Auf historischen Pfaden, ©

A guide to pilgrimage

How to go on pilgrimage: tips for a safe and self-managed retreat on foot

Those who go on pilgrimage play the game of life in a special way. A few basic principles and rules can be helpful to reach your destination safely. Time for a game manual.

The material: What do you need?

  • The players, i.e., people I want to hike with
  • The decision for a trail
  • High-quality information material and maps for preparing
  • Suitable accommodation along the way
  • Mobility for getting there and back or for on the way
  • High-quality equipment
  • Physical and mental prerequisites

The goal of pilgrimage:
All participants should reach the destination safely and be able to gain valuable insights and impressions along the way. It should be a relaxing and insightful time (off) for body, mind, and soul.

The preparation:
The first step is the decision for the right trail. Where do I want to hike, how do I want to hike and how important is the appeal of the destination to me? While the Vienna Pilgrimage Trail scores points for its closeness to nature, the Via Sacra stands out, among other things, for culturally and historically significant stage destinations. Furthermore: How long should my route be, and what distances are manageable for me? Another important factor is the topography: Do I prefer a hilly terrain and a more leisurely trail, or can there be steeper sections, too? And: Who is the right companion for this route?

Once the decision on a trail has been made, the next step is to gather detailed information. High-quality brochures, hiking guides, websites, and apps such as the "Pilgern in Niederösterreich" app (available in German only) are valuable sources. They provide first insights into possible accommodation options along the way—the next part of the preparation process. Pilgrimage is in vogue. Those who prefer to sleep in a comfy bed instead of on the damp forest floor should book their accommodation well in advance. Next question: Mobility. How do I get to the starting point and back? How can I contact taxi services or reach public transportation if a stage turns out to be too difficult? And, last but not least, the great backpack question: What do I take with me? High-quality equipment is indispensable for going on a pilgrimage. Click here for a packing list!

The last part of the preparation process: honest introspection. Am I in the right physical and mental condition to master a pilgrimage hike lasting several days? Walking long distances several days in a row is quite challenging for body and mind—but also tremendously enriches our experience. It shows us what we are capable of—and sometimes that is much more than we think. At times, this also requires a bit of courage. It is important to be aware of the challenges and of the fact that pilgrimage is also about dissolving your personal limitations.

The schedule:
Here we go! The pilgrimage hike starts with travelling to the starting point and a first orientation.
One final check of the equipment and maps, and the adventure can begin. Important: a moderate walking pace. Don't start off too fast and manage your physical strength well. Schedule enough breaks to get some rest in between. Make sure to eat and drink well to give your body energy. Get and stay in touch with your body and its needs. Sometimes, this can also mean shortening a section of the route by means of a taxi service or public transportation if you run out of energy. The number one rule is: The journey is the reward! Pilgrimage is not a marathon. It is about letting go and embracing the process. Accepting and moving on, sometimes going through one issue or another. The best reward: the feeling of happiness and pride when you reach the destination at the end. This should also be duly celebrated—for instance by booking an extra night at the destination and taking plenty of time for relaxation and indulgence.

The most important rules:

  • Please always take rubbish with you and never dispose of it in nature.
  • Avoid making noise, especially out of consideration for wildlife—with the exception of short, spontaneous cries of joy.
  • Please observe wild animals quietly from a distance so as not to disturb or frighten them.
  • Please keep dogs on a lead. Make sure to always use dog waste bags.
  • Please stay on the path at all times, for the sake of nature and the local farmers and foresters.
  • Please leave your drone at home. In many nature reserves, aviation is even prohibited for animal welfare reasons. Instead, collect impressions in your heart.
  • In spite of all the joy about the colourful beauty: Do not pick any protected plants.
  • Delicious! Mushrooms and berries may be picked—up to an amount of two kilograms. And do not forget to consider whether you actually can and want to carry the extra weight.
  • Not allowed: Wild camping is prohibited in Lower Austria. If you would like to sleep outdoors, it is best to enquire about legal possibilities along the way.
  • Campfire romanticism will have to wait: Please do not make a fire in or near the forest. Especially in the summer months, the risk of forest fires is simply too high.
  • Prohibition signs or barriers and fences are usually there for a reason. Please respect them.

The (game) variations:
All of the above sounds far too complicated? The team of the Mostviertel Tourist Board is happy to help with individual tour planning and provide information about various guided pilgrimage offers that can be booked as a package.