Places to Explore in the Alps

This page is created for expatriates and foreign military personnel who are living in Europe and looking for adventure ideas. These are some of our favorite places to adventure, and even a few of our favorite day tours. Please continue to check back, as this list will grow over time.

Upon arrival, look for a tourist information office, usually signed out with an i. They often provide great information regarding things to do in the area, and even maps. Some may be closed on Sundays.

Mendel Pass, Italy

Towering 1,100 meters (3,609 ft.) over the neighboring state capital Bozen in Sued-Tirol, Mendel Pass offers family-friendly adventure year round. Also referred to as Mendola Pass, the dramatic cliffs that drop away from the pass could fool anybody into expecting challenging terrain on the trail. But just the opposite is true. Atop this pass sits a fantastic network of trails that are accessible year-round. The huts are family-friendly, and close together, making a hut to hut tour with children more than feasible. In addition to great trails, this area offers a ski lift in the winter, adding variety to any winter vacation. The highlight of the area; however, may be the sunshine. This side of the Alps sees more sun and a lot less rain, than the mountains to the North.

While you are there, we recommend summitting the Roenspitze at 2,116 m. The summit can be reached however you like – on a via ferrata, rock climbing, via mountain bike, skis, snowshoes, or just simply with your hiking boots. Make sure to leave time for a meal, and possibly an overnight, at the Ueberetscher Hut in summer, or the neighboring Rifugio Malga di Romeno..

Oberstdorf, Germany

Oberstdorf marks the shortest drive to the Alps for those living in the Kaiserslautern, Wiesbaden & Frankfurt areas. Although the mountains here are relatively low compared to the rest of the alps, they do not lack the dramatic terrain that the Alps are known for.

In summer: Oberstdorf is great for hiking, via ferratas and is home to beautiful mountain huts. The Hindelanger Klettersteig (via ferrata) is reachable by gondola and is technically not very challenging (although on a ridge and very exposed). There are several huts in the area. Check out: Fiderepass Hut, Mindelheimer Hut, Enzian Hut and Schwarzenberg Hut.

In Winter: Oberstdorf has 128 km of slopes and 76 km of cross country ski trails, plus endless snowshoe opportunities. Although busy in the winter and often booked full, Oberstdorf is smaller in size compared to many of the other large ski resorts in the Alps, which gives it a more local feel. There is a great ice climbing wall near Oberstdorf that has a couple routes that can be set up with a toprope.

Before you go, you may want to consider purchasing the Oberstdorf Kleinwalsertal map, available on our map page.

Tip: Oberstdorf is located in the Allgaeu region, which is famous for cheese.

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, located fairly central in Switzerland, is an adventure epicenter. The famous Eiger Northface, part of the Jungfrau Group, towers over Interlaken and its neighboring valleys. Even better than Interlaken, are the charming villages in the neighboring valleys, such as Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald and Adelboden. The village of Wengen is perched on the side of the mountain along the train tracks that climb up to base of The Eiger. Wengen in winter is very special, as none of the roads are plowed, and visitors travel through town often on skis and sleds. 

Summer: Some of the most common activities include hiking, via ferratas, boating, mountaineering and paragliding. For the less active, a train ride up to the Top of Europe (expensive) goes up through a glacier. There is also plenty of shopping, or lifts and gondolas to enjoy. Via ferrata recommendations include the Murren Klettersteig, which is technically extremely easy, but has some very exposed and breath-taking features, in addition to the Rotstock, which is right next to the north face of The Eiger. Just a short drive out of town, you will find the spectacular Kandersteg-Allmenalp Via Ferrata, complete with a unique twisting latter.

Winter: There is no shortage of winter activities in the Jungfrau Region. As expected, ski slopes are abundant. There are several cross-country ski trails in the region, although the trail in Grindelwald is, arguably, one of the best. There are also several winter hiking and snowshoe trails.

Before you go, you may want to consider purchasing the Jungfrau Region Map, available on our map page​.

Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany

Garmisch Partenkirchen, at the base of the highest peak in Germany and near the Austrian border, has a lot to offer the adventurer. The impressive ski jump is evidence of the Winter Olympics that took place here in 1936. Garmisch has something for everybody - a beautiful lake, gondola and train options for the less active, shopping, hiking trails, mountain biking trails, via ferratas and more.

