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alps trip itinerary

11 awesome itineraries for your trip through the Alps

E urope’s highest mountain range — spanning a whopping 750 miles — naturally holds every kind of adventure one could possibly think of. The Alpine valleys of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland still hide idyllic villages where cheesemaking and woodworking reign supreme. Bustling cities like Zurich, Salzburg, and Munich mean world-class experiences at the foot of Mother Nature’s best work of European art.

But keep in mind that a trip to the Alps is all about who you are. These mountains, villages, and cities can hold whatever you want them to hold — which itinerary will you choose?

alps trip itinerary

— 1 — Town and Country

alps trip itinerary

T ouch down in any buzzing Alpine city and you’ll be surrounded by snowcapped Alps, teeny villages, and bucolic landscapes spreading out into the horizon. This is two very different worlds in one magnificent trip.

Start off in Zurich’s car-free old town , walking the Limmatpromenade, and staying up till morning taking in the city’s world-class nightlife. Relish the music, because soon you’ll be in quiet Bregenzerwald, Austria. Twelve villages make up this portal back into a simpler time, and centuries-old farmhouses and cheesemakers set the pace. Going on foot is the best way to soak in the long-lost architecture and serenity of this almost-off-the-map spot.

Alternatively, make a beeline straight for Germany, where you can contemplate the silence filling the depths of Schwarzwald , or the Black Forest. And yet you’re still not far from 3-star Michelin restaurants and water-filled adventures — Lake Titisee, the largest lake in this untamed wilderness, is right here, too (be sure to dip your toes).

— 2 — 6 Peaks in 5 Days

alps trip itinerary

T he Alps aren’t meant to only be enjoyed from the bottom. But if this is your itinerary, odds are you already know that.

First up — Zermatt. The city lies at the foot of the most iconic Alpine mountain, the Matterhorn, and it’s entirely car-free save for the cable car you can take to the highest mountain station. Take a breather at Zumstein’s farm in Gstaad to fuel up for your next feat: the Wildspitze glacier in Ötztal, Austria (a 12,369-foot peak piercing the sky). And as you depart for the next leg of your journey, look around you. You won’t want to miss the Jungfrau Region and the famous Eiger mountain.

Now, it’s time to head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to summit the Zugspitze , Germany’s highest mountain. Or stay in Austria to visit National Park Hohe Tauern — there are over 200 peaks around 10,000 feet, but the Großglockner stands guard over them all at 12,461.

Finishing up in Berchtesgaden, Germany, take it easy on a ride up the Predigtstuhlbahn — the world’s oldest cable car — to be lifted a mile in just eight minutes.

— 3 — City Break

alps trip itinerary

M ove over Paris, London, and Rome — some of Europe’s best cities are hiding in the Alps.

Start off in Munich however you want — beer gardens, restaurants tucked into cobbled alleyways, open-air markets — but end with a climb up 299 stairs to the top of the Church of St. Peter, taking in the views of the Alps in the not-so-distance.

Then it’s off to either Innsbruck or Salzburg. The former, Innsbruck, is where you can go to recharge in the mountain air. Take in the views from the mountains on the cable car and be sure to celebrate the day with nothing other than Tirolean smoked bacon . The latter, Salzburg, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site masquerading as a city, where every corner is steeped in history (and nowhere is that more obvious than wandering the fortress overlooking the Baroque town). Grab a Fürst Mozartkugeln — a ball of pistachio cream encased in nougat and a chocolate shell — before heading to the Walk of Modern Art , escorting you right back to present day.

— 4 — The Alpine Tasting Menu

alps trip itinerary

P repare to taste your way through the Alps. This five-day culinary adventure will have you jetting between white-napkin, five-star dinners and spreads lining the farm table.

If you’ve packed your cocktail attire, splurge for Zurich’s Parkhuus Restaurant , and note their 14 Gault Millau points. Or break out the camera in Appenzell at the Berggasthaus Äscher restaurant — the restaurant’s façade clings to the vertical cliffside.

Two and a half hours later, you’re in the valley resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen for dinner under a glass dome at the top of the Zugspitze, nearly 10,000 feet in the air. Of course, you can hike and ski while up there, too.

In Salzburgerland, Restaurant Obauer will fill you with the sights, sounds, and smells percolating at the foot of Hochkönig Mountain. And finally, in Regensburg, go all the way back to the 8th century, cruising to Weltenburg Abbey — one of the oldest monasteries in the world — and sacrificing a moment to indulge at their world-renowned brewery.

— 5 — Alpine Capitals

alps trip itinerary

O ne epic weekend is all it takes to bounce through the Alps’ capital cities. Munich, Innsbruck, and Zurich are ripe with some of Europe’s best cultural offerings, each a gateway to both world-class urban experiences and those Alpine breezes.

Beginning in Munich, a capital city that still has a firm grip on its charm and traditions, choose between the Bavarian State Opera, the National Theater, or any of the city’s world-class museums, and top it off by hiking to the Monastery of Andechs for a sampling of world-famous Bavarian beer — crafted by Benedictine monks.

In Innsbruck, “the Capital of the Alps,” grab some suds at the Hofgarten , position your chair to take in the three mountain ranges towering above, and score a quick peek at the lights surrounding nearby Ambras Castle. Then in Zurich, hike up the Uetliberg mountain, working up an appetite for the city’s signature dish, Zürcher Geschnetzeltes — well-deserved after the climb.

— 6 — Alpine Design

alps trip itinerary

R ich tones, minimalist style, heavy on the pine and the wool — what you see in the magazines isn’t fabricated. You’ll step into the pages of this itinerary by watching local craftspeople at work, wandering through art galleries, and resting your head underneath contemporary Alpine architecture.

Book a room at Geisel’s Beyond Munich , and spend a moment looking through the huge windows onto the Marienplatz. When morning arrives, jet off to Tegernsee — a small, ancient city with as many festivals as farms — for a hot air balloon ride over one of the most beautiful places on our planet.

Innsbruck is worth simply milling about, taking in the architecture that dates back to the Middle Ages in their unparalleled Old Town. In Bregenzerwald — famous for its timber industry — stop by Werkraum , an innovative museum and workspace dedicated to all things wood.

Then rest your bones in Lucerne’s Art Deco Hotel Montana , where the views are inside and out — your room may provide a view of the lake right beneath the peaks. The last stop is Geneva, where a bike rental takes you through lush wine country, ending with samples from a tasty 1,000-year-old tradition .

— 7 — The #nofilter Tour of the Alps

alps trip itinerary

T he most stunning spots in the Alps aren’t all well known. To get that #instaperfect shot, you’ll need to head off the beaten path.

For starters, photos look better at 10,000 feet. Zermatt’s 3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat , a hotel-meets-library-meets-restaurant, complete with cozy fireplaces and views of the Matterhorn, is at elevation. Then trade those urban views for ones of Swiss National Park , the oldest national park in the Alps, with a stop in St. Moritz.

Mix up the landscapes with a move to Innsbruck’s land of diamonds: Swarovski’s Daniels Crystal Worlds will grab you from its exterior, and that’s before the gem hunting. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, beeline back to Mother Nature and to the AlpspiX viewing platform — this might be your most popular Instagram yet.

Then you’ll wind up in Hallstatt, a tiny 750-person hamlet straight out of any Alpine postcard. Head to the terrace of restaurant Bräu Gasthof for a classic photo of the village, its lake, and lone cathedral spire reigning above. End your trip with a stop in bustling Munich, test driving your dream car at BMW World — you can take photos at 100 mph, right?

— 8 — The 0 to 100 Alpine Adventure

alps trip itinerary

W hether you’re a white-knuckled thrill-seeker or a calm and mellow explorer, the Alps have you covered. Zip down the Autobahn in a shiny Porsche, go whitewater rafting in the Tirolean Alps, or relax into a flight of rare gins at a rustic distillery. In the mountains, you set the pace.

A stop in Stuttgart will put you behind the wheel of a Porsche , racing down the limitless Autobahn. Go from high-speed on the ground to high-speed in the air three hours later in Schwarzwald, racing through the Black Forest with Hirschgrund Zipline .

On the way from Gstaad to Lucerne, visit the Interlaken-Jungfrau Region (the “Outdoor Capital of Switzerland”) and hike to the Kleine Scheidegg for fantastic views of the famous mountain trio Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Mix it up back in Lucerne, hopping on the world’s steepest cog railway — a 48-percent gradient. Keep the adrenaline going in Ötztal’s Area 47 , a theme park where you can cliff dive, wakeboard, zipline, and more.

Innsbruck is your final destination, where you’ll shred through the imposing Karwendel range on a mountain bike — or just take in the Alpine views from… your bathroom .

— 9 — Palm to Glacier

alps trip itinerary

F rom lakeside in Lugano to the sky-high mountain air above Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, be sure to pack both your shades and your scarf.

Lugano, a large summer holiday town, is the best of both worlds — a combination of Mediterranean urban flair and Alpine retreat. Sit lakeside at Restaurant Seven Lugano , and then inspire your nose on the two-mile Olive Tree Trail at Monte Arbostora, San Grato’s botanical park.

Bask in St. Moritz’ mineral springs after a long day hiking glacier territory. In Ötztal, raft the rivers, rock climb, or stand on the Wildspitze glacier to be on top of Tirol, near the Italian border. Climb up to the top of Zugspitze in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, or finish on a high note in the Alps’ largest nature reserve, National Park Hohe Tauern .

Here, eagles soar overhead, ibex deftly climb the peaks, and the views of Großglockner , Austria’s tallest mountain, don’t get any better.

— 10 — The Purist’s Alpine Bucketlist

alps trip itinerary

I f you gotta do it all, don’t settle. Do it all.

Start in Zermatt, staring up at the Matterhorn. Wander the city’s romantic alleyways, and trek the Five Lakes Hike to Gorner Gorge’s towering cliffs. Spend a moment in luxury in Lugano, and take in those Alpine views without leaving the spa . Hide between Lucerne’s medieval walls and towers, hopping in a boat to Flüelen and taking a scenic train to Bellinzona.

In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, hang with the birds on Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze, overlooking one of the oldest mountain chains in the world. Then travel back to medieval times in Innsbruck, where Emperors reigned supreme at the Imperial Court.

Follow Mozart’s steps to Salzburg, counting the spires spreading out above the river. Find respite in Hallstatt, wandering between wood-gabled houses that convince you fairytales are real. Toast to your trip at one of Munich’s famous beer gardens , and finish off by exploring 1,000 years of chaos, mayhem, and history at the Medieval Crime Museum in Rothenburg.

— 11 — The Nonconformist’s Alpine Bucket List

alps trip itinerary

T here’s no pop music, pumpkin spice lattes, or long lines here. If you’re more the B-side-of-the-record kind of traveler, look no further.

Heidelberg’s practically preserved in amber — its castle, Old Bridge, and medieval old town have provided artists with inspiration for centuries. Walk along the Philosophenweg , and you’ll feel it. Balance it out with a trip to Stuttgart’s Cube Restaurant , trading city walls for urban modernism.

The rest is up to you: Meditate in Baden’s verdant woods. Tour one of the best gin distilleries in the world. Hide away in Fribourg’s old town Colombi Hotel . Hike the Gourmet Trail , taking in the view between bites. Get bluesy at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Go full-on couture at Gstaad’s famous “shopping mile.” Get your hands dirty at one of the artisan-run workshops in Bregenzerwald’s 12 villages and reward yourself with Käseknöpfle (an Alpine mac n’ cheese). Head to medieval Kufstein to wash it down with the regional drink, pear Schnaps . Top it all off in Zell am See with a stroll along a glacial lake , a repurposed castle, and plenty of people-watching.

Choose one, or choose them all. There’s no wrong way to do the Alps.

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A Bucket-List Itinerary to the Alps

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Rolling green hills covered with scattered forest at sunset.

GERMANY’S BLACK FOREST

PHOTO BY RAINER KIEDROWSKI, COURTESY OF DZT

The Alps, straddling Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, have no shortage of places that are likely already on your bucket list—the iconic Matterhorn, the legendary Black Forest, and the picture-perfect village of Hallstatt. There are many other sights that, even if not as well known, should be on your must-see list: the Philosopher’s Path in Heidelberg, the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, and the jaw-dropping castle at Kufstein. Perhaps the first step in planning a bucket-list itinerary to the Alps, however, is acceptance. You won’t be able to see it all, and you’re going to have to make some hard subjective choices among many alluring options. The good news, however, is that you pretty much can’t go wrong wherever you choose to travel.

The itinerary here starts in the old university town of Heidelberg, packed with intellectual history and culture, and ends in the Austrian lakeside town of Hallstatt, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its long history as a salt mining center that stretches back to the days of the Celts and Romans.

In between, you’ll pamper yourself with Black Forest spa treatments, discover the wonderfully walkable city of Lucerne, and admire the towering peaks around Zermatt. After visiting Innsbruck, the nearby Kufstein fortress town beckons. By the end of your trip, you are sure to have fallen under the spell of one of Europe’s most magical regions.

Itinerary / 7 Days

A mountain peak

TRIP HIGHLIGHT

Five lakes hike.

Absolutely Alps

TRIP DESIGNER

Absolutely alps.

An elegant warrior statue overlooks a grand castle on a hill

PHOTO BY HE DAPENG, COURTESY OF DZT

DAY 1 Heidelberg

A smiling woman ziplines through a forest

PHOTO BY SYNTURA, SCHRAMBERG, COURTESY OF DZT

DAY 2 Black Forest

A train drives through snow-capped mountains. A small blue lake is seen.

DAY 3 Zermatt

A cable car passes in front of a spidery lake in the mountains

DAY 4 Lucerne

Bucket List Alps Day 5

PHOTO BY INNSBRUCK TOURISM

DAY 5 Innsbruck

A warmly lit alleyway lined with shops.

PHOTO BY KUFSTEINERLAND

DAY 6 Kufstein

A scattered array of houses overlooking a lake. A tall church spire is seen in front of titanic mountains.

PHOTO BY VIOREL MUNTEANU

DAY 7 Hallstatt

Switzerland Mountain Scenery with Blue Lake

The Ultimate 2 Week Road Trip Itinerary in the Alps

The mystery and beauty of the Alps has long captivated travelers with its snow-capped peaks, aquamarine lakes and charming hamlets. If there was ever a perfect road trip destination, I think it would be the Alps. The Alps are one of the ultimate European travel experiences! Even now that I live in Germany , it still feels like a dream to be in the Alps. You never get sick of this magical place.

There are several countries that span the Alps, including Austria, France and Germany, but the most famous of the Alpine countries is of course Switzerland. It goes without saying that Switzerland is stunning and one of my favorite destinations in Europe, but, there are plenty of places to explore in the Alps outside of Switzerland that surprised me (and saved me some Euros!) during our 2 week road trip in the Alps.

While you can’t see all of the Alps in just 2 weeks, you’ll be able to see a lot of these beautiful mountains. In this blog post, I help you plan the perfect 14 day roadtrip through the Alps, making sure that you make the most of this incredible part of Europe. You’ll hardly be disappointed by the places you miss because the places you will go to are going to blow your mind. The Alps are truly stunning and you really can’t go wrong with any destinations in these European mountains! 

What You'll Find In This Post

How to Spend 2 Weeks in the Alps

Overview of this road trip itinerary.

This 2 week road trip itinerary in the Alps will be a circuit route starting and ending in Munich. This road trip includes stops in 4 different countries -- Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany. In total, there will be about 19 hours of driving split across 10 days. The longest stretch of driving is approximately 4.5 hours, but an average of 2 hours per day. 

By starting and ending at the same point (Munich), you can reduce the cost of your rental car by about 200 euros, and it makes the logistics of the arrival and departure less stressful since you can book a round trip flight. If you preferred to book one-way flights, you could easily modify this itinerary to start in Munich and end in Zurich or Geneva by moving up the last three days to the middle of the itinerary. 

Day 1 + 2: Salzburg

For the first day of your Alps road trip, a short two hour drive from Munich to Salzburg is a calming way to warm up your driving skills and get comfortable on the European highways. This drive is straightforward and the terrain is easy, plus you’ll get an impression of the immaculate road conditions on the German autobahn. Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, Salzburg offers a great blend of history, culture and of course, Sound of Music fame. My mom is obsessed with this movie, so I knew I couldn’t pass up a stop here. I dive into all the nitty gritty details about planning two days in Salzburg .

The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its famous landmarks like the birthplace of Mozart, the Hohensalzburg Fortress, and the well-preserved baroque architecture. Salzburg is compact and easy to explore by foot, so make sure to book a hotel with easy parking options. I recommend staying for at least 1 night, because many visitors only come as a day trip. The city has a completely different vibe at night. We did two nights in Salzburg and felt like it was just right! 

Salzburg Austria Skyline

Day 3 + 4: Innsbruck

Famous for its mountain panoramas and alpine adventure activities, Innsbruck is a great place to stay for a few days while traveling in the Alps, thanks to its advantageous location in the center of the Tyrol region of Austria. You can easily use it as a jumping off point for mountain biking, skiing or other mountain adventures, or you could simply enjoy 48 hours exploring all the great things the city of Innsbruck has to offer.

The quaint old town of Innsbruck is easily walkable in an hour or two if you are interested in sightseeing, with options to see the Golden Roof , the Baroque facade of the Heblinghaus or the stunning interior of the Cathedral of St James . The city has a long history with the Olympics, so make sure to take a visit up to the towering Bergisel Ski Jump which overlooks the city. Inside, you can enjoy coffee or lunch with a view! For more stunning views, take your elevation even higher with a ride to the top of Nordkette Mountain . Sometimes called the Jewel of the Alps, you can ride a funicular and cable car up to Hafelekar Station for mind-blowing views of the Alps.

I was on the fence about visiting the Swarovski Kristalwelten Museum (Crystal World) outside of Innsbruck, but it turned out to be such a great museum and I would 100% recommend going. Similar to other experiential museums that have popped up in recent years, the Swarovski Kristalwelten features a series of rooms created by different artists. I had no idea the caliber of artists that would be featured here--Alexander McQueen, Yayoi Kusama, and Manish Arora to name a few!

Each room captures the artist's interpretation of Swarovski crystal as an artistic medium, and there are some incredible installations! It seems that most people who visit Swarovski Kristalwelten go straight to the gift shop, so when we visited the museum, we had it completely alone! Don’t miss the mind-blowing beautiful crystal clouds out in the garden. 

Innsbruck wasn’t my favorite of the culinary destinations we visited on our tour of the Alps, but it is a good place to sample some traditional Austrian food. Stiftskeller has a good local vibe with a nice selection of beer and yummy (and filling) pub food. The stylish Ottoburg is another good option with a charming Alpine interior and friendly staff. One thing you don’t want to miss before leaving Austria is strudel, and Innsbruck has some delicious options! Kröll Strudel Cafe offers a wide assortment of delicious strudel flavors to eat in or take away.

Swarovski Crystal World Innsbruck Austria

Day 5: Luxury Alp Hotel

While in the Alps, it would be a shame not to splurge on at least one luxury experience -- this is basically the region of the world where luxury hotels were invented! There are copious amounts of stunning Alpine hotels offering a range of luxury experiences in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Spa and wellness resorts are popular in this region of Europe, making for a relaxing and restorative experience on your 2 week itinerary in the Alps. 

If you happen to be visiting during a slower season or book a hotel in the middle of the week, you might be surprised by some of the deals you can find. We were traveling in the Alps around my 30th birthday, and I planned for our splurge day on my birthday as a present to myself, using up nearly all of my rewards points to book a room at the picturesque Nidum Casual Luxury Hotel outside of Innsbruck. It was the perfect way to ring in a new decade of life and felt totally luxurious! For more luxury alpine options, Pretty Hotels has a lovely list of mountain getaways many of which are in the Alps as well as Design Hotels round up of the most design-forward hotels in Austria. 

Day 6: St Moritz (or Zermatt)

Driving into Switzerland offers some mind blowing scenery. From the tunnels through the mountain to crystalline lakes, this morning's drive will wow you. I could easily spend one week in Switzerland , but your budget might now allow you to stay too long. With this roadtrip, we're keeping the time in Switzerland fairly brief. When you picture a luxury Swiss Alps scene, you are basically picturing St. Moritz. This glamorous mountain town has been hosting the winter holidays of European elites for decades, and this place just oozes wealth. In a rich country like Switzerland, that's saying something.

If hanging out with Europe's wealthiest isn’t your vibe, I totally understand. You could easily go to Zermatt instead. Zermatt is home to the famous Matterhorn mountain, and it is a quieter more relaxed destination in Switzerland. The city itself doesn't allow cars, so you'll need to park outside the city and take the train in. I've written several posts about visiting Zermatt, including where to find the best restaurants in Zermatt .  

But let's continue with the St. Mortiz plan. Never one to turn down a good sauna and spa day, the Ovaverva public pool and bathhouse is an ideal way to spend a morning in St. Moritz. This sleek and modern spa has everything -- saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, outdoor heated pool -- all with stunning Alpine views. Like many other saunas and spa in this region, no bathing suits are allowed in the mixed-gender saunas so be prepared. 

Similar to Innsbruck, St. Moritz has been a host of the Winter Olympics making it a prime snow-sports city with plenty of opportunities to go skiing or snowshoeing in the winter, or hiking and mountain-biking in the summer. The unique thing you can do here in the winter is go for a bobsled ride ! This adrenaline pumping activity will set you back about 300 Swiss francs a piece, but it is likely to be an experience you’ll never forget -- if you can survive the ride! For a less adventurous take, consider a hike on a glacier. 

St. Moritz is also an excellent place for some shopping (if you can afford it!). Don’t miss a peek into the delightfully stylish Faoro which doubles as a shop and a cafe. Cashmere is the name of the game at Lamm , which has both modern and traditional sweater designs for men and women. 

To save yourself (a little) cash, make a DIY cheese plate at Pur Alps who also supply amazing jams and crackers. For a more sophisticated snack, pop into the Kulm Country Club which has incredible interior design, mixing vintage and modern aesthetics impeccably. If you want to sample my favorite swiss chocolate brand, sample and buy one of the many barks or truffles at Läderach .

Day 7 + 8: Jungfrau (Interlakken) Region

The Jungfrau region is one of the prettiest in all of the Alps, home to gorgeous alpine lakes, majestic mountains, and high-altitude waterfalls. If you take the slightly longer 4 hour drive (vs 3.25 hrs) from St Moritz to Interlakken via route 13 and route 2, you will be treated to some of the most incredible Swiss Alps scenery imaginable. Through tunnels and small mountain towns, you’ll have vista after mind-blowing vista. It is well worth the extra 45 minutes in the car! 

Interlakken, which literally means in between two lakes, is a centrally located stop for exploring central Switzerland for a few days. I would say the city itself leaves a lot to be desired, but it makes for a great jumping off point for exploring the Jungfrau region. There are some tasty restaurants in the town, as well as a nice riverfront, but not much else. If you prefer to have a more quaint Alp stay, you might want to consider nearby Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen . 

Chocolate Fondue in Interlakken Switzerland

There are SO many ways to get amazing views in the Jungfrau region. One of the most famous things to do in this region of Switzerland is to visit one of the high mountain peaks, either Jungfraujoch (the top of Europe) or Schilthorn Observation Deck (James Bond fame). The views from both are of course spectacular, but the high price point means that you’ll probably want to select just one of them. We opted to do the Schilthorn peak. Unfortunately it was completely overcast and cloudy the day we went, so we decided not to ride up because there would be almost no opportunity to view anything. 

On our way back from Schilthorn station to Interlakken, we stopped in the charming small town of Lauterbrunnen. Increasingly famous on Instagram, Lauterbrunnen is a quintessential Swiss town with one defining feature -- a waterfall shooting off a rock face into a sheer free fall. It’s very beautiful and you can see it from the town center. We also stopped at Trummelbach Falls , a tucked away waterfall gorge that is well worth the hour-long visit. You can get very close to the waterfalls, and the thunderous noise inside the gorge is cool to experience.

Prefer to see the Alps and lakes from the air? Interlakken is THE place to go paragliding in Switzerland, and there are almost daily departures for people looking to paraglide. My parents did this back in 2016 and had a fantastic experience! You might also consider a visit to the Two Lakes Bridge for a great perspective on Interlakken’s unique alpine position. Another option for pristine Alp viewing is the First Cliff Walk , which you can start in Grindelwald. Eat and Travel with Us has a great write up about how to do this! 

Day 9 + 10: Lucerne

Given the mountain views that you’ve just come from, I would recommend spending your two days in Lucerne simply enjoying this beautiful city. The views from Mount Pilatus are popular, but not nearly as lovely as the stops in Interlakken and St. Moritz. 

I genuinely loved my time in Lucerne because it is a scenic and quaint city that feels perfectly Swiss to me. The most iconic attraction in Lucerne is the Chapel Bridge , a 1300’s wooden bridge with painted interior panels telling the history and lore of Switzerland. The old town has been well-preserved and it is nice to window-shop while taking in the beautiful architecture. Next, walk along the old city walls and climb the watch towers for nice views of the city and lake Lucerne. I really enjoyed walking along the waterfront at night, when all the churches and old buildings are lit up. 

Lucerne is also a much more foodie city than some of the other stops on this list, so take advantage! We had a very nice (and moderately priced) lunch at Restaurant Mill’Feuille along the river in Old Town. For sunset drinks, it is hard to beat the rooftop terrace at the Montana Hotel . If there was one meal on this itinerary that I would recommend making a reservation for, it would be at Zur Werkstatt in Lucerne . We were lucky enough to sneak in as the last table that night without a reservation, but normally they are booked days ahead of time. Our dinner at Zur Werkstatt was a fun, creative and DELICIOUS meal during our 2 week trip through the Alps which we still remember fondly! 

Chapel Bridge Lucerne Switzerland

Day 11: Vaduz, Liechtenstein

As one of the tiny micronations countries in Europe, Liechtenstein isn’t on most people’s “must-see” lists of Europe, but I wanted to add it to my Alps itinerary to cross off country number 54 for me. What Liechtenstein might not have in size, it makes up for in beauty with its stunning location nestled in the Alps between Austria and Switzerland. Plus, the numbers of visitors to Liechtenstein versus its neighbors is minimal, and you’ll feel a nice reprieve from tourist crowds. 

You can easily see the major highlights of Vaduz in 24 hours, but there are ski resorts and mountain towns nearby if you wanted to spend an extra night or two. Park your car near the center of Vaduz, as you’ll be spending most of your day walking around. Start with a quick walk through the city center, where you can pop into a few museums such as the Stamp Museum or the Liechtenstein museum . At the end of the main street, keep walking towards the picturesque Red House .  

Neighborhood Architecture Vaduz Liechtenstein

Have you ever wanted to sample wine made by a royal family? In Liechtenstein you can at the Hofkellerei des Fürsten von Liechtenstein (and they are surprisingly good)! A wine tasting will set you back about 15 CHF, but you could also pair it with lunch for a slight discount.

