate, and a destination loved by those who seek to relax and unwind in the mountains. Moreover, inside the Kurpark, a large park surrounded by beautiful scenery, as well as play areas and recreational spots visitors can also find an important centre for Kneipp hydrotherapy. From a cultural point of view, Villabassa also has a beautiful old historic centre featuring the late-Baroque parish Church of Santo Stefano with its onion-shaped bell tower. Last but not least, the town is well-known among cyclists as it is the starting point for the toughest race in the Dolomites: the Dolomiti Superbike.
Also known as Lake Monguelfo due to its proximity to the village by the same name, Lake Valdaora is an important artificial lake in the heart of Val Pusteria, in South Tyrol. Covering an area of 44 hectares, it was built in 1958 to use the waters of the River Rienza to produce electricity. Surrounded by the beautiful peaks of the Dolomites and right at the centre of a network of paths, the lake is a popular destination for tourists, and a fishing spot for the summer (a license is required).
City of departure: San Candido
Departure: San Candido
City of arrival: Fortezza
Length (Km): 71
Type of Itinerary: Half Day
Difference in height (m): 250
Difference in downhill (m): 690
Highest point (m): 1217
Lowest point (m): 707
Duration (h.): 4