The air is as crisp and fresh as I have ever breathed. The only sounds carried on the gentle breeze are those of cowbells clanking lazily. The vivid green valleys are painted by a kaleidoscopic array of unique, tiny wildflowers. Framing this whole scene are the ever-deepening monochrome of the mountains. Stark black, gradually greying as they recede into the distance, many capped by still-surviving white glaciers.
This is the Alps, and while the essentials of this view will remain, the angles and light and general beauty of it will change constantly throughout the day as I wander through them. Glacial rivers and lakes will come in and out of view, birds of prey will flit across the sky, marmots will scurry to their hiding places and I will be utterly relaxed, in a little slice of paradise, knowing that all I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and drink this all in.
Visiting the Alps is a must, but what if you are not a seasoned hiker, walking the high routes? Can you still get something out of a trip to the Alps? Of course you can! Here are some ideas of ways to get right amongst the Alpine beauty regardless of what type of trip you want to do.
Get the Alpine Experience (but not the super-tired legs)
There are loads of options to walk in the Alps, or with the Alps around you, that doesn't mean having to climb up Cols, sleep in mountain huts or be completely exhausted at the end of the day. We want everyone to experience this glorious region, so we have put together some trips where you can have the flexibility to decide whether you want to head into the hills (often via cable cars and gondolas) or whether you want to explore the beautiful Alpine towns more.
There are trips like the Best of the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland, where rather than the traditional point-to-point treks the Alps is famous for, you stay in a couple of different accommodations and then choose which walks you want to take and which you would rather avoid. For a relatively small upgrade to the In Style version of this trip, you will be staying in plush, Alpine 4-star hotels.
Another option is to hop on the Glacier Express, the super-slow luxury rail journey from St Moritz to Zermatt; considered one of the most stunning rail journeys of the world. Here you can get outstanding Alpine views from the comfort of your seat, with hiking options at either end.
Then there is Austria’s Salzburg Lakes, made famous by the Sound of Music where you can experience the surroundings of Alpine joy, without having to climb a single mountain. Similarly, Lucerne’s Lakes and Mountains offer you a similar surrounding, though you can take cable cars up on a couple of days to experience the extraordinary views of this stunning region.
Head for the Hills (but still control your walking days)
Basically, the deeper you go, the more of the pure Alpine experience you are going to get. While many of the classic trails are really tough, we have put together some outstanding ways to experience Alpine wonder without having to slog along high trails every day, often escaping down into the valleys for your overnight accommodation.
A prime example of this is the Kitzbühel Alpine Trail through the Austrian Tyrol. While your days are spent on mountain passes, surrounded by Alpine beauty, your nights are spent in beautiful hotels on the valley floor. With the number of chairlifts and cable cars on this route, you can also tailor your walking day to skip bits if your legs are feeling the burn. A great introduction to Alpine walking.
Again, the great infrastructure in Italy’s Aosta Valley means that you have a wide choice of walks when you take on the Classic Walks of Gran Paradiso. Peaceful Alpine meadows, steep woodland trails and mountain paths with views to glaciers, snowy peaks and powerful waterfalls can all be accessed from your hotel door and tailored to suit your fitness/desire.
Hit the High Trails (bagging a Classic)
As with all things, the more you put in, the more you get out and this is definitely the case for Alpine walking. While you will always experience a memorable trip any time you visit the Alps, the Classic Trails are the full immersive Alpine experience. Some of these are amongst the toughest trips we offer, but the scenery is unparalleled as is the experience of sharing your day's stories with fellow walkers as you stay in mountain huts, about as far from the rigours of modern life as it is possible to be.
The Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt is regularly voted as one of the world’s top walks. Journeying from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn is filled with breath-taking mountain panoramas, challenging mountain passes and Alpine scenes lifted straight from a storybook.
The circular Tour of the Matterhorn circumnavigates the iconic Swiss peak taking you through alpine meadows, on rocky paths, suspension bridges and a couple of guided glacier crossings. This really is the Alps as you would dream it to be.
There are slightly easier going Classics too. Passing through France, Italy and Switzerland is the Tour du Mont Blanc, a busier experience, but one of the most scenic routes in the world and well worth ticking off your list. Another trip that crosses through three countries is the E5 Alpine Crossing, which takes in Germany, Austria and Italy leading you from mountain pass to mountain pass, taking in the scenery and serenity of the traditional Alpine towns and villages along the way.
Whatever experience you want from the Alps we have a wide range of trips that cover all the bases. You can find all of our trips on our Alpine Walking pages and if you want to ask anything about any of them, or just get some advice, our Alpine adventure specialists are only an email away.