5 ways to enjoy summer in the Alps
The fun doesn’t stop in Europe's greatest mountain range when the snow melts, says Ben Ross
Ben Ross is Head of Travel at The Independent. He has worked for the paper for over a decade, and began reporting on travel in 2001. Before joining the travel desk full time, he ran The Independent's special projects department. He started his journalistic career at the BBC working for its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.
Tuesday 01 July 2014
You visit the Alps to dress up in lurid ski wear, slug gluhwein and gorge yourself on hot cheese, right? Well, think again. The Alpine summer is the perfect time to enjoy the best of the great outdoors in a setting that comes alive once that coating of white powder has dissolved. And if you must ski? Well, you can do that too – in glorious sunshine.
Walk from Switzerland to Italy
For centuries the 65km Via Spluga was used to transport people and goods between the town of Thusis in Switzerland and the Italian town of Chiavenna, over the dramatic Splügen Pass. A new self-guided package allows you to hike this spectacular route, with your luggage transported ahead of you and the final 48 hours spent splashing about on Lake Como.
Inntravel (01653 617000; inntravel.co.uk) offers the nine-night trip for £1,235pp including B&B, six dinners and five picnics. Flights extra.
Learn to yodel
Yodelling has long been part of Alpine culture. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it involves “a rapid alternation between the normal voice and falsetto”; it was originally used by shepherds calling in their flocks.
Of course you want to try it yourself. New this summer is Austria’s first guided yodel hiking trail, in Mayrhofen. Along the route you stop at eight “designated yodel stations”, in an attempt to perfect your “yodel-ee-ii-ooos!” The trail costs £35 per person and runs on Wednesdays until 31 August. Inghams (01483 791114; inghams.co.uk) offers a week’s half board at the Sporthotel Manni’s in Mayrhofen from £699pp, with flights from Gatwick and transfers.
Enjoy a musical interlude
The Montreux Jazz Festival (montreuxjazz.com) runs from Friday to 19 July, with a wealth of concerts (many free) to choose from. Between the jazz flute solos you can visit the Queen Studio Experience, which opened last December (queenstudioexperience.com) and is housed in the Mountain Studios once owned by the band (free admission). Or head to nearby Gruyères, where the HR Giger Museum celebrates the surreal work of the Swiss painter and set-designer responsible for Alien, who died earlier this year (hrgigermuseum.com; CHF12.50/£8.50).
Thomson Lakes (020 8939 0740; thomsonlakes.co.uk) offers a week’s half-board at the four-star Hotel Vila Toscan in Montreux from £1,035pp, with flights from Luton to Geneva and rail transfers, departing 12 July.
Attempt an unseasonal sport
Yes, there’s still skiing to be had. France’s Les Deux Alpes resort provides access to the largest European glacier used for summer skiing via the Jandri Express gondola. The glacier is open from 7am to 12.30pm daily until 30 August. Peak Retreats (0844 576 0123; peakretreats.co.uk) has a week’s self-catering at the new Au Coeur des Ours residence, which sleeps five. The price of £281pp also includes ferry crossings and six-day glacier ski passes. The pass also allows you to fill your afternoons with other activities, including daily access to the resort’s pool and ice rink, summer toboggan run and lifts at Alpe d’Huez, Serre Chevalier, Montgenèvre or Puy-St-Vincent.
E-bikes are readily available in Alpine resorts, providing powered assistance for those keen to pedal over all that undulating scenery. However, the luxury Tschuggen Grand Hotel (00 41 81 378 99 99; tschuggen.ch) in Arosa, Switzerland, is increasing the voltage by offering test drives in the all-electric Tesla Model S, which can accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in 4.4 seconds.
The car is available from 1 August to 21 September and there is, ahem, no charge for guests. A three-night break at the Tschuggen Grand, including breakfast, two gourmet picnics, costs from CHF1,590 (£1,090) per double.
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