Day trip destination
Bletterbach gorge near Aldein: the Grand Canyon in miniature
The Bletterbach gorge near Aldein makes it possible to experience a grand canyon without having to take a long flight to Arizona.
At the foot of the Weißhorn mountain in the district of Aldein, the little Bletterbach stream has dug into the rock over thousands of years and created the eight-kilometre-long and 400-metre-deep Bletterbach gorge. The rocky walls of the gorge, reaching up to twenty metres in height, are not just a picturesque backdrop for a variety of hikes, but the stream has exposed layers of rock from various eras. These layers are still intact, visible and in the order that they were deposited in millions of years ago. This allows the Bletterbach gorge to showcase the Earth's history.
As beautiful as the landscape of South Tyrol may be, only few natural monuments get to be UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites. The Bletterbach gorge is one of six natural beauty spots in South Tyrol that may bear this honourable title. It has been working towards it for a long time, though: volcanoes spat out hot ash and lava 280-260 millions of years ago, which laid the foundation for the Bletterbach gorge. The elements have deposited various layers over the course of millions of years. And water has also played a major role. You can hardly imagine it, but millions of years ago this area was touched by the sea, which periodically advanced and receded. As well as allowing a look at the history of its formation, the Bletterbach gorge has another wonder of nature to offer: the sea caused the formation of layers rich in fossils. For example, animal prints, remains of plants and totally petrified mussels may be found in the rocks here.
This short historical overview only gives a vague idea of the depositing of layers. Anyone wishing to find out more about the layers of stone and fossils and their creation can head for GEOPARC Bletterbach Visitors' Centre in Aldein or the GEOMuseum in Radein. These explain the history of the rocky layers in detail and display selected fossils – for example, with dinosaur traces. You get a helmet free of charge, which visitors always have to wear in the gorge. Thus suitably equipped, you can make your way to the site. You can search for fossils by means of steps and ladders, while the Earth's history rises up beside you. One of a variety of guided tours makes exploring the gorge even more fascinating. 27 GEOPARC guides will show visitors things that they would probably fail to notice when exploring on their own. In addition, there are special GEOPARCchildren's guides from the end of July to the end of August to help children understand more about this natural monument, involving games and trails based on legends.
Not only stone
In addition to what's on offer for children, there are other themed walks on the GEOPARC programme. On the 'Stein und Wein' tour, you can first walk through Bletterbach gorge and find out how it came about, followed by a visit to a typical wine cellar and a chance to find out about how grapes get turned into wine. 'Stein und Wildkräuter' in August, on the other hand, focusses on the herbs found in the gorge and their culinary uses. Early risers can go on a guided tour to the peak of the Weißhorn mountain from July to August to watch the sun come up, explore the Bletterbach gorge on the way down and enjoy a fortifying breakfast on a mountain pasture to finish off with.