Saint-Gervais-les-Bains is the posh cousin of the even more posh ski resort of Chamonix. In winter, both Saint Gervais and Chamonix – and countless other Alpine towns – turn into a winter wonderland, welcoming skiers from all over the world (but usually the poshest parts of the world in the case of Chamonix and Saint Gervais. Less posh visitors might go instead to Grenoble or Annecy). The summer season, on the other hand, is quite different. During summer, the Alps become less… well, posh. People arrive with muddy hiking boots, trekking poles, and well-worn backpacks, ready to get out into the wild. Places like Saint-Gervais-les-Bains become fantastic jumping off points for hiking in the Alps, the perfect combination between comfort and rustic mountain rustic charm. The trails are limitless, and there’s plenty for every level. Whether you prefer challenging mountain hikes, gentle countryside ambles, or something in between, it’s certain you’ll find it in the Alps. We recommend hiring a local guide for a day to show off the best trails best suited to your level – or at the very least, consulting the local tourism office. And by evening, settle in to the cosy warmth of the town with a well-earned cold beer and steaming pizza!
Pro tip: Be sure to try some of the local Savoyard pizzas – the proximity to Italy makes them utterly delicious. Also, be sure to try other dishes like tartiflette, raclette or fondu – all dishes made with local cheese.
Megève is the perfect European Snow Town. In fact, this little French town was conceived to be just that. Megève was actually built in the 1920s as the first purpose-built resort in the Alps, providing an alternative to the Swiss resort at St Moritz by the wealthy Rothschild family. Tucked into the French Alps in the ancient region (and once kingdom) of Savoy, it has been a popular ski resort since its conception. And yet. Despite its popularity and proximity to Mont Blanc, even despite being purpose-built, Megève still somehow manages to retain its Alpine authenticity and small-village charm, mixed with an apparent modern luxury. Megève is a fairy-tale town – wooden chalets, snow-covered pines, dramatic mountains, cosy restaurants. Unlike many modern constructions, the quaint centre of Megève was designed to stay in touch with its Alpine and Savoyard history and roots. Even when the snow is gone and the sun is shining, Megève and its beautiful Alpine environs is just as glorious in the summer – the town’s idyllic mountain setting is enough to make anyone’s heart sing.
Pro tip: Looking for comfort and luxury on your snow town ski holiday? Try the elegant 5 star hotel, M de Megève combining old world charm and Alpine cosiness with modern luxury. They also happen to have a great restaurant!
Under a Sud Tyrol sun, the narrow trail quietly weaves to and fro through leafy forests and thick undergrowth as it climbs the steep slopes of Mt Kronplatz. Germanic though the name may sound, the mountain is most assuredly in Italy, not far from the cute village of Brunico. Though admittedly, this region of northern Italy was actually Austrian before the wars of the 20th century. The cool thing about Mt Kronplatz is how fluently it masters the double seasons when so many other mountainous places don’t. Ever since the rise of popularity in the luxury ski resort in the French Alps, Alpine destinations have forgotten to tell the world how fantastic exploring the Alps is during the summer. At Kronplatz, it too has a fancy ski resort, attracting wealthy skiers from all over the world during colder months. But during the summer, the mountain bursts into lush forests and rich meadows blanketed in a brilliant quilt of wildflowers. For those adventurous souls who love to hike, there are (steep) trails that wild their way up the mountain, as well as mountain bike trails that head back down it. For those who want the view but not the strenuous effort, or for hikers that prefer a one-way trip, simply take the gondolas! Repurposed during the summer, the network of skiing gondolas are perfect for getting up and down Mt Kronplatz while still providing epic views of the Alpine slopes. At the top, enjoy rich views, including this one of a mountaintop cross-like shrine on a sublime backdrop of the majestic Alps, before heading into the cafe for a deliciously well-deserved lunch and cold beer at the repurposed ski resort!
Barreling through parts of Switzerland, France, Austria, Italy, Germany, Liechtenstein and Slovenia, the Alps are Europe’s premier mountain range. Though Mont Blanc is the tallest, there’s far more to this rich mountain range than the graceful, snowy peak of Mont Blanc. The snow-capped mountains and rugged landscapes of the Alps have always played an important role in the cultures that are contained within them. Mountain passes doubling for trade routes through these Alpine peaks have encouraged the castles, settlements, villages, towns and roads that sit within their harried shadows. In the past century or so, the majestic slopes of the Alps have given life to some of the top ski resorts and destinations, such as Chamonix, Megeve, Aosta, Cogne, Innsbruck, Zermatt, Interlaken, and so many more. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the pristine air and utter remoteness of the Alps were appreciated by wealthy Europeans looking for long holidays abroad to ‘improve their health’ who often chose resorts and villages in the Alps, usually preferring Switzerland. The Alps contain some of the original European ski resorts, and it has only been in recent years, however, that the Alps have been widely appreciated by both travellers and the tourism industry as a summer destination, building up summer infrastructure for hiking and mountain biking paths, zip-lines, horse-riding, swimming in Alpine lakes, Alpine summer cuisine, local artisans and crafts, and more. Switzerland has some of the most well-known peaks, top resorts and most adorable Alpine villages and valleys and is therefore recognised as the all-around Capital of the Alps.
Snuggled into the Tatras Mountains is Zakopane, a popular ski resort and tourist hangout. The town doesn’t lie only at the foot of the Gubałówka Mountain though…take the funicular, or better yet, break out a pair of sturdy boots and hike up to the top of this 3,700ft (1100m) hill to drink Polish beer with an amazing view! Polish beer has never tasted better than when consumed high in the mountains…trust me!