The hills are alive
Winter brings with it a few certainties: someone will eat all the chocolates except for the strawberry creme, the Bond film on TV will be the same one you watched last month, and the Alps will be full to bursting with holidaymakers searching for the perfect slope. Every year, tens of thousands of seasonal skiers descend upon Europe's most awe-inspiring mountain range to ski, snowboard and generally make the most of the weather - but what happens when they all go home?
It may never have occurred to you to visit the mountains in summer, but the combination of striking scenery and a surprisingly welcoming climate really do make the Alps a perfect year-round destination. Whether your ideal holiday is characterised by sports and activities, gentle walking or just enjoying the view, summer in the Alps is an unusual and memorable way to spend your holiday.
Wherever you go in the Alps, you'll find that huge effort has been put into arranging a wide variety of activities. The region's hoteliers want to attract visitors for the summer, which would constitute peak season anywhere else but is positively quiet in the mountains! This works out well for everyone, as there's plenty on offer for more active families but lots of space and quiet for those who prefer a more restful break. This is just a small sample of the activities on offer.
Since most mountain bikes never see anything bigger than a hill, this is the perfect chance to really get the most out of your wheels! Bike hire, guided rides and specially maintained paths are all available, but experienced cyclists can set their own agenda.
White water rafting, hydrospeeding (like heading down a river on a foam bobsleigh) and canyoning are all available on various rivers, with kayaking generally on offer wherever you can find a lake. There are various swimming pools, including an Olympic sized one in Morzine.
Edmund Hillary climbed Everest “because it's there”, and what more excuse do you need? Supervised climbing and equipment hire are both available - or if you fancy something new, try clambering along a tethered via ferrata route for a safe taste of what it feels like to be a serious mountaineer.
Walking holidays are popular anywhere with a view, but the Alps are uniquely equipped to offer a range of difficulty levels. If you're a hardcore hiker, you can take to the hills for days at a time, sleeping overnight in the well-maintained mountain refuges as you work your way towards a gleaming peak or a distant town.
Ibex in the mountains
For those who prefer a more relaxing walk, many of the ski lifts operate all year round to provide a quick hop up the mountain - in some areas, a multipass costs as little as €1/day. Walkers may find that the best time of year to visit is autumn, which combines the last of the warm weather with the departure of almost all other visitors - you'll find unparalleled peace and quiet as you work your way across the rugged landscape.
Needless to say, the Alps offer some of the best photo opportunities in the world. There are also wonderful opportunities to spot rare animals, from the birds whose song carries between the peaks to the pine martens, ibexes and magnificent lynxes that make their home in the upper reaches of the region.
Where to stay
The Alps offers a huge variety of accommodation to suit all families, holidays and budgets. These recommendations are just a snapshot of what's available.
Lap of Luxury - Hotel Cristallo, Sestiere, Italy
A modern four-star hotel in the small Italian resort of Sestriere, Hotel Cristallo is ideal for a luxurious holiday, a honeymoon or perhaps a trip that combines Alpine walks with a visit to nearby Turin.
Feel at home - Chez Natole, Seytroux, France
Tucked away in a tranquil village not far from the famous ski town of Morzine, this beautifully preserved Savoyard chalet sleeps thirteen and is well-positioned for everything from golf to mountain-biking.
Feel at home - Chez Natole, Seytroux, France
Under the stars - Fernsteinsee, Austria
A well-maintained campsite in the grounds of a castle-turned-hotel, Fernsteinsee makes a perfect base for active families keen to spend every waking moment in the Alpine air.
Depending on where you're headed, you'll typically find that the journey from Calais to the Alps will take between seven and ten hours. If you want to stop off somewhere, Dijon, Besançon and Nancy are all conveniently placed on major French roads heading towards the Alps - if you're heading further south then you may prefer to visit Geneva. For a trip to the German Alps try Strasbourg, just before the border - or Freiburg, just after it. You'll find driving in the Alps is much easier in summer as you don't need to worry about snow gear, but don't forget that you'll still be subject to tolls along the way - £100-£140 should cover your journeys from and to Calais.
If you're used to flying to the Alps, taking a long drive to your resort and then hiring expensive rental skis, you'll be amazed by the ease of travelling in summer with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. There are no luggage restrictions, so you can load up with bikes and camping gear or leave room for some local delicacies. You can pick your own time of day to travel, avoiding the traffic or making the most of the view - trains run up to four times an hour from Folkestone. And with a crossing time of just 35minutes you won't waste any valuable holiday time! Wherever you're heading in Europe, only Eurotunnel Le Shuttle can give you the flexibility to plan your holiday, your way.
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