Located in the federal province Tyrol, the Zillertal branches off from the Inn Valley about 40km east of Innsbruck. It is the broadest southern side valley of the Inn Valley and extends in a length of 32km from Strass in the Zillertal to Mayrhofen, where it branches out into four side valleys: Zillergrund, Zemmgrund, Stilluptal and Tuxertal. The Gerlos Valley branches off from Zillertal towards the east at the village Zell am Ziller. In contrast to other Tyrolean side valleys, the Zillertal does not overcome any so-called “valley step” and only rises slightly from Strass (523m) to Mayrhofen (633m).
Surrounded by numerous three-thousand metre peaks and the impressive mountain world of the Tux Prealps, the main ridge of the Tux Alps as well as the Zillertal Alps and Kitzbühel Alps, the Zillertal offers a unique panorama. The Hochfeiler is the highest point in the Zillertal with an altitude of 3,509 metres above sea level.
The Zillertal consists of 25 municipalities with a total population of about 33,500 inhabitants and extends over an area of 1,098km². The valley has its name from the Ziller River that runs through the Zillertal from south to north and flows into the Inn River at Strass. The Ziller also separates the Catholic Dioceses of Innsbruck (formerly Brixen) and Salzburg. This is reflected in the colours of the church towers. On the left side of the Ziller the church towers shine in red, whereas on the right side they shine in green as a sign of affiliation with the Archdiocese of Salzburg.
Travel writers already started to describe the Zillertal as a region at the beginning of the 19th century. The Zillertal owes its early nationwide recognition to them. The interest in getting acquainted with this impressive landscape primarily increased in the cities. More and more guests came to the valley and initial touristic structures were created. The construction of trails and alpine huts in the middle of the 19th century marked the birth of mountaineering as a mass sport. The Zillertal was quickly regarded as one of the leading destinations for alpinism, and at the same time it generally stood for a relaxing and eventful summer retreat.
Winter tourism only started about 100 years ago. Tow lifts were set up in Lanersbach and Hintertux in 1949. The Penkenbahn and Gerlossteinbahn cable cars followed in the 1950s.