In general, picking a place to travel requires compromise. Either you choose exhilarating adventure activities or serene beauty; deep-rooted culture or cutting-edge infrastructure; fine food and wine or family-friendly dining options. But then there’s the rare place that has it all — a crowd-pleaser in every sense of the term.
Europe’s Alps are one of those crowd-pleasers. Spanning multiple countries and distinct cultures and featuring some of the world’s finest gastronomy and hiking trails, the Alps have impressed travellers for centuries.
In this article, let’s explore a short guide to the Alps, answering some common tourist questions. Where should you go? When should you go? And what should you pack?
Pack your merino wool clothes and hiking boots — and let’s get started!
Where to Go
There are a hundred and one ways to divide the Alps. Geographers divide them along political boundaries, seismologists along fault lines, and geologists divide them according to distinct sub-ranges.
To provide a simple overview, let’s discuss the alps by country:
- The Swiss Alps: the quintessential European Alpine experience, the Swiss Alps contain high, snow-capped peaks and quaint mountain towns. If you associate yodelers and free-roaming dairy cows with the Alps, chances are you’re thinking of the Swiss Alps.
- The French Alps: the main attraction here is Mont Blanc, a towering peak popular with skiers, hikers and luxury travellers.
- The Italian Alps: spanning much of Northern Italy, the Italian Alps are notable for their rich cultural towns, fantastic food and twisty highways. (Seriously, the Italian Alpine highways are famous with European motorists and “gear heads”).
- The Julian Alps: The lesser-known sister of the Alps regions above, the Julian Alps are a relatively hidden gem. They are mainly in Slovenia (a lovely country in its own right) but spill over into northeastern Italy as well.
Pick one of the regions above for a focused trip, or travel between them to get the full Alpine experience.
What to Pack for Clothing
What you pack for a European Alpine trip will largely depend on what season you visit, as the climate in the Alps can fluctuate wildly throughout the year. (More on the seasons below).
Having said that, certain materials fare well year-round in the Alps – like merino wool. A merino wool shirt, for instance, is sweat-wicking and breathable in the summer, but forms an insulating base layer in the winter. The best travel shorts for summer are undoubtedly merino wool, because they are antibacterial and stay fresh for days (sometimes weeks). And for those same reasons, merino wool underwear and socks are perfect year-round.
In addition to merino wool travel clothing, pack a sturdy pair of hiking boots, sunglasses (driving through the Alps means fighting against intense sunshine and snow-reflected glare), and a seasonally appropriate outer jacket (like a rain shell or winter coat).
When to Go
Luckily, there’s no wrong season to visit the European Alps. Your decision when will be entirely contingent on what you’re looking for.
Do you and your family want skiing, snowboarding, snowy forest treks and roaring fires at wooded chalets? Book a winter trip to the Alps.
Or are you looking for moderate heat, verdant hills (like in The Sound of Music!) and warm weather activities like hiking and biking? Book a spring or summer vacation.
Hopefully, this short guide helps you book your next adventure to the Alps. For more information, visit regionally specific travel websites, or check out this blog for more information on the countries listed above. Happy travels!