Munich to Venice - the 'Dream Way' - a Review

Known as the Traumpfad (Dream Way), the Munich to Venice trek enjoys a huge reputation  in Germany.  Does it deserve it? Having done it and despite walking 550 km and climbing 22,000m, during the worst Alpine summer in living memory, I can emphatically say that it does. I've crossed the Alps on foot many other times but this was the best.
The start
As a route it succeeds at many different levels. Great scenery is almost a given in the Alps but on the Dream Way it is exceptional, day after day. Climbing over the Karwendel, Tuxer and Zillertal Alps and passing through the Dolomites means you walk through the most spectacular mountain landscapes in Europe.  There is some flat walking at each end but, with Venice as the destination, who cares?
The Marmolada, queen of the Dolomites
What surprised me was just how 'exciting' the trail is.  I  class myself as a walker rather than a climber and there are passes and peaks that present a true challenge. If you have a head for heights (essential) and are up for a bit of adventure (although options are always available), there are stretches that will stretch and satisfy even the fittest and most experienced walker. 
Descending from the Schlauchkarsattel

Descending from the Friesenbergscharte
The route is also well resourced.  Accommodation is plentiful and it's possible to put together a range of different itineraries to match the amount of time you have and your walking speed. We planned on the basis of the 28 day itinerary followed by those using the German trail guides but once we got going we found the time allowed almost too generous. The walking is challenging but isn't necessarily tough.
Manfred and Petra (and another one!)
Erik & Jörg (and one other!)
Having met people doing the Munich-Venice walk on previous Alpine treks I wasn't expecting to be alone, but I was still surprised by how many people were doing the route. Some of the huttes / rifugios (mountain accommodation) were full of Munich-Venice walkers and, given the number of stages, there must be many scores if not hundreds hiking the route at any one time. Most of the walkers were German and very friendly. They nearly all spoke English and were always willing to help and have a conversation.  People were on similar schedules and although some got left behind and new people joined, a  small 'group' formed that met most nights from the first hut all the way to the end. Compared to other long distance hikes I've done it was a very sociable trip.
Crossing the Sella
The route is 'informal' and has not been put together by either tourist bodies or walking and climbing associations. It is the work of one individual - Ludwig Grassler, an Alpinist who planned and walked it 40 years ago. It has evolved since then and continues to develop and include additional variants to get around obstacles or take advantage of new paths.  Rather than follow a set trail meter by meter, the aim is to cross the Alps and get from Munich to Venice.

The Dream Way is a great walk an epic modern day adventure and well deserves its reputation in Germany (similar to something like the coast-to-coast in the UK). Although best walked all in one go (allow 30 days including contingency and rest days) many people break it down into stages. You can also reduce the time needed by skipping the flat bits at the beginning and end (taking a bus or train here reduces the schedule by 6 days) and/ or making use of chair lifts. There are lots of options.

If you love great scenery, have a reasonable level of fitness (day walks up to 8hrs), and ideally have a head for heights (although the 'exciting' bits can be avoided) then you should definitely think about doing it. There are however a few things you need to think about before planning a trip.

Firstly, unless you're super experienced, the alpine walking season is short and the mountain huts, essential for this trip, are only open from late June until the third week or so of September. Depending on how much snow has fallen in the previous winter, some of the passes will have snow on them well into July.
The Schlüterhütte
Secondly to walk the whole route you will have to stay in mountain huts. These huts, equivalent to youth hostels and usually run by the German, Austrian or Italian Alpine clubs, are improving all the time but are not to everyone's taste. They are invariably located in amazing locations, always high up and sometimes right on top of mountains.  They are very sociable with walkers enjoying a drink at the end of the day. They can however be crowded, particularly on a route like this, and a crowded dormitory isn't to everyone's taste. If you want a smaller room, usually with 4 to 6 beds, you need to book ahead.
The end

Thirdly you are walking in the Alps, high in the mountains and can't expect good weather all the time.  There is a world of difference between walking on a sunny day and walking in the cloud and the rain. Essentially it's safe if you stick to the paths, paths which have been designed with enormous care. But even with excellent way marking it's easy to lose the paths in poor visibility.