Castles are your final stop for your 24 hours in Liechtenstein. Drive up to the Vaduz Castle , which is still owned and inhabited by members of the royal family. You can’t go inside, but the photo op and view is nice. More picturesque in my opinion is the Gutenberg Castle , about 15 minutes away from Vaduz in Balzers. Perched precariously on top of a rocky outcropping in the middle of the city, Gutenberg Castle dates about to the 1200s!    

For dinner, enjoy the rustic ambiance at Adler Restaurant where you can sample a refined Käsknöpfle, the national dish of Liechtenstein. Similar to a cheese spaetzle or macaroni and cheese, this pasta dish mixes cheese and fried onions with a side of applesauce. If you want something fancier, Restaurant Marée is an experimental Michelin-starred restaurant with stunning views from its mountainside dining room.

Day 12 + 13: Bavaria 

As you round out your 2 week road trip in the Alps, you’ll start heading back towards Germany. If you aren't ready for this road trip to end yet, consider adding on a few extra days as you enter back into Germany. Bavaria is one of the most popular places to travel in Germany, thanks to it's well known culture and beautiful attractions. I live in Germany now, and you can find tons of my Germany-specific travel suggestions on my other blog, Ausländer. 

Thankfully you don't need extra days to enjoy some of Bavaria's most famous attractions. Such as Neuschwanstein Castle! Famous for its princess-like exterior, Neuschwanstein is rumored to have inspired Walt Disney’s interpretation of the Sleeping Beauty castle. Considered to be one of the most picturesque castles in all of Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle is well-trod by millions of tourists annually. A visit here is an organized experience. You’ll need to book your tickets several days or weeks in advance with a very specific time slot for your visit. Germans have no tolerance for tardiness so you’ll need to plan your arrival time accordingly.

You’ll have the option to book a ticket just for Neuschwanstein or to Hohenschwangau Castle as well. The price difference is marginal, and I actually liked the tour of Hohenschwangau Castle even better, so I would recommend doing the combined tour.  In total, the visit between the two castles will take about 4 hours. Neuschwanstein is located at the top of a small mountain which can be accessed on foot via steep paved walking trail, by horse-drawn carriage or by shuttle bus. The bus doesn't run in adverse weather and the hike takes about 25 minutes.

alps trip itinerary

The absolutely heart-warming and adorable town of Mittenwald is one of my favorite small towns in Germany . I would absolutely recommend booking a hotel here for a night or two as you explore the Alpine region of Bavaria. It literally feels like you have walked onto a fairytale movie set with its painted facade buildings and hobbit-like hovels. There isn't necessarily anything "to do" in Mittenwald other than simply enjoying the cute streets and appreciating the Alpine scenery. It's a good home base for exploring this corner of Bavaria on your last few days of this epic 2 week roadtrip through the Alps. 

For a small town, Mittenwald has some surprisingly great restaurants. Try some local Bavarian cuisine at Gaststaette am Kurpark restaurant and wash it down with beer from Brauereigaststätte Postkeller . You should also get the pretzel soup there because it is fucking delightful. If you’re looking for something a little fancier, the tiny town of Mittenwald is even home to Michelin star eatery -- Das Marktrestaurant . 

Day 14: Return to Munich

If you find yourself with a few extra hours before heading back home (or onto other destinations) I would strongly recommend a visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp museum and memorial. It is only about 20 minutes from the MUC airport, and of all the Jewish remembrance sites I’ve been to thus far (I haven’t been to Auschwitz), it is the most informative and powerful. I understand that dark tourism this isn’t the most cheerful experience to end your time in the Alps, but it is a very important part of German history and in my opinion, a must-visit place. 

What to Know About Driving in the Alps

When is the best time to go.

The Alps are a year-round destination with lovely things to offer in all four seasons, so you’ll want to determine which time is best for you depending on what type of activities you’re looking to do. If you’re a skier, then winter is obviously the ideal time. If you’re more into hiking, then summer would be better. If you want to enjoy fall colors, then autumn is best. We went in the middle of spring (last week of April and first week of May) and found the weather to be almost perfect with cool temperatures and low crowd numbers. 

What Type of Car is Best?

We managed to do the drive in a regular sedan without all-wheel drive. Although we were safe and overall it went fine, I think a four-wheel drive car would have been preferable. We got snow one day on our drive to Neuschwanstein and it was a little dicey. Plus, a little more horsepower would have made some of the mountain passes a bit easier. A few of the hills and highways get steep and our car felt like it was at max capacity. This advice is especially true if you are driving the Alps in the winter. You’ll need something that can handle slick or snowy conditions with ease. 

Road Conditions

Compared to what you are used to from the United States, the highway conditions in the Alps are spotless and immaculate. We were SO impressed but I guess it makes sense when you have people driving fancy sports cars at 100+ miles per hour. You need your roads to be in tip-top shape to prevent accidents! The signs along the highways here are easy to understand, and we had cell-reception for directions nearly the whole time.

One thing that you need to keep an eye on is your rear view mirror, especially in Germany. The German autobahn infamously does not have a speed limit in Bavaria, and cars will come whizzing by at 120-140 miles per hour. You could look in your mirror one second and see a car several hundred yards away, and a few seconds later, they are flashing their headlights at you on your bumper. Germans are especially fastidious about only using the left lane for passing, so it is best to stick to the right lane unless you are actively passing another car. If you don’t abide this rule, you can expect some honks, nasty looks and flashing headlights. 

Toll Roads & Highway Passes

Even though all of the countries on this itinerary are in the Schengen area, there are different laws about tolls and highway passes in each country. If you follow this itinerary, you don’t need to worry about anything in Germany since you’ll have a German car, but you will need to purchase a Vignette (highway toll sticker) for Austria and Switzerland. 

This is basically a prepaid toll sticker that gets scanned via RFID at various locations around the country. You need to adhere it to your front windshield in a specific place, which you can find instructions for on the sticker. You can buy these stickers at almost any gas station, especially near the highway, and they range in price and length of validity depending on the country. Some rental car companies will provide the Vignette for an upcharge, so ask about it when you pick up your rental car. 

All of the freeways (autobahn), federal highways (Bundesstraße) and expressways (Schnellstraßen) are cashless so this sticker is the only way you’ll be able to clear the toll booths. You can also get a pricey ticket from a police officer for not having one, so it is strongly advised to buy them before crossing any borders. 

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Do you have questions about driving in the Alps or planning a European roadtrip? Comment below!

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How to plan a road trip in the Alps

Road Trip maps in the Alps

A road trip in the Alps is a once in lifetime experience and as any other multi-country road trip, the more you prepare for it, the better is it.

When it comes to planning a road trip across the Alps, I was kind of disappointed with the information I found online. Most articles (from bloggers and also established magazines) focused more on personal itineraries and suggestions, rather than the preparation of the trip itself and the best way to cover such a massive region.

Crossing eight different countries, the Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system in Europe. Therefore, to travel this region at its fullest, you will probably need a month or two. Additionally, while the Alps are big part within the borders of European Union (with the exception of Liechtenstein and Switzerland), language, regulations and even prices change drastically from one country to the next.

In order to plan the perfect road trip for YOU, understand first which options you have, research which area of the Alps you want to visit and how rules will change from country to country.

Road Trip Alps

Starting your journey

Before you even book flights, think about which part of the Alps you want to travel around, how many places you want to explore and which city suits you the most to start and end the road trip.

Due to its inexpensive flight connections, Salzburg, Munich, Zurich, Basel and even Venice are great spots to start the road trip. All of these airports are located outside the city, which makes them perfect for simply landing, picking up the car and get on the road.

Even though Zurich tends to be the most popular place to start a road trip in the Alps, this is the most expensive city of Europe. It’s true you will start your trip in the heart of the Alps, but end up spending in a single day, what you would usually spend on three.

INSIDE TIP: By starting and ending at the same location, you reduce significantly the cost of your rental car. It also makes the logistics of the itinerary easier, as you will end up booking a round trip flight.

Dolomites - How to plan a road trip in the Alps

Traveling should not be a race. Although it’s nice to visit different places and explore new countries on a single trip, take into consideration that you don’t want to drive for hours from one place to another and have no time for a hike or a nice sunset.

Driving times across the Alps are also very unreliable. Roads are narrow, wet or icy, and if you are not used to this kind of drive, a two hour journey can easily turn into three or four. While I was exploring the Alps, I was average driving 60 – 150 km from one place to another – a distance that sometimes took me almost a full day to cover.

These are some suggestions for a round trip road trip across the alps:

4 days exploring the Swiss Alps (Zurich – Lucerne Lake – Lauterbrunnen – Bern area – Zurich)

4 days exploring the Swiss Alps

7 day across the German speaking countries (Munich – Garmisch/Neuschwanstein – Liechtenstein – Parc Nazuinal Svizzer – South Tirol – Hallstatt – Munich)

7 day across the German speaking countries

10 days in the Eastern Alps (Lyon – Charmonix – Zermatt – Lauterbrunnen – Liechtenstein -Lucerne – Bern – Laussane – Lyon)

10 days in the Eastern Alps

10 days in the Western Alps   (Venice – Kranjska Gora/Bled Lake – Nockberge – Hallstatt – South Tirol – Cortina – Venice)

10 days in the western  Alps

14  days for the best of the Alps (Munich – Garmisch/Neuschwanstein – Liechtenstein – Lucerne – Zermatt – Lauterbrunnen – Parc Nazuinal Svizzer – Cortina – Hallstatt)

Map road trip in the Alps

Before you book your vehicle

Driving across the Alps is not like driving between Germany and the Netherlands. There are several rules you have to comply and things you have to inform your car rental company in advance.

  • Can you drive your rental car across the border – is there an additional cost for each country?
  • How are the regulations for driving to non-EU countries like Liechtenstein or Switzerland?
  • Do you need winter tires for this journey? –  all rental companies charge extra for this service
  • Does your vehicle already has the toll sticker (vignette) for Austria and/or Switzerland?

Getting across the Alps

Driving across the Alps is definitely one of the best road trip experiences in Europe: serpentine mountain roads surrounded by snowy peaks, viewpoints that will take your breath away and incline roads that might give you the chills for a second.

But don’t worry, crossing the Alps can be as adventurous and complicated as you want it to be. Europe’s highway system is probably the best in the world and with modern long tunnels between mountains and 6 lane highways connecting large cities, you can easily cross the Alps from Germany to Italy in less than 2 hours.

Yet, the beauty of a road trip in the Alps does not rely on crossing it fast, but in enjoying the journey. Country and alpine roads are very common for travelers looking forward to a drive closer to nature and well known alpine passes became perfect spots for having a break, go for a hike and enjoying the magnificent views.

Driving from alpine pass to alpine pass is not a bad choice if you want to get a glimpse of the natural landscapes of the Alps and do short hiking routes before continuing driving.

Some of the most beautiful alpine passes in the Alps are:

  • Great St Bernard Pass – Switzerland to Italy
  • Giau Pass and Falzarego Pass – Italian Dolomites
  • Col de la Bonette – France
  • Nockalm Road – Austria
  • Grossglockner High Alpine Road – Austria (It has an extra toll fee of 35 EUR)

Read more: Types of signs at the hiking routes in the Alps

Bled Lake in the Slovenian Alps

Tolls or Vignette

In order to drive through the highways of Austria, Slovenia or Switzerland, you have to purchase a toll sticker (vignette).

These stickers are available at any tank station close to the border and should be properly displayed at the front glass before you enter to these territories.

Prices for the vignette in 2021 are:

  • 9,50 EUR for 10 days
  • 27,80 EUR for 2 months
  • 92,50 EUR for 12 months
  • 15 EUR for 7 days
  • 30 EUR for 1 month
  • 110 EUR for 12 months

Switzerland

  • 38 EUR (40 CHF) for 12 months – this is the only option

On the other side, Italy and France use the traditional toll charge, where tolls are paid at toll gates, where they can be paid by cash, credit card or a fuel card.

Germany and Liechtenstein has no toll fees for using their highways or roads

NOTE: Crossing large tunnels in Austria or Slovenia have additional costs. Usually from 5 EUR up to 12 EUR.

Where to stay

In such a magical location surrounded by mountains, staying in a small hotel room in a large city should be your last option. Cities tend to be more expensive and distant from nature, and while they can offer a better nightlife and restaurant options for you to enjoy, the enchantment of the Alps lies on disconnecting from everything and simply get closer to nature.

Being in the wilderness does not necessarily mean wild camping. Wild camping is forbidden almost everywhere in Europe and with fines that can go up to 10.000 EUR – a risk that is simply not worth it. But don’t worry, there are still amazing alternatives no matter what your budget is.

Camping areas in the Alps are very popular. They have excellent facilities (clean bathrooms, showers, kitchens) and are usually located next to a point of interest.  They are also the most inexpensive choice when it comes to accommodation and since you are traveling with a car, you can easily carry a tent and a sleeping bag with you.

While Austria has some of the cheapest camping areas in Europe, Switzerland camping spots are at least 3-4 times more expensive than in its neighboring countries.

For example, I camped with a friend in Austria for 12 EUR a night in low season, but two days later in Switzerland I paid 50 EUR.

Homestays & Pensions

Known as a “Gasthof” in German speaking countries, this is the kind of accommodation that will make you feel at home. Way cheaper than a hotel, cozy, regional and serving probably the best food in the area, these lodges are easy to find along the way or in small villages across the Alps.

They are mostly family run and have a history that goes generations back. They are in my opinion the best place for a warm dinner, a cold beer and a night of stories to share.

Mountain Huts

Very similar to a pension, mountain huts are very cozy places located in scenic spots. These mostly family run businesses are the best option if you are planning full days of hiking or skiing. However, due to their unique location and limited capacity, they get fully booked months in advance and tend to be more expensive.

On the other hand, mountain huts offer that cozy and warm alpine experience you expect from the alps – a warm cabin with just 10 people and nothing but wilderness around you.  

Alpine resorts

If you want to treat yourself with something fancier, alpine resorts are your choice to go. Extravagant, luxurious and located in the heart of the action, these are the right place to relax and enjoy after a long day outdoors.

Alpines resorts tend to be expensive though. With prices higher than in 5-star hotels in big cities, these are mostly an option for that occasional splurge once or twice a year.  

Read more: Driving along the most epic alpine route in Austria

rifugio lagazuoi dolomites road trip alps

Highlights to see during a road trip in the Alps

Located at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix attracts visitors who come to experience not only the beauty of a typical alpine village, but also want to explore one of the most scenic alpine landscapes in the world.

Climbing, hiking, skiing or cycling. No matter which outdoor activity you have in mind, Chamonix probably is one of the best places in Europe to do it.

Chamonix at the French Alps during a road trip

Known for being one of the most expensive places to travel in Europe, the magnificence of Zermatt does not lie on its luxury chalets, cobblestone streets or horse-drawn carriages. It lies in its particular location.

Zermatt is right at the feet of Matterhorn, one of the most iconic mountain peaks in the world and a natural symbol of Switzerland. From Zermatt, dozens of hiking routes begin, where some of the most scenic spots in the Alps can be found.

View of the village of Zermatt at the feet of Matterhorn

Garmisch Partenkirchen

Offering almost every outdoor activity you can think of, Garmisch Partenkirchen is one of the best places to get a first glimpse of the beauty in the Alps.

Mostly known for its winter activities, Garmisch is also known for its proximity to the idyllic Schloss Neuschwanstein. With that said, this is the perfect hub if you are planning a road trip around the German Alps.

Read more: How to plan a road trip in Namibia

View of Neuschwanstein Castle in the German Alps

Right in the heart of the Dolomites (my favorite mountain region in Europe), Cortina lies in one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. It is surrounded by some of the most magnificent peaks in Europe and is the gateway to the most scenic hikes in whole Italy.

In comparison to most other places in this list, Cortina is not a place for one or two nights. From here, travelers can do multiple day hikes (such as the iconic Alta Via 1 ) or day trips to some of the most beautiful parts of the Dolomites.

Read more: Exploring the Alta Via 1 – Dolomites most beautiful hiking route

Passo Giau in Cortina - Dolomites

Yes, Hallstatt is a little bit overrated, overcrowded and the worst example of what tourism might become. However, the beauty of this town is undeniable and doing a road trip across Austria without visiting Hallstatt for at least a couple of hours is a little bit like visiting Paris and not walking under the Eifel Tower.

But the uniqueness of Hallstatt does not rely only on the beauty of the village.  It’s central location makes it perfect for a stop during a road trip in Austria – only a couple of hours away from the famous Grossglockner High Alpine Road, and 45 minutes from the ice caves of Dachstein and Eisriesenwelt .

Read more: Visiting the ice caves of Austria

Halstatt Austria Alps-road-trip

Planning a road trip in the Alps?

Search and compare prices in hundreds of websites with only one click, how do i find cheap flights to europe and the alps.

Finding a cheap flight anywhere around the world is not always easy. It’s about comparing platforms, selecting the right routes and booking at the right time. Fortunately, platforms like Skyscanner became known as an all-in-one tool for booking flights at the lowest cost possible.

They analyse every potential company and sub-contractor in order to find the lowest price available for you. Not only that, but you can also select the option “Travel Anywhere” and let Skyscanner find the cheapest place to travel at any selected date.

I check all my flights first at Skyscanner , and in 90% of the cases, I find the best option for me to book.

Also, by booking here using Skyscanner , you will support my blog and help me create more amazing and useful content.

What about memories and pictures. While phones and social media are great, there is nothing like the physical, get a bespoke photo diary and share a different kind of image to your friends and family.

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  • 10-Day Bavarian Alps & Tyrolean Alps Road Trip Itinerary, Germany & Austria
  • Travel & Hiking Blog

This Bavarian Alps and Tyrolean Alps road trip combines thrilling hiking trails, deep river gorges, fairy tale castles, picturesque alpine towns, mountain lakes, and even thermal spas.

We created this route based on multiple trips to Bavaria and Tyrol, so it highlights only the very destinations. 

Our 10-day Germany-Austria road trip begins in Munich, Germany . From the Munich International Airport , you’ll drive 1:30 hours to Garmisch-Partenkirchen , located at the base of the highest mountains of the Bavarian Alps. Walk through narrow gorges, swim in Lake Eibsee , and even tackle a Klettersteig. 

The road trip continues along the German Alpine Road to Oberammergau, Linderhof Palace, and Neuschwanstein Castle and then crosses the border into Tyrol (Tirol), Austria . Hike to Coburger Hütte and Lake Drachensee and then drive to Ötztal to soak in the thermal waters of Aqua Dome , Austria’s most iconic thermal spa complex. 

Next, you’ll drive through Innsbruck to Mayrhofen in Zillertal Valley. Walk across the famous suspension bridge at Olpererhütte in the Zillertal Alps and then continue your journey to Lake Achensee, the largest lake in Tyrol. 

Detour to the majestic Grosser Ahornboden (“Great Maple Floor”) to eat lunch at an active alpine pasture. 

The final destination on this Bavaria road trip is the picture-perfect town of Mittenwald, at the foot of the Karwendel mountain range.  

10-Day Bavaria & Tyrol Road Trip Itinerary

Lake Achensee, Tyrol, Austria

Bavaria-Tyrol Itinerary Summary

  • Day 1 : Arrive in Munich, Drive to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • Day 2 : Höllentalklamm Gorge and Lake Eibsee
  • Day 3 : Linderhof Palace, Oberammergau, and Neuschwanstein Castle
  • Day 4 : Lake Drachensee and Ehrwald
  • Day 5 : Aqua Dome Thermal Spa, Innsbruck, and Mayrhofen
  • Day 6 : Olpererhütte Mountain Hut and the Zillertal Alps
  • Day 7 : Lake Achensee
  • Day 8 : Grosser Ahornboden and Engalm Alpine Pasture
  • Day 9 : Mittenwald
  • Day 10 : Munich
  • 2 Nights in Garmisch-Partenkirchen , Bavaria
  • 2 Nights in Ehrwald, Tyrol
  • Optional: Add 1 Night at Aqua Dome in Ötztal, Tyrol
  • 2 Nights in Mayrhofen , Tyrol
  • 1 Night at Lake Achensee , Tyrol
  • Optional: Add 1-2 Nights at Die Eng in Grosser Ahornboden, Tyrol
  • 2 Nights in Mittenwald , Bavaria
  • Optional: Add 1-2 Nights in Munich, Bavaria

This post links to products and services we love, which we may make a small commission from, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our blog!! – Sabrina and Kati

Bavaria – Tyrol Road Trip Map

Essential Tips for Traveling in Bavaria and Tyrol

Bavarian Restaurant, Ludwigstrasse, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

1. Book your entrance tickets to Linderhof, Neuschwanstein, and Aqua Dome in advance.

2. Use the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals in Germany. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip. Check car rental rates here .

3. Purchase a vignette (toll sticker) when you cross the border into Austria. They are sold at gas stations near the Germany-Austria border.

4. Always have cash . Some establishments (guesthouses, restaurants, huts, toll booths) only accept payment in cash.

5. Some accommodations in Bavaria and Tyrol require a minimum stay of 2-3 nights.

6. Hotel wellness and spa areas are always included in the room rate. Spa treatments are an add-on, but not the facilities (pools, saunas, relaxation rooms). In the German-speaking world, saunas are always textile-free, unless otherwise stated.

Day 1: Arrive in Munich, Drive to Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Ludwigstrasse, Partenkirchen, Bavaria

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the most well-known alpine resort town in the Bavarian Alps. It’s located on the confluence of the Loisach and Partnach valleys between the Ammergauer Alpen, Ester Mountains, Wetterstein Mountains.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the Lüftlmalerei (“air paintings”), which adorn the facades of houses, businesses, churches, and other buildings. The art murals depict fanciful scenes from fairy tales, the Bible, and ordinary life. 

For the most colorful display of Lüftlmalerei, amble down the Ludwigstraße street in Partenkirchen. 

For a traditional Bavarian meal, we can’t recommend Zum Wildschütz and Zur Schranne enough. 

Read Best Things to Do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and our Garmisch-Partenkirchen Hiking Guide to plan your trip.

If you’re seeking easy-going, low-elevation walks, take a look at our Garmisch Winter Travel Guide .

Partnach Gorge

Partnachklamm (Partnach Gorge) is a deep river gorge in the Reintal Valley in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 

Millions of years ago, meltwater and debris hollowed out the rock, creating a splendidly narrow gorge. 

A safe and secure path leads through the 700-meter-long Partnach Gorge, offering wondrous perspectives of this natural landmark. 

The hike to Partnach Gorge begins at the Garmisch Olympia Stadium , where there’s a bus stop and pay-and-display car park (5 EUR for 24 hours). From here, it’s a 20-minute walk to the gorge entrance. 

If time allows, you can extend the gorge walk to Berggasthof Eckbauer , a mountainside restaurant with a fabulous terrace. 

When to Visit | The Partnach Gorge is open all-year-long. However, authorities may close the gorge, if it’s unsafe (e.g. too much snowmelt in Spring). 

Opening Times | June – September : 8 am – 8 pm | October – May : 8 am – 6 pm 

Entrance Fee |  See current pricing

Learn More: Partnach Gorge Hiking Guide  

Stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen 

Budget | Olympiahaus is a traditional Bavarian guesthouse located at the historical Olympic stadium (where the ski jump is) and at the Partnach Gorge trailhead. The Olympiahaus features an on-site restaurant, breakfast buffet (optional), and free on-site parking. 

Luxury | Werdenfelserei is a standout boutique hotel which artfully combines traditional and modern alpine design. Highlights of staying here include the Zugspitze-facing rooftop pool, on-site restaurant, spa and wellness area, breakfast (included), and creative architecture. 

Upscale Apartments | Bader Suites offers tastefully-furnished apartments (1-2 bedrooms) with well-equipped kitchens in Garmisch, walking distance to the pedestrian zone. Each unit is outfitted with air-conditioning, a seating area, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom. Guests enjoy free underground parking (e-charging station available) and the use of lockable sports equipment and bicycle storage. Breakfast delivery boxes are available Thursdays-Mondays (8:30 am – 9 am) with pre-registration (let them know by 1 pm the day before).

Luxury Mountain Getaway | Das Graseck is a mountainside hotel set above Garmisch-Partenkirchen, accessible by the hotel’s own cable car. It’s a unique getaway perfect for those seeking a quiet wellness retreat. The spa is adults-only. The room rate includes breakfast and dinner.

More options : Hotel Schatten (budget), Central Garden-Mountain Apartment (midrange), aja Garmisch-Partenkirchen (midrange-luxury), Obermühle 4*S Boutique Resort (luxury), Private Spa & Garden Alpi (luxury). 

Look for accommodation in Garmisch-Partenkirchen .

Day 2: Höllentalklamm Gorge and Lake Eibsee

Höllentalklamm Hike, Bavaria, Germany

On Day 2 of your Bavaria road trip, we suggest hiking to the wild, rugged, and wet Höllentalklamm gorge and ending your day at Lake Eibsee. 

Kreuzeck to Höllentalklamm Gorge Hike

Höllentalklamm (Valley of Hell Gorge) is another must-see gorge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Starting at the Kreuzeck cable car mountain station, you can hike over the Hupfleitenjoch saddle to Höllental valley. Eat a rich lunch at the modern Höllentalangerhütte and descend the valley and the gorge all the way to Hammersbach. 

Opening Times | The gorge is open 24 hours during the snow-free season. 

Entrance Fee | There is an admission fee to enter the Höllentalklamm gorge.  Show your alpine club membership card to receive a discount. 

  • Adults: 6 EUR
  • Children (ages 7 – 17): 2 EUR
  • Children (ages 0 – 6): Free

Learn More: Höllentalklamm Hiking Guide

Lake Eibsee

Eibsee is an emerald-green mountain lake at the foot of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. 

Rent a SUP, or pedal board, take a swim, or walk the 7.6 km circuit trail around the lake. 

The best photo spots are along the north shore. 

Parking | There are two pay-on-exit car parks (P1 and P2) at Eibsee, 100 meters from the lakeshore. 

  • Earlybird Morning Fee (5 am – 9:30 am): 2.50 EUR
  • Up to 4 Hours: 8 EUR
  • Every Additional Hour: 1 EUR

Learn More: Lake Eibsee guide

Stay in Garmisch

Budget | Olympiahaus

Luxury | Werdenfelserei

Upscale Apartments | Bader Suites

Luxury Mountain Getaway | Das Graseck

 Day 3: German Alpine Road & King Ludwig II’s Fairy Tale Castles 

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavarian Alps, Germany

Day 3 of your Bavarian Alps road trip follows the German Alpine Road from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Oberammergau and onwards to Füssen . You’ll end the day in the town of Ehrwald , Austria. 

With careful planning, you can visit the picturesque town of Oberammergau, Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle all in one day. However, it’s important to purchase your castle entrance tickets online in advance to secure the time slots you want. 

Linderhof Palace 

Schloss Linderhof is an intimate palace nestled in the Ammergau Alps in Upper Bavaria. It was built by the legendary King Ludwig II of Bavaria between 1868 and 1874. 

In many ways, Linderhof is an ode to Versailles and French monarch Louis XIV, who Ludwig II idolized. The gilded baroque interior is ornamented with Gobelin tapestries, richly upholstered armchairs and sofas, extravagant canopies, and colorful ceiling paintings. 

