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An Authentic Alpine Vacation

November 30, 2013

They’ve been sung about by Julie Andrews, written about by F. Scott Fitzgerald and famously crossed by Napoleon’s elephants, and now it is your turn to experience a majestic alpine vacation.

There is much to see and experience in this culture-filled region, so grab your passport and get ready to cross some country lines to see if the hills are really alive with the sound of music.

The Alps stretch more than 750 miles across eight European countries—Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Germany, France, Italy, and Monaco. Tourism is huge throughout the Alps, with nearly 120 million people flocking to see its beauty every year, even though just 14 million people live in the region. To avoid making your trip a cookie-cutter European experience, here are a few ways to get a true Alpine experience:

Stay in a Chalet: Sure, there are hotel and resort chains across the region, but to get the real experience, head to the mountains. Chalets are small mountain homes and allow you to truly experience life in the Alps. If you crave a private, mountain top experience, many locals rent out their homes during the busy months. Take your pick at location, price, and level of luxury, but one thing is certain—those hills will be singing to you and the views will be amazing. Check rental availability at sites like homeaway.com, where you can ready reviews and really know what you’re getting into before you go.

If you’re more of a hotel-goer, many historic old ski lodges have been turned into hotels full of modern conveniences. Again, these dot the Alps countryside, but a popular choice is the Simply Morzaine hotel in France. With chalets across the Alps, there’s no reason not to mix it up and stay in a few different places as you work your way across the region.

Do it the Alpine Way: Tradition still reins in many Alpine villages, with farming, cheese making, and woodworking some of the largest industries. In the Emmental in Switzerland, the wheels of cheese can weigh up to 100 pounds. Many villages will even let tourists in on the fun. Take a tour of some of the best cheese makers across Switzerland to try your hand at the dairy-filled art form and sample some of the world’s finest cheese. A good place to start is Alpenwild’s group or individual tour itineraries.

If you want to try your hand at farming, make a visit to Obersteinberg. The small farm requires a long hike in, but the views and true Alpine experience are worth the effort. Relax, explore, and soak in the sights (and smells) of an authentic Alpine farm.

Festive Festivals: To truly experience the Alps and its people, a festival visit is mandatory. Festivals abound in village and mountain-side towns during the summer and winter months. Traditions vary depending on the country, but typically include wrestling matches, brightly colored traditional costumes, and of course the playing of Alpenhorns. Winter festivals celebrate the snow and include lots of skiing.

La Gorzderette is an annual three-day festival held each January in Champagny-en-Vanoise, France. Want to take a try at ice climbing, hay sledding, or Nordic skiing? This is your chance.

If you enjoy the film scene, the annual Ski Et Toiles Festival on the French ski slopes mixes downhill skiing with independent films. Ski all day and warm up in front of the silver screen all night to see some of Europe’s hottest movies.

Of course, there is always the classic skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking across the Alps. Whether an adventurous outdoor vacation or a relaxing culture-filled journey, a trip to the European Alps will never disappoint. What are your favorite Alpine travel spots? Plan your trip right here on Trekeffect!

-Michelle Kaiser

Michelle Kaiser