Once the ice thaws, the snow melts and the last few powder pros jet off home, the Alps change their tune. Queue a Disney-style montage of woodland animals emerging from cosy cocoons and meadows of wildflowers unfurling in the sun and you’ve got yourself the Alps in summer. From Switzerland’s Matterhorn Glacier Trail - which, for those opposed to too much change, will be relieved to know always has a smattering of snow on its peak - to the natural waterslides and frothy basins of Méribel that demand you to jump right in, the Alps are the ultimate destination for adventure aficionados. The best reason to visit the Alps in summer though? No one else really thinks to. In our book that alone is reason enough to go. But if you do need further convincing to go against the grain and swap your snow boots for walking boots, we have you covered…
There’s no such thing as off season in the Alps. Sure, there’s no après-ski in July, but it seems criminal to describe a season defined by its storybook scenery – think verdant valleys, glistening peaks and alluring lakesides – as anything but ‘on’. And if the mountain range’s annual undressing is anything to go on, visiting the Alps in summer has quickly become one of the hottest travel trends of 2022. Of course, the Alpine’s sunny season is no secret to our continental cousins, but with fewer crowds of snap happy tourists (which can easily be found down the road in neighbouring Geneva, Milan and Lyon), it just means there is even more opportunity to get to know the Alps’ quieter towns and charming traditions. From the small Italian town of Aosta, which is sure to boggle minds with its Roman ruins and ancient architecture, to the wonderfully weird traditions of montane Switzerland that include Alpine cows decorated in flower garlands and local village men dressed as bushes, the Alps have quietly and discreetly proven themselves to be a holiday destination of many talents.
Choosing a summer holiday destination for the whole family can be an arduous task. With the little ones still dreaming of Disneyland and the older ones after anywhere that’ll look good on Instagram, you can often find yourself drawing a blank. That’s where the Alps step in. From wellness retreats high above France’s Rhone Valley and quaint lakeside resorts-turned-Hollywood-film-sets in Switzerland to epic adrenaline-fuelled hikes, zipline, biking and paragliding adventures across the region, there is something for every age. And if you’re after something you can do all together, look no further than Annecy – southern France’s wild swimming wonderland. The cleanest and warmest (reaching 24°C in high summer) lake on the continent, you can expect days to be spent admiring surrounding clifftop castles that give Cinderella’s a run for her money, floating in the still water and popping in a traditional Savoyard restaurant for traditional fondue.
Home of charcuterie, raclette, tartiflette and älplermagronen (Alpine-style macaroni and cheese) as well as 475 types of cheese in Switzerland alone, the Alps are the ultimate cheese connoisseurs. Sample family favourites in rustic bistros nestled in the foothills of the Matterhorn and indulge your tastebuds in drool-worthy gastronomy at contemporary Alpine restaurants. While in winter you may enjoy these delights inside a cosy restaurant, in summer your setting may look more like a balmy terrace overlooking valleys of grazing cattle, accompanied by the distant sounds of tolling church bells. If you’re after absolute opulence though, may we re-introduce you to St Moritz? The original winter wonderland, known for its designer boutiques and continual string of famous faces, it also boasts some of the best Michelin-Star restaurants and secret local spots, such as Veltlinerkeller, that’ll be ready and waiting after a long day hiking in the hills.
The Alps aren’t often associated with their wildlife – probably because most mountain creatures tend to spend the popular snowy season hibernating in slalom-shouldered forests - but they should be (especially as the region boasts one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in Europe). And with over 830 remote Alpine areas free of human interference (hooray), the Alps’ 30,000 animal species make full use of the warmer weather to let their hair down and go, dare we say, wild. From the reckless Ibex, which repeatedly toys with death on vertigo-inducing cliff edges to the famous Alpine marmot, which – if you’re lucky – will briefly rise from its slumber to say hello, the Alps in summer, as you will discover, are the gift that just keep on giving.