Stretching over 750 miles, across eight countries, the Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range in Europe. Running from France to Slovenia, each area of the Alps has it’s own charm and you won’t be disappointed wherever you go. It’s no easy task to narrow down the best hiking destinations in the Alps, but here’s a selection of our top five:
1 – Chamonix, Mont Blanc
Adventure awaits you in the adventure capital of the world. Chamonix is a hive of activity in summer and winter and the psyche is contagious! Whilst Chamonix is the starting point for the Tour du Mont Blanc and Haute Route treks, it’s an incredible hiking destination its own right. You could spend weeks in the valley and not explore all the trails have to offer.
Known as the birthplace of alpinism, tourists began visiting Chamonix in Victorian times, drawn by tails of a mysterious ‘sea of ice’. In those days lords and ladies would journey to the Mer de Glace glacier on the back of donkeys led by local farmers. As interest grew in scaling the jagged peaks towering over the valley, some farmers switched their profession to become the world’s first mountain guides.
Read the top 5 things to do in Chamonix
- Take the Aiguille du Midi cable car up to 12604 feet and get up close and personal with Mont Blanc.
- Follow in the footsteps of Victorian tourists as you travel on the 100 year old Montenvers cog rail way up to the Mer de Glace.
- Hike to Lac Blanc
2 – Zermatt
Enjoy unobstructed views of the Matterhorn from the charming village of Zermatt. Whilst the real adventure is to be found on the trails outside of the village, it’s worth spending half a day wandering around town centre. Zermatt is a completely car free valley and some of the buildings are over 500 years old.
Read the Top 5 things to do in Zermatt
- Take the highest open-air railway in Europe up to Gornergrat at 10,170 feet for views of 29 of the Alps highest peaks.
- Wander along the five lakes walk for views of the Matterhorn perfectly reflected in pristine Alpine Lakes.
- Explore the village cafés, shops and historic buildings.
3 – Lauterbrunnen Region
The idyllic village of Lauterbrunnen sits in a deep U-shaped valley that was carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. Lauterbrunnen, meaning ‘many fountains’, owes its name to the 72 waterfalls that cascade down from its steep sided cliffs to the valley below. It’s no wonder this oasis was Tolkein’s inspiration for the elven kingdom of Rivendell!
Just up the road from Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald is the starting point for attempts on the infamous North face of the Eiger. Non-Alpinists can enjoy views of the north face from the comfort of the village, or up closer on the stunning Eiger trail.
- Staubbach falls: The 300m high Staubbach falls are the third highest in Switzerland.
- Trummelbach falls: Glaciers from the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau feed the mighty Trummelbach falls. They are the world’s only glacial waterfalls that are accessible underground. A series of lifts, tunnels and platforms allow you to explore this subterranean wonder and marvel as 20,000 litres of water per second thunder below the mountains.
- Jungfraujoch: Take the one-hundred-year-old cog railway from Grindelwald to Europe’s highest train station at 11332.02ft above sea level.
- Hike the Eiger trail
4 – Appenzell
Head to Appenzell in North Eastern Switzerland for a more off the beaten path adventure. The Appenzell Alps are one of Switzerland’s best kept secrets. Whilst most tourists head for the more famous Bernese Alps, quiet trail heads, authentic experiences and excellent wildlife viewing await you in Appenzell.
Famous for its rural customs and traditions, visit at the right time of year and you could take part in a folk festival or witness the ceremonial descent of cattle in Autumn. And of course, the hiking is world class!
Check out our best of Lucerne and Appenzell hiking trip
- Landlerfest: The folk music festival of Landlerfest is held in August each year. Enjoy traditional music, dancing and plenty of delicious local cuisine.
- Watch the descent of the cows in Autumn.
- Wander the car-free village of Appenzell and enjoy the beautifully painted frescoes and boutique shops.
- Savour the regions speciality foods such as Appenzeller cheese from local artisanal stores.
- Hike the Lisengrat.
Read the best hikes in the Appenzell Alps
5 – Cortina d’Ampezzo
The vast number of trails of every difficulty, excellent lift access and comfortable accommodation make Cortina d’Ampezzo the ideal base to explore the Dolomites. Situated in the centre of the Ampezzo Valley, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a popular Alpine resort in summer and Winter.
Cortina has a long tradition as a hub of creative talent; attracting writers, poets and musicians from all over the world. Famous authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellow and Leonardo Mondadori spent their vacations in the town. To this day, Cortina d’Ampezzo is host to many literature and music festivals. The Una Montagna di Libi (‘mountain of books’) is held twice a year and the Dino Ciani Festival attracts young pianists from all over the world.
Check out our Italian Dolomites trip