Hiker on Tour du Mont Blanc Alternative route

Things to Know

Adventuring in the Alps

Each mountain range around the world presents its own unique challenges and adventure character, and the alps are not excluded. The alpine region in the Alps begins at 1,800 meters, or 5,906 feet and stretches up to the highest point at 4,809 meters, or 15,778 ft. That is approximately 3,000 meters, or 10,000 feet, of above-tree-line adventure territory. Here are a few things to know about adventuring in the alps:

  • Don’t judge a peak by its altitude. Although tree-line in the alps is lower than the city of Colorado Springs in the U.S., the alpine environment begins at 1,800 meters and should be respected as such.

  • Bring cash with you on your day tours. Trail descriptions and hiking guidebooks often include a description for coffee break possibilities right alongside the length and elevation gain of the tour.

  • Unless you are off-season, expect to be sharing the beauty of the alps with many other adventure lovers.

  • There many signs on the trails in the Alps. Hiking signs give time instead of distance to destinations, and cycling signs typically give distance. 

  • Steep mountains mean steep trails and pretty, green mountains mean frequent rain and sometimes slippery trails

How to Adventure in the Alps

Via Ferratas: Via Ferratas or “iron roads” are routes through the mountains that are protected by a steel cable and often use the aid of fixed ladders and other equipment added to the route to provide foot or hand holds. Adventurers secure themselves by attaching their harness to the steel cables using a via ferrata set, which consists of two specially designed dynamic lanyards with locking carabiners at the end of each. Via ferratas vary in difficulty from requiring little technical skill to overhangs with technical climbing moves. All Via ferratas require a head for heights. These iron playgrounds are located all over the alps and many villages fund their construction in order to boost tourism. Via ferratas should only be experienced with the proper gear (helmet, harness, via ferrata set and gloves) and knowledge of how to use the equipment and the various risks associated with a via ferrata. Even experienced climbers should do some research on via ferratas and the gear before attempting them on their own. For those who do not have any climbing experience, hiring a guide is highly recommended.

Bicycle Touring: Bicycle touring is not unique to the alps, but the Western Europeans have invested so much into cycling infrastructure, that it really is something special. Even those without a lot of cycling experience should consider a bicycle tour in order to reach a perfect balance between culture and nature; with the added bonus of a good calorie burn. Bicycle tourists in the alps are treated to experiencing the culture of the small villages, with an occasional larger city along the way. Many of the tours are on paved and gravel bike paths or little traveled farm roads, avoiding large roads as much as possible. Tour are usually well signed out (except in one or two key locations).

Rodeln or Schlitten: Both words here translate to “sledding,” but this word does not do the European version justice. In winter, many curvy and somewhat steep forest roads in the mountains turn into official, or unofficial sledding, runs. These runs are often multi-kilometer and fast, requiring steering to stay on the run. Most ski resorts have one or two of these sledding runs that are served by lifts, while most of the runs are accessed simply by walking up with the sled. This is fun and adrenaline filled, and is a great way to descend following a winter summit, or for non-skiers to enjoy the snow.


English is spoken widely in the alps, although it can be challenging to find English-speakers in remote villages in both Italy and France. Here is a summary of the languages spoken in the countries where tours are offered.

Germany: German

Austria: German

Switzerland: German, French, Italian

France: French

Italy: Italian, except for the state of Sued Tirol (South Tyrol), which speaks German

Lichtenstein: German

Slovenia: Slovenian


Alpenventures UNGUIDED’s tours are offered mostly in the Eurozone, with the exception of Switzerland, which uses Swiss Francs. U.S. dollars and Euros are widely accepted in Switzerland, although change will be given in Francs. Check with your bank, but most will find it best to withdraw money directly from an ATM in the destination country, rather than using an exchange service.

Cash should be carried at all times. Many restaurants, and even groceries stores, do not accept credit cards. It can even be difficult to purchase a train ticket unless you have bills as small as 10 € available.

We recommend downloading the XE Currency App prior to your adventure in the alps.

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