In order to see the interior of the palace, visitors must join a guided tour . Tours last 25 minutes and are conducted in English and German.

Before, or after the guided tour, you can explore the park grounds surrounding the palace. Don’t miss the Moorish Kiosk.

Tickets & Pricing | Linderhof Ticket Shop

Arrival | We recommend arriving at Schloss Linderhof 20-30 minutes before your guided tour. That will afford you sufficient time to walk to the palace and even tour the palace grounds. 

Address | Linderhof 12, 82488 Ettal, Germany

Parking | 3 EUR. Cash Only | Google Maps

Other Considerations | The Venus Grotto is closed for renovation until 2024. 

Oberammergau 

Oberammergau is a charming town in the Bavarian Alps, north of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It’s one of the best places to admire Lüftlmalerei (“air paintings”) in the region. Some of the houses depict scenes from Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel . 

Oberammergau is famous for staging a passion play every 10 years, since 1634.

Walk through the town, grab a pastry from Aurhammer Bäckerei , or lunch at Ammergauer Maxbräu beer garden. 

Neuschwanstein Castle 

Neuschwanstein is the most famous castle in Germany and perhaps the world. Enthroned on a hill opposite the Castle of Hohenschwangau, much of its appeal lies in its alpine surroundings. 

Though built in a neo-Gothic style, Neuschwanstein is a modern 19th century building. The interior is vibrantly painted with scenes from mythology, opera, and medieval sagas. It’s mesmerizing. 

Like Linderhof, the only way to see the castle’s interior is by joining a guided tour . Tours are conducted every 5 minutes. The quality of the tour is mediocre at best. But, the rooms are splendid and worth seeing even if you feel like a herded cow. 

Tickets & Pricing | Ticket Shop

Arrival | From the car parks, allow 40 minutes to walk up to the castle entrance. You can pass through the main gate 45 minutes before your guided tour. 

Parking | 10 EUR at P1 or P2

  • Parkplatz P1 Königsschlösser – Google Maps
  • Parkplatz P2 Königsschlösser – Google Maps

Castle Viewpoints | The best viewpoints of Neuschwanstein are from:

  • Marienbrücke bridge
  • The ski slope near Alpe Reith, close to the Tegelbergbahn valley station.
  • The trail to Tegelberg. See this Wikiloc description . 

Drive to Ehrwald 

On your way to Ehrwald, you can detour to Lake Plansee for a swim. 

Make sure to purchase a vignette when you enter Austria. 

Stay in Ehrwald 

Budget | The spotless and charming Mellow Mountain Hostel has a range of bedrooms: double and triple rooms as well as 4-person and 6-person dormitories. Guests have access to a shared kitchen, sauna, and cozy living space.

Midrange | Der Grüne Baum Hotel is a comfortable, boutique hotel in the center of Ehrwald. With its fresh Tyrolean interiors, modern spa oasis, and in-house restaurant, it strikes just the right balance between urban and nature. Guests can choose between breakfast-only, or half board.

Luxury | The historic, family-run Romantik Hotel Spielmann is beautifully put together, with an ivy-covered facade accented by painted window frames and rustic Tyrolean interiors. Highlights of staying here are the sensational mountain views, excellent service, delicious food, and the new wellness area comprising a mountain-facing infinity rock pool and numerous saunas.

Look for accommodation in Ehrwald .

Customize Day 3

There are a few ways to alter this itinerary. 

1. After visiting Oberammergau and Linderhof, you can stay in Füssen and visit Neuschwanstein Castle the next morning. 

2. You can visit Oberammergau, Linderhof, Neuschwanstein, and Ehrwald as day trips from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. If you do that we suggest staying in Garmisch for 4-5 nights. 

3. If you’ve already visited these main attractions (or have no interest in them), you can hike to the summit of Hochplatte in the Ammergau Alps, or tackle the Alpsitz Ferrata in the Wetterstein Mountains. 

Day 4: Lake Drachensee

Lake Drachensee Hike, Tyrolean Alps, Austria

Day 4 of your Tyrolean Alps road trip is all about hiking to the Coburger mountain hut and Drachensee lake in the Mieminger Chain. 

Hike to Lake Drachensee & Coburger Hütte

Lake Drachensee (“Dragon Lake”) is a spectacular mountain lake encircled by rugged, limestone peaks. It’s an impressive landscape shared only by the Coburger Hütte mountain refuge (1917 m), which is perched above the lake. 

The hike to Lake Drachensee begins with the Erhwalder Almbahn cableway ascent. Start as early as possible. This is a popular hike. 

Learn More: Lake Drachensee Hiking Guide

Budget | Mellow Mountain Hostel

Midrange | Der Grüne Baum Hotel

Luxury | Romantik Hotel Spielmann

Day 5: Aqua Dome, Innsbruck, and Mayrhofen 

Aqua Dome Therme Spa, Austria

On day 5 of your Bavarian Alps – Tyrolean Alps itinerary, visit the world-famous Aqua Dome thermal spa. After soaking in thermal water, continue your trip to Innsbruck and onwards to Mayrhofen. 

Aqua Dome 

Aqua Dome is a striking thermal spa (“ Therme ” in German) in Längenfeld, Ötztal Valley. It’s a bucket list attraction for many and definitely worthy of a visit. 

Float in the basins, enjoy the sauna complex, and even consider spending the night. Check the rates on Booking.com.  

We’ve detailed everything you need to know about visiting in this Aqua Dome guide and our Aqua Dome Hotel Review . 

Important | Book your entrance ticket in advance . 

Innsbruck 

Innsbruck is the capital of Tyrol. This imperial city lies in the Inn Valley between the Karwendel Mountains and the Tux Alps.

Stroll through the Altstadt (Old Town), visit the Hofburg, see the Golden Roof, take the cable car up to Nordkette , visit the nearby Ambras Castle , or even the Swarovski Crystal Worlds .

Also, check out these tours : Innsbruck: Private Tour with a Local Guide and Innsbruck: Paragliding Adventure .

If you skipped Aqua Dome today, you can walk the delightfully easy Stone Pine Trail , hike up the Wolfsklamm Gorge , or summit Nockspitze Peak .

This Bavaria and Tyrol itinerary doesn’t linger in Innsbruck, but it’s a city worth visiting for at least 1-2 nights. If you decide to extend your visit, read our Innsbruck Hiking Guide .

We recommend staying in the Montagu Hostel (budget), NALA individuellhotel (midrange), Faktorei (midrange-luxury), Altstadthotel Weisses Kreuz (luxury), or Weisses Rössl (luxury)

Look for accommodation in Innsbruck .

Drive to Mayrhofen 

Mayrhofen is an alpine town in Zillertal in Tyrol, a one-hour drive from Innsbruck. The town center is always a vibrant place, bustling with hikers, cyclists, and climbers. It’s packed with sports shops, restaurants, and hotels. 

Learn More: Best Things to Do in Mayrhofen in Summer

Stay in Mayrhofen 

Budget  |   Landhotel Rauchenwalderhof   is a cozy and traditional guesthouse in Mayrhofen with an attractive price point. Guests love the location, outdoor swimming pool, and hospitality. Breakfast is included.

Midrange  |   We stayed in the 4-star  Alpenhotel Kramerwirt , a family-run hotel in the center of Mayrhofen. This traditional Austrian hotel exhibits a high standard of hospitality, food, and comfort. We loved the spaciousness, light, bedding, and design of our “Superior Room.” In the evenings, guests are treated to live music by local bands and ensembles. Another reason to stay at Alpenhotel Kramerwirt is their generous breakfast buffet. We’re still dreaming about it. 

Luxury  |   ElisabethHotel Premium Private Retreat- Adults only  is a luxurious hotel in Mayrhofen featuring beautiful spa facilities, outstanding cuisine, and alpine-modern furnishings. This is the best place to stay in Mayrhofen for a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway.

More options : Haus Claudia und Haus Monika (budget guesthouse) and ZillergrundRock Luxury Mountain Resort (luxury hotel with spa).

Look for accommodation in Mayrhofen .

Day 6: Olpererhütte and the Zillertal Alps 

Olpererhütte Suspension Bridge, Zillertal Alps, Tyrol, Austria

On Day 6 of your Tyrolean itinerary, you will hike a stretch of the Berlin High Trail to the iconic Olpererhütte. The suspension bridge, several meters away from the hut, is one of the most popular photo motifs in Austria. 

Olpererhütte Hike 

Olpererhütte is a mountain refuge in the Zillertal Alps, overlooking the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir. 

We recommend hiking to Olpererhütte the “long way” via Friesenberghaus . This longer route unfolds dramatically, rewarding hikers with jaw-dropping alpine views. 

The trail begins at the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir, which is accessible by a toll road (open during the snow-free season). You can drive, or take a bus to the reservoir. 

Learn More: Olpererhütte Hiking Guide

Budget  |   Landhotel Rauchenwalderhof  

Midrange  |  Alpenhotel Kramerwirt

Luxury  |   ElisabethHotel Premium Private Retreat- Adults only  

Day 7: Achensee

Bärenkopf, Achensee, Tyrolean Alps, Austria

Lake Achensee is the largest lake in Tyrol, stretching between the Karwendel and Rofan mountains. It’s a popular destination for windsurfing, sailing, and swimming. 

Today, you can spend the whole day relaxing by the lake. Alternatively, you can summit Bärenkopf peak , hike the challenging Seekarspitze to Seebergspitze ridge , walk up to the lovely Berggasthaus Dalfaz Alm , take the Rofanbahn cableway to Erfurter Hütte, or hike to Rofanspitz, or Hochiss. 

You could easily spend a week in Lake Achensee and not run out of things to do.

Hike to Bärenkopf Peak

Bärenkopf is a panoramic summit overlooking Lake Achensee, the Karwendel mountains, and the Rofan mountains. The hike to Bärenkopf begins at the Karwendel-Bergbahn mountain station. It’s a 7.8 km lollipop-circuit, which takes 4 hours to complete.

Learn More: Bärenkopf Trail Guide

Stay at Lake Achensee 

There are three “villages” around Lake Achensee: Achenkirch in the north, Pertisau in the southwest, and Maurach in the southeast. We recommend staying in Pertisau. 

The majority of the hotels around Lake Achensee are midrange to luxury. If you’re looking for a budget stay, check out nearby Camping Inntal and Gästehaus Waldrand Garni in Wiesing.

If you’re not staying in a hotel with half board, we highly recommend eating dinner at Fischerwirt am Achensee in Achenkirch. 

Pertisau 

Midrange | Hotel Bergland is a traditional Tyrolean hotel with an on-site restaurant. All rooms have balconies. Guests love the location, the friendly staff, and the food. 

Adults-only Luxury | The 4-star Hotel Auszeit pampers guests with its relaxing spa facilities (4 modern saunas, relaxing room, outdoor pool, sun garden), beautiful frooms, scenic setting, and excellent breakfast. Read our Hotel Auszeit review .

Adults-only Luxury | Seehotel Einwaller – adults only impresses with its stylish rooms, lake-facing wellness area, à la carte restaurant, and scenic lakeside location. In summer, guests can enjoy the hotel’s private pier, furnished with comfortable sunbeds and umbrellas. Expect an excellent breakfast.  Read our Seehotel Einwaller hotel review .

Luxury | NOVA Moments Boutique Hotel is a 4-star hotel with 34 air-conditioned rooms and suites, all tastefully furnished in an elegant, alpine-modern style. The hotel is set in a quiet location, 900 meters away from the lakeshore. Hotel facilities include an outdoor natural pool (open in summer), infinity whirlpool (open all-year-round), sauna, steam-bath, wellness relaxation room, garage parking with electric car charging stations, and fitness room. 

Family-friendly Luxury | Hotel Wagnerhof is a half board (breakfast and dinner included) hotel with traditional Tyrolean-style rooms as well as plush, modern suites. Surrounded by meadows, this lovely accommodation boasts 3 swimming pools, a spa, and fitness center. 

Look for accommodation in Pertisau .

Budget-Midrange | Hotel-Café-Restaurant Klingler is a family-run hotel in the heart of Maurach village with an on-site café, fitness center, and newly renovated rooms.  

Midrange | Hotel-Pension Huber-Hochland is a traditional half board hotel. Guests have access to a small wellness area, which includes an indoor pool, steam bath, Finnish sauna, and infrared cabin. 

Luxury | The 4-star Hotel St.Georg zum See is an alpine-chic hotel with spacious rooms, modern wellness facilities, and a gourmet half-board offering (rich breakfast buffet and 5-course dinner). 

Look for accommodation in Maurach .

Day 8: Grosser Ahornboden 

Eng Almdorf, Grosser Ahornboden, Tyrolean Alps, Austria

Day 8 of your Bavarian-Tyrolean Alps road trip steers you to a remote corner of Karwendel Nature Park. This is one of the most arresting places in Austria, only accessible from late May until mid/late October. 

Though located in Tyrol, Grosser Ahornboden can only be accessed by car from the Risstal valley in Bavaria.

Drive the toll road (5 EUR, cash only) to the end of Risstal Valley. You can park at the free car park across from Die Eng – Alpengasthof und Naturhotel .

Engalm Dorf and Grosser Ahornboden

Grosser Ahornboden is a gorgeous wide grassy plain, flanked by the Karwendel mountains, in the secluded Hinterrisstal (“Upper Riss Valley”).

It’s called Grosser Ahornboden, “Great Maple Floor,” because it’s studded with 2,300 sycamore maple trees, some 600 years old.

After parking, walk 5 minutes to the Eng Almdorf alpine pasture village. Here, you’ll find a restaurant, a shop selling local products, and a few other huts.

A visit to Grosser Ahornboden need not be more complicated than enjoying lunch at the Eng Alm Rasthütte and savoring the views. 

If your schedule allows, we highly recommend staying at Die Eng for 1-2 nights, so you can enjoy this alpine paradise a little longer. With more time, you can hike to Gamsjoch Peak , Binsalm alpine pasture, and Falkenhütte mountain hut.

Otherwise continue your drive to Mittenwald in Upper Bavaria. 

Learn More: How to Visit Grosser Ahornboden

Stay in Mittenwald

Budget | Pension Karner is a dog-friendly B&B in Mittenwald, very close to the Laintal Valley trail. This traditional guesthouse offers basic rooms with views of the Karwendel mountains. Guests love the breakfast, the host, and the quiet location. Payment is cash only.

Midrange | Alpenhotel Rieger is a 3-star-superior hotel at the end of the pedestrian street of Mittenwald with traditional alpine-style rooms and a wellness area (swimming pool, Finnish sauna, and steam bath). Guests can book half board or breakfast-only. Parking is free. 

Midrange | Post Hotel Mittenwald is advantageously located in the storybook old town of Mittenwald. This traditional, family-run Bavarian hotel offers clean and functional rooms, an indoor swimming pool and Finnish sauna, and a charming on-site restaurant. Breakfast and parking are included. 

Look for accommodation in Mittenwald .

Day 9: Mittenwald

Mittenwald, Upper Bavaria, Bavarian Alps

Mittenwald is one of the most beautiful towns in the Bavarian Alps. Like Oberammergau, it’s famous for its colorful Lüftlmalerei (“air paintings”). 

Mittenwald Altstadt

Obermarkt street is packed with restaurants, cafés, bakeries, and Konditoreien (patisseries). The town backdrop is the mighty Karwendel mountain range. 

For a mouthwatering selection of cakes, visit Bsonders & Guad . 

Hiking and cycling trails abound. A popular attraction is the Leutasch Gorge along the Bavarian-Tyrolean border. Via ferrata enthusiasts ought to consider the Mittenwalder Höhenweg .

For an easy, half-day excursion, take a look at the Hoher Kranzberg hike , which is accessible all-year-round. We hiked it in winter.

Another option is the long hiking tour (6-7 hours out-and-back) to The King’s House on Schachen in the Wetterstein Mountains. King Ludwig II instigated the building of this villa-style lodge at Schachen in order to enjoy the beauty of the mountains, not to hunt. It’s possible to visit the interior between June and early October, depending on snow conditions. A small entrance fee applies. For food and drinks, visit the nearby Schachenhaus mountain hut. The “Königsweg” hike starts at the Ellmau Hiking Car Park (Wanderparkplatz Elmau).

Tip | If you’re visiting Mittenwald in early-mid September, try to see an Almabtrieb , a decadent procession in which goats, cattle, and other animals return to the valley from the mountain pastures. Animals are decked in ceremonial bells and headdresses. Dates are posted on the Alpenwelt Karwendel website . 

Budget | Pension Karner  

Midrange | Post Hotel Mittenwald

Luxury | Alpenhotel Rieger

Day 10: Munich

It’s a 1:45 -2 hour drive from Mittenwald to the Munich International Airport. 

On your last day, you can continue exploring Mittenwald, or head directly to Munich, the capital of Bavaria.

If you’ve traveling to Bavaria in early Fall, you could potentially time your visit with Oktoberfest, the world’s largest folk festival.  

Oktoberfest Dates |

  • Oktoberfest 2024 : Sept 21st – Sunday Oct 6th
  • Oktoberfest 2025 : Sept 20th – Oct 5th
  • Oktoberfest 2026 : Sept 19th – Oct 4th
  • Oktoberfest 2027 : Sept 18th – Oct 3rd

If you extend your visit to Munich, we recommend staying at Euro Youth Hotel Munich (budget), Bavaria Boutique Hotel (midrange),  DO & CO Hotel München (luxury), or BEYOND by Geisel (Splurge). 

Look for accommodation in Munich .

Germany and Austria Travel Essentials

We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals in Germany. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.

Tip: If you can only drive automatic transmission cars, as opposed to manual transmission cars (stick shift), book your car rental as early as possible.

Check car rental rates here . 

Bavaria Guidebooks

  • Travel Guidebook : Lonely Planet Munich, Bavaria & the Black Forest  
  • Hiking Guidebook: Walking in the Bavarian Alps: 70 Mountain Walks and Treks in Southern Germany

Austria Guidebooks

  • Travel Guidebook : Lonely Planet Austria
  • Travel Guidebook : Lonely Planet Germany, Austria & Switzerland’s Best Trips
  • Hiking Guidebook : Cicerone: Walking in Austria

Self-Guided Multi-Day Adventures in Bavaria

  • 8-Day Cycling Tour : Munich to Venice on a Touring Bike – Active
  • 13-Day Cycling Tour : Munich to Venice on a Touring Bike – Relaxed
  • 11-Day Cycling Tour : Breweries of Bavaria Bicycle Tour
  • 8-Day Cycling Tour : Across the Alps on a Touring Bicycle: Garmisch to Lake Garda

Photography Gear

  • Camera Body : Sony Alpha a6400
  • Mid-range Zoom Lens : Tamron 17-70mm 2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
  • Wide angle Zoom Lens : Sony – E 10-18mm F4 OSS Wide-angle Zoom Lens
  • Backpack Camera Clip : Peak Design Camera Clip

If you thought this post was helpful, follow us on Instagram @moonhoneytravelers

European Alps Travel and Hiking

More Road Trips in the European Alps:

  • 2 Week Austria Road Trip
  • 1 Week Austria Road Trip
  • 2 Week Slovenia Road Trip
  • 5 Day Slovenia Road Trip
  • 7 Day Italian Dolomites Road Trip 
  • 5 Day Dolomites Road Trip
  • 10-14 Day Dolomites Road Trip

Germany Travel Guides:

  • Germany Travel Guide
  • Black Forest Travel Guide
  • Upper Middle Rhine Valley Travel Guide
  • Moselle Valley Travel Guide
  • Ahr Valley Travel Guide
  • Eifel Region Travel Guide
  • Cologne City Guide

European Alps Hiking & Travel Guides:

  • The Alps in Summer: 10 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting 
  • Hiking in the European Alps: Essential Tips
  • Best Hikes in the Alps

Bavaria and Tyrol Road Trip Itinerary, Germany and Austria

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Best French Alps Road Trip Itinerary: Annecy to Chamonix

Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info.

The French Alps is an incredible region of amazing landscapes, fairytale towns, and natural wonders perfect for nature lovers. The French Alps is a popular destination during the ski season, but anyone yet to visit the French Alps in summer is certainly missing out.

Are you planning a trip to the French Alps in the summer? This French Alps road trip from Annecy to Chamonix covers the French department of Haute-Savoie and allows you to experience the most iconic places in the region behind the wheels. This road trip through the French Alps is an ideal self-drive vacation for those who love sightseeing, nature, and good food.

This 7-day French Alps road trip itinerary is one of the best  road trips in France . Read more about road tripping in France:

France by Car

Road Trip French Alps – Overview

If you are looking for pretty mountain villages, gorgeous nature, and scenic drives in France, consider this French Alps road trip itinerary from Annecy that lasts 7 days.

  • Start:  Annecy
  • Finish : Chamonix
  • Duration:  7 days
  • Suggested Route:  Annecy – Yvoire – Avoriaz – Samoëns – Chamonix
  • Total distance:  308 km, 6hrs 10min drive in total
  • Regions covered:  Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
  • Best for:  landscapes, small towns, hiking, outdoor sports

Map of the French Alps Road Trip

alps trip itinerary

Click here to view this Map of the French Alps Road Trip on Google

7-Day French Alps Road Trip Itinerary

This road trip French Alps takes you over 308km through one of the most beautiful regions of France. Pass green meadows, deep blue lakes, mountain passes, and bustling villages.

For this French Alps road trip, you don’t need the car until you leave Annecy. If you need to hire a car, wait until then to pick up your rental car in Annecy.

We recommend booking your car with  Discover Cars . This site is great because it takes all major rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, and more, and compares prices for you. Check out our best  tips for renting a car in France .

Click here to rent a car in Annecy

alps trip itinerary

Day 0 | Arrival at Annecy

alps trip itinerary

The starting point of this itinerary is  Annecy , where we recommend spending two days exploring this Alpine city and its surroundings.  

For your stay in Annecy, book a room at the beautiful  Black Bass Hotel , a lovely property located by the lake just out of Annecy and with free public parking available on site. The hotel has comfortable and stylish rooms, a pool, and beautiful grounds with lake views.

Click here to book your stay at Black Bass Hotel

Day 1 | Annecy

alps trip itinerary

Fairytale Annecy is one of the most beautiful cities in France and a must on any trip to the French Alps in the summer. Located by the lake of the same name, Annecy has many historical and natural highlights. Annecy is also an excellent place to enjoy great regional food and wines.

Above all, Annecy is known for its Old Town , which is particularly beautiful to discover. The first day of this itinerary necessarily involves a walk around its medieval city center, with narrow winding streets and colorful architecture. During your walk, don’t miss the Palais de l’Isle (the symbol of Annecy), the 16th- century Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre , and the imposing Château d’Annecy .

Often nicknamed the  Little Venice of the Alps , the canals of Annecy offer great viewpoints of the city. Take the time to look for the prettiest canals, always full of flowers, for some perfect postcard pictures.

For more ideas for your stay in Annecy and places to eat, check out this Annecy itinerary .

Day 2 | Lake Annecy

alps trip itinerary

The second day in Annecy is used to exploring the lake’s surroundings. If you love biking, there are 42 km of cycle paths for your delight. You can decide to do the lake’s full tour to explore the lake’s small towns or spend a lazy day at one of the beaches.

We did a combination of both and found in Plage du Château the perfect spot for a picnic on the grass and a bath with a view. The castle in the background is Château de Duingt , built on a small peninsula.

Day 3 | Yvoire

Yvoire - French Alps

Day 3 of this French Alps road trip takes you north to the lovely Yvoire . This picturesque village located on the French shore of the  Lac Léman (Lac Genève for the Swiss) is listed as one of the  Most Beautiful Villages in France .

For your stay in Yvoire, book one night at Villa Cécile . This property is located a mere 6-min walk to the lake, offers chick and cozy rooms, and has a swimming pool and a spa. The on-site restaurant overlooks the lake and serves traditional cuisine and local wines.

Click here to book your stay at Villa Cécile

Yvoire is one of the  prettiest medieval towns in France , with over 700 years of history, and we are sure you will enjoy visiting its ramparts, medieval castle, fortified gates, and cobbled streets.

Don’t miss the Jardin des Cinq Sens , in the heart of the village, listed as a remarkable garden by the Ministry of Culture. The Old Town also has many pretty shops to buy souvenirs and regional products. In the afternoon, enjoy a drink or dinner on one of the terraces by the lake.

Not far from there, Plage d’Excenevex is a natural sand beach with shallow waters that welcomes beach huts and beach volleyball all summer long. Here, you will have your feet in the warm sand and your eyes on the Alpine peaks… the place is unique!

Day 4 | Avoriaz

alps trip itinerary

From Yvoire, take road D1005 then road D902 to Avoriaz. This is a 61 Km drive that takes around 1hr 10 minutes.

Avoriaz is one of the best ski resorts in the French Alps , born from the audacity and dream of a local man from Morzine, the town below. Read the story below:

Jean Vuarnet was an outstanding skier and Olympic champion from Morzine. After skiing all over the world, Morzine wanted to keep him in the village to develop a new ski resort.

Jean Vuarnet then set himself the challenge of creating an ideal ski resort from scratch, high up in the mountains, where the snow is exceptional, and the panoramas are grandiose.

He had to convince bankers to help him carry out this risky bet, as this was a hostile and inaccessible area in winter. The team attracted ambitious and avant-garde young architects, Jacques Labro in the lead, to build a station with innovative and contemporary architecture, a ‘snow metropolis’ far from the traditional Savoyard style, but integrated into the landscape and the context of the mountain.

The first modest ski station opened its doors in 1967 with a hotel (the Hôtel des Dromonts ) and a few slopes. Over the years, the station grew from bottom to top with new areas and facilities with a unique result.

Its originality has never ceased to be debated. Avoriaz, you love it or you hate it, but you can’t remain indifferent! Avoriaz still remains modern and avant-garde. In 2003, it even received the label Great Achievement of the Twentieth century .

Day 4 explores Avoriaz and its surroundings. There’s no snow in Avoriaz in the summer, but plenty of fun activities to keep you busy for a while: hiking, canyoning, rafting, paragliding, kayaking, golf, and yoga.

For your stay in Avoriaz, we can only recommend the iconic Hotel des Dromonts , the heart of that former ski station. Since its construction, the hotel has been renovated but still keeps its sixties atmosphere, excellent service, and all the comforts of today for a cozy stay. Book two nights.

Click here to book your stay in Hotel des Dromonts

Day 5 | Samoëns – Cirque Fer à Cheval

Day 5 of this French Alps road trip itinerary visits Samoëns – Cirque Fer à Cheval on a day trip from Avoriaz.

Day Hike at Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval

alps trip itinerary

The Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval is the largest mountain cirque in the Alps. Lying at the eastern end of the Giffre Valley, the Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval forms an immense amphitheater almost 5 km across and bounded by 500- to 700-m high limestone cliffs. The Cirque is breathtakingly beautiful throughout the year, but it is most spectacular in the spring when melting snow swells its waterfalls to majestic proportions. There are more than 30 waterfalls in Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval!

The Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval is part of a nature reserve, and it is not uncommon to discover, clinging to the vertiginous cliffs, several ibexes and marmots.

To explore this wonderful area, we recommend this easy hike (9,3km round trip, 3 hrs 30 min) which starts from Fer-à-Cheval’s car park (GPS Coordinates (WGS 84) of the Starting Point:  46.077278, 6.836917 ). Pic de Tenneverge (2989 m) and Tour du Prazon (2929 m) dominate the landscape during the greater part of the itinerary.

Or Visit Samoëns

Samoëns - French Alps

If you prefer a more tranquil day, visit Samoëns , a lovely mountain village renowned for its traditional stone masonry-based architecture. The village resort offers a wide range of activities on land, water, or in the air, all in an absolutely superb setting.

Don’t miss the former indoor market and the Gros Tilleul  (ancient linden tree) which still bear witness to an ancient past. Notre Dame de l’Assomption Church is a wonder and the best example of the village’s renowned stone cutters. 

Not too far away, the Jaÿsinia Alpine Botanical Garden is an invitation to relax and unwind while exploring a natural treasure right at the heart of the village.

Day 6 | Avoriaz to Chamonix

Day 6 of this road trip French Alps takes you to Chamonix, one of the French Alps’ prettiest towns and the most popular. To get there, you will take your time: the journey is as beautiful as the final destination.

From Avoriaz, take the road D902, then the D1205 direction to Chamonix. On the way, there are three lovely villages great for a break to stretch your legs and some sightseeing.

Morning in Combloux or Cordon

Don’t miss these two farming villages, well-known for their incredible views over the iconic Mont Blanc and superb baroque architecture.

Nicknamed ‘the Pearl of the Alps, ’ Combloux enjoys an enviable position facing Mont Blanc, which takes shape between the Aiguille de Bionassay and the Aiguille du Midi.

As soon as the mountain pastures turn green, Combloux is the starting point for many beautiful hikes. The warmer seasons are also a good opportunity to enjoy local festivals and discover the Combloran heritage, the Slope Museum, and the Granite trail. In the summer, a dip in the Plan d’Eau Biotope is a must. This ecological pool, where water is filtered by 10,000 aquatic plants, is one of the most beautiful in France with the eternal snow in the background.

Cordon is another charming village on the way to Chamonix. With a superb location facing the iconic summit, Cordon is nicknamed ‘the Balcony of Montblanc’ . Cordon is a place to relax and admire its beautiful architecture and unspoiled nature.

With its 89 bread ovens, bread and quality local food, in general, is a serious matter. Do not miss the walk to the Abérieux Farm to taste their traditional cow cheese.

Afternoon Saint Gervais-les-Bains

alps trip itinerary

Saint Gervais is a great stop for today’s lunch break and more sightseeing. Located at 850 meters, and surrounded by 4,000-meter peaks, including Mont Blanc (4,810 meters), Saint Gervais-les-Bains has a definite alpine feel. Its name comes from the town’s 39C natural spring waters, converted today into a world-class spa.

St Gervais boasts three major tourist attractions: the  Tramway du Mont Blanc , taking visitors up to the Glacier de Bionnassay (2,372m); the  Bettex/Mont d’Arbois cablecar , which offers stunning views over Mont Blanc and several good walking options; and the above mentioned  Thermes du Mont Blanc .

In addition, St Gervais has a number of good restaurants (including a 1-Michelin starred restaurant), cozy cafes, trendy bars, and quality food shops, being a great place to relax, soak up the mountain air and enjoy the best French produce.

Today, the journey ends at Chamonix, which really needs no introduction. For your stay in Chamonix, book two nights at Auberge du Manoir . This lovely property with a convenient location has comfortable rooms, a bar, private parking, a garden, and a terrace. If possible, book a room with a balcony-mountain view.

Click here to book your stay at Auberge du Manoir

Day 7 | Chamonix

alps trip itinerary

The last stop of this French Alps road trip is Chamonix. Chamonix  is a world-known ski resort that first became famous in 1924 for hosting the Winter Olympics. Nestled in the Arve Valley at the foot of Mont-Blanc, Chamonix comprises 16 charming villages and hamlets, including Argentière, Le Tour, and Montroc.

Here, the natural scenery, so picturesque under the snow, is equally beautiful in the summer and best explored by following one of the surrounding trails.

Chamonix’s main tourist attraction is l’Aiguille du Midi , which is easy to visit by cable car (30 min) from the center of the town. You can also take Chamonix’s Montenvers railway train through forests, tunnels, and viaducts to the famous Mer de Glace glacier (1,913m), the largest glacier in France.

Other fun activities in Chamonix are the Ice Cave , the summer luge (Chamonix roller coaster in the mountains!), or a stroll along the town’s pretty alleys lined up with shops and galleries.

If you have more days available, you can extend your stay in Chamonix or drive to Grenoble and then down to the coast following the Napoléon Route .

So what are you waiting for? Book this road trip from Annecy to Chamonix in the French Alps today!

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Alps Tours & Trips 2024/2025

Find the right tour package for you through Alps. We've got 576 trips going to Alps, starting from just 3 days in length, and the longest tour is 16 days. The most popular month to go is July, which has the most tour departures.

250+ Alps tour packages with 1,768 reviews

Contrasts of Switzerland (8 Days) Tour

  • In-depth Cultural
  • Train & Rail

Contrasts of Switzerland (8 Days)

"Very happy with all parts of the tour"
  • €100 deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

The French Riviera - Monaco-Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice, Antibes Tour

The French Riviera - Monaco-Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice, Antibes

"Did the Euroadventures trip to the French Riviera for Carnival at the end of February. What a great trip! Had the owner of the company, Shaun, as our trip leader and he was fantastic. Showed us a ton of great sights in Monaco, Antibes, Nice and Cannes and recommendations for food and nightlife too. The Carnival parties were super fun as the streets were packed with the parade and floats. Really worth it going up in the carousel to get great views over the parade. Even though it was February, the weather was great and we even managed a few hours on the beach in Cannes (water was too chilly to swim though). We had an amazing all you can eat mussels dinner in Nice (local specialty being seafood of course), and all the food in general was fantastic. Overall the French Riviera is like a dream destination. So much to see and do in a small connected area with the cities and seaside towns. I really felt like we got to know the destination well even though the trip is just a 3 night weekend and that's thanks to everything Euroadventures showed us and the great itinerary!"

From Prague to Zurich Tour

  • Christmas & New Year

From Prague to Zurich

Trekking Mont Blanc Tour

  • Hiking & Trekking
  • Mountain Hikes

Trekking Mont Blanc

"Loved this tour! The accommodations kind of sucked but the tour itself, hiking and our tour guide was really great!"

Scenic Switzerland by Train Tour

Scenic Switzerland by Train

"I live with a profound hearing loss. Upon our arrival in Zurich The tour guide started to distribute the head sets. I asked her if those adapters were compatible to hearing aids . To my surprise they were not and was told that they did not have anything . Well I was left without being able to hear for the whole tour.. I was extremely disappointed and frustrated . As a couple we paid 5400$ each for this trip and one would this with a company as Vosmoz that is known internationally it would have suitable devices that could be compatible for everyone. With today’s technology there is simply no excuse. We will refrain from travelling with Cosmos /Globus until such time they can assure that the hard of hearing population will also have the change to hear the spoken words.."

Prague, Munich and Austria ( 7 days ) Tour

Prague, Munich and Austria ( 7 days )

Country Roads of Switzerland (Classic, 14 Days) Tour

  • Coach / Bus

Country Roads of Switzerland (Classic, 14 Days)

"We went on this trip expecting a lot. Every expectation we had was exceeded. The venues were spectacular, but that was Switzerland. The precision and professionalism with which each days adventures unfolded was apparent. When you are on a 14 day trip with no serious complaints it is a direct reflection on the Insight team, take a bow Sue, Greg and Maria."

Mont Blanc Highlights Tour

Mont Blanc Highlights

"This week in Charmonix was a dream! The chalet is quaint and comfortable, and the hosts Rich and Sarah are extremely hospitable. Everynight we got served 5 star meals and came home to freshly baked cakes each afternoon. The walks themselves are beautiful and certainly are 'highlights'. Thank you Exodus!"

Best of Switzerland (9 Days) Tour

Best of Switzerland (9 Days)

"I had a memorable , wonderful & delightful experience on the tour & I recommend it to everyone"

Mediterranean Express: Rivieras & Railroads Tour

  • Active Adventure

Mediterranean Express: Rivieras & Railroads

"Hey is anyone going on the Mediterranean Express trip on 8th September, looking to get to know my fellow travellers a little before I arrive! :)"

4 Days NORTHERN LAKES TOUR - from Milan Tour

4 Days NORTHERN LAKES TOUR - from Milan

Slovenia Hiking: Alpe Adria Trail  5days- self guided Tour

Slovenia Hiking: Alpe Adria Trail 5days- self guided

"Everything is organised quite well, you get a hotel booked in each town and they transfer your luggage after you check out from each of them. You also get a dinner and a breakfast in each of the hotels but one(the one in Trenta - they have no restaurant). There was a tiny mix up with one of the hotels - where the name of the hotel we were informed about was different from what the travel voucher said, but Marco(who we communicate with via tourradar) helped us to find the correct one, even though our contact specified in the travel vouched was not picking up his phone. Perhaps because it was quite late - around 8pm, because in the mornings there was no issues reaching him. Also, if you don't feel like walking the whole distance you can ask them to transfer you half way or something like that, which we did on the 3rd day cause we were quite tired. But be sure to think about this in advance, before you take the trip. Overall - would recommend: hotels are good, nature is beautiful, the trails are not too difficult if you have some hiking experience. Just be sure to pack enough water because there is absolutely no water fountains along the trails, which we found weird, but I suppose you can drink directly from Soča river as it seemed super clean."

Switzerland and Italy Tour

Switzerland and Italy

Stunning French Riviera Tour

Stunning French Riviera

"The hotel was in a trendy location and the hotel/airport transfers went well. It would have been nice to have spent more time in Eze and Menton. Also, the tours should have been split up so that the English speaking people were in one group and the French speaking people were in another group instead of combining them so that everything had to be said in both languages. For the most part though a nice vacation."

The Northern Lakes Tour

  • Food & Culinary
  • Sightseeing
  • Wine tasting

The Northern Lakes

"We loved the Lake Iseo region and we had a great tour. We are already talking about where we will be going next with Flag Travel. We are very grateful!"
  • €50 deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

Reviews of Alps Tours

"Had an amazing time in Switzerland and met new wonderful friends. Trafalgar did a great job. Everything was organized and safety was top priority. Will travel with Trafalgar again."
"The Monaco tour was great"
"The hotels that we stayed in are nice. We had two guides throughout the 6 day tour."

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  • Lake Geneva Itinerary

5-Day Lake Geneva and French alps Road Trip itinerary

Updated 15 January 2023 by  Leyla Alyanak  — Parisian by birth, Lyonnaise by adoption, historian by passion

When friends come to visit, this road trip is usually part of their stay, in whole or in part. I live nearby so this is my backyard, and I love sharing it!

This itinerary is close to my heart — because I live here, along the River Rhône, with Annecy my nearest town. If you come here, Annecy will have to be on your route; it has often been called "France's prettiest town" so you can't miss that...

But the region is much more than towns. This is a region of majestic Alps, fortified villages, cobblestones and cheese, a region of the outdoors. And if I sound enthusiastic, it's because I chose  to live here, for all of these reasons. If I were visiting France and wanted to see some of its most powerful scenery, this is where I'd come.

So let's get started.

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This Alps driving tour is for...

  • Anyone landing at Geneva airport.
  • Lovers of great scenery, road trippers, those who like meandering through medieval towns and villages, lovers of great foods (especially cheese), lovers of mountains.

This itinerary is best undertaken between Easter and October, although many tourist attractions will be closed at the beginning and end of the season, and at the height of summer, it gets crowded.

Ideally, I'd come in May-June or September-October. And if you love winter... well, nobody does it better but beware, there can be snow on the roads. 

map itinerary French alps Lake Geneva

Suggested French Alps travel itinerary

  • Day 1: Rent your car in Geneva (either in Switzerland or on the French side of the border) and head out to Yvoire for a leisurely dinner and overnight 
  • Day 2: Drive to Evian via Thonon and sleep in Evian
  • Day 3: Drive to Chamonix and spend the day and night
  • Day 4: Drive to Annecy and spend the day and night
  • Day 5:  Either spend an extra day in Annecy, or drive from Annecy to Aix-les-Bains and then onto Geneva.

YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS BEFORE YOU RENT A CAR

If you land at Geneva airport, you need to decide where to rent your car, in Switzerland or in France. The airport is on the border and both sides have rental car offices.

French rentals are far cheaper, but you'll have extra costs: the rental cost itself ( you can compare prices here ), and transportation from the Swiss to the French side of the airport to get your car. You may also need a Swiss autoroute sticker if your car doesn't have one (CHF 40, a bit more in USD). You could avoid this by cutting through town to get to France rather than taking the ring road but Geneva driving can be complicated, with many signs and lanes and is best left to residents.

If your flight originated outside France, you'll arrive on the Swiss side so you'll also have to take a cab/Uber/bus from the Swiss to the French side of the airport. They are connected via the terminal but sadly you cannot cross unless you have a boarding pass and are catching a flight. If you're flying from a destination in France , no problem, you'll arrive on the French side.

If you arrive between 1 November–31 March, check that your rental car has snow tires. They are compulsory, but not everyone follows the law.

And finally, make sure you tell the car rental you plan to cross the border – there might be additional insurance costs.

Read these driving tips for France  before you head off!

The Alps in France: Main stops and sights

This Alps itinerary provides a mixture — urban, village, lakeshore and mountain, so something for everyone. Just bring your walking shoes and your appetite.

Geneva, humanitarian city

Geneva jet d'eau

If you have time to do a bit of sightseeing in Geneva, you might want to take a selfie in front of the Flower Clock or the famous Jet d'Eau (Geneva's iconic water spout).

You could also visit the world's largest particle accelerator or take a brief tour of the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (absolutely recommended, and it has a great cafeteria). If tours are open, the United Nations is right across the street from the museum.

For something more out of the way but still easily accessible, hop a tram to Carouge, an ancient city (now more of a neighbourhood) which has in turn belonged to Rome, Piedmont-Sardinia, France and eventually Geneva, a ray of Mediterranean sunshine in an otherwise Calvinist Geneva. 

NON-DRIVING OPTION : Take a Geneva City Tour

Yvoire, charming medieval village

Yvoire France castle

When I say charming, I mean it, because I once lived in this tiny pedestrian village for several years. Yvoire is small, and a walk through it shouldn't take more than an hour. But there's plenty to do beyond a stroll.

An amusing visit is the garden labyrinth of the Cinq-Sens, built around our five senses. Yvoire itself is lovely and can get quite crowded, especially when the ferries from Geneva arrive.

You'll find plenty to buy – some useless souvenirs, but this village also happens to be crammed with artists' shops, original works from actual artists who create throughout the winter to sell in summer.

To eat (but reserve ahead – it's popular and always full) head for the Hotel Restaurant du Port, a great place to spend the night and relax once everyone else has gone back to Geneva. Order perch fillets, their specialty, which comes in a lemon sauce so good you'll want to lick the plate. (Please don't or you may be thrown from the terrace into the lake!)

It's a pedestrian village, so no cars. There's a large parking lot at one end of the village (just follow the signs) and walk back in.

Book your Yvoire hotel here.

NON-DRIVING OPTION : Visit Yvoire from Geneva

Thonon-les-Bains

Thonon-les-Bains, France, Chateau de la Ripaille

You can park in the upper town and take the Funicular down to the port, a great place to have a coffee after your drive.

For lunch, there's plenty to choose from in Thonon or you can drive to the Chateau de la Ripaille, once the home of the Dukes of Savoy (and which produces its own wine). It has a lovely restaurant but be sure to reserve.

So many people have come through here... armies of the French Revolution were quartered here, as was one of Napoleon's generals. It was eventually taken over by an industrialist who shaped it into the  combination of gothic and Art Nouveau styles you have today.

Or you can push on to...

Evian-les-Bains

Evian-les-Bains from above

You've heard of Evian — if not the town, at least the water. But this is where it comes from and of course, it is a spa town.

Drop by the Art Nouveau Buvette Cachat to admire the building, but move on to the neo-classical Villa Lumière. If the name sounds familiar, it's because it belonged to the parents of the famous  Lumière brothers, who invented the cinema. It's now the town hall but you can at least ogle the lobby.

Throughout the city, you'll get a strong sense of Evian's Belle Epoque past .

Like other spa towns, the best thing you can do here is sample the spa treatments, either in a private spa or in the municipal thermes. The ultimate luxury will be in going home to boast your spa treatments all involved Evian water, the same one as in the bottles.

Book your Evian hotel here.

NON-DRIVING OPTION : Take a tour boat to Evian

Chamonix town

Chamonix is an irresistible stop in France's northern Alps, for many reasons. If you're a winter sports fan, you do it all here — a world-class winter resort.

But Chamonix has the unusual distinction of also being a world-class summer resort for hikers who try short day hikes or the gruelling Tour du Mont Blanc, often on a self-guided tour .

One of my favourite places in Chamonix (other than walking around town and hopping from café to café and gazing at the Mont-Blanc towering over me) is the Crystal Museum, with collections from around the world. Chamonix is a world center for crystals and hunting for them has been a long-time activity.

This is one of the most beautiful settings on the planet so ride the cable cars, walk around, and know that you are seeing something sublime.

Just one thing: if you plan on taking the famous Aiguille du Midi cable car, don't just show up, but reserve through the tourist office . 

Book your Chamonix hotel here.

NON-DRIVING OPTION : Visit Chamonix and the Aiguille du Midi from Geneva

Annecy by night

Annecy is not a town you visit for its culture (that's not to say it doesn't have any - it certainly does) but for its breathtaking natural beauty , both in the city and around its lake. It has been called France's prettiest town , and with reason.

In the city, stroll under the arcades in the old town and stop off for a great meal in one of its many renowned restaurants (or for a pastry at Rigollot , who a few years ago won the Best Pastry Chef of France competition).

Go on a market day if you can: Tuesdays are mostly food and local visitors, with Friday and Sunday enlarging to include a brocante or flea market (and a lot more tourists).

Lake Annecy is stunning. If you're on foot, just head towards the lake and begin walking in either direction. The views are spectacular wherever you go. You can actually walk all around the lake, or alternate between walking and taking the boat (the tourist office can help). You can also cycle around the lake — most of it, anyway. Check with the tourist office to see if the full circuit is now completed.

Or you could drive to the Col de la Forclaz for some adrenaline and go paragliding for a bit (or sit in a café and enjoy the sight of paragliders flying past over your head).

Book your Annecy hotel here.

NON-DRIVING OPTION : Visit Annecy from Geneva

Aix-les-Bains

Aix les Bains lac du Bourget

Aix-les-Bains is a lovely spa town set above the Lac du Bourget, France's deepest lake, of such beauty many French writers have extolled it in poetry and prose, from Lamartine to Alexandre Dumas.

But perhaps its most famous (albeit temporary) citizen was Britain's Queen Victoria, who loved the city so much she kept coming back, starting a trend of British visitors that continues to this day.

It's a sporty town, given its lakeside location, but most people come here for the thermal baths, which are excellent and relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to resorts in Brittany or on the Mediterranean.

It has a stellar collection of hotels for the spa-goer ( here are some of the best ) as well as a selection of thermal establishments.

You can also just enjoy these for half a day but book first! You'll find some info on the main site (in French only - but you can email them using Google Translate) about the half-day treatments and rates.

READ MORE:  Sensational Road Trips to Discover France

History and other interesting things

This entire area was once known as the Duchy of Savoy — it wasn't part of France at all. For many  Savoyards,  as the people of this region are called, those were the good old days and Savoy would be much better off without France.

Every so often, when you cross from one department to the next, someone will have painted a wishful line across the asphalt that will say something like Savoie libre , free Savoy. But it's wishful thinking, and it's a minority.

So the Duchy came into being in the early 15th century and in those days stretched south all the way to Nice. Over the centuries, ownership would bounce around from  France to Sardinia until in 1860, Savoy became French once and for all.

The Résistance

The Alpine region, blessed with difficult mountains and plentiful forests (not to mention the nearby borders with Italy and Switzerland) was a haven for resistance fighters during World War II, with some of the most spectacular coups staged right here.

This was also the first region freed from the Nazi stranglehold by the Resistance, and you'll find many monuments to fallen fighters along the roads as you travel.

Offbeat sights along the way

  • In Geneva , if it's summer you'll be spoiled for choice. Play chess with experts on a giant outdoor board in the university yard (Parc des Bastions in the Old Town) or go swimming at the beach of the Bains des Paquis right downtown, surrounded by Geneva's luxury hotels and residences.
  • In Yvoire , leave town. Yes, you read that right. To escape the crush of tourists, look for the Porte de Nernier (the gate closest to Geneva) and start walking towards Nernier, the village next door, what Yvoire must have looked like before it was 'discovered'. 
  • In Thonon-les-Bains , ride the funicular (built in 1888) for a minute or two from the port to the upper town and look across to Morges in Switzerland.
  • In Evian-les-Bains , if the weather is clear, stay at the Hotel Les Cygnes or eat in their friendly and delicious restaurant in the evening to watch the amazing sunset over the Jura Mountains across the lake.
  • In Chamonix , if you have the time and you're in shape, take the Montenvers railway up to the station and learn all about the region's crystals. And walk back down!
  • In Annecy , for cheese lovers only: after your lakeside sports, try a truffle fondue at l'Etage . Once you're full, amble over to the Fromagerie Pierre Gay and head for the back, and look down: you'll be standing over a thick glass window and watching hundreds of cheeses mature below. Then off to the counter to buy some!
  • In Aix-les-Bains , visit the Belle Epoque Casino Grand Cercle to admire the 1880s stained glass ceilings. It's a casino so yes, you can gamble, but the décor is what this place is all about.
  • In summer , the region hosts antique car rallies in style, and you'll run into them as you climb up towards mountain passes. Here's one of the several groups that organize these rallies.
  • In winter , you can follow along the Grande Odyssée , or Great Odyssey, a week-long dogsled race that chooses a different alpine itinerary each year.

Food and drink of the Alpine region

  • As with most Alpine regions, the Savoie and Haute-Savoie (the two departments that make up the Savoy region) are known for their cheeses , especially such typical cheese dishes as fondue and raclette.
  • Other local specialties include air-dried beef and charcuteries , or cold cuts. In the mountains, preserving meats has become a high art. This is a region of excellent local sparkling waters (and yes, they do taste different from one another ). 
  • Best time to visit the Alps: winter for snow sports and summer for hiking in the mountains. For Geneva, Annecy and Aix, late spring and early autumn are the loveliest seasons (and far less crowded than summer), with June and September topping the list.

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Bonjour! I’m Leyla - I was born in Paris and now live in the bucolic mountain foothills of Eastern France between Lyon and Annecy. My days are spent exploring my country. 

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EUROPE , HIKING , SWITZERLAND · October 29, 2021 Last Updated on December 22, 2023

THE ULTIMATE SWISS ALPS HIKING TRIP GUIDE

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Switzerland is home to some of the best hiking trails in the world, making it an ideal destination for a hiking trip. In September I went on a girls’ wellness getaway in Switzerland where we spent eight blissful days hiking through the breathtaking Bernese Alps.

The Bernese Alps are a mountain range of the alps made up of three peaks (Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau), located in Western Switzerland, in the canton of Bern. This area of Switzerland offers excellent skiing in the winter and incredible hiking in the summer. 

If you want to plan a Swiss Alps hiking trip, this guide has everything you need to know to make it an unforgettable experience!

Where To Stay In Switzerland

The Bernese Alps are stunning and very accessible, making them an ideal destination for a Switzerland hiking trip. We chose the small village of Wengen (population 1,300), as our home base here for the duration of our getaway. Wengen is a car-free mountain town in the Interlaken area that is at the heart of summer hiking, sightseeing, and outdoor activities.

In winter, Wengen transforms into a world-class ski resort famous for the Lauberhorn World Cup Alpine ski races and has excellent skiing terrain suitable for all abilities. The picturesque town of Wengen exudes Swiss mountain charm and offers an array of great hiking trails, as well as good restaurants and upscale rentals and hotels. 

We rented our chalet from Wengen Apartments and could not be more pleased with our accommodations. Julie Doyle, the owner, is wonderful and quickly responded to our requests and questions.

We stayed in the  Chalet Bärgsunna Penthouse which sits on a hillside overlooking Wengen, just a short walk from the Wengen–Männlichen aerial cableway. This penthouse offered the perfect mix of chic alpine decor with modern amenities and was an excellent home base for our hiking getaway.

We loved the loft where we could do morning yoga and watch movies in the evenings, that three bedrooms had en suite bathrooms, and  that every room had an amazing view of the beautiful snow-capped Alps!

If you are planning a group trip to Switzerland, renting a chalet is the way to go, but if you prefer to stay in a hotel, here are some good hotel options in Wengen:

  • Sunstar Hotel Wengen – Cute, four-star hotel in the heart of town, with a great breakfast and top-notch service. 
  • Maya Caprice Boutique Hotel – Four-star boutique hotel in the city center, with incredible views of the Alps. 
  • Beausite Park Hotel – Guests give this Wengen hotel five stars, it has an indoor pool and incredible views. 
  • Hotel Edelweiss – Two-star, affordable, highly rated Wengen chalet hotel with a spa. 
  • Hotel Alpenrose Wengen – Three-star hotel, alpine-style rooms, and suites with beautiful mountain views. 

How To Get To Wengen

The closest airport to Wengen is Zurich International Airport (ZRH). I flew Swiss Air direct from Los Angeles to Zurich. From Zurich, it is a two-hour (beautiful!) drive to Lauterbrunnen. Wengen is a car-free town so when you arrive in Lauterbrunnen you can leave your car there at the multi-level parking garage at the Lauterbrunnen Railway Station . Parking is about $20 per day. 

Then you take the train up the mountain to Wengen. It is a quick ride and takes less than twenty minutes, and is about $8 for a one-way ticket. The train stops briefly at Wengwald on the way up and then the next stop is Wengen.

The train runs back and forth from Wengen to Lauterbrunnen every thirty minutes so it is very easy to get back and forth to your car if you end up wanting to drive to a different area. From Wengen, you can access a multitude of hikes and you can take the train and cable cars all around the area so you won’t need your car often. We only used our car a couple of times. 

What You’ll Need For A Hiking Trip In Switzerland 

Before we get to our hiking itinerary we need to discuss the basics of what you need to know and what you will need for a hiking trip in the Bernese Alps. 

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8 Day Switzerland Hiking Trip Itinerary

Now for the fun part of the guide. Below is the exact itinerary we used for our eight-day hiking trip in Switzerland, which I have to say was by far my favorite trip I have ever done!  

I have been travel blogging for 10 years and have visited almost 60 countries, so this is a big claim, but the Bernese Alps stole my heart, and I plan to return for many more hiking (and skiing trips) in Wengen. 

