The Alps are home to picturesque villages, ancient footpaths, friendly locals and spectacular landscapes, making them a wonderful destination for a walking holiday.
Plan a walking holiday in the Alps with our tips for beginners through to advanced walkers.
About The Alps
The Alps are a place of breath-taking natural beauty. They attract over 100 million visitors every year, making tourism one of the most important industries in the region.
The Alps span over 1,200 kilometres, sweeping through Austria and Slovenia to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, and France, as well as Italy and Monaco. The region boasts the terrific Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps at 4,810m, the Matterhorn, whose summit is 4,478m, and some 100 other high mountain peaks.
Despite the lofty heights the Alps are perfect for a walking holiday, particularly between June and October. There are special trails to follow if you want to go your own way, tours you can join to take you from point to point, and pretty towns that make good bases for local exploration.
The Via Alpina
The Via Alpina is a special network of five international walking trails that span all eight countries in the Alps.
There are 342 well-marked path stages to the Via Alpina, at over 5,000km length in total. During the summer (when there’s no snow) the paths are accessible to most walkers, making them a great way to explore the Alps on foot.
You can plan your route on the Via Alpina website in advance and see where to stay, where to eat, and what other activities you could take part in along the way. You’ll also find suggestions for easy 3, 5, and 7 day hikes that take you through different countries and let you see some of the biggest sights.
There are lots of mountain huts on the Alps, some run like luxury hotels, but mainly providing dormitory accommodation, hot food, and somewhere to relax. Most of the huts sell meals and don’t allow guests to cook their own food, so you might not always get food to your taste, but you don’t need to carry anything but snacks. Some huts have great food, others have good facilities (like showers). Research them in advance and book your place when you plan your route.
Beginner walkers might benefit from a guided walking tour of the Alps. Lots of these take in the routes from the Via Alpina, and even involve stays in the mountain huts, but are organised by experienced guides and mean that you will have someone walking with your group, pointing out the sights and keeping everyone safe.
Guided tours often include transport and can mean that someone else takes care of the majority of your baggage for you.
If huts don’t appeal, then you could try a guided hotel-to-hotel walking tour of the Alps and surrounding area. There are companies offering ‘slow tours’ that let you take things easy, so you don’t have to concentrate on anything but enjoying the natural beauty on offer.
The beauty of hotel-to-hotel walking holidays in the Alps is that you can relax in comfort at a hotel, enjoy good food in a restaurant, and even take time off to do some shopping or cultural sightseeing.
What to Take
The key to packing for a walking holiday, especially a hut-to-hut journey, is to pack light. You’ll need:
• Good walking shoes
• A sturdy backpack
• A sheet sleeping bag (depending on your accommodation)
• A raincoat and something to keep your backpack dry
• Clothing you can layer for the temperature changes as you move in altitude
• Sunscreen and antibacterial hand gel
• Wet wipes and a travel towel
• A portable first aid kit and ear plugs
• A compass and map (especially if you’re going it alone)
• A torch
• Snacks and a water bottle
• A book to read when you’re trying to unwind at night
Are you tempted by the idea of a holiday walking through the Alps?