Innsbruck makes a good starting point for exploring western Austria. It's a city that preserves the charm of ancient times and has lots to offer: culture, stellar restaurants, and trendy nightclubs. But Tyrol's gorgeous geography precludes the convenient loop tour. You must go into the valleys to discover the charming villages and hotels, and a certain amount of backtracking is necessary. It will allow you to discover a cross-section of Tyrol's highlights: the old and the new, glossy resorts, medieval castles, and, always, that extraordinary scenery in these breathtaking valleys. On the western side of the Arlberg range, you have the wide-open spaces of Vorarlberg with Bregenz, a city the Romans built up with a harbor for warships, which today is used for cruise ships zigzagging across Lake Constance to Switzerland and Germany.

Tyrol is famous for the beauty of its valleys, radiating from Innsbruck at the center of it all. To the northeast you find one of Austria's most famous folk-music regions. On the road to Kitzbühel, the sunny valley has plenty of snow in winter and golf in summer. Upscale hotels and a renowned ski area make Kitzbühel the region's number one year-round vacation destination. To the west, in the very heart of Tyrol, the villages of Telfs and Imst are known for tradition and culture. Then there is the Ötz Valley, with its long trekking routes and outdoor facilities. The western part of Tyrol is a winter heaven: steep and challenging slopes along with well-trained instructors made St. Anton famous, whereas high in the mountains, in a valley toward the south, are the snow towns of Ischgl and Galtür.

And over the Arlberg range (or through it, via road and rail tunnels), you have the Vorarlberg, with the mountain villages of Lech and Zürs as havens for highly rated skiing and high-end, expensive hotels. On the other end of the spectrum is the Montafon region, a winter and summer destination for the more cost-conscious—especially families.