I’ve never been skiing. It’s something I feel the need to admit to people with shame and remorse. When I do, it’s normally met with a cross between pity and suspicion. How could you live so close to the Alps and not partake in this obligatory winter outing? Do you have no sense of adventure? What do you talk about in January?

The truth is, I’d love to go skiing someday. But in January, my goal is not to spend more time in the freezing cold, my goal is to find some sun. To head as close to the equator as possible and defrost before getting back to the UK just in time for autumn. So, heading over to the Alps to ski has never really fit into the schedule. But what does regularly feature in our travel plans is summer in the Alps. For a European getaway, you can’t go past the fresh mountain air, exhilarating walking, quirky food and incredible scenery of the Alps in summer.

But the Alps covers so many countries and so much territory. How do you choose where to go? Here are some of our recommendations for a top summer in the Alps for other non-skiers.

SUMMER IN THE ALPS / OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN THE FRENCH ALPS FROM CHAMONIX

With arguably some of the best alpine scenery we’ve ever encountered, Chamonix is an ideal place to spend a summer in the Alps. Yes, it’s a skier’s paradise, but it also has a treasure-trove of outdoor activities. Hiking, mountaineering, white water rafting, and mountain biking are all on offer. If you need to relax after being so adventurous, the areas thermals spas will do the trick.

The real highlight of this region is the view from the top of the Aiguille du Midi – the closest you can get to Mont Blanc without actually doing it. The journey in the cable car is exciting enough – rising to over 3,800m – but the scenery from the summit is simply breath-taking. In our opinion – with the highest peaks in the Alps on show – it’s the best, easily accessible, single view in the Alps.

Furthermore, there’s a whole host of walking options in the natural parks within the French Alps. One excellent walk takes you along the Grand Balcon du Nord to the Mer de Glace – a hike that’s not to be missed if you’re in the area. Another of our favourites is the energising hike up to Lac Blanc with impressive views back across the valley to the Mont Blanc massif. It takes a brave man to swim in the lake, even in the middle of summer, so that didn’t happen.

The walking paths connect with the various cable car stations, making the French Alps around Chamonix very easy to do without a car. As the habitat for many protected species, the natural parks also offer great wildlife viewing.

UPSIDE
  • Best mountain view of the Alps from the top of a cable car
  • Good variety of hiking on both sides of the valley
  • Great for adventure sports
DOWNSIDE
  • Chamonix is beautifully set, but otherwise, it’s not our favourite village in the Alps
SUMMER IN THE ALPS / THE BEAUTIFUL BERNESE OBERLAND & GRINDELWALD AREA

The Bernese Oberland, set in the heart of Switzerland, is quintessential Alpine scenery. Picture perfect Alpine villages, perched on precipitous ledges, dot the rolling green meadows. Snow and ice crested mountains with vertiginous faces stand proud against the most dramatic of Alpine valleys. This is Alpine scenery at its very best. The type you’ve no doubt come across while scrolling through your Instagram feed.

The jewel in the Bernese crown is the spectacular Jungfraujoch train. The journey winds its way up to 3,400m – the highest train station in Europe – through rock between the Mönch and Eiger mountains. It’s another world up here. Completely covered with ice, rock and snow, you’ll need to pack some extra layers to cope with the temperature difference between the valley floor and the mountain peaks, even if it is summer in the Alps.

Not to be outdone by Jungfraujoch, cable cars whisk you up the dramatic views from Männlichen and Schilthorn. If you’re looking for a more carefree journey, ski-lifts allow for legs to dangle as you head to some of the best ridge walks in the Alps. But for a vista that will have you grabbing for your smartphone, you can’t go past the spectacular Lauterbrunnen Valley. The steep gigantic rock sides of the Lauter Brunnen – or “many fountains” – is home to 72 cascading waterfalls. You’ll also get a glimpse of the North Face of the Eiger, the iconic mountaineer climber’s challenge.

The impossibly beautiful town of Lucerne, also nestled in the Bernese area, is known for it’s very well preserved medieval architecture. Here’s our favourite list to help you decide what to do in Lucerne.

The transport network is excellent in the Bernese Oberland / Grindelwald area, with trains, cable cars and funiculars all working in perfect harmony.

UPSIDE
  • The stunning scenery of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains
  • Lauterburnnen valley - the most beautiful we’ve seen in Europe
  • Magnificent Swiss villages and chalets perched on precipitous ledges
DOWNSIDE
  • Switzerland is expensive – time for that second mortgage
SUMMER IN THE ALPS / THE ICONIC MATTERHORN & ZERMATT

Yes, it’s not exactly a traditional town and yes, it’s full of tourists year-round. But Zermatt is a great place to base yourself to experience the rest of the Swiss Alps. It’s impeccably cute, full of wooden houses, cuckoo clocks and rösti. It’s also ideally situated in the base of a beautiful valley underneath the tower of the iconic Matterhorn. Despite the heavy number of tourists, the no-car zone keeps Zermatt feeling slightly local and more relaxed than it otherwise would.

Take the cog railway up to Gornergrat where you’ll pass Swiss forests, mountain lakes, rocky ravines and beautiful old bridges. Once at the top you’ll be presented with 29 mountains over 4000 ft and the incredible Gorner Glacier. A number of fantastic walks leave from here. You might even be able to spot the wild ibex hanging around the viewing platform, posing for tourists.