Day 1: Wengen – Männlichen Trail

On our first day in Switzerland, we went on a jog to explore Wengen, had a delicious buffet breakfast (with lots of cheese!) at Sunstar Hotel Wengen , went grocery shopping, then returned to our chalet to get ready for our hike up to Männlichen. (The trailhead for this hike is literally right out the back door of Chalet Bärgsunna Penthouse  so it could not have been more convenient).

Männlichen is a 7,687-foot mountain in the Swiss Alps. The town of Wengen sits at the base of Männlichen and its peak can be reached from Wengen by the Wengen–Männlichen aerial cable car, or from the Grindelwald Terminal station using the Grindelwald–Männlichen gondola cableway.

Or you can hike from Wengen to Männlichen which is what we did since this was a hiking trip, after all. The  Wengen to Männlichen trail is a 3.6 mile, lightly trafficked, point-to-point hike with a 3,441ft elevation gain. It took us about 2.5 hours. 

This hike is rated as moderate but it should definitely be rated as  difficult . This was by far the hardest hike we did during our trip, not because it was long or technical, but because you are literally hiking straight up a ski hill with an intense elevation gain.

You can watch my Instagram stories @VanessaRivers  where I share our experience climbing this trail, which was challenging but very rewarding. The hike is beautiful, with incredible views looking down at Wengen, and well worth the effort. 

When you reach the top of Männlichen you will be exhausted and need a break. Luckily there are a couple of restaurants at the top where you can get food, rest, get warm (if the weather is chilly), and enjoy a much-earned beer before you take the cable car back down to Wengen.

TIP: The last cable car from Männlichen to Wengen is around 5pm so plan your hike accordingly otherwise you will be walking back down the mountain. Also, bring a power bar with you for this hike. The altitude makes you feel weak so it is helpful to refuel halfway, with some carbs and protein.

For dinner  we went out to Maya Caprice Boutique Hotel , an upscale (white tablecloth) restaurant with great vegetarian options and an amazing view of the Swiss Alps. I had their pumpkin squash soup and a (giant) vegetable salad with mountain cheese. Both were delicious. 

Day 2: Mürren – Gimmelwald Trail & The Mürren Flower Trail

After our intense first day hike, we wanted to have a mellow hiking day so we decided to take a day trip to explore the nearby town of Mürren. From Wengen, you take the train down to Lauterbrunnen, then take the cable car to Grütschalp Railway Station , and from there you take another train up the small mountain village of Mürren (population 450), which costs about $20 each way.

Mürren is incredible! The town is so cute and the landscape around Mürren is breathtaking. It was the most picturesque area we visited in Switzerland and possibly the most charming place I have seen on all my travels.

I think Wengen is a better place to stay for a hiking trip, purely from an accessibility standpoint, but if you don’t mind the trek, spending a few nights in Mürren would be idyllic. If you don’t stay in Mürren, I suggest at least doing a full day trip here. 

We arrived in Mürren in the late morning and had breakfast at Cafe Liv which has excellent coffee and yummy vegan pastries. Then we started off on our “hike” from  Mürrento to Gimmelwald . I put hike in parenthesis because this trail is more of a walk than an actual hike.

The trail from Mürren to Gimmelwald is a 1.7 mile (mostly downhill) point-to-point trail that is accurately rated as easy . But even though this trail is easy it was still one of my favorite hikes. This walk could not be more beautiful. It was hard not to stop every few seconds to take yet another photo.

During our walk, we passed through the small village of Mürren dotted with flower gardens, cute wood homes, and boutique hotels with colorful shutters, cows and sheep grazing against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, flower fields, paragliders soaring through the air, meadows, hillsides dotted with chalets and so much green in every direction.

It’s hard to explain how beautiful this walk is. It was so picturesque, so charming, so quintessential Swiss Alps that it honestly didn’t seem real. At the end of the trail, we stopped to have a beer at the Mountain Hostel which is right next to the Gimmelwald cable car, and of course, has an incredible view.

We then took the cable car from Gimmelwald back up to Mürren and did the Mürren Flower Trail which was another easy 1.4 mile point-to-point hike. The flower trail is stunning as well, with mesmerizing views of the Alps in every direction.

One thing I especially loved was all of the playgrounds in this area. Switzerland is a very family-friendly destination . I can’t wait to return with my daughter.

Day 3: Schynige Platte – First

On our third day in Switzerland, we did our longest hike, a 10-mile point-to-point hike from Schynige Platte to First . Schynige Platte is a small mountain ridge and a viewpoint in the Bernese Highlands. 

We took the train from Wengen down to Wilderswil Railway Station where we changed trains and then headed up the mountain to Schynige Platte. The journey takes about an hour from Wengen but is well worth it. This was by far my favorite hike I have ever done!

The train drops you off at the base of Berghotel Schynige Platte where you can have breakfast with an incredible view (check out my Instagram Reel ). After breakfast, you’ll head out on the hike which takes you through meadows and across mountain ranges where you will see: wildflowers, meandering streams, cows grazing, snow-capped mountains, and sparkling blue lakes. 

This hike is rated as hard (because of the length) but I felt like a moderate hike. The elevation gain is about  3,200 ft over the course of the hike, but the trail itself is not very steep or strenuous, especially compared to the Wengen to Männlichen hike (which was much shorter but exhausting).

What I love about this trail is that you are in the middle of nowhere, hiking along mountain ranges and it is so surreal and peaceful that it makes you grateful to just be alive. I actually had several very stressful things on my plate during this trip and this hike was like medicine for my soul. 

I don’t remember feeling anything but pure gratefulness on this trail. It is much easier to live in the moment when you are out in nature, surrounded by raw natural beauty (at least for me). We also only saw a handful of other hikers the entire day which added to the magic of this special trail.

At the halfway point on this hike, you will find yourself at a chalet called Berghaus Männdlenen which is a great spot to stop and use the bathroom and enjoy a cold beer with an amazing view. This chalet is literally in the middle of nowhere, so much so that they have to fly supplies and water for the toilets up to it with a helicopter! 

Towards the end of this hike, you will come around a bend and see beautiful lakes with towering, snow-capped mountains as their backdrop. It is such a magical spot and an ideal place to stop and take photos. 

This hike ends at the First Cliff Walk , which is a walkway suspended from a rocky mountainside, with incredible peak and valley views, that can also be accessed by gondola from the town of Grindewald. 

It’s free to do the cliff walk, which I highly recommend, and then you simply take the gondola down to Grindewald. From Grindewald you have to take a train to Zweilütschinen Railway Station , and from there you take another train back up to Wengen.

Day 4: Männlichen – Kleine Scheidegg – Wengen

On our fourth day in Switzerland, we woke up, went on a jog, did a yoga session,  and then set out on an easy hike from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, and then back down to Wengen.

We took the gondola up to the top of Männlichen for this hike and did the Panorama Trail , making our way over to Kleine Scheidegg which is a mountain range that has a small railway station, a couple of shops, and a few cute chalets where you can get drinks and food. 

This is a 5-mile hike that is rated as moderate but it is all either flat or downhill and should be rated easy in my opinion. From Kleine Scheidegg you can continue on and hike all the way back down the mountain to Wengen which is a few more miles and a very easy walk on a wide dirt road.

When you are almost back in Wengen you can stop for a celebratory beer and food at Bergrestaurant Allmend which is right along the trail and serves up delicioous cheese raclette (a must-have when you are in Switzerland!) along with gorgeous views of Wengen.

Day 5: Kandersteg – Oeschinensee

On our fifth day in Swizterland, we did the  Kandersteg – Oeschinensee Trail around Oeschinen Lake.

Oeschinen Lake is about an hour’s drive from Lauterbrunnen so we took the train from Wengen down to Lauterbrunnen Railway Station then hopped in our rental car for the scenic drive over. At the base of the mountain, you have to take a cable car up to the lake and hiking trails. 

Oeschinen Lake is such a beautiful, bright, sparkling blue color that it almost looks fake! The lake is fed through a series of mountain creeks and is rounded by snow-capped mountains, trees, and greenery in every direction. 

This hike is a 4.8 mile heavily trafficked , loop trail that is accurately rated as moderate . At the end of the hike, you can stop at the Berghotel Oeschinen which has a restaurant with delicious, healthy options and a large outdoor patio overlooking the lake.

Day 6: Rest/Work Day + Cheese Festival 

On our sixth day in Wengen, we took a much-needed rest/work day, caught up on emails, did yoga, and relaxed in our chalet . 

In the afternoon we met up with Julie the founder of  Wengen Apartments  and she took us to the Wengen Cheese Festival , which is held every September in Wengen. It was a small gathering in the heart of the village and it seemed like all the locals were there.

We ate tons of cheese (of course!), drank beer, and listened to a local band play, which was a very fun way to spend a relaxing afternoon in the Swiss Alps!

Speaking of cheese, for an amazing authentic dinner experience in Wengen try Waldhuttli (Forest Hut Wengen).  We didn’t get a chance to dine here on our trip, but I heard from locals that it is amazing for raclette and fondue!

Day 7: Männlichen – Kleine Scheidegg – Wengen

On our last day in Wengen, we wanted to do an easy, relaxing hike and we didn’t feel like traveling to get there so we decided to do the Panorama Trail  again from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg  and then on down to Wengen.

It was the perfect way to end the trip because it is such a beautiful, easy hike. It is also a great trail to take photos on, with the late afternoon sunshine perfectly lighting the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Wengen stole my heart on this trip and I have to admit by this point I was feeling a little sad that it was our last day in the Bernese Alps.

Day 8: Zurich 

On our last day in Switzerland, we spent the morning in Wengen, said goodbye to our chalet , then took the train down to Lauterbrunnen where we picked up our rental car from the car park and headed back to Zurich. 

In the city, we stayed at the Storchin Zurich Hotel in Old Town. This hotel is in a great location on the water and has a nice rooftop bar with beautiful views.

For dinner, we ate nearby at Hilt , which claims to be “the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world. You can easily walk to Hilt from Storchin Zurich Hotel.  The only problem (for me) was that this restaurant is buffet style and after seven days of hiking and non-stop working out I wanted to eat every single thing I saw (and I pretty much did)!

Since this was a wellness getaway we ended our Switzerland trip with a run around Zurich. This was such a magical trip (honestly my favorite trip to date) so I spent most of the run plotting my return to the Swiss Alps! 

What To Wear Hiking In The Swiss Alps

A trip to the Swiss Alps involves looks of walking and hiking so you want to pack accordingly. Here are some of our top picks for what to bring along with you to hike comfortably in in the Swiss Alps. 

Hiking Accessories

Be prepared for long hiking days and bring along hiking accessories. 

When Should I Visit The Swiss Alps? 

If you are planning a ski trip to the Swiss Alps the ideal time to go is obviously the winter and spring months, December through March, when there is good snow coverage.

The most popular time for hiking in Switzerland is the warm summer months, but I suggest visiting in the fall when it is less crowded and more affordable. The beginning of September is arguably the best time to do a hiking trip in Switzerland because the weather is still good and most of the tourists have dispersed. 

We went on our girls’ wellness and hiking getaway in Wengen during the second week of September. At first, the weather called for rain all week but we lucked out and got mostly sunny days, and it was actually quite warm. There was one day that it rained while we were staying in Wengen, but we used that as a much-needed rest and workday. 

Traveling Internationally As A Vaccinated American 

Traveling as a vaccinated American in Europe was actually a great experience. This was my first international trip since the pandemic began so I have to admit I was quite nervous leading up to our departure. I was especially nervous about entry into Switzerland and re-entry into the US, but everything went smoothly. 

Switzerland officially re-opened its borders to vaccinated Americans in July 2021, so we planned our hiking trip for September 2021. Leading up to our departure I was worried they would re-instate a 10-day quarantine which would have made our trip impossible but luckily this did not happen. 

If you are planning a trip to Switzerland, somewhere else in Europe, or anywhere in the world, be sure to check that the country you want to visit is open to vaccinated travelers from your country and that they do not have a quarantine in place. You also need to check up on this daily leading up to your trip because if we have learned anything about traveling during a pandemic, it is that things change constantly and what is true one day might not be true the next.

It’s important to note that most places in Europe require you to be fully vaccinated. I had to present my vaccination card to board my flight to Switzerland and I had to present it at every restaurant we dined at during our trip. 

Switzerland did not require a negative COVID test to enter at the time of our trip, but to re-enter the US I had to present a negative COVID test and my vaccination card. For this trip, I ordered at-home COVID tests from eMed.com . This is the test I used , which (at the time) was approved for re-entry into the US for international travelers. 

This at-home test was very simple. You call an eMed doctor and do the test in front of them on your computer, and then in 15 minutes, you have the results. It was $75 for 6 tests and I took two tests with me in case I received a false positive.

It is important to note that the requirements for every country are different and the tests that are accepted seem to change constantly so it is imperative that you do your own research before your trip and ensure you choose a test that is approved based on where you are traveling from and to.

And you must do your own research to understand all the requirements for entry into the country you want to visit and re-entry into the US or wherever you are traveling home to. It’s up to all of us to slow the spread of COVID so please wear a mask and travel responsibly. 

Switzerland Hiking Trip Guide Wrap Up

As I bring this guide to a close, I think it is helpful to mention that there is pretty good cell service in the Bernese Alps. I have an international plan with T-Mobile and I had at least a few bars almost everywhere we hiked. So even if you are “out in the middle of nowhere” it still feels very safe. Also, there are chalets along every hiking trail so there are always places to stop if you want to rest and get food or drinks.

Switzerland is a very safe country. Our little group consisted of just three girls for this trip and there was not one time that I didn’t feel safe. There was also not one time that I was “over it” and wanted to go home. Of course, I missed my four-year-old daughter who was at home with her dad, but I was honestly having the time of my life on this trip, thoroughly enjoying some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, and a part of me wished it would never end.

I hope you’ve found my Switzerland hiking trip guide helpful and I hope it has inspired you to plan a trip to the Bernese Alps! It is an incredible destination and I highly suggest staying in Wengen. If you have questions please let me know in the comments below. Happy travels!

We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Switzerland. If you have any questions or advice to share with our readers, please leave these in the comments below.

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Read More About Switzerland

  • How To Travel The Swiss Alps On A Budget
  • Discovering The Magic Of Lausanne
  • Hiking For Cheese In Switzerland
  • Things To Do In Zermatt Besides Ski
  • See The Best Of Switzerland With These 5 Walks

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Eddie Menir says

March 2, 2022 at 1:06 am

This is such a great website and amazing photos! Please come to Komodo National Park. I am guide here and love to show you around. So much to see. I did interview so you can see how I tour guide. Thank you.

May 22, 2022 at 8:02 am

do you advise us getting a swiss pass for your proposed itinerary?

Rachel says

September 5, 2022 at 10:30 am

Thank you so much for this detailed blog and itinerary! I was so inspired by it that I’m following most of your itinerary and am currently in wengen! We did the Schynige Platte – First hike today and it was my favorite of all time (and I’m an avid West Coast hiker). The half price swiss train pass has been perfect for our group and we’ve added on some via Ferrata climbs to your suggestions. Really appreciate it!

July 7, 2023 at 1:03 am

We followed this itinerary almost exactly for our recent Switzerland trip and it was PERFECT! Can’t thank you enough for all the details and advice on what to do and where to stay in the area. The trails are beautiful and most are very quiet with few other tourists because they’re a bit more difficult than the super popular tourist routes. That’s exactly what we were looking for. Would love to see an itinerary like this for many other cities. Do you have any travel blogs / bloggers that are dedicated to this type of 3-4 hour day hike itineraries in other places as well? We would love to follow more. Looking at Japan next. Thanks again!

Vanessa Rivers says

July 17, 2023 at 1:53 pm

Hi Kate, so glad you found my itinerary useful for your trip! Unfortunately, we don’t have many hiking trip guides (yet) but I plan to add more as I do them and I am in the process of looking for an ambassador to specialize in writing hiking trip guides. Japan sounds amazing. Do you have any interest in writing about your hiking stories? I’ll email you. – Vanessa Rivers, Co-Founder – We Are Travel Girls

Susan Ashworth says

September 21, 2023 at 10:01 pm

Such a helpful itinerary! I’ve been trying to plan a Switzerland trip and feeling quite overwhelmed. Yours sounds perfect with all the details! Same for the one on Zermatt and the cheese hiking one. I wish you had one for the Swiss National Park area as well since I want to go to that area too! Well done!

October 20, 2023 at 1:38 pm

Hi Susan! Glad you found my guide useful! I loved this trip so much I am actually planning a Swiss Alps Travel Girls Getaway. If you’re interested in joining us email me ( [email protected] ). X,Vanessa Rivers, We Are Travel Girls Co-Founder

Karen Robilotta says

October 10, 2023 at 5:05 pm

Thank you for this amazing guide! I just returned from a month in Europe where I got to visit Zermatt and Lauterbrunnen. Like you, I loved Switzerland so much I am planning my return and plan to use your guide to help organize my next trip. Well done!

October 20, 2023 at 1:33 pm

Thanks Karen! Glad you found the guide useful! Cheers! – Vanessa Rivers, We Are Travel Girls Co-Founder

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You are currently viewing The Ultimate Guide to the Albanian Alps: A 4-day hiking itinerary

The Ultimate Guide to the Albanian Alps: A 4-day hiking itinerary

  • Post author: Marlou
  • Post published: April 9, 2023
  • Post category: Albania / Europe

The Albanian Alps, or the Accursed Mountains, is a mountain range located in the north of Albania, shared with Montenegro . It’s one of the highlights of many people visiting Albania. And it’s easy to see why! Here you’ll find beautiful mountain scenery, crystal-clear rivers, waterfalls, and a giant lake. The best thing is that you can combine all of this in a 2 to 4-day circular route to and from Shkoder! And when you’re well prepared this trip is actually really easy! And you will be well prepared after reading this itinerary for the Albanian Alps.

Viewpoint above Theth, Albanian Alps

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Table of Content

  • Clockwise or counterclockwise
  • Day 1: Getting from Shkoder to Theth
  • Day 2 (optional): Hike to Blue Eye
  • Day 3: Hike to Valbonë

Day 4 – Valbonë to Shkoder via Lake Komani

Day 1 – shkoder to valbonë via lake komani.

  • Day 2: Hike to Teth

Day 3 (optional) – Hiking in Theth (skip if you only want 3 days)

  • Day 4: Theth to Shkoder

Lake Komani

  • Valbonë Pass

Grunas Waterfall and Blue Eye

You might wonder if it’s really necessary to do this trip as a circuit. Well, the answer is no, but if you want to see all the sights, it is the best and most efficient way of doing so. The main highlights of the Albanian Alps are the Valbonë Pass and Lake Komani. In order to hike the Valbonë Pass, you will need to sleep at least one night in either Theth or Valbonë. You could travel back to Shkoder the next day, and do a day trip to Lake Komani another day if you really wanted.

This is what we did, as we didn’t plan well. We traveled at the end of the season and we didn’t check the ferry schedule. The last day the ferry was going for sure, was a day we had booked accommodation for already. Besides, our hotel was going to close after we left, meaning we couldn’t leave our luggage. So we did a day trip to Komani and traveled to Theth the next day for some hiking.

I wouldn’t recommend this though. It’s both easier and quicker to travel directly from Valbonë to Komani Lake. As this is a very popular route, many accommodations in Shkoder will let you leave your luggage there. (Provided it’s not the end of the season and they are going to close ;).) And if you really want to do day trips (in case you don’t want to take the ferry for example, or can’t find a place to store your luggage), I will include this option at the end as well. 

Map of the 4-day itinerary to the Albanian Alps, to and from Shkoder

Clockwise or Counterclockwise

The loop can be done both clockwise and counterclockwise. Which direction is best mainly depends on your personal preference and further travel plans. If you’re on a tight schedule and you want to complete this loop in as little as 2 days, you’ll need to do it clockwise. The transport schedule doesn’t allow the loop to be done in 2 days counterclockwise. Traveling to your next destination on the same day you’ll finish your circuit? Then you’ll have to do it counterclockwise for the same reason.

If your travel plans don’t tie you to one of these options, the best way to go about this itinerary for the Albanian Alps is clockwise in my opinion. This way you can spend a day or two hiking in Theth before doing the more challenging Valbonë pass hike. The ferry is a nice way to end your trip and give your legs a rest too. Starting the hike in Theth means that you almost immediately start hiking up, but the route keeps getting easier. Afterward, you go down and the last kilometers are almost flat. Going from Valbonë, you don’t have to hike as far up (Valbonë lies about 200m higher than Theth) but further down. I also thought the valley on the Valbonë side was (even) more beautiful than on the side of Theth and these views are best enjoyed hiking down.

I will give you itineraries for both directions below so you can compare them. If you have made up your mind already, you can jump straight to the clockwise or counterclockwise section. 

Hiking route and profile Theth to Valbonë

The Clockwise Itinerary for the Albanian Alps

Day 1 – getting from shkoder to theth.

There is no regular public transport between Shkoder and Theth, but shared vans/cars leave from the center of Shkoder around 7 am. If your accommodation is centrally located, they might pick you up from your accommodation. You can discuss this with the driver when you make your reservation.

As we were staying in Shirokë (outside of Shkoder) they offered to pick us up for an extra € 5 per person. We spoke to a few people, and they all offered the same. There is no taxistand in Shirokë, and there was no reception at our accommodation to call one for us, so we just went for the easy way and took the pick-up.

We traveled to Theth with Zef (+355 68 246 8693) who was great! If you want more options, or if he’s unavailable, you can find some more numbers here . Zef included a(n optional) coffee/toilet stop and a picture stop on the way before arriving in Theth between 9-10 am, which we all really appreciated.

As you’ll arrive in Theth early, you can go hiking the same day already. 

2 day itinerary

If you’re short on time and want to complete the loop in 2 days, you can start your hike to Valbonë right away. Take a packed lunch and plenty of snacks with you from Shkoder in that case, as Theth doesn’t have many options. There was only one small shop in town, which was closed most of the time we were there. We did visit at the end of the season, but better safe than sorry and arrive prepared. 

If you’re doing the 2-day itinerary, skip ahead to day 3 , as you will be skipping the additional hikes in Teth, and get started with the hike to Valbonë on your first day already.

3 day itinerary

If you have 3 days, you can leave your stuff at your accommodation and hike to the Blue Eye today. Make a stop at the Grunas waterfall on the way there or back as well. We didn’t actually walk all the way to Blue Eye, as it was raining in the afternoon. I’ve heard it’s really beautiful though and many people have recommended it. So if you’re up for a 6 – 7h hike (3-3.5 h one way), you can walk here. If you prefer to take it easy and save energy for the next day, Grunas is a nice spot too and you can just stop there and turn around. 

Map of the Hike to Blue Eye and Grunas waterfall from Theth

4 day itinerary

If you have 4 days you can take it easy today, which is what we did. We got some work done and hitchhiked back to the viewpoint where Zef stopped on the way here, this time for sunset. You can also hike to Grunas Waterfall today and relax here, so you can go directly to the Blue Eye tomorrow and save time if you wanted to stay there longer.

Viewpoint above Theth

Day 2 (optional) – Hike to Blue Eye

If you’re following the 4-day itinerary, I would save the longer hike to Blue Eye for today, and take it easy on your first day. That way you can start earlier and have more time to enjoy Blue Eye itself.  Note that Theth doesn’t really have shops where you can buy snacks or food for a picnic, but many guesthouses offer packed lunches and there are restaurants in the town of Ndërlysaj, which you will pass on the way.

If hiking to Blue Eye sounds like a bit much to you, you can always opt for hiking as far as Grunas and head back to Theth from there. Or just see how far you get. The route itself is nice and it’s a one-way route, so you can turn around at any time and head back if you decide it’s too much.

Grunas Waterfall is only a short hike from Theth

Day 3 – Hike to Valbonë

Hiking is the only way to travel between these towns (without having to travel via Shkoder). The hike is about 17 km and takes about 7 hours to complete. We did it in 6 hours but were unlucky with the weather. So we didn’t make many stops and stayed in a hotel about 3 km before Valbonë, as we walked back the next day. 

It’s a long hike, which includes quite some elevation gain and loss, so I recommend starting early. Especially if the weather is nice. There is no need to rush and there are plenty of nice places on the way for picture stops or for breaks in general. It looks like there are some places for food and drinks as well. They were closed when we were there, but you might be able to buy something during in summer. Do bring enough water and food with you just in case though! You don’t want to find yourself without food or water halfway through the hike. 

Hiking from Theth to Valbonë means you’re starting with a steep uphill for the first 7-ish km. Luckily a big part of this is through the forest which will protect you from most weather conditions. Whether it’s the sun, rain, or wind you’re seeking shelter from. Once you exit the forest the views are already amazing, distracting you from the difficulty of the hike. There is less forest on the other side of the Valbonë Pass, so hiking down toward Valbonë you’ll really get to take in the views of the beautiful Valbonë Valley. And the last bit is nearly flat, so the hike just keeps getting easier. This is one of the things I quite liked about doing the hike in this direction.

Once you arrive at your accommodation , all you need to do is take a shower and enjoy a well-deserved meal. Tomorrow is an easy day, no hiking involved!

Forest on the way from Theth to Valbonë in the Albanian Alps

Today will be a long day, but a very enjoyable and quite relaxing one! Today you’ll cross the beautiful Lake Komani by ferry on your way back to Shkoder. Note that the lake isn’t exactly close to the lake, but the ferry company offers pick-up services to and from the ferry. You can book this service when you book your ticket for the ferry. Make sure to book a pick-up. There is no public transport and you don’t want to rely on hitchhiking when there is only one ferry a day. 

The van will pick you up from your accommodation in Valbonë at about 10.30 am. The drive to Fierze takes around 2 hours and from here you will take a ferry across Lake Komani. This lake is actually part of a river and was created by the dams constructed on each side.

Once you arrive in Komani, there will be another van waiting for you to bring you to the center of Shkoder. They also do transfers to Tirana, but unless you’ve packed very lightly and have taken everything with you, you will need to stop in Shkoder to pick your things up and I believe there is no public transport from Shkoder to Tirana anymore at that time. So if you want to do this and your accommodation is close to the roundabout terminal, you can contact the company directly (WhatsApp numbers are available on the website) to ask if they go via Shkoder and if they can stop at your accommodation so you can pick up your luggage.

Komani Lake, one of the top sights in the Albanian Alps

The Counterclockwise Itinerary for the Albanian Alps

In order to get from Shkoder to the Lake Komani ferry, you need to book the pick-up service through them. There is no public transport that will take you there. You can book the pick-up when you book your ferry ticket. Do book this! We thought we could just catch it from the roundabout, but when we asked where it leaves from we were pointed to a bus that goes to the power plant in Koman. From here it’s still a 2k walk uphill to the ferry. Luckily the van from the ferry company past us and let us jump on. They explained that you need to book it in advance and we made sure to book the way back on the spot!

As the pick-up service is with the same company as the ferry, you’re guaranteed to make the ferry. We even had time for a coffee and a quick bite to eat before boarding the ferry. It takes about 2 hours to cross the lake, which is actually part of a river and created by dams constructed on either side. 

