When Pete and I were in high school, on different sides of the country, we both took road trips through Europe. I traveled through France, and Pete took a longer trip to the Alps. I remember him telling me about his time there on one of our first dates. He enjoyed it that much! He told me how friendly and welcoming the residents are, and how it has a sustainable infrastructure with countless experiences in the natural environment. Plus, he knows how much I love trying new foods in new areas, like these 9 must-try dishes through the Alps.
The Alps is the original vacation and travel destination, and good for all age groups. Now that we have been traveling so much closer to home, we are starting to think about a European family vacation, and of course, a road trip to the Alpine nations of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria is at the top of our list. While we would be taking our daughters, the region also makes for an amazing honeymoon or multi-generational spot. Did you know that you can drive through the Alps in under two weeks, and you can also enjoy the route via train and leave the driving to someone else?
Taking a road trip with parts of it explored on a train and driving in other areas seems like the perfect way to me, because then you can sit back and enjoy the sights as you travel from the train and slow your pace down in the car in other areas as you see fit. If you decided to travel by car for all or a portion of your visit, you will be happy to know that the transportation throughout the area is easily accessible with visitor friendly roads that help you get the most of your visit. I have been planning our Absolutely Alps road trip as a whole, and also breaking it down by country and city.
I have been using Pete’s memories from his visit to guide me. Alpine Tourism Commission also has some pre-made itineraries for ease of planning for visitors, and I have picked out a few of my favorite stops along the way to experience the culture, cuisine, and hospitality of the Alps.
For our road trip, we would plan to start in Switzerland and make our way to car-free Zermatt. It is located at the foot of the Matterhorn in the middle of an extraordinary hiking and skiing region. The ski region here encompasses 63 mountain railways and over 220 miles of slopes! It is also known for the 250 miles of hiking trails throughout the Matter Valley. Since we will be traveling with kids, we won’t be able to hike all of those 250 miles, but we plan to explore as many of them as we can. Another thing we have as a must do on our trip while in Switzerland is to ride the cog railway. It operates between Zermatt and the over 10,000-foot-high Gornergrat platform. We can’t wait to take in the breathtaking views of the Matterhorn and of glaciers. This is a 33-minute round trip on Europe’s highest open-air cog railway.
Doesn’t this picture of Matterhorn take your breath away?! Switzerland is so beautiful!
I’m also mesmerized by The Glacier Express. What an incredible view this must have!
Oberhofen Castle, on Lake Thun, is also on our list because I have heard so many people talk about it and its historically significant past. An American even helped secure its place as a museum now. I think the girls would learn a lot from visiting a castle dating back to the 1200s. Next on our trip will be Germany. I know it is also going to be a big memory maker along our road trip through the Alps, whether we decide to drive or take the train. When we are traveling, we try to see as many different sights as possible, so I know that we would definitely want to visit the Black Forest. It is quite the place to see with mountains, breathtaking views, deep lakes and charming valleys. It is also the largest nature park in Germany, and it has an array of health and spa resorts, thermal baths, and delicious regional food along with towns filled with historic architectural treasures.
We would also want to visit Mainau Island to see the hundreds of species of plants and trees that have been planted there. The island is also well known for their positive environmental practices. Plus, we would really enjoy seeing these blue waters.
Our ultimate road trip would wind down in Austria. I would imagine that this part of our trip would be via car. Until I met Pete and heard about Austria from him, I really didn’t know what a rich history the county has, and all the beautiful areas there are to visit. He drove through on a bus with his group, and he really enjoyed all the little towns that they stopped at, so we would most likely want to do the same. One such area that really caught my eye while I have been planning is Tirol. Tirol, which is located in the heart of the Alps and surrounded by majestic mountains, rolling meadows, and picturesque valleys has villages such as Alpbach (likely a permanent settlement for more than 1,000 years). This is another area that I would love to share the long local history with my girls so that they can learn about history where it actually happened.
The cozy homes here are surrounded by flowers and are crafted with bold, natural wood and stone that can easily withstand the rugged environment and its weather, while still blending beautifully into the landscape. I love seeing all the different types of architecture that are region, and climate specific and this seems like a place I would fall immediately in love with! We are also planning to visit Salzburgerland to get a real feel for the people of Austria. It is a place where our girls would love to explore with us through hiking, enjoying the local cuisine and watching the children of the area play in their traditional clothing.
As I plan more of our trip through the Alps, my itinerary just keeps growing. Two weeks seems like a good amount of time to visit, but I could see us easily spending another week and still having more to see.
Because I always feel like the best stories are told by seeing real stories, I’m so excited to share a video of travelers enjoying the “Alps Experience” in the next few months. Be sure to visit me here again soon to see it! Until then, here are the 9 best hidden gems in the Alps and 9 fun facts about the Alps for you to enjoy and learn from!