Over the next few months I'll be working on the first English language guide (for Cicerone) on the Dream Way and next summer I'll re-walk the stretches where I need additional information. I'll be put ting more information on the blog and update entries where needed.  If you want any more information or want to get involved in any way (good quality photographs are particularly welcome), then please get in touch.  In the meantime,  please have a look at my blog entries for what was a thoroughly enjoyable 2014 aventure.

Day 1 Munich to Venice Wolfratshausen
Day 2 Munich to Venice - Bad Tolz
Day 3 Tutzinger Hutte
Day 4 Munich to Venice Hinterriss
Day 5 Munich to Venice - Karwendelhaus
Day 6 Munich to Venice Hallerangerhaus
Day 7 Munich to Venice - Wattens
Day 8 Munich to Venice - Lizumer Hutte
Day 9 Munich to Venice - Tuxer Joch Haus
Day 10 Munich to Venice - Pfitserjoch 
Day 11 - Munich to Venice - Pfunders
Day 12 Munich to Venice - Kreuzwiesen Alm
Day 13 Munich to Venice  - Würzjoch
Day 14 Munich to Venice - Passo Gardena
Day 15 Munich to Venice - Passo Pordoi
Day 16 Munich to Venice - Alleghe
Days 17 - 18 Munich to Venice - Passo Duran
Days 19 - 20 Munich to Venice - Belluno
Days 21-22 Munich to Venice - Tarzo
Day 23 Munich to Venice - Ponte Della Priula
Days 24-25 Munich to Venice  - Jesolo
Day 26 Munich to Venice - Venice

25 comments:

  1. Hi John!
    I hiked the GR5 at roughly the same time that you hiked this trail. I loved the GR5, especially since I was able to sleep in my tent most nights. From what you saw during your Munich-Venice hike this year, how plausible do you think it would it be to sleep in a tent along the way rather than using the huts? I understand that wild camping is frowned upon in those parts. Nevertheless, did you perhaps meet any people carrying tents and using them regularly along the trail? In the French alps, for example, one was often allowed to pitch one's tent next to a hut/refuge. Did you witness anything similar to this on the Munich-Venice trail? Thanks in advance!

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    1. Hi Helja

      I'm afraid I didn't see anyone camping near the huts, on the route itself. I met some people wild camping on the 4th day, (see blog) but no one else. Sorry I can't help more.

      Best wishes

      John

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  2. If you need help writing, my husband and I will be doing this hike summer 2015 and not only have I lived in Munich for two years, but my husband is a local and would love to assist in translation if needed. I myself am a Marketer and would love to help with anything you may need, graphics, information, etc. Let me know if we can be of service!

    Sincerely,
    Niccolette.matsche@hotmail.de

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  3. Hello Mr. Hayes, just wanted to know where I can buy you hiking guide "The Trekking Munich to Venice: The Traumpfad - 'Dreamway', a Classic Trek Across the Eastern Alps"?
    Thanks for a short info and best from Cologne,
    S. Dammjakob

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    1. Hi there, thanks for your interest, the guide is currently in production and should be out in September.

      Best wishes

      John Hayes

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    2. Hi there, thanks for your interest, the guide is currently in production and should be out in September.

      Best wishes

      John Hayes

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  4. john i am planning to do the 'dream' in the spring of 2017 - can you suggest times most appropriate - i understand you are not a meteorologist - just better times that may avoid great drops in temps and snow etc - with great appreciation - plan on soloing from usa - so, timing as to meet others would be awesome - best of luck for you guidebook - is it available yet? debra

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    1. Hi Debra

      Nice to hear from you.

      Yes I'm still doing the Munich Venice guidebook, it's with the publishers now (Cicerone) and should be on Amazon by November.

      You can only really walk the route from the 2nd week of July until the 3rd week of September. There is snow on the passes until June and serious snow starts to arrive in October.

      It's a brilliant walk, very friendly, and walking alone as a woman will not be a problem.

      Best of luck

      John

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  5. Hi John,
    Am planning to do the trek 2016 September 1 - 30th or thereabouts depending on weather etc.
    Would be happy to pay big bucks and help promote for an early copy of the book! Possible? THANKS! I'm beyond excited to do this trip much in part to your excellent detailed notes here. Jeanne from San Francisco

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    1. Actual publication is not until November I'm afraid but send you email address to me at amithefirst@gmail.com and I'll see what I can do.

