There are a couple of things in life I never envisioned myself doing. One of them is going on an adventure holiday. Like a lot of Irish people, I’ve traditionally leaned towards a beach or city break. You see, I’ve always been the not-sporty kind, the girl who “forgot” her runners the day of the beep test in PE and who can trip over her own feet walking on flat ground.

Yet, I find myself on a bike in the Austrian Alps, into my third hour of cycling, a burning pain in my thighs (and bum). Oddly, I’m enjoying myself.

But first, maybe we should rewind a little…

I’m on an adventure trip in Sölden, Austria. This Alpine resort is in the Ötztal Valley in the state of Tyrol, which is situated in the western part of the country, just above Italy and not too far from Switzerland or Germany.

The Ötztal Alps.

Our itinerary includes mountain biking, hiking and rafting. For locals these activities are run of the mill. When you think of the topography of the area, it makes sense. Mountains are the stand-out feature of Sölden. Every local I speak to skis and hikes. Most also mountain bike.


In the name of “living like a local”, I throw myself into these activities, and I surprise myself with the outcome. I manage each well (if I do say so myself). Although, a special thanks has to be given to the e-bike. An ingenious invention, which is simply an electronic bicycle. On the flat you keep it ticking over manually and going uphill you flick it into turbo, to save the legs. But on a serious note, it does make cycling the mountain paths (even if you’re on the baby ones) accessible to everyone.

Das Central, Sölden, Austria.

Of these three activities, hiking is the most relaxing, although that could be due to the fact that the all-day venture is punctuated by breakfast and lunch at two stunning mountain restaurants.

While hiking in the Ötztal mountains, we also visit 007 Elements. Part of the James Bond Spectre movie was filmed in these mountains. The scene starts at Ice Q, a glass restaurant 3,000 metres above sea level. We didn’t hike up here, we took a gondola. 007 Elements has been built beside the restaurant. It’s a cinematic experience that takes you through the different elements (says it on the tin) of a James Bond film.

Das Central, Sölden, Austria.

In terms of activities, unlike hiking, rafting is by far the least relaxing, but definitely my favourite. We go rafting in nearby Area 47, an “outdoor playground for adults”. It’s Austria’s largest leisure park, where you can try your hand at an array of sports; from rafting to canyoning, wakeboarding, a highrope course, zip line and a waterpark.

Area 47.

Accommodation is available in Area 47 or you can come for the day and pay per activity. Lodges holding up to five people start at €49 per person sharing. This includes breakfast. Activities are not included in the cost. Double rooms and tipis are also available. For more information see


Spa days, spa ways

During the trip to Sölden, Irish Country Living is a guest of the five-star Das Central Hotel (lucky Irish Country Living, I know). Obviously given its location, Das Central attracts lots of sports enthusiasts. Sitting with a coffee in the morning watching the world go by, people pass through the reception with knee and elbow pads for mountain biking and with hiking boots on.

Cycling in the Ötztal Alps.

Cleverly, the hotel complements this by being an oasis of calm via both its spa and gourmet dining (more on the food next week). After a day of partaking in the sport of your choice, the spa is a great way to sooth sore muscles and wind down. This suits me perfectly; if I’m apprehensive about the exercise, I combat this by being enthusiastic about the spa.

Before heading to the spa after a long day of mountain biking, I’m given the heads up that some people may be nude. The Austrians are into going to the sauna and it’s their culture that it’s done without swimwear. Brushing aside this fact, I head to the sauna – safely in my swimming togs may I add – and not feeling too bothered as I won’t have my glasses on, so I won’t be able to see a thing anyway.

Das Central, Sölden, Austria.

For the first hour everyone I meet is swimwear clad. So I carry on through the various hot rooms with confidence. I head down to the lower level and enter a steam room. It’s not until I exit that I see the swimming trunks of the man in there hanging up outside. This is the first indication I had that he is naked, no glasses coupled with the steam and I’m totally unaware. I move to an empty sauna and begin again to relax in the heat. Until.

Much to my chagrin, someone comes in to explain that I’m in the nude-only part of the spa and asks could I please disrobe. I’m out of there quick as a flash. I’m all for trying new cultural experiences, but this is a little outside my remit…

All the same, it’s a funny story to bring home. Also, it’s an interesting indication of how social norms differ from country to country. I’m sure there are plenty of things we do that Austrians think are unusual.

Das Central, Sölden, Austria.

And, such is the beauty of travel. It allows you to broaden the mind and see things from a different perspective, if nothing else. Like maybe you are a little sportier than you give yourself credit for.

Das Central has double rooms available from €153 per person per night in the summer, based on two people sharing on half board. All guests receive the Ötztal Premium Card, which includes journeys on the summer cable cars, entry to the swimming lakes and mountain bike rental. With the premium card the surcharge for an e-bike is €30 per person. Rental for a helmet and extra body protectors €20. We rented from Sport Glanzer. For further information and bookings, please visit


The closest airport to Sölden is Innsbruck, an hour’s drive away. Austrian Airlines fly from Dublin to Innsbruck with a stopover in France. Alternatively Aer Lingus fly directly from Dublin to Munich, a three-hour drive from Sölden.

Next week

See Living Life next week for a food and wine experience of Sölden.

*Please note, there are example videos and most definitely not myself!