Once you arrive in Fierze, there will be another van ready to take you to Valbonë. This trip also takes about 2 hours, So you’ll arrive in time to go for a stroll and take sunset pictures after you drop your stuff at your accommodation . 

Day 2 – Hike to Theth

Today is the big day! The hike from Valbonë to Theth is about 17 km and takes about 7 hours to complete. We did it in 6 hours but were unlucky with the weather. So we didn’t make many stops and stayed in a hotel about 3 km closer to Theth than Valbonë, giving us a headstart. 

As it’s a long hike, which includes quite some elevation gain and loss, I recommend starting early. Especially if the weather is nice. There is no need to rush and there are plenty of nice places on the way for picture stops or for breaks in general. It looks like there are some places for food and drinks as well. They were closed when we were there, but you might be able to buy something during the high season. Do bring enough water and food with you just in case though! You don’t want to find yourself without food or water halfway through the hike. 

Hiking from Valbonë to Theth means an easy start. The first 10 kilometers more or less are false flat. So not entirely flat, but only slightly uphill. Then it’s a steep uphill until you reach the top of the pass, and you get to enjoy the well-deserved beautiful views.

Heading down, you’ll still have some beautiful views over the mountains until you hit the forest. Here you’ll have some protection from the weather. Whether it’s the sun, wind, or rain you need hiding from. It’s a longer downhill than it was uphill (not counting the false flat part) but there are plenty of nice spots to take a break on your way down.

Views from the Valbonë Pass

If you still have the energy after yesterday, I recommend hiking to the Blue Eye today. It’s another long hike, but there is not as much elevation gain and loss, so it’s easier. On the way, you’ll pass Grunas Waterfall which is a nice stop as well. If you feel that hiking all the way to Blue Eye is too much, you can just turn around from here. Looking for something in between? Just keep walking along the river until you’re ready to turn around.

Day 4 – Theth to Shkoder

There is no regular public transport between Shkoder and Theth, but shared vans/cars can pick you up and drop you off in central Shkoder. Pick-up time in Theth is around 10 am, so enough time for breakfast.

We traveled back to Shkoder with Zef (Whatsapp +355 68 246 8693) who was great. You can also ask your accommodation to book a car for you or you can find more contact numbers here .

As you’ll arrive in Shkoder around noon, you’ll have plenty of time left to pick up the rest of your luggage and head to your next destination or to explore some of Shkoder. I recommend heading up to the castle in the afternoon and staying for sunset. The sign said it would close before sunset, but nobody came to kick us out, and people were still entering when we left.  

A Panoramic view of Shkoder as seen from Rofaza castle

Visiting the Albanian Alps as daytrips

If you don’t want to make the loop recommended in this itinerary for the Albanian Alps, it’s also possible to explore these places as day trips from Theth and Shkoder. As vans/cars between Shkoder and Theth only leave once a day in the morning, it’s not possible to do the hikes as day trips from Shkoder. You’ll need to base yourself in Theth for the hikes. Lake Komani can be visited as a day trip from Shkoder.

You can visit the lake on a day trip from Shkoder with Berisha. They run both the ferry and the transport between Shkoder and the Komani port from where you’ll take the ferry. Note that the ferry runs roughly from April to the beginning of November and once a day. Check their page for the current schedule and price . You’ll need to book the van to the port in advance, which you can do while you book your ferry tickets.

Pick-up in Shkoder is about 2.5 hours before the ferry is scheduled to leave Koman, and the ride takes about 2 hours. So you’ll have time for a coffee and to go to the toilet if you need to. There is a toilet on the ferry as well. The ferry ride across the lake takes about 2 hours and you’ll have another 2 hours to enjoy a drink or a snack in the port of Fierze before heading back the same way. 

Valbonë pass

As mentioned before, you’ll need to base yourself in Theth to hike the Valbonë pass as a day trip. Cars leave Shkoder at 7 am and arrive in Theth at around 9 am. So you can drop your luggage off and head off right away if you want to! Do bring a packed lunch in this case, as Theth doesn’t really have shops. We saw one, but it was closed most of the time. Another option is to ask your accommodation in advance if they offer packed lunches and can prepare one for you on the morning of your arrival.

The difference between hiking the Valbonë pass as part of the loop and as a day trip is that with the first you hike up on one side, and down the other. If you’re doing a day trip, you’ll head up and back down the same way. The most beautiful views are from the pass itself and the upper part of the trail, so you’re not missing out on a huge deal if you just hike back the same way.

Tip: You could technically do this hike as a day trip from Valbonë as well. This could make sense if the reason you don’t want to do the loop is because of luggage you need to take with you, or if you traveling with a car for example. Do note that Valbonë is further away from the pass than Theth though. It’s nearly twice as long (22 km in total for the return). It does save you almost 200 meters of elevation gain and loss, but unless you really have your mind set on hiking from Valbonë, I’d recommend hiking to the pass from Theth as it’s a lot shorter.

The Blue eye and Gruna Waterfalls are another nice day hike from Theth. It’s another long hike, but there is not so much elevation gain and loss compared to the Valbonë pass hike, so it’s easier. On the way, you’ll pass Grunas Waterfall which is a nice stop as well.

If you feel that hiking all the way to Blue Eye is too much, you can just turn around from here. Looking for something in between? Just keep walking along the river until you’re ready to turn around.

Walking along the river to Blue Eye in the Albanian Alps

This was: Make the most out of your trip to the Albanian Alps: A 4-day itinerary

If you’re looking for more tips of your trip to Albania, check out my Ultimate Travel Guide to Albania .

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I Hut-to-Hut Hiked Through the Austrian Alps for 5 Days

Mountaintop beers, roaming goats, and homemade strudel..

alps trip itinerary

Everyone knows that person who spends weeks sniffing around travel blogs, going deep into Tripadvisor rabbit holes, collecting Google docs from friends of friends, and creating  A Beautiful Mind –style spreadsheets to come up with the best  vacations  and itineraries possible. In this recurring series, we find those people who’ve done all the work for you and have them walk us through a particularly wonderful, especially well-thought-out vacation they took that you can actually steal.

I’m the kind of traveler who will take a mountain over a museum any day, and thankfully, so is my partner, Jack (our first date was a hike). In August, we went on our first international trip together, which, quite fittingly, was hut-to-hut hiking in the Alps, a travel bucket-list item I first learned about in college. Hut-to-hut hikes (which exist internationally but are most well-known in Europe) are multiday treks between fully appointed lodges — the appeal of which is a plush bed, warm shower, and home-cooked meal after a long day of hiking. Also, unlike traditional backpacking, you don’t need to carry much gear.

Since popular Alpine huts are known to fill up six months in advance, we started planning our route in January (using European outdoor sites for guidance) and eventually settled on a 31-mile section of the Stubai High Trail , a well-trafficked, high-alpine route outside Innsbruck, Austria (cheaper and more convenient than options in Switzerland or Italy). Next, we joined the Austrian Alpine Club , a $115 membership that guarantees mountain rescue in case of emergency and affords a discount at most huts. Finally, we booked the huts, prioritizing those with single rooms, a slightly more expensive, but private, option than communal dorms (still, no nightly stay was over $80 per person, including dinner and breakfast, known as “half board”). As this was my first trip to Europe, we tacked on an additional 72 hours in Munich and Vienna.

Although I’ve hiked in the Sierras and backpacked in British Columbia, trekking through the Alps was my most challenging trip yet (made more difficult by some of my gear choices and the fact that we chose an alpine route). One fellow hiker, an experienced mountaineer from Berlin who was surprised to see non-Europeans on the trail, put it like this: “There are American hikers, and then there are hikers .” Still, with the right gear and preparation, it’s well worth it for the friendly cows, cozy huts, and breathtaking views.

2 p.m.: Land in Munich and take the S-Bahn to the hotel

We took an overnight flight from Newark to Munich via Stockholm, a trip that took about 14 hours, including a four-hour layover (if you’re willing to shell out a few extra hundred dollars, United operates direct flights from Newark and JFK). Our plan was to sleep on the flights and land feeling refreshed enough to spend an afternoon exploring the city. In reality, we landed in desperate need of coffee. After guzzling some in the airport, we hopped on a one-hour train ride to the hotel (the S-Bahn commuter rail ran notably smoother than NJ Transit).

We stayed at the MK Hotel Max-Weber-Platz ( Einsteinstraße 34, 81675 ) in Au-Haidhausen. It’s a neighborhood on the west bank of the Isar that’s relatively shielded from tourists but still walking distance (25 minutes) from the old town. The MK has some quirks. For instance, the wall separating the bedroom and bathroom in our room was partially glass, lending itself to very little privacy in the shower. But, as far as budget hotels go, it fits the bill (which was a steal with credit card points). After cleaning up, we were ready to walk around.

MK Hotel Max-Weber-Platz

4 p.m.: Tour the city’s biergartens and Bavarian buildings

With only one evening in Munich, we set out to experience the best the city has to offer: beer and historic buildings. Our first stop was Biergarten am Muffatwerk ( Zellstraße 4, 81667 ), a leafy, certified organic beer garden abutting the Isar. Many locals arrived straight from a swim, towels and all, to drink a pint in a cabana chair. We ordered two half-liter pours of Lammsbräu Urstoff, a Bavarian lager, and ate olives with feta, sauerkraut, a pretzel, and a sausage (I’m a vegetarian, though I toe the flexitarian line on vacation). Next was a stroll through the old town, including a stop to admire the Hofgarten , a Renaissance-style garden on former Bavarian palace grounds, and Gothic municipal buildings at the Marienplatz (a city-center square). The night ended at Hofbräukeller ( Innere Wiener Straße 19, 81667 ), a gigantic beer garden where we drank more beer (you can’t buy anything less than a liter in the evening) and tried obatzda , a Bavarian cheese dip reminiscent of pimento cheese. Five miles and five hours later, we fell fast asleep.

alps trip itinerary

10 a.m.: Visit Dachau Memorial Site

After a slow morning people-watching and nibbling on pastries at Café Am Max-Weber-Platz ( Max-Weber-Platz 11, 81675 ), we took a 45-minute train to the Dachau concentration camp Memorial Site ( Alte Römerstraße 75, 85221 ). As a Jewish person who had never been to Europe before, it was important to me to bear witness to the legacy of the Holocaust. The Dachau Memorial Site is free and spans the grounds of the former concentration camp. Audio guides and group tours are available for under $5, and a comprehensive 40-minute English documentary plays three times per day. We opted to see the documentary at 11:45 a.m. and spent about an hour walking through the educational exhibits and religious memorials. I found the visit to be equal parts informative and emotional.

alps trip itinerary

2 p.m.: Picnic on the Isar 

Once back in the city, we picked up a döner kebab , falafel salad in a box, and spinach hand pie from a casual Turkish spot and walked ten minutes to eat on the bank of the Isar. The water near us was only calf-deep, but parts of the Isar are popular for swimming and surfing, though not for the faint of heart: The river is only 60-something degrees during the height of summer, and there are powerful currents. After lunch, we waded in to cool off. Before heading to the train station, we stopped at Aldi to stock up on snacks for the hike, including a regional blend of Haribo gummies and lots of sandwich materials. Keep in mind, though, that you have to pack out all of your trash.

alps trip itinerary

5 p.m.: Take a train to Innsbruck and get Indian food for dinner 

We arrived in Innsbruck at 6:30 p.m., the perfect time to drop our backpacks at the (clean and conveniently located) Pension Stoi Guesthouse ( Salurnerstraße 7, 6020 ) and see the city in the final bit of daylight. Innsbruck is exactly how I imagine Aspen, Colorado, to be. A popular destination for Italian and German tourists, the city (which is the capital of Austria’s western state of Tyrol and the site of Swarovski’s headquarters) is riddled with upscale boutiques and ski resorts all set to the striking backdrop of the Alps.

After walking through the historic Altstadt neighborhood to marvel at a 15th-century gilded roof and baroque houses turned boutiques, we crossed a bridge into the quieter (and cheaper) Mariahilf-St. Nikolaus district for dinner. Knowing we’d be eating Tyrolean food for the next five days, we shared baingan bharta and palak paneer at Rama Indian Restaurant ( Innstraße 81, 6020) . It was carb-heavy and salty — an ideal pre-hike meal.

alps trip itinerary

11 a.m.: Hike into the Pforzheimer Hut 

From Innsbruck, it’s a 45-minute ride on the 4166 bus to Saint Sigmund im Sellrain, a small village in the heart of the Sellrain valley where our hike began. The bus leaves at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., and 11 a.m. daily. After eating some pastries and packing up, we caught the 11 a.m. bus (though I’d recommend going earlier to avoid the afternoon heat). The day’s 4.5-mile trek, which follows the Gleirschbach River through a picturesque valley dotted with friendly cows, sheep, and goats, took us five hours (including a lunch break and many stops to pet the livestock). Although technically simple — all but the last half-mile or so is on a gravel fire road — the hike sees 2,600 feet of elevation gain. For context, that’s double the elevation gain of Breakneck Ridge , often considered one of the more challenging routes in the Hudson Valley. All well worth it for the breathtaking views.

alps trip itinerary

4 p.m.: Get to know other hikers over a beer

Pforzheimer hut is a cozy wood-and-stone structure perched atop a hill right next to the Gleirschbach. For reasons I still can’t quite figure out, the hut has a subtle Buddhist vibe, perhaps the Tibetan prayer flags that hang around the perimeter and an altar on the second floor with a Buddha statue where incense is burned at night set the tone. The communal bathrooms and bedrooms are also on the second floor. On the first floor is the communal dining room and gear room for drying clothes and stashing boots, which cannot be worn inside any hut (they’ll all have slippers for you to borrow). Around the back is an outdoor terrace, where, after a shower, I joined Jack for several beers and a slice of homemade apricot strudel. We chatted with some fellow travelers and got a helpful tip about how to stick to the trail (instead of off-roading as we’d thought necessary) the following day.

alps trip itinerary

6:30 p.m.: Tuck into a four-course, home-cooked meal

I’m the kind of person who will eat anything while on the trail (I once gleefully chowed down on tuna-jelly-mustard-cheese sandwiches while backpacking). Still, it was the height of luxury to be served a multicourse, home-cooked meal after a long day of hiking. Dinner, which began promptly at assigned tables in the communal dining room, was carrot-ginger soup, salad with fennel and seeds, pasta (meat for Jack and spinach for me), and chocolate quark crème , a yogurt-like German dessert. We paid for our stay in cash before bed (as required at all the huts) and fell asleep by 9 p.m. to the sound of cowbells.

alps trip itinerary

8 a.m.: Trek up the Zischgenscharte pass 

After an early wake up (6:30 a.m.) and a fully loaded breakfast buffet of bread, sliced cheese, meat, muesli, yogurt, and spreads, we set out to the second hut of our trip. This hike of just over four miles ended up taking eight hours. The trek took all day for two reasons: (1) As you will see is a pattern, we took our time — stopping to admire the views, pet cows, and eat snacks; (2) the hike was the most difficult of our trip (for me, not Jack).

After descending into the valley and climbing a steep but well-marked dirt-and-gravel path through the Stubai Alps, we hit scree fields (sections of unstable, broken rock), ascending the 10,000-foot Zischgenscharte pass . Here, the trail is only partially marked with cairns, and you have to use ropes and cables on the last two-thirds of the scree field. In Jack’s defense, I made the whole ordeal longer by having a mini breakdown and then leaving my bag partway up the pass, requiring him to go down and grab it. In my defense, the gully is very steep, and it’s hard to hike in scree, especially without proper gear. If I were to do it again, I would wear hiking boots, carry poles, and try to maintain better form (keep your nose above your toes and keep going, as the adage goes) instead of cowering on the rocks. At the top, there’s a striking view of the entire mountain range, and the dirt path down was steep but (mercifully) well-marked.

alps trip itinerary

4 p.m.: Toast to your arrival at Westfalenhaus 

Descending into the lush valley surrounding the Westfalenhaus hut was a scene straight out of The Sound of Music (and laying eyes on it after our day of hiking had me more excited than the von Trapp children reuniting with Maria). The two-story hut was renovated a couple of years ago and sleeps nearly double the number of guests as at Pforzheimer. All of the communal spaces — the dining hall, outdoor terrace, bathrooms, and gear room — are on the first floor, and the bedrooms are upstairs. Ours had a bunk bed and window overlooking the valley. After settling in, we toasted our arrival with a couple of half-liter pours of hefeweizen (a German wheat beer) on the terrace, which has panoramic views of the Stubai Alps.

alps trip itinerary

7 p.m.: Dine overlooking the Alps

Here, dinner service was a bit more casual, beginning at 7 p.m. with the option to choose your own seats. We cozied up in wool blankets and ate on the terrace, watching the sunset throughout the valley. The three-course meal consisted of potato soup with big, homemade croutons (my favorite food of the trip), followed by sweet potato curry for me and a pork dish for Jack. Since Westfalenhaus is a more remote hut, it serves fewer fresh vegetables (those that we ate were cooked from frozen), but the food tasted good nonetheless. Also, in an effort to reduce food waste, the portions are small, but you can always ask for seconds. Dessert, a highlight for us both, was Bavarian crème and berries.

alps trip itinerary

8 a.m.: Scramble up to a waterfall suspension bridge

Another early morning (6:30 a.m.) and breakfast buffet, this one with stand-out mini pretzel rolls in addition to all the typical fixings. We stayed at Westfalenhaus for two nights, so this day’s hike was sans backpacks — and it showed. All told, we covered eight miles and about 3,600 feet of total elevation gain (the most in any one day) in less time than the previous day’s hike. The bulk of that climbing was up to the Hängebrücke Horntal , a recently opened waterfall suspension bridge partway up the towering Lüsener Fernerkogel, known as “the Matterhorn of Tyrol.” Most of the hike was on a well-marked path next to a river, and up the mountainside, but toward the top, you have to scramble up some steep metal ladders and grab onto metal ropes. At the bridge, there are sweeping views of the valley, though I was preoccupied with the intense sound of the waterfall.

alps trip itinerary

3 p.m.: Reward yourself with apple strudel 

The loop back to Westfalenhaus took us through the Lüsener Valley, past educational posters about climate change–induced glacial retreat and many friendly animals. There was also a stretch of trail covered in raspberry bushes (which, after confirmation with an app on Jack’s phone, we ate from). There was plenty of time to hang out at the hut before dinner, so we drank beer, ate a hearty slice of apple strudel, and read on a reclining chair overlooking the valley.

alps trip itinerary

7 p.m.: Play dominoes during dinner

It’s typical for the Alpine huts to have a collection of books and games, seemingly amassed from many countries over the years. Very few were in English, so we opted for dominoes and played over the dinner of pumpkin soup and chicken (for Jack) or gnocchi (for me). Bavarian crème with berries was for dessert once again. Let the record show that I won the match.

10:45 a.m.: Nibble on cake after a hike into Praxmar

After breakfast, we bade farewell ( auf wiedersehen , good-bye!) to Westfalenhaus and set off on a three-hour hike into Praxmar, a small alpine village where we planned to stay the night. The four-mile route was almost entirely downhill and reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest, a welcome respite for these two West Coasters. Upon arrival, it was time for a second breakfast of berry–poppy seed cheesecake and Almdudler , a popular herbal Austrian soda.

alps trip itinerary

2 p.m.: Take a cold dip in the Bergersee

It was too early to check in to the guesthouse, so we swapped our backpacks for day packs and hiked to the ​​Bergersee, a small alpine lake. Like the morning route, the short (three-mile) hike was mainly forested but this time entirely uphill. Also, the final stretch through the hillside is marked only by cairns, so I’d recommend downloading an offline trail map to steer you in the right direction. We got to the lake in the heat of the day and went for a quick skinny dip. With no one but a herd of goats to see us, I figured it was okay.

alps trip itinerary

4:30 p.m.: Warm up with a 185-degree Finnish sauna 

Not a true Alpine hut, the Alpengasthof Praxmar is accessible by car and bus and boasts traditional, hotel-like amenities — including TVs and towels in the rooms. Jack and I are big fans of a shvitz, so our favorite perk, by far, was the spa. Open daily from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., the all-gender, clothing-optional spa boasts three different saunas — two dry heat and one infrared — plus a rainfall shower and reclining chairs. The bulk of our time was spent in the 185-degree Finnish sauna, which I single-handedly credit with alleviating my (at this point severe) leg pain.

alps trip itinerary

6:30 p.m.: Skip half-board and get the schnitzel 

Jack and I each made one food-related mistake on our travels; his was booking half-board at the Praxmar guesthouse (mine comes later). The multicourse meal of boar carpaccio, fish, and veal was served in a white-tablecloth dining room full of taxidermied animals and felt a bit too formal for our taste (though the salad bar was very good). We both agreed that, given the opportunity to do it again, we would have just ordered schnitzel, dumplings, and fries from the à la carte menu.

7 a.m.: Hike to a mountain dairy 

Another breakfast buffet, this one the most lavish of the trip, including assorted pastries, several kinds of yogurt, and a substantial spread of fresh fruits and vegetables. The first part of our hike (three almost entirely uphill miles) was to Juifenalm ( Juifen 1, 6181 ), a family-owned mountain dairy that doubles as a restaurant and guesthouse, not uncommon in the Alps. We stopped to drink beer and eat traditional Tyrolean food. The standouts were sauerkraut, a speckknödel dumpling, sausage, and graukase saur, pickled cheese topped with onions, olive oil, and vinegar.

alps trip itinerary

We covered the remaining 4.5 miles, which was almost entirely downhill through gentle fields, in 90 minutes and made it to the village of Gries im Sellrain to catch a 2:20 p.m. bus back to Innsbruck (the bus comes hourly, so if we’d missed it there were other options).

alps trip itinerary

4 p.m.: Shower before the train to Vienna 

Back in Innsbruck, I was ready to do whatever it took to shower before getting on a four-hour train ride to Vienna. As it turns out, all I had to do was ask a generous employee at Pension Stoi Guesthouse (where we stayed earlier and stashed a few bags during our hike), who, in response to my ask to use a shower, said, “It looks like you need it.” Jack and I were both nice and clean when we boarded our 6:30 p.m. train to Vienna.

11 p.m.: Snack on a sausage

alps trip itinerary

The train got us in late, but Würstelstand am Südtiroler Platz ( Wiedner Gürtel 3, 1040 Wien ), one of Vienna’s ubiquitous to-go sausage stands, was still open. We grabbed a kasekrainer (Austrian cheese-stuffed sausage), kartoffelpuffer (potato pancake), and pickles and walked the five minutes to our Airbnb . Knowing we were getting in so late, we chose this garden unit for its proximity to the central station. It abuts a city park and has all the amenities you’d need for a short stay (though it’s worth noting that the bathroom is in the private entryway hallway, not the apartment itself).

9 a.m.: Discover the city by foot

With only 48 hours in Vienna, we started the day early to take in the city by foot. Most of our morning was spent ambling in and around the Innere Stadt, known for its historic buildings and museums. Entry into these sites is ticketed (often well in advance), so we instead chose to admire the architecture from the outside. At Belvedere Palace Garden ( Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030), we even found a tucked-away Louise Bourgeois Spider statue. It’s important to both of us to connect with our Jewish history when traveling, so we paid for entry to the Jewish Museum ( Dorotheergasse 11, 1010 ). Lunch was falafel at the Naschmarkt , an outdoor market with over 100 stalls. We bought spices and a slice of walnut baklava on our way out.

alps trip itinerary

2 p.m.: Read at the Schönbrunn Palace 

Another historic site where we made the most of the grounds, these being truly palatial (400 acres in all) and beautifully manicured. After walking through flower gardens and past giant fountains, we settled down in some grass to eat chocolate and read. I felt like a guest at one of the White Lotus palazzos.

alps trip itinerary

6 p.m.: Dine at a Viennese cafe (but don’t forget to make a reservation)

This is the part of the trip when I made my food mistake. I planned for us to eat dinner at Café Rüdigerhof ( Hamburgerstraße 20, 1050 ), a longtime Austrian cafe known for its schnitzel and cakes. However, I did not make a reservation, and unlike many of New York’s so-called impossible reservations, you actually cannot get seated without one. We managed to drink one beer in the cafe’s backyard and snack on some fries before a party came for their table. After three other unsuccessful attempts to walk into Viennese cafes, we ended up at a below-average Mexican restaurant. Learn from my mistake and call ahead.

10 a.m.: Go thrifting in Leopoldstadt

The second district, known as Leopoldstadt, was gentrified in the early aughts, shifting the once-working-class Jewish ghetto into a trendy neighborhood. It has plenty of cute cafes and street art (plus some kosher restaurants and grocery stores due to the community of religious Jews still living in the area). We went thrifting at a couple of local spots, including Humana ( Taborstraße 20A, 1020 ), which seems to be the Viennese equivalent of Beacon’s Closet. There, I bought a chunky brown cardigan. Our last stop in Leopoldstadt was the Karmelitermarkt, an outdoor market where we grabbed grapes and cucumbers from a produce stall and hefty döner bowls from a to-go spot called Ugis ( Karmelitermarkt 64, 1020 ).

1 p.m.: Lounge on the bank of the Danube 

Swimming is popular along the entirety of the Danube, and many stretches are built up with private clubs (where you can pay a few euros for pools and showers) and sandy beaches. We went to Liegewiese am Arbeiterinnenstrand ( Arbeiterstrandbadstraße 89, 1210 ), a free beach on the north side of the river that’s more like a grassy lakefront. The crowd was mostly local families, some of whom made use of the beach’s grills. We spent a couple of hours alternating between swimming, eating, and lounging around.

alps trip itinerary

6 p.m.: Head to a winery for a farewell dinner

Within Vienna’s city limits are over two square miles of vineyards dotted with heurigen , wine taverns eponymously named after the “young wine” they serve fresh from the vine. The taverns are concentrated in a few different areas, including Nussdorf, a neighborhood at the end of the D tram about 40 minutes from the city center. At the recommendation of a friend, we went to Heuriger Schübel-Auer ( Kahlenberger Straße 22, 1190) and were seated in the leafy garden without a reservation (though I’d recommend making one on a weekend evening). We ordered a liter of white wine and sparking water, as is customary, and made spritzes to go along with Austrian snack food (cheese, meat, cucumber salad, roasted tomatoes), which is sold by the pound. Part of the appeal of Nussdorf is strolling through the hillside vineyards, but by the time we got around to this, it was more of a drunken amble. Still, we managed to catch sweeping views of the city and drink one more glass of wine — a final Viennese experience before sleeping for a few hours and heading to the airport for an early morning flight.

alps trip itinerary

Kayla’s Europe packing list

Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner

While the huts provide blankets and pillows, this bedding isn’t routinely washed, so guests are required to bring a “hut sleeping bag,” which is basically anything to put under the bedding. This liner, which I’ve used for years on camping trips, keeps you extra warm and weighs less than one pound (since you have to hike with all of your personal belongings, every ounce counts).