      John

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  6. Will the book be available in the US Amazon store? (I see that it can be pre-ordered on the UK store but not the US store) Thank you Kris

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    1. Thanks for your interest, it's something I'll need to check with my publisher I'm afraid and then let you know

      John Hayes

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    2. Hi Kris

      Cicerone tell me

      It will be available in the US but due to shipping issues it will not be available from US warehouses until next March. You will still be able to order it before then but the delivery date will reflect shipping from the UK. In the early days of publication it is quicker to order from us directly, even though there will still be a three-four week shipping time.

      Hope that helps

      John

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  7. Hi John,

    Do many walkers complete this route from Venice to Munich?

    Regards,

    Simon

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    1. Hi Simon

      No Simon I don't think they do. Because most of the Walkers are German they follow the German itinerary which starts in Munich.

      John

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  8. This hiking trail looks amazing! We are four girls from the netherlands and we would like to go hiking for a week. Could you recommend a section of this hiking trail that we could do? Also we would like to avoid the most dangerous parts...

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    1. Clara

      It is amazing and I sure you'll enjoy it.

      Two options - you can start at Munich walk for a week by which time you'll get to the Inn Valley. You can then come back next year and do another week. I think about a third of all the walkers are doing it like this, bit by bit all the way to Venice.

      Secondly, if you don't think you'll come back than go from Pfunders to Alleghe and walk through the Dolomites the world's most beautiful mountains.

      Providing the weather is OK it's not dangerous but you do need a head for hieghts. Have a great trip and send me some pictures!

      John

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    2. Hi Clara

      Best to book ahead for the huts in August, particularly the huts in the Dolomites, but otherwise it's OK.

      John

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  9. Hi John,

    Wondering if you could give me some advice. Am currently walking from Uk to Istanbul and would love to cross alps along the Dream Way. However I will be in Munich beginning of June so am aware some passes will still have snow. Would it be possible to find alternative routes in these sections if they are impassable (at least to me) or will thst be tricky? Also with a 20kg pack some of the photos with chains etc look a bit dodgy. Are there places where balance is at a premium?


    Thanks,

    Jan

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    1. Hi Jan

      I afraid I can't help on this one. The Munich Venice route opens up when the mountain huts open. In the mountains it's a hut to hut walk. The huts don't open until enough 'ordinary' walkers start walking it and they don't arrive in numbers until the passes open. A bit circular I'm afraid but that's how it works.

      Best wishes, sounds like a brilliant trip.

      John

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  10. Hi John,

    Considering the season for this route is so short, can you comment on how busy it gets in July? I understand bookings should be made at the huts but I am overall wondering about the congestion on the trails themselves.

    Thanks!
    Melissa

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    1. Hi Melissa

      Nice to hear from you.

      The trails will not be congested. For me busy means that you will probably see someone hundreds of metres ahead or behind. When I walk in the Spain I often don't see anyone for days at a time. By the way if you're on your own you would probably get away with not booking in July, certainly outside the Dolomites. Have a great trip.

      John

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  11. Hi John,

    Your book mentions contacting the Alpine Club website (www.alpine-club.org.uk) in regard to getting the latest advice on booking huts. I have looked at the website but couldn't find anything relating this issue. Can you be more specific? I am starting the walk in a week.

    Regards

    Rob

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    1. Hi Rob

      Things have moved forward on the booking front but the connection hasn't yet been made to the UK website. So instead go to the German website,https://www.alpenverein.de/ and follow the links to the Hutten section. From there you will be able to find the link to an app which you can download. This gives you latest contact details for the huts and with some of the huts you can definitely use the app to book a place. This is all new. When I did the walk I had to contact the hut in advance and book.

      A couple of things - if you're happy to sleep in the dorm (the lager) you might be better off booking just one or two nights in advance, particularly if it's just one or two of you.

      Secondly, even a hut is full (I've only had this happen a couple of times) it's usually possible to mix the schedule a little bit, walk a bit further or not so far, and miss the busiest nuts.

      Hope that helps and have a great trip.

      John

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