No summer in the Alps including Zermatt would be complete without taking the cable car up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, tackling the Hörnlihütte walk. Read all about our experience on this walk. Additionally, the Aletsch Glacier is a necessary stop on any trip to the Swiss Alps. The glacier is best viewed from Eggishorn where the 2212-metre-high viewpoint offers a stunning glimpse of the 23-kilometre-long glacier curving around a corner. From here you can take one of the many walking paths curling around the mountain or experience the thrill of paragliding over amazing scenery. There’s also a fantastic mountain-bike path stretching all the way back down to the cable car station at the bottom.

UPSIDE
  • The exhilarating walk up to Hörnlihütte and views from Gornergrat
  • The extensive public transport makes getting around easy without a car
  • The amazing sight of the Aletsch Glacier as it meanders down the valley
DOWNSIDE
  • Zermatt is tucked under the valley wall, restricting views form the town
  • It’s an expensive place – time for that third mortgage
SUMMER IN THE ALPS / INSTAGRAM WORTHY SCENES IN THE AUSTRIAN TYROL

The Austrian Tyrol region offers a different side to the Alps. The peaks are less dramatic, but the rolling hills, alpine flowers and picturesque lakes will have you singing along to the Sound of Music soundtrack playing in your head. Innsbruck is a great cosmopolitan city to base yourself in. From here you can walk in beautiful alpine scenery, climb steep rock faces or try your hand at a game of golf. All this makes Austrian Tyrol a great destination for a summer in the Alps.

The Lüsens – Westfalenhaus hike is a 5km circuit with an ascent of 638 metres. It’s a fantastic walk that showcases some of the best variety this area has to offer. The walk starts above Innsbruck and meanders through a beautiful native forest beneath the rock face of the Lüsener Fernerkogel. There are a number of rifugios to stop at and feast on some traditional Austrian sausage and generously sized beers.

In this part of the world, most tourists make a beeline for Hallstatt, home of Instagram greatness. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Perfectly positioned between lake and mountain, Hallstatt – with its iconic church – was made to be photographed. Dating back to the iron age, Hallstatt has been beckoning tourists ever since. When you run out of things to do in town – and this won’t take long – explore some of the fantastic lakes and intriguing ice caves in the area.

UPSIDE
  • Rolling hills, open spaces and a Sound of Music scenery
  • Cosmopolitan Innsbruck and the very pretty Hallstatt
  • Excellent, but easy walks in rolling alpine countryside
DOWNSIDE
  • More foothills than big hills and less dramatic mountain peaks than other areas
  • The Austrian food scene can get very repetitive
SUMMER IN THE ALPS / SURPRISE WILDCARD OF THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

The Italian Dolomites didn’t appear on our Alps radar for quite some time. We always thought we’d get there someday but – in our mind at least – there were more impressive sights to see in the Alps first. But in many ways we were wrong. The Dolomites really won us over. While they don’t have the grandeur of the snow-covered French peaks or the pulling power of the Swiss Alps, they are spectacular in their own way and a great choice if you’re looking for somewhere to spend summer in the Alps.

The highlight of the Italian Dolomites is the rolling green meadows punctuated by dramatic limestone crags, which come alive in beautiful shapes and colours. The early morning and late afternoon light is spectacular for budding and pro photographers alike.

The diversity of the landscape offers fantastic walking opportunities. Whether you’re circumnavigating the mighty Sassolungo massif, struggling your way up to the Vajolet Towers or staring at Tre Cima, this is a place packed with amazing hikes. The mountains in the Dolomites are lower than their French and Swiss counterparts so you can bask in the added smugness of actually getting to the top of many of them. There’s no greater satisfaction than earning your view.

If you’re more adventurous than us, you could try Via Ferrata. The “iron route” is a way to get inexperienced climbers off the hiking path and up a rock face. Essentially a wire cable is connected to the rock which you clip into to stop from falling off. There are a number of Via Ferrata’s in the Dolomites, none of which we tried.

The last, and possibly best, bonus of the Dolomites is the huts. The Italian mountain rifugios are fantastic. I lost count the number of times we ate great food and downed a well-earned beer while staring at stunning scenery from inside an atmospheric rifugio. All for around half the price of their Swiss counterparts.

UPSIDE
  • Rolling hills, open spaces and a Sound of Music scenery
  • Cosmopolitan Innsbruck and the very pretty Hallstatt
  • Excellent, but easy walks in rolling alpine countryside
DOWNSIDE
  • Not as high as other alpine areas so a little less dramatic and less remote
  • Public transport links are not as good so a car is necessary
SO WHERE WOULD WE GO AGAIN?

If budget isn’t your top criteria, the Bernese Oberland is a stunning destination with quintessential Alpine scenery; it’s our favourite destination to spend summer in the Alps. Close on its heels is Chamonix and the stunning views from the Aiguille du Midi. However, for real value for money and truly great hiking, the Dolomites was a revelation for us. The delicious food, atmospheric rifugios, impressive scenery and superb walking has us planning our next trip already.

The Unofficial Anywhere We Roam Best of the Alps Awards

Best Overall Scenery

The Lauterbrunnen Valley backed by Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau

Best Single Viewpoint

View over the needles from top of Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix

Best Value For Money

The Italian Dolomites

Best Transport Links

Bernese Oberland

Best Hike

The Sassolungo circuit in the Italian Dolomites

Best Rifugio

Rifugio Dreizinnenhütte, Tre Cime, Italian Dolomites

Final Note:

All the areas listed in this article are not actually far apart. Getting between them takes about 3 to 5 hours, so why not combine a few in one go. As always in the mountains, you’re at the mercy of the weather.

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