REI Co-op Multi Towel Lite

The huts also don’t provide hand or body towels. I got this one in college, and it’s held up on beach days and backpacking trips alike, but any microfiber, packable towel will do (though, if you want to splurge, Nomadix has some actually nice-looking, Dusen Dusen–esque prints).

Nuun Sport Hydration Tablets, Watermelon

My first water bottle of the day was always filled with one of these tablets for extra hydration and energy. My other toiletry bag must-haves were Aleve, deodorant, and sunscreen.

Baggu Medium Nylon Crescent Bag

For the days when you’re walking around a city and need something to put a water bottle, book, disposable camera, and extra layer in. My go-to day bag is a small, vintage backpack from my mom, and Jack’s is a crossbody from a defunct California-based outdoor brand, but this bag (which I’ve coveted for a while) comes highly recommended by other travelers . If you plan to stash items in a hotel while on the trail, I’d also suggest bringing an ultralight tote or duffel (ours is from Osprey ).

Kobo Clara 2E

An honorary mention from Jack, who is an extremely minimalist packer but doesn’t travel without this e-reader (my best birthday gift to him yet). We did have a lot of downtime to read (and no Wi-Fi or cell service), so this came in handy. I downloaded and read two full books on my phone but know that’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

Kayla’s Europe Wish List

Gregory Facet 45

I’ve had the same Deva 60-liter capacity backpack for nearly a decade and can’t say enough good things about it (almost every part of the pack is adjustable, even to my 5-foot-2 frame, and the hip belt is padded). Unsurprisingly, it held up well on this trip, but if I were to do it again (and money was no object), I would spring for a smaller pack. Sixty liters is great for carrying a full load of backpacking gear, but something like this Facet 45-liter pack (which seems to have a lot of the same features as my bag) would suffice for hut-to-hut hiking. Jack was pleased with how his REI 40-liter pack held up, but I don’t like how much weight it puts on your shoulders.

Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR 2 Mid Hiking Boots - Women's

While I stand by my New Balance running shoes for almost all activities (I ran the New York City Marathon in them, for instance), I wouldn’t recommend them for alpine hiking. To put it simply, they lack sufficient traction and ankle support. At the very least, I’d recommend a pair of trail runners. Jack, for instance, wore the Saucony Peregrine 12 without complaint (though he has since mentioned the waterproof version may be better). If I had my pick, I’d choose a pair with more ankle support, like these expert-recommended boots from trail running brand Altra.

Cascade Mountain Tech Lightweight Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Trekking Poles

I read a lot of Reddit forums and blogs before this trip, and many suggested that hiking poles were not essential for hiking in the Alps. Let me tell you once and for all: If you are doing any alpine routes, you need a pair of hiking poles. As a beginner, I’d start off with a budget-friendly ( but vetted ) pair like these. Keep in mind that hiking poles are technically not allowed in a carry-on (though, if you believe what you read on Reddit, this rule is not always enforced).

Roark Campover Pants

My Athleta leggings got the job done on the trail, but they aren’t a substitute for a pair of hiking pants. I genuinely love the look of this pair from Roark, which has several pockets and a built-in adjustable belt. For a more size-inclusive option, I recommend a cargo or pull-on version from Alder, where I’ve bought durable athletic gear before.

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Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog

The Japanese Alps: A 6 Day Itinerary With All The Highlights

By: Author Lotte

Posted on Last updated: November 13, 2023

Categories Japan

the-Japanese-Alps-itinerary-phenomenalglobe.com

While most people traveling to Japan visit famous cities like Tokyo , Kyoto , and Osaka , Japan offers some pretty stunning nature as well.

Traveling through the Japanese Alps was one of the highlights of our month in Japan and in my opinion an underrated region. The Alps are a beautiful region, with mountains over 3000 meters high.

Besides the amazing mountain views, there are lots of cultural sights and activities as well.

During your trip around the Japanese Alps, you can't miss the Kenruko-en garden in Kanazawa, the traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses in Shirakawa-go, and the Hida Folk Village in Takayama.

The Japanese Alps: itinerary

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). We're very grateful when you use our links to make a purchase:-).

View over Kamikochi valley - Japanese Alps itinerary

When to visit the Japanese Alps

The best time to visit the Japanese Alps depends on what you want to do. We did this exact itinerary in May and had great weather and comfortable hiking temperatures.

Visiting Shirakawago during winter is nothing short of magical and something that is still on my bucket list.

The gassho-zukuri farmhouses were built to withstand this weather with ease and seeing them covered in heaps of snow is something you'll surely never forget.

Shirakawago Village in winter

Kanazawa and Takayama are great destinations regardless of the season as you can visit many sights during winter as well.

Kamikochi, on the other hand, isn't open year-round, usually, the season starts in mid-April and ends in mid-November.

Fall is the most popular time to visit Kamikochi, because of the beautiful foliage. We visited in late May and even then lots of trails were still closed because of snow.

Always check with the Kamikochi Information Center about the conditions and accessibility of the hiking trails.

If hiking in the Japanese Alps is your priority, it's best to travel between (late) June and September. In most years the snow will have melted away and you can safely access all trails.

Plan your Japan trip like a pro with these tools: ✅ Get a Japan Railpass to save lots of time and money. ✅ Rent a car for your Japan road trip via Rentalcars.com . ✅ Stay connected with Airalo Japan offer . ✅ Plan your journey with the Japan Lonely Planet . ✅ Find the best hotel deals on Booking.com . ✅ Join the best tours in Japan via Klook . ✅ Travel safely and get reliable travel insurance from Safety Wing .

6-day trip in the Japanese Alps: map

I spent six days in the Japanese Alps and visited Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama, Kamikochi, and Matsumoto.

All the highlights and our accommodation can be found on the map below.

Japanese Alps itinerary

Click here for the interactive map.

The Japanese Alps itinerary summary

  • Day 1 Kanazawa: visit the Kenruko-en Garden and explore old samurai neighborhoods.
  • Day 2 Shirakawa-go: check out the historic gassho-zukuri farmhouses and admire the view from the Shirakawago viewpoint.
  • Day 3 Takayama: explore the Sanmachi Suji historic district and visit the Hida folk village.
  • Day 4-5 Kamikochi: go hiking and camping in Kamikochi, one of the most beautiful places in Japan.
  • Day 6 Matsumoto: say goodbye to Kamikochi and visit Matsumoto Castle before you head back to Tokyo.

Where to stay in the Japanese Alps

Here is a list of all the places we stayed during our travels around Japan.

Note:  Prices for accommodation are dependent on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Therefore, the prices mentioned above are a rough indication of the price per night to help you compare the different options. Click ‘book here’ to see the latest prices on  Booking  and book ahead to get the best deal.

Things to do in Kanazawa

Kenruko-en garden.

Kenruko-en Garden in Kanazawa

A must-visit in Kanazawa is the famous Kenruko-en Garden (¥310 per person) .

It’s a beautiful garden and though we aren’t that much into plants, we enjoyed strolling around the ponds and the immaculately kept lanes.

Explore the old samurai neighborhoods

River bank Kanazawa Japan Japanese Alps

We also visited the old samurai neighborhoods,  Nagamachi and Katamachi, and strolled along the river bank to enjoy the sunset. It's a lovely walk!

? If you'd like to get to know Kanazawa through the eyes of passionate locals and learn about the city's best-kept secrets, check out this customized private walking tour .

How to get to Kanazawa from Kyoto

At Kyoto station, we bought a ticket for the local train to Kanazawa (¥4000 per person). There is also a Shinkansen from Kyoto to Kanazawa. The Shinkansen takes only 2 hours, the local option takes 4 hours.

If you're short on time and have a Japan Rail Pass , the Shinkansen is obviously the better option.

Anyway, we took the local train to Kanazawa, meaning we had to change at Tsuruga. On the platform, we found a tiny shop selling soup, perfect for lunch.

Tsuruga train station noodle shop

From Tsuruga we took the train to Fukui, and at Fukui we boarded the train to Kanazawa. We got out at Nishi-Kanazawa where we hopped aboard a tiny train bound for Nomachi (¥140 per person).

From Nomachi station it was only a short walk to our hotel.

Where to stay in Kanazawa

We stayed at the APA Hotel Katamachi for 1 night. I searched for quite a while and this was one of the cheapest options I found.

What I liked

+ The hotel was nice, clean, and quiet. + The hotel staff was friendly and the check-in was very smooth. + Close to the bus stop to Kanazawa JR Station.

What I didn’t like

– It smelled a bit like cigarettes in the bathroom (even though we had a smoke-free room).

Things to see in Shirakawa-go

The famous gassho-zukuri farmhouses.

Gassho-zukuri farmhouse in Shirakawago village in the Japanese alps

Yes, Shirakawa-go is rather touristy, but it's definitely worth visiting.

Being from Europe, I am used to seeing Swiss and Austrian wooden cottages. But the gassho-zukuri farmhouses are very different, the roofs are made from thick layers of reed.

Some of the houses are more than 250 years old!

Shirakawa-go viewpoint

shirakawago-viewpoint-phenomenalglobe.com

We hiked up to the viewpoint  and strolled around the quaint little streets and along the small rice fields of Shirakawa-go village.

How to get to Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa

From our hotel we took the bus to Kanazawa station, there we managed to buy tickets to Shirakawa-go costing ¥1850 per person.

Yes, travel in this part of Japan is expensive!

Nevertheless, it's a beautiful trip to Shirakawa-go, with green forest and snowy mountains in the backdrop!

Note: the first 2 buses leaving to Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa bus station were fully booked. If you want to be sure of your departure time (or if you are traveling in high season) it may be wise to buy tickets the day before.

At Shirakawa-go bus station, We stored our bags at the tourist information center so we didn't have to carry them around when exploring the village.

Costs:  ¥1000 for 2 big backpacks (there are also ¥600 lockers but these were all taken).

Village of Shirakawago Japanese alps

Things to see in Takayama

Sanmachi suji historic district.

Old shops in Sanmachi Suji historic district in Takayama village Japanese Alps

The historic center of Takayama is lovely, the streets are lined with wonderful wooden houses and tiny craft shops.

Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Takayama on this walking tour with a local guide .

Hida folk village

Hida Folk Village Takayama Japanese Alps

We also visited the Hida Folk Village (¥700 per person), which is a really nice place! In the Hida Folk Village, you find many old houses in building styles typical for the region.

The houses were all taken apart at their original locations and rebuilt in the Hida village, to conserve them and share their unique designs.

Takayama Hida Folk Village Japanese Alps

What I liked about the village is that you could enter many of the houses, which made it easy to imagine how people lived in ancient times.

There were also a lot of great things to eat in Takayama, such as delicious abura Soba at Le Midi ( 2 Chome-10 Honmachi, Takayama-shi, Gifu-ken 506-0011, +81 577-35-3566),

Things to eat in Takayama - abura soba

How to get to Takayama from Shirakawa-go

The buses to Takayama leave just outside the Shirakawa-go tourist information center.

You can buy a ticket at the tourist information center in Shirakawa-go or at Kanazawa bus station, the bus costs ¥2470 per person.

Where to stay in Takayama

We stayed at  Guesthouse Tomaru , located within easy walking distance to the train and bus station as well as Takayama historic district.

+ Nice guesthouse with good facilities (tea kettle, Wi-Fi, and clean bathroom). + The rooms are spacious (both the communal living room as well as our bedroom) and the Japanese futons we slept on were comfortable. + The owners are friendly and helpful.

What I didn't like

– There is only one bathroom and it gets a bit crowded at times.

Things to do in Kamikochi

Hiking in Kamikochi in the Japanese Alps

Kamikochi is a wonderful place that truly stole my heart… How could it not with these amazing views!

If you love the outdoors, you should add Kamikochi to your Japan itinerary . There are lots of epic hiking trails, during our 3 days in Kamikochi we tackled these trails:

  • Dakesawa hut hike (3-4 hours)
  • Mount Yakedake hike (5 hours)

Be sure to read my in-depth post about hiking and camping in Kamikochi here .

How to travel from Takayama to Kamikochi

From Takayama we traveled to Hirayu Onsen by bus, at Hirayu Onsen we changed to another bus taking us to Kamikochi. More information can be found here .

We booked our bus ticket at the bus station in Takayama, only a couple of hours before our departure. The price for a ticket is ¥2600 per person.

Admiring the view in Kamikochi Japanese Alps

Where to stay in Kamikochi

We stayed at the Konashi-daira campsite for 3 nights.

+  The campsite in Kamikochi was also the best-managed campsite we stayed at during our 1-month trip around Japan. + There was a campsite manager who spoke English (a first), a restaurant where we could have breakfast, lunch, and dinner (a first as well), and an onsen. I could have stayed in Kamikochi for months…

– Absolutely nothing, the only downside was having to leave

Campsite information

• Check the website  for more information. • We paid €13/$14,50 per night.

Best hotel in Kamikochi

If you don't want to go camping be prepared to spend a lot of money on accommodation in Kamikochi.

The lodges here are beautiful but expensive with prices starting at ¥8400/€67/$76 per night (see the  Kamikochi accommodation website ,  Agoda,  or  Booking ).

Kamikochi valley view from Dakesawa hike Japanese Alps

Things to do in Matsumoto

Matsumoto castle.

One cannot visit Matsumoto and not go to the famous Matsumoto Castle (¥610 per person). Of the four Japanese castles I visited during my trip, Matsumoto is my favorite!

Matsumoto Castle was built in 1504 and is made entirely out of wood. It's nicknamed the ‘Crow Castle’, because of the black exterior.

Within the castle, there is a museum where we learned more about its history.

Matsumoto Castle - black wooden castle in Japan

A really cool thing about Matsumoto Castle is the secret floor, which is hidden between the levels.

The secret 3rd floor doesn't have any windows, so from the outside, it looks like Matsumoto Castle only has five stories, but secretly there are six!

The purpose of the secret floor is to mislead the enemy about the number of soldiers inside the castle. Be sure to climb all the way to the top for a lovely view over the gardens.

Matsumoto Castle Japanese Alps view from the top

If you'd like to learn more about Matsumoto and the main sights in the city, book this Matsumoto private walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide.

How to get to Matsumoto from Kamikochi

From Kamikochi bus station we took a bus to Shinshimashima train station where we changed to a tiny train taking us to Matsumoto. More information can be found here .

We booked the combined bus-train ticket a day before our departure, you can do so at Kamikochi bus station. The price for a ticket is ¥2450 per person.

Our Japanese Alps itinerary: in conclusion

From Matsumoto, we traveled back to Tokyo by bus to catch our flight home. If you have more time, I recommend visiting Nagano, the Jigokudani snow monkey park , and Mount Fuji.

You can download the map of my 6-day itinerary around the Japanese Alps below. And if you want to read more about Japan, check out my other Japan posts !

  • Alternative places to visit in Japan
  • How to pack for a trip to Japan
  • Japan on a budget
  • Driving on Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido road trip itinerary
  • Hiroshima itinerary
  • Miyajima itinerary
  • Hiking Mount Koyasan
  • Quirky things in Japan

Planning a trip around the Japanese Alps? Check out this itinerary including Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama, Kamikochi and Matsumoto. In the post you can find detailed travel information and a printable map. #Japan #JapaneseAlps #TravelJapan

This post was updated in October 2022.

Helena Hiltunen

Sunday 18th of August 2019

Hi Lotte, I have read your blog and I am doing the trip in the reverse order. Just a quick question, do you think it is worthwhile to buy the 4-7 day bus pass or pay for each separate trip? And I was also wondering what your thoughts are about Shirakawa-go. We have one night in Takayama and not sure if we should explore more here instead of travelling to Shirakawa-go on our way to Kanazawa.

You have inspired me. Helena

Wednesday 28th of August 2019

Thank you for reading my post and I'm happy to hear this has inspired you to visit the Japanese Alps! I'm sure you'll love it, it's such a beautiful region of Japan... Regarding your question, we purchased separate tickets, probably because I calculated it was cheaper (we took our trip in 2016 so I'm a bit rusty on the numbers). We stayed in Kamikochi for 3 days so I think that was the reason I found the daily fee too high as we knew we wouldn't be using the bus pass these days.

I found Shirakawa-go definitely worthwhile, especially in off-peak season (we visited in May). It's a lovely village and the houses are very interesting to learn more about.

Have a great trip! Lotte

Hi! I am currently planning a 3 week trip to Japan for the end of October- mid November. I very much want to incorporate your itinerary to the alps! Question- do you have any recommendations for seeing all these places without moving around as much? Can we stay in one place (maybe near Kamikochi) and take day trips to the other places? Also any advice on where to stay in Kamikochi but not camping? Thank you for your help! Erin

Thank you for reading my blog and how wonderful you'll be traveling to Japan in October/November! The Alps are a beautiful region of Japan, I'm happy you've decided to include them in your itinerary:-) Regarding your question, you could base yourself in Takayama and take day trips to both Shirakawa-go and Kamikochi. Kamikochi is very expensive to stay (which is why we went camping). There are beautiful lodges such as the Kamikochi Nishi-itoya Mountain lodge (https://bit.ly/2Znwdsz) but this costs around $250 a night. In Takayama accommodation is much cheaper (https://bit.ly/32aBwsl).

I hope this helps! Have a great trip:-) Lotte

Tuesday 26th of February 2019

This campsite sounds like a great place to base several great hikes out of. I go to Japan every summer and am thinking of finding a time in my itinerary for it. How long would you suggest for moderate hikers? We will also be doing scuba in Ishigaki, biking the Shimanami Kaido, and relaxing near Hakone.

Wednesday 27th of February 2019

Wow, every summer to Japan, that's awesome! I'd love to make another trip to Japan... One day I will! I feel our 6 day trip was perfect, we did most of our hiking in Kamikichi. In the other places we strolled around to see the sights but I don't consider that hiking;-) I wish you a wonderful trip and I would love to hear about your scuba experience in Ishigaki!

Friday 31st of August 2018

Kamikochi looks amazing! What a bummer that we wont be able to go there, since we'll be there around end November. I will definitely try to arrange this into our next visits! When do you think will be the best time to do the hikes? I guess the mid of summer will be too hot, and probably too crowded though.

Tuesday 4th of September 2018

Hi Petrina,

Kamikochi was amazing indeed! I reckon November will be too late to visit, there will probably be lots of snow already:-) About the best time for hiking, I have been wondering the same thing. Summer is crowded but some trails still have snow until the end of June. So July, August and September are probably the best months in terms of accessibility of the trails. And because of the altitude the temperatures should be manageable, though I think it will be hot in the valleys. I would love to do a multi-day trail in the Kamikochi area, who knows we'll come across each other one day. Enjoy your trip in November!

Monday 20th of August 2018

Hi, I am going there in november !! But I was wondering which bus company did you book for Japanese Alps ? Thanks,

Tuesday 21st of August 2018

Great you are going to explore the Japanese Alps! You can find more information about the bus company here: https://www.japan-guide.com/bus/shirakawago.html. We didn't book ahead but just went to Kanazawa bus station to buy a ticket on the day itself. Have a great trip!

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The Gornergratbahn cog-wheel railway ascends from Zermatt to the Gornergrat with panoramic views of the Matterhorn and other 400-meter peaks.

Explore the Alps in First Class Rail via the Legendary Mountain Railways of Switzerland.

Courtesy of Switzerland Toursim

alps trip itinerary

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Every day offered surprises and sights better than the day before. I loved every moment. There is so much to look back on and cherish! - R.B. - Vancouver, BC

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The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

Imagine the spectacular alpine scenery through the panoramic "vista" windows that run from your elbow to the ceiling while you sit comfortably in your first-class Swiss rail seat. Your eyes gazing effortlessly on the beautiful Swiss Alp peaks, the sparkling lakes, lush flowered meadows, historic castles, the iconic profile of the Matterhorn, deep-cut glacial valleys, vineyards, gushing white water streams, magic mountains flanked by enormous glaciers. You'll enjoy this all in first class comfort. We will cap out with 14-15 guests on each tour. Be sure to check out our Scenic Alps by Rail FAQ  which also includes the activity level expected for this tour.   

Europe's Finest Rail System

The legendary trains of Switzerland are among the finest in the world and the Swiss have perfected making mountains accessible. Their ingenious network of trains, rack railways, trams, and funiculars easily puts you in the midst of the most spectacular glaciers in the Alps and the highest peaks in Europe.

Mountaintop Excursions

You will also get to ascend the Gornergrat above Zermatt to arrive at an alpine panorama, where you are surrounded by more 4,000-meter peaks than anywhere else in the Alps. Then you will get to ride through a tunnel in the Eiger to arrive at the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe.

All in First-Class Comfort

Enjoy the Swiss Alps in the comfort of your first-class rail car, and in the company of Swiss rail experts. You'll discover the scenery, history, and engineering that have made Switzerland's rail system the finest and most popular in the world. We do our best to book 1st class seat reservations but please note that at times due to availabilty it is possible to ride in 2nd class.

Glacier Express and Other Scenic Journeys

You'll ride on the most legendary of alpine railway journeys— The Glacier Express —and discover the charms of other scenic routes such as the Bernina Express and the GoldenPass Line.

alps trip itinerary

Trip Videos

Overview Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrive in Lucerne -- Mt. Pilatus

Day 2 – Through the Historic Heart of Switzerland on the Gotthard Route

Day 3 – Bernina Route - Lugano past northern Lake Como to St Moritz

Day 4 – Beautiful Swiss Alps, Lakes and Vistas

Day 5 – Mountains, Meadows, and Breathtaking Scenery on the Glacier Express

Day 6 – The Matterhorn and The Surrounding Majestic Highest Peaks in Europe -- Gornergrat Cogwheel train

Day 7 – Lake Geneva and the manicured Préalps - GoldenPass Rail

Day 8 – Picture-postcard Swiss Alps scenery on the GoldenPass Rail

Day 9 – Magnificent Mountains with Aletsch Glacier Experience -- Jungfraujoch

Day 10 – Depart Zurich for onward travel

$6,295 USD per person, double occupancy

$995 single supplement

Reserve your place on this tour with a $500 per person deposit

30 May 2024 - 08 June 2024

06 June 2024 - 15 June 2024

20 June 2024 - 29 June 2024

04 July 2024 - 13 July 2024

18 July 2024 - 27 July 2024

01 August 2024 - 10 August 2024 Sold Out

22 August 2024 - 31 August 2024

05 September 2024 - 14 September 2024

12 September 2024 - 21 September 2024

26 September 2024 - 05 October 2024

29 May 2025 - 07 June 2025

05 June 2025 - 14 June 2025

12 June 2025 - 21 June 2025

19 June 2025 - 28 June 2025

26 June 2025 - 05 July 2025

03 July 2025 - 12 July 2025

17 July 2025 - 26 July 2025

31 July 2025 - 09 August 2025

21 August 2025 - 30 August 2025

04 September 2025 - 13 September 2025

11 September 2025 - 20 September 2025

18 September 2025 - 27 September 2025

25 September 2025 - 04 October 2025

Or, book a private departure

Trip Highlights

  • Ride the most legendary alpine railway journeys such as the Glacier Express, Bernina Express, the GoldenPass Line, and along the Gotthard route
  • Travel in first-class comfort in panoramic cars that are air-cushioned and air-conditioned, and on all of Switzerland top scenic rail journeys
  • Experience the legendary Glacier Express as it crosses 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels on an unforgettable journey from St. Moritz to Zermatt
  • Ascend snowy Jungfrau by cog railway to Europe’s highest railway station and overlooking the Alps’ longest glacier

alps trip itinerary

You May Also Enjoy

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Most Scenic Trains in Europe.

Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

Glacier Express

FAQ - Scenic Alps by Rail Tour

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Train Travel in Switzerland

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36 Hours in Turin, Italy

By Seth Sherwood Updated Feb. 1, 2024

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A view looking up at the interior of an ornately decorated dome in a grand building. Sunlight is streaming through windows at the top of the dome.

With the Alps as a background, Turin, Italy’s fourth-largest city, is elegant, photogenic and rich with history. Grand squares and former royal palaces abound in this northern Italian crossroads, nicknamed Little Paris, which was briefly Italy’s first capital after the country’s unification in 1861. And despite housing one of Christianity’s most solemn relics — a shroud believed by some to be the burial cloth of Jesus — the city is awash in earthly pleasures. Both gianduja chocolate and vermouth were invented there, and can be sampled among the historic coffeehouses, chocolate shops and aperitivo bars that line the city’s arcaded shopping boulevards. And especially important in the winter, an ever-expanding buffet of galleries and museums — including one of the world’s largest collections of Egyptian antiquities , a museum of fake fruit and a new contemporary art hub on a rooftop racetrack — offer respite from the cold and food for the spirit.

Recommendations

  • Gallerie d’Italia , a museum that opened in 2022 in a renovated Baroque palazzo, has a collection ranging from medieval panel paintings to contemporary video art.
  • Magazzino 52 offers contemporary takes on Piedmontese cuisine — like a silky veal tartare — and a wine list featuring hundreds of bottles, along with by-the-glass options.
  • Caffè Fiorio , a former haunt of Friedrich Nietzsche, serves excellent hot chocolate in plush rooms of chandeliers and gilded mirrors.
  • La Pista 500 , an oval walkway that was once a rooftop test track for a Fiat factory, offers plants, art installations and Alpine vistas.
  • Piazza San Giovanni , a public square, is adjacent to several historic sites, including Roman ruins, a royal collection of art at Galleria Sabauda and the cathedral housing the Shroud of Turin.
  • Monte dei Cappuccini , a hill with a Baroque church on top, offers photo-perfect views of the cityscape and Alps.
  • Scannabue serves classic Piedmontese comfort food, like tajarin, a local type of pasta, and wines in a homey, lively environment.
  • Fondoo specializes in, yes, fondue (and raclette) in a Scandinavian-minimalist room.
  • Pasticceria Ghigo dal 1870 , an old-fashioned pastry shop, pours thick hot chocolate to drink at the counter.
  • Isola is a bar that displays shelves of vinyl albums and bottles of natural wines, all of which are for sale to enjoy on site or at home.
  • La Cuite is a cozy bar in which to try regional wines next to a wood-burning fireplace.
  • Nikkei , a bar half hidden at the back of Azotea restaurant, serves some of the city’s finest cocktails.
  • Mercato di Porta Palazzo , an amalgam of markets in Piazza della Repubblica, is a lively, fun spot to pick up produce, inexpensive clothing, Italian delicacies, street food and more.
  • Il Balon , near the Mercato di Porta Palazzo, is an outdoor market known for its vintage treasures, from military surplus to cinema seats.
  • Danpol is a contemporary store with elegant, mostly Italian-made clothing.
  • San Carlo dal 1973 seeks out edgy and avant-garde designers of women’s wear and accessories.
  • Agora Boutique Stays , a newcomer from last year, offers nine stylish, individually designed apartments on the atrium-like ground floor of a 17th-century palazzo next to Piazza San Carlo. Apartments in February start at 185 euros, or about $200.
  • Hotel Victoria , also in the center, has an old-world British feel — pale hues, floral-print fabrics, antique knickknacks — and offers two cozy winter amenities: a lobby fireplace and a spa with a sauna and a heated swimming pool. Rooms in February start at €161.
  • Combo is a hostel in a former firehouse. The soaring industrial-chic lobby contains a coffee shop, a cocktail bar and a concert stage, while the mixed private and dorm-style rooms convey a minimalist Zen aesthetic. Private rooms in February start at around €53.
  • For short-term rentals , the Centro, or city center, is your most practical base for historical sites, museums, cafes and shopping. Nearby, to the east, the classy Vanchiglia residential district runs alongside the Po River and offers refined dining and drinking options. Historically working-class San Salvario, south of the center and close to the main train station, is now filled with trattorias, wine bars, cocktail bars and coffee shops.
  • The central neighborhoods, clustered together, are easily walkable. The southern districts like San Salvario and Lingotto are along the city’s lone metro line, which only skirts the periphery of the central historic and commercial areas, making it somewhat impractical. Buses and trams connect much of the city, while taxis can be hired at designated stands or via the app Freenow .