Summer: At the top of the list for things to do in Garmisch is to climb the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze. There are several ways to do this. One of the most exciting is through the Hoellentalklamm (Hell Valley Gorge), with an optional overnight at the Hoellentalanger Hut, and up the via ferrata (C-difficulty level, but later in the year when the glacier is small it can be tricky to transition back to the via ferrata) which includes a short glacier crossing (crampons required). Another option to climb the Zugspitze is through the Rhein Valley, which begins through yet another spectacular gorge, the Partnachklamm. This route is not technically difficult, although long and with a lot of elevation gain. An overnight at the Rheintalanger Hut is recommended. Another great via ferrata is on the Alpspitze. This is said to be suitable for beginners (who take the time first to learn what they are doing), and can be relatively easily accessed via a gondola. A great hiking day trip is up the Kramerspitze. Shorter, but definitely not less spectacular, day excursions include the Hoellentalklamm access from Hammersbach,or the Partnachklamm access from the ski jump.

Winter: Garmisch Partenkirchen is, of course, a very popular skiing destination. For cross-country skiing and snowshoeing enjoyment, we recommend heading a valley north to Ettal or Oberammergau in the Ammergauer Alps.

Before you go, you may want to consider purchasing the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Map, available on our map page​.

Oetztal, Austria

The Oetztal in Austria is an absolute adventure paradise. Home to Ötzi the Iceman (a pre-historic man found in the area, believed to have lived around 3,300 BC), the communities in the valley have pulled together to offer world-class adventure. The free information available in the tourist offices is of the highest quality we have seen. Even free information about the various climbing areas is detailed as any climber could hope. The Oetztal is one of our favorite adventure spots, and we keep going back over and over again!

Summer: Let's start first by talking about Rock Climbing. There are 20 different designated rock climbing areas (Klettergarten) with about 750 different bolted, sport climbing routes. The climbing areas we have visited were all well equipped with new and secure bolts. Now we will talk about Via Ferratas, many of which are accessible with a short approach. They are all very well equipped. Our favorites include the Stuiben Fall (suitable for beginners) and the Lehner Wasserfall. For a more vertical challenge, the more experienced can check out the Rheinhard Schiestl Via Ferrata. There are too many good hiking trails to mention. For those interested in a little more adrenaline, I recommend contacting Sport Camp Tirol for guided rafting or canyoning tours. The Auerklamm is a classic, and extremely fun canyon, but a guide is recommended even for those with desert canyoneering experience due to some of the potentially hazardous water currents.

Winter: In winter, the Oetzal is home to great downhill and cross-country skiing. Imst, just outside the Oetztal is a skiing area with a great european style sledding run. European style means riding a lift up with the sled and then flying down a curvy, snow-covered forest road. Wear a helmet!  The neighboring valley, Pitztal, has world-famous ice climbing.

Before you go, you may want to consider purchasing the Oetztal and Pitztal Map, available on our map page​.

The Sellrainer Mountains

For those looking to indulge in the beauty of the Alps without the crowds, the Sellrainer Mountains should be high on your list. It is hard to understand why these mountains that are so close to Innsbruck and accessible by public transportation with trails that are very well maintained are not more crowded. The huts in the area are close enough together that it is possible to do a hut-to-hut with short hiking days, making a multi-day tour possible for families or those just beginning their outdoor lifestyle. Many huts are also open in the spring, facilitating an amazing and rare snowshoe hut to hut (check out our Winter Hut Tours).

Great day hikes in the Sellrainer Mountains usually include an uphill hike to one of the many huts and enjoying lunch on their patio. A great day hike is to the Westfalenhaus from Luesens. The drive to Luesens in and of itself is an absolute treat. Another great day tour is to the Potsdamer Hut. This is just 1.5 to 2 hours (depending on your chosen route) from Gasthaus Bergheim in Sellrain.

Before you go, you may want to consider purchasing either the Stubaier Alpen Map or the Stubaier Alpen Sellrain Map, available on our map page​.

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