With the Winter Olympics currently ongoing, ski-fans everywhere will be considering their next skiing holiday and the Alps are naturally one of the key destinations they’ll consider. But did you know that the Alps are an ideal destination for a great family holiday all year round? Here are some great reasons to visit the Alps for an activity holiday all the family will enjoy.
The Alpine Region
In case your geography is as rusty as mine, the Alps are the highest mountain range in Europe, stretching around 750 miles across eight Alpine countries from west to east – France, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Austria, German and Slovenia.
Two of the best-known mountains are Mont Blanc, the highest mountain which spans the French – Italian border and the Matterhorn in Switzerland.
But the Alps also offer national parks, gardens, castles and spas, as well as the traditional yodelling, cowbells and schuplattein dancing.
Summer weather in the Alps
You might be wondering what the weather will be like in the Alps in summer. Seasoned travellers advise that, in general, the temperature at snowy peaks will be around freezing. At a height of below 1000m, it will be warm and very pleasant if the sun’s out. Early mornings and evenings could be chilly. No matter what the weather, don’t forget your sun protection!
The temperature will vary according to altitude so pack lots of layers for everybody – fleeces, trousers, shorts, t-shirts and good walking shoes. Children would need long-sleeved tops when the sun’s out to protect their skin.
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Beautiful Alpine towns to visit
Why not visit Interlaken in Switzerland, a popular destination for artists in the 19th century. It has a number of Victorian hotels some of which are listed as Swiss heritage sites of national significance. Interlaken today is frequented by backpackers and travellers keen on skydiving and paragliding.
Or then there’s Lucerne, situated on the shore of Lake Lucerne in central Switzerland. It has wonderful views of Mount Pilatus and Rigi and has a number of historic bridges. Chapel Bridge dates back to the 14th Century when it was made from wood and is said to be one of the oldest covered bridges in Europe. Lucerne also hosts a number of annual art and music festivals.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc was the host of the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924 and is a resort area near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. Situated at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps, it’s renowned for its skiing but all year round visitors can take cable-cars up to several nearby peaks with fantastic views. These include Aiguille du Midi above the town, and Pointe Helbronner, across vast glacier fields on the Italian border.Morzine, on the French-Swiss border, is one of the prettiest Alpine villages with plenty of quaint chalet-style architecture, lots of bars and cafes and excellent shopping. The most established Alpine summer resort, there are plenty of fun activities to be had in the surrounding mountains, forests and lakes. Morzine has the largest network of lifts in the Alps, allowing visitors to reach hundreds of miles of biking and walking trails on the same lift pass.
Twinned with Morzine is the pretty mountain village of Les Gets, situated high up in the heart of the Portes du Soleil. It offers a huge variety of both sporting and cultural activities with plenty of chalet-style architecture to see and lots of bars, cafes and shops. The town is surrounded by mountains, rivers, forests, waterfalls and has its own lake. You can discover world-class bike trails, whitewater pursuits, rock climbing, canyoning and adventure parks for all the family.
Annecy in France is located on the northern side of Lake Annecy and hosts the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. It is surrounded by wooded and snow capped mountains and is one of the world’s favourite locations of paragliding. The Paragliding World Cup was held there in 2012. The town also boasts a castle, Palais de l’Isle and the Château d’Annecy.
From December to April, winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and tobogganing are extremely popular.
In summer people come to sight-see the picturesque mountains and enjoy activities such as hiking, mountaineering and paragliding. You can also swim in the alpine lakes if you are willing to brave the cold. Families can also try caving, canyoning and canoeing, and pony-trekking.
Apart from the more traditional sporting activities, you will find newer ones such as mountain biking, carbon-fibre bikes, e-bikes and there are even bike hotels. Everything you could possibly want for a family activity holiday.
You could try white water rafting, kayaking or paddle boarding and, pick the right resort and you will find kids’ clubs, guided walks and aquatic centres, as well as activities such as ice-skating, volleyball and tennis. There are also plenty of festivals for opera, jazz, reggae and film for culture lovers.
Tasty Alpine Food
There are plenty of richly flavoured mountain cheeses and local meats to try, as well as the famous communal dishes of fondue and raclette.
A fondue is a pot full of melted cheese into which you dip crusty bread. The fondue is usually made from a selection of local cheeses and mixed with flour to thicken, garlic and a good slug of alcohol (usually white wine).
Raclette cheese is a semi-firm, salted cheese made with cow’s milk and is eaten warmed from a grill and served with small potatoes, gherkins, pickled onions and dried meats.
If you have a sweet tooth you might like to try tarte aux myrtilles (blueberries), brioche de Saint-Genix (a brioche with red coloured pralines and sugar) or the cake of Savoy served with icing sugar on top and apple jam.
For the grown-ups, there are plenty of drinks to try, such as schnapps, glühwein and local wines and beers.
Great places to stay
Accommodation in the alps ranges from hotels of all standards to gîtes, ski chalets, self-catering apartments and campsites and you are certain to find something to suit everyone’s tastes.
When you book be sure to look out for additional benefits such as free lift passes, walking guides and activities such as white water rafting, and kids clubs run by properly qualified instructors. You may find you need to book these when you make your reservation as they are very popular and places will go fast.
Alpine Fun For the kids
An Alpine summer activity holiday for the family makes a great change from just sitting on the beach.
You’ll find kids’ clubs will offer a wide range of things to do depending on the age of your children.
Little ones will enjoy activities such as scavenger hunts, arts & crafts, den building and swimming pool games. There may also be family excursions to local adventure parks, aquatic centres or rock climbing so that the parents can come too.
Older children will enjoy things like raft building and GPS treasure hunts whilst teens will gain confidence and make friends with activities such as volleyball, football and guided activities like hikes, kayaking, white water rafting, paddle boarding or ice-skating.
The other huge benefit of this, of course, being that mum and dad will get a little peace and quiet and downtime!
There truly is something for everyone on an Alpine summer activity holiday and if, like us, you find yourself getting bored very quickly on a beach, there are certainly plenty of options to keep everyone happy in the fresh air of the mountains.
As you can see, there are lots of reasons to visit the Alps. Would you like to try an Alpine activity holiday in the summer?