A building lit up in a vibrant, electric-blue color at night.

The Chocolate Lover’s Guide

Indulge for a moment or two by learning more about this most delectable treat..

You may have heard about chocolate’s potential health benefits. But is it really good for you ?

A recent report found high concentrations of cadmium and lead in dark chocolate. There’s no reason to panic, experts say — but it’s worth a closer look .

What is it like to work with chocolate? A chocolate maker in California spoke of his fascination with cacao beans and the tastes he looks for in his products .

Convenience is only one reason to love chocolate chips. They also hold their shape better than bars and deliver more flavor in baked goods, Genevieve Ko writes .

Hungry yet? Try these make-ahead desserts , an unfussy mousse  or one of our most popular chocolate recipes .

Not in the mood for baking? Wirecutter has selected for you the best boxed chocolates .

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Driving in the Alps: Top Tips & Best Routes

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Planning a trip to the Alps? One of the most rewarding ways to experience the magnificent Alps is by driving one of the scenic high alpine passes.  The roads that traverse the Alps are well-known for their twists and turns, high altitudes, and stunning vistas that provide an opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful destinations in Europe.

These incredible high passes provide people with a means of driving through the Alps and moving between Alpine countries. They also provide driving enthusiasts with miles of snaking tarmac across challenging terrain and provide enough adrenalin for even the most daredevil of Alps drivers.

In our driving in the Alps guide, we share the best Alps driving routes, driving information and tips plus things to do and see along the way, to help you plan your perfect road trip through the Alps.

driving in the Alps

Where are the Alps?

The Alps are a mountain range located in Europe, spanning approximately 750 miles in length and 120-190 miles in width, extending from Nice on the French western Mediterranean to Trieste on the Italian Adriatic and Vienna in Austria.

The highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, the Alps were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided, and covers eight countries: France , Switzerland, Italy , Austria , Germany , Liechtenstein, Slovenia, and the tiny principality of Monaco. 

Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,809 meters (15,778 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains 128 peaks higher than 4,000 meters (13,000 ft) above sea level.

driving in thr Alps map

Getting to the Alps

Whether you’re taking a road trip in the Alps by car, motorcycle, or campervan, self-driving is absolutely the best way to explore this spectacular mountain range in  Europe .

You can stop whenever you want, try new activities, visit places you see along the route and have the freedom to change plans at the last minute.

There are several excellent airports to reach the Alps that have extensive, international flight connections. Choose the right airport for your trip to cut down on driving time, and book flights with Skyscanner for live deals and the best prices.

Munich International Airport: Best for the Zugspitze , the Austrian Tirol , Süd Tirol, Ost Tirol and Innsbruck .

Zurich International Airport: Best for Switzerland , west Austria and the Grand Tour of Switzerland.

Geneva Airport: Best for the French Alps and western Switzerland.

Nice Côte d’Azur Airport : Best for the French Alps and the Route des Grandes Alpes .

Venice Airport: Best for the Italian Dolomites and the Julian Alps in Slovenia.

Milan Malpensa Airport: Best for the Aosta Valley, the Dolomites, and southern Switzerland .

You can’t beat these top five Alps airports for flight connections and convenience, but check out the smaller airports of Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Turin for deals if you’re traveling on a budget.

Are you planning to rent a car in the Alps? As one of the largest car hire aggregator companies in the world, we recommend Rentalcars.com because they have massive purchasing power which enables them to secure the best car rental prices, which benefits you when you’re planning an Alpine roadtrip.

For a real adventure, hire a motorhome or campervan. We recommend Motorhome Republic , an aggregate booking site who pull together all the best deals from a number of rental agencies, to offer you a wide choice of options alongside an excellent English speaking expert motorhome Concierge Team.

How about driving from the UK to the Alps for an incredible road trip? Get all the info you need in our driving from the UK to Germany guide .

Best Time for Driving in the Alps

March to may.

Spring is a fantastic time to visit the Alps, with temperatures warming up across the region. Blooming wildflowers, vibrant greenery in the mountains and cows heading out to pasture mean spring is a fantastic time to experience the Alps but many of the high passes will be closed until the snow recedes in late May .

June to August

Driving to the Alps in  summer means you’ll enjoy beautiful weather and the prospect of outdoor adventures and extreme activities. This is when locals and visitors alike head to the mountains and lakes, meaning heavier crowds and more traffic.

The high mountain passes will be open and there will still be snow on the highest peaks making for perfect driving over the Alps conditions, complete with incredible views.

September to November

Autumn is a fantastic time in the Alps. The grapes and crops are being harvested, food festivals celebrate the bounty of the land, and you might enjoy an Indian summer, with the fall colors of the vines aflame.

Don’t leave it too late though, as many of the high passes will start to close as the weather changes – this usually happens in late September to early October , but varies greatly depending on the year.

December to February

The winter months in the Alps are very cold, and most people visit during the months of December to March for family ski holidays in catered chalets. It’s not the best time for an Alpine road trip, as the spectacular mountain passes will be closed due to dangerous weather conditions.

alps trip itinerary

Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when visiting the Alps. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.

Driving in the Alps

The Alps cover eight different countries, which means eight different sets of driving rules! Many rules are the same across Europe, but each country has its own driving and road laws which you need to be aware of, as you may well pass through more than one country on your Alps road trip.

Driving Rules in the Alps

All of the countries in the Alps drive on the right , the same side as the USA, China, Russia, and Canada. Just be aware that the roads are a lot narrower!

You may need an international driving permit (IDP), depending on where your driving license was issued. You can check whether you need an IDP for driving in the Alpine countries of Europe with the International Driving Permit Organisation .

Under EU law,  seat belts must be used in all vehicles . Children over 1.35 m can use an adult seat belt. Those under 1.35m must use equipment appropriate to their size and weight when traveling in a car, like a car seat or booster cushion.

It is illegal to use your phone at the wheel in all EU and European countries. In France and Spain , you may not even use it as a satellite navigation device or with hands-free equipment.

There are general speed limits across Europe , which range from 120 to 130 km/h on motorways, and from 80 to 90 km/h on country roads. You can find a list of the most up-to-date speed limits  here . 

Speed cameras are common in Europe , and may be fixed or mobile. Both types of speed cameras can be visible or hidden, and it’s easy to be caught out, even if you’re over the limit by just a few kilometers an hour.

If you get caught, you can’t avoid speeding fines . If you’re driving your own car there is a data sharing protocol in place which means you’ll be tracked down, and if you’re hiring a car , any speeding fines will end up back with the car hire company, who will simply deduct the fine from the credit card they hold on file.

Most EU countries have different alcohol limits set in their drink-driving legislation which may be different or lower than your home country. It’s best not to drink any alcohol if you’re planning on driving anywhere afterward.

Most European countries, especially those with mountains , have rules about snow tires, snow chains and snow socks. Make sure you check these rules if you’re taking a road trip of the Alps in colder weather.

Some European countries have requirements regarding road safety equipment and may expect you to carry a warning triangle, high visibility vest, and first aid kit as a minimum.

Other than Germany, Lichtenstein and Monaco, all the Alpine countries have toll roads . It’s worth checking at the tolls.eu website before you set off whether toll collection is digital and requires pre-registration, or you’re required to pay by cash or card at toll booths.

Member states of the European Union have a standardized set of road signs, but they may differ from your home country. Check what the main EU road signs look like here . 

Check individual country driving laws and rules with the government of each country here:

  • Liechtenstein
  • Switzerland

Find out more about driving in Europ e with our comprehensive guide. We cover toll roads, low emission zones, urban access regulations, quirky country-specific rules, car hire, insurance, equipment, and documentation in our driving in Europe guide .

Mountain Driving Tips

Before you hit the road, make sure your vehicle is prepared for driving in the Alps. Check all your fluids and tires, but best of all, have a full service before you go.

Check the local weather before leaving, and if the forecast is snow or ice, consider waiting it out, unless you’ve come prepared with winter tyres or snow chains or you’re in a 4WD vehicle, and have some experience driving in these conditions.

Mountain roads are not difficult to drive, especially the well-maintained roads of Europe, but you do need to adapt your driving style and speed for steep inclines and declines, hairpin bends, and narrow roads.

As you approach a steep incline, steadily increase your speed as long as it’s safe to do so. This will give you some power for the climb.

When climbing or negotiating tight turns, use a low gear . This will reduce your speed but give you more power to get up the incline. If it sounds like your engine is laboring, drop it down another gear, but be gentle with the clutch – you’re aiming to balance revs with road speed

As you drop in altitude, don’t ride the brake , shift down a gear instead. If you notice the tell-tale overheating brake smell, pull over and let the car cool down for ten minutes, before gently pumping the brakes to make sure they’re working before heading off again.

Don’t overtake unless you have a clear view of the road ahead. Mountain passes generally have lots of areas of poor visibility and overtaking in these areas puts you and other drivers at risk.

alps trip itinerary

The Best High Passes in the Alps

Exploring the Alps will reward you with stunning natural beauty, snow-capped mountain peaks, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and lush forests. Travel lovers can enjoy the huge range of outdoor activities on offer such as skiing, hiking, and rock climbing along the route.

Col de la Bonette

  • Where: France
  • Length: 48km | 30 miles
  • Altitude: 2,807 meters | 9,209 feet
  • Drive Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • When: June to October

Col de la Bonette is one of the most famous mountain passes in the French Alps, located in the Maritime Alps and Mercantour National Park. It is famous for (supposedly) being the highest paved road pass in Europe, and it offers some of the most stunning views in the region.

Supposedly, because it’s actually not true! Do a quick Google search and you’ll find there is a higher paved road in Europe. The Pico de Veleta in Spain is tucked away between the Sierre Nevada mountains and Almeria, and tops out at a considerably higher 3,369 meters / 11,053 feet.

Col de la Bonette is still one hell of a road though! As drivers climb high into this alpine pass they are treated to panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and glaciers. The pass opens in the summer, due to heavy snow in the winter months, and it is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and travelers looking for the classic alpine chalet holiday experience.

The Cime de la Bonette is the highest point of the Col de la Bonette. From the summit, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape, including the snow-capped peaks of the Mercantour National Park and the glistening Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

The Fort de la Bonette, a military fortress that was built during World War II, is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Col de la Bonette and offers visitors a glimpse into the history of the region. 

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Col de la Bonette is home to several hiking trails, including the GR5 and lots of routes in the Mercantour National Park. Cyclists travel from all over the world to challenge themselves on the steep gradients and hairpin bends of the road.

A visit to Col de la Bonette isn’t complete without enjoying the quaint villages that surround the pass. The town of Jausiers is a popular destination, with charming architecture and beautiful gardens where visitors can enjoy traditional French cuisine and local wines.

RELATED POST: Route des Grandes Alpes: An Epic French Road Trip

alps trip itinerary

Don’t forget your road trip essentials! Our free road trip checklists help you remember everything, including road trip snacks , podcasts , and road trip songs for the journey!

Col de l’Iseran

  • Length: 19km | 12 miles
  • Altitude: 2,764 meters | 9,068 feet
  • Drive Time: 25 minutes
  • When: June to October – on some summer days, the road is closed to all traffic except road cyclists 

On the touristic French Alps driving route, the Route des Grandes Alpes, the Col de l’Iseran is located in the French Alps and connects the towns of Val-d’Isère and Bonneval-sur-Arc, mainly on the D902 road acrossthe Graian Alps.

At an elevation of 9,068 feet, it is the second highest paved pass in the Alps and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s no surprise that this road is known as ‘the king of the Alps’.

A scenic drive along the Col de l’Iseran will allow you to explore the nearby nature reserves, including the Vanoise National Park and the Grande Sassière Nature Reserve. These protected areas are home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and offer opportunities for hiking, wildlife watching, and experiencing the natural beauty of the region.

For those interested in history and culture, Col de l’Iseran offers several interesting landmarks and monuments. These include the Baroque-style church in Bonneval-sur-Arc, which dates back to the 17th century, and the Fort Saint-Gobain, a historic military fort located near the pass.

alps trip itinerary

Col du Mont Cenis

  • Where: France to Italy
  • Length: 41km | 25 miles
  • Altitude: 2,083 meters | 6,834 feet
  • Drive Time: One hour
  • When: The Italian part of the road is open all year, but if you want to do the whole pass, you’ll have to visit between May and October when the French side of the road is also open.

Col du Mont Cenis is a mountain pass located in the French Alps, connecting the Maurienne Valley in France to the Susa Valley in Italy. We would recommend stopping at the Colle delle Finestre, the Col de la Madeleine, and the Lac du Mont Cenis, three popular viewpoints along the Col du Mont Cenis. 

In addition to stopping at these viewpoints for your Instagram snaps, the Grande Traversée des Alpes and the Tour du Mont Cenis cross the route and are two hiking trails that offer tourists stunning views of the French Alps. 

A must-see man-made wonder along the Col du Mont Cenis is Mont Cenis Lake, a beautiful glacial lake located in the French Alps, close to the Italian border. This stunning artificial lake was built on the road between Lyon and Turin following the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Joining the Col du Mont Cenis on the French side will have you leaving the country surrounded by incredible vistas of pine trees. The drive begins with five, famous hairpin bends; a driving experience that brings tourists to these Alpine passes. Narrower roads and lush greenery will announce your arrival to Moncenisio, a metropolitan city in Turin, Italy.

alps trip itinerary

Deutsche Alpenstrasse

  • Where: Germany
  • Length: 450km | 280 miles
  • Altitude: Schwarzbachwacht Pass at 868 meters | 2,800 feet
  • Drive Time: 5 to 6 hours drive time, but we recommend 4-5 days to fully enjoy the route
  • When: The route is best in spring and fall, with late May to June, and September to early October being the very best times to plan a Deutsche Alpenstrasse road trip

The German Alpine Road, also known as the Deutsche Alpenstraße , refers to a spectacular route through southern Germany that explores the Bavarian region’s rich history and beautiful landscape, and crests multiple mountain passes.

Considered one of the most beautiful touring routes in Europe, the Deutsche Alpenstrasse is the oldest tourist road in Germany and winds across Bavaria, closely following the Austrian border. Starting in Lindau and ending in Königssee, you receive unrivaled views of the Bavarian Alps as you pass through Allgäu, the Ammergau Alps, and the Alpine Region of Tegernsee-Schliersee.

If you crave adventure mixed with culture, the German alpine road is for you. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and alpine lakes dotted with traditional Bavarian villages and historic castles and churches, there is a lot to see and do on this iconic route.

No other route provides such a diverse insight into Bavarian culture. Touring along this Alpine route, you will experience historical landmarks, royal palaces, Alpine culture, and outdoor adventures.

RELATED POST: Deutsche Alpenstrasse: Route, Map & Highlights

Deutsche Alpenstraße

  • Where: Switzerland
  • Length: 76km | 47 miles
  • Altitude: 2,430 meters | 9,068 feet
  • Drive Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • When: June to October 

The Furka Pass in Switzerland is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the Swiss Alps. Its role in the James Bond movie Goldfinger has made it an internationally recognized destination and, as you drive around the hairpin turns, you’ll feel like you’re in your own, personal action film!

The Furka Pass connects the cantons of Uri and Valais and, with an elevation of 7,972 feet, it is one of the highest mountain passes in Switzerland, and the stunning views of the surrounding peaks and valleys make it one of the best scenic drives in the Alps. Due to heavy snow at this elevation, the Furka Pass opens in summer, from June through October. 

The Rhone Glacier, located at the summit of the Furka Pass, is one of the largest glaciers in the Alps and can be accessed via a cable car that runs from the Belvedere Hotel. Visitors can explore the glacier on foot to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

The Furka Steam Railway is a historic railway that runs through the pass and is a popular tourist destination. The railway was built in the early 20th century and was used to transport goods and people across the pass. Today, the railway operates as a tourist attraction, offering visitors the opportunity to ride on a historic steam train and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

RELATED POST: The Best of Switzerland in Summer: 17 Amazing Highlights

alps trip itinerary

Looking for the best SIM card deals in Europe for your trip? Check out our guide to the best data SIMs in Europe and get the best deal for your trip to Austria.

Great St Bernard Pass

  • Where: Switzerland to Italy
  • Length: 82km | 51 miles
  • Altitude: 2,469 meters | 8,100 feet
  • Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

The Great St Bernard Pass is a stunning Alpine road that connects Martigny in Switzerland with Aosta in Italy, and is one of the highest paved roads in the Alps, and the highest in Switzerland.

The pass is named after the Great St Bernard Hospice, a monastery that was founded in the 11th century and is at the road’s summit. The hospice was originally established as a refuge for travelers and pilgrims crossing the pass, and it is now home to a community of monks who still provide hospitality and shelter to those driving through the Swiss Alps to Italy.

The road that traverses the Great St Bernard Pass is a marvel of engineering and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

The Great St Bernard Pass offers stunning alpine scenery and an abundance of outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing. Nearby, the Swiss ski resort of Verbier is a popular destination for snow sports enthusiasts enjoying a quintessential alpine chalet holiday.

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Grossglockner high alpine road.

  • Where: Austria
  • Altitude: 2,504 meters | 8,215 feet
  • Drive Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • When: May to October

As one of the best driving roads in Europe , the Grossglockner is a real bucket list driving experience in the Austrian Alps.

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is actually route 107 which connects Bruck with Heiligenblut via the Fuscher Törl at 2,428m and the Hochtor Pass at 2,504m, making it the highest pass in Austria. The high road has 36 turns which snake between glorious alpine pastures, rocky terrain, and wildflower meadows.

At Heiligenblut take the 8km/5 mile drive up to the observation point at Kaiser-Franz Josephs Höhe, where you’ll get fabulous views of the longest glacier in the Eastern Alps, the Pasterze. Once you’ve had your fill of the views (and it might take a while) pop into the Visitor Centre where you can learn all about the glacial landscapes.

The road is not open 24/7 even in summer. From early May to May 31st, the road opens between 6am to 8pm daily. From 1st June to 31st August, it’s open from 5.30am to 9pm, and from 1st September its 6am to 7.30pm. There is also a toll charge of €40 per car. Find out more at the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse website .

RELATED POST: How to Visit Innsbruck in Summer

alps trip itinerary

Klausen Pass

  • Altitude: 1,948 meters | 6,390 feet
  • When: July to October

The Klausen Pass is located in the Swiss Alps and connects the towns of Linthal and Altdorf. The route offers panoramic views of the Uri Alps and the Glarus Alps, as well as the dramatic Klausen Gorge, a narrow canyon that was formed by the Linth River.

At the base of the Klausen Pass, you will find the Benedictine monastery of Disentis, founded in the 8th century and one of the oldest monasteries in Switzerland. We recommend exploring the monastery and its grounds to see the stunning medieval cloister.

Stopping at the town of Linthal is a must when visiting the Klausen Pass! Lintahl is a picturesque Alpine town where visitors can explore the town’s historic buildings, including the Church of St. Maria and the Linth Museum, which documents the history of the region.

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, there are several hiking trails from the Klausen Pass, including the Klausen Pass Panorama Trail, and the Via Alpina, stage 6 of which crosses the route.

If you are enjoying a stay in Zurich, we’d recommend adding the Klausen Pass to your plans. A day trip driving in the Swiss Alps will allow you to experience some of Switzerland’s best Alpine scenery. 

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alps trip itinerary

Nockalm Road

  • Length: 35km | 22 miles
  • Altitude: 2,042 meters | 6,699 feet
  • Drive Time: 1 hour

The Nockalm Road is a scenic mountain road located in the Nockberge Biosphere Park in Carinthia. The road spans 22 miles from Innerkrems to Ebene Reichenau and snakes through the picturesque Nockberge Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO-protected area.

This site is a protected reserve meaning there are no ski resorts in the region, offering visitors miles of uninterrupted idyllic Alpine scenery. This toll road costs €19 per car, per day. 

The Nockalmstrasse offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and it winds its way along 52 turns and numerous more gentle bends through the Nock Mountains, one of the most interesting and oldest low mountain ranges in Europe which form a unique area in the Alpine region because of their geomorphological characteristics. The gentle hills – known as ‘nocken’ give the mountains their name.

There are plenty of designated viewpoints for drivers to pull over and take in the scenery including the Kaiserburg, the Innerkrems, and the Turracher Höhe.

Hiking is a popular activity in the Alps and the Nockalm Road has several hiking trails that lead from the road, including the Nockalm Trail and the Reichenau Trail. Visitors can also enjoy cycling, fishing, and swimming in the nearby lakes and streams. 

The town of Innerkrems is a popular destination for visitors to the Nockalm Road, with its picturesque architecture and traditional Austrian charm. The town is a great place to stop and indulge in Austrian cuisine and wine. 

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alps trip itinerary

Stelvio Pass

  • Where: Italy
  • Length: 47km | 29 miles
  • Altitude: 2,509 meters | 9,045 feet
  • Drive Time: 2 hours

One of the best driving roads in Europe , the Stelvio Pass runs for 47km between Bormio and Prato allo Stelvio in South Tyrol, close to the border with Switzerland, and is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps, after the Col de l’Iseran.

With 60 hairpin bends, 48 of them snaking their way across the imposing peaks of the Ortles-Cevedale chain, the iconic Stelvio Pass is both breathtaking and exacting and does not suffer fools gladly. With switchback 180-degree corners and low concrete barriers, this is a road where you need to pay attention!

On the west side, on the way up from Bormio there are several tight tunnels. Large vehicles can’t pass in the tunnels so there is a traffic light before and after the most critical tunnel with very long wait periods – be patient, it will be worth it!

From the summit, where the famous Ortler view is revealed, the Trafoi windings lead down with superb views of the peaks before descending into the main valley, with the Austrian Zillertal peaks in the main Alpine chain making a fine view.

If you’re looking for a fabulous place to stay, the Hotel Bagni Vecchi on the Italian side is just before the SS38 starts its winding ascent. The hotel is a luxury spa with an outdoor pool overlooking the nearby mountains and makes a great place for the night before, or the night after driving the Stelvio Pass.

Susten Pass

  • Length: 46km | 36 miles
  • Altitude: 2,260 meters | 7,414 feet
  • Drive Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

The Susten Pass, along with the Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass, forms a trio of mountain passes around the village of Andermatt in the heart of the Bernese Highlands, known as the “Big 3” passes of the central Swiss Alps. Each of the passes has its own unique characteristics and together they form an amazing driving experience that is truly unforgettable.

The Susten Pass, considered to be Switzerland’s best mountain pass, has glorious mountain views with 26 epic tunnel and bridge combinations. It’s the most picturesque and eclectic of these three awesome passes – one minute you’re driving through a forest, and the next looking up at the Alps in wonder, before roaring through a tunnel. One of the Susten Pass tunnels even has a waterfall running over it!

Near Innertkirchen, the Susten Pass meets the Grimsel Pass, which in turn connects to the Furka Pass, which climbs the mountains on the opposite side of the valley. Thanks to its lack of blind corners and generally good visibility, Grimsel is one of the gentler Alpine passes, even though it is surrounded by a wild and rugged landscape.

RELATED POST: Most Beautiful Places In Switzerland That You Must Visit!

alps trip itinerary

Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road

  • Where: Austria to Italy
  • Length: 12km | 8 miles
  • Altitude: 2,757 meters | 8,231 feet
  • Drive Time: 45 minutes

The Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road is the name of a scenic drive through the Timmelsjoch Pass or Passo del Rombo which is located in the Ötztal Alps, connecting the Austrian state of Tyrol and the Passeier Valley in the Italian province of South Tyrol.

At an elevation of 8,231 feet, the SS44bis is one of the highest mountain passes in the Eastern Alps and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding snowy peaks and valleys. The twisting road is fully paved and features 60 turns and 30 hairpin turns, with a 12.7% gradient through some of the inclines.

The Timmelsjoch Pass is open to traffic daily between 7am to 8pm during the summer months until October, weather permitting, and offers a range of hiking and cycling opportunities. One of the more popular hiking trails takes you to the summit of Hochfirst Mountain.

The Timmelsjoch Experience is a museum located at the summit of the pass that showcases the history and culture of the region. Visitors can explore the exhibits and learn about the history of the Timmelsjoch Pass and its role in connecting the Tyrol and South Tyrol regions.

alps trip itinerary

  • Where: Slovenia
  • Length: 43km | 27 miles
  • Altitude: 1,611 meters | 5,285 feet

The Vršič Pass is a stunning mountain pass located in the Julian Alps of northwestern Slovenia, connecting the towns of Kranjska Gora and Trenta. With an elevation of 5,285 feet, the Vršič Pass is the highest road in Slovenia and has 50 serpentine bends, 24 on the side of   Kranjska Gora and 26 on the Trenta side.

When discussing the Vršič Pass, it is important to commemorate its history. The road was built by Russian prisoners of war in 1916. 300 of these prisoners died during an avalanche while working on the pass.

A Russian Chapel was built near the summit of the pass in memory of these Russian prisoners and, today, the pass is not only a popular tourist destination but a testament to the lives that were tragically lost.

Alongside discovering the Vršič Pass’ history, we would highly recommend stopping at the Isonzo river. The Isonzo river is a beautiful and historically significant river that flows through western Slovenia and northeastern Italy. It is approximately 86 miles long and is known for its crystal-clear waters.

The Isonzo river played a significant role in World War I, serving as the site of 12 battles between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies, collectively known as the Battles of the Isonzo. Visitors to the Isonzo river today enjoy rafting, kayaking, and fishing. 

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    › Itineraries › Best of the Alps MySwissAlps.com features ads, commercial and non-commercial links The best of Switzerland in 2 weeks: sample route with handy booking list This extremely varied trip includes the famous Jungfrau, cogwheel train rides, cable cars, the Rhine Falls, Zurich and more: the highlights of Switzerland in 14 days.

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    › Itineraries › Hiking in the Alps MySwissAlps.com features ads, commercial and non-commercial links 7-day hiking itinerary in the Swiss Alps, fully customizable 1-week self-guided hiking holiday in the famous Jungfrau Region and the Upper Engadine. Plus: a ride with the Glacier Express. © MySwissAlps.com

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  20. Swiss Alps Travel Guide Resources by Rick Steves

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  24. Driving in the Alps: Top Tips & Best Routes

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