On any high level trek through the Alps you are guaranteed sensational views of Europe’s highest mountains, flower-strewn meadows, impressive glaciers and some of the best hiking anywhere in the world, all without the traffic and trappings of the busy world below.
Take this one step further, and travel hut-to-hut for complete immersion in a world of high alpine peaks. On each day you can enjoy the high trails or reach a summit without the need to return to the valleys for food and shelter. Well-appointed and well stocked huts mean that all you need to carry with you are a few clothes and your toothbrush.
Below, KE Adventure Travel have put together their guide on how to experience the best moments in the mountain ranges of Europe.
1. The most dramatic of huts on Europe’s most famous of routes.
Situated at the junction of France, Italy and Switzerland, the glaciated massif of Mont Blanc is circled by one of the world’s greatest and most popular long distance walks – the Tour du Mont Blanc. Taking the high-level option wherever possible, you can traverse passes like the Col des Fours (8743feet) and the Col de la Breya (7877feet) and also hike the stunning Monte de la Saxe Ridge. En route, you can stay in comfortable hotels and lodges and also in dramatically located mountain huts. We recommend a beer or hot chocolate on the terrace of the Bonatti Refuge (make sure it’s at sunset to make your moment extra magical) and the Cabane d’Orny, which has, frankly, some of most awesome mountain views in the world.
2. Walk in Norway’s “Home of the Giants”
The “Home of the Giants”, Norway’s Jotunheimen is the mightiest mountain region in Northern Europe. Untamed and rich with wildlife, you will trek through a wilderness of peaks, cut through by rivers and ice-blue glaciers. The Norwegians excel at everything outdoors and that includes mountain huts; these are certainly not basic establishments. They are fully staffed and serviced mountain lodges providing dormitory accommodation but also restaurants, bars, lounges, drying rooms and showers. One of our favourite huts is the grass-roofed Skogadasboen hut – opened in 1888 it was here that Norwegian mountaineering was born, which makes it a very special place. However, we most enjoy staying at Spiterstulen hut because it’s very close to the Svellnosbrean Glacier which means ‘The Fairytale Ice’ and exploring that is as magical as it sounds.
*Top Tip: Your Norwegian hosts will invite you to ‘fill your boots’ at the breakfast buffet so you’ll have a full lunch box of bread, salmon, herring, ham, cheese, and fruit and salad to sustain you through the day.
3. Switch off in Slovenia’s Julian Alps
Supersize a trip to Slovenia when you venture high into the spectacular Julian Alps – a chain of mountains which straddle Italy and Slovenia. Enjoy an off-the-beaten track journey and spend 5 nights hut-to- hut trekking, traversing in the Triglav National Park (Slovenia’s only National Park) before summiting Mount Triglav itself (9396 feet). A major highlight is the time you spend in the Valley of the Seven Lakes and your night at the Prehodovici Hut, nestled between the lakes. Treat yourself to a bottle of Zlatarog (Golden Horn) beer which is named after Slovenia’s famous chamois (and involves a very long local legend).
*Top Tip: Travel in July and join a special Digital Detox Departure. On this departure you will be joined by like-minded travellers who want to unplug from the modern world and say goodbye to their internet connection for their entire vacation. When you arrive in country, your guide will collect everyone’s cell phone and look after it to the end of the trip. This is of course optional; but if you really want to unplug from reality and engage with your fellow travellers, give the cell a rest, go “off-grid” and totally detox!
4. The Alpine summiting vacation for mere mortals
Kicking off with an afternoon of Alpine glacier skill training at the Gandegg Hut above Zermatt close to the Matterhorn, KE’s Italian High Level Route is the perfect trip for experienced hikers wanting to summit 13,000+ foot peaks. All the mountain huts you’ll stay in are completely inaccessible by regular vehicles. This means that you carry all of your personal equipment throughout the trip. However, the good news is that bedding is provided in all the huts en-route, so you can get your backpack down to around 22 pounds. Our favourite hut is the futuristic Monte Rosa Hut situated almost on top of the Grenzgletscher (Border Glacier). The hut was built in 2009 with a hi-tech aluminium shell which stores power from the sun in batteries and which can fuel a whopping 90% of the hut’s electricity needs. And the views are breath-taking too!
5. Trek in the Transylvanian Alps in Romania
Home to fairy-tales and vampire novels, Romania in Eastern Europe comprises of medieval villages, dramatic castles and wild mountains which are still waiting to be discovered. Dating back to 1382, Bran Castle is the legendary home of Vlad the Impaler, or Count Dracula as he became known, and a must see when you’re travelling in Romania.
However if you like to mix culture with some real hiking, we recommend getting high into the Transylvanian Alps. Here you’ll find Romania’s highest peak Moldoveanu (8346 feet) and the country’s highest mountain hut – the Cabana Omu mountain refuge. The refuge is built on the mountain Omu which mean ‘The Man’. On the way to the hut you’ll hike past the Heroes Cross, which is a towering 36m high and is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the highest summit cross in the world! The mountain huts in Romania are among the most simple in Europe but the locals hosting them are the most welcoming. Making the effort to hike to and sleep in them will truly reward you with one of the most authentic mountain immersions you’ll ever have.
6. Tackle the Haute Route – Chamonix to Zermatt
This is THE ultimate high Alpine, point to point trekking adventure following the Haute Route from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. Taking an uncompromising line from Chamonix to Zermatt, covering 75 miles and accumulating more than 32,808 feet of ascent and descent, you can complete the route in 11 days. You’ll spend 10 nights in classic Alpine huts such as the beautifully perched Cabane de Bertol. Opened in 1898, over its 100 years the Swiss cabin has seen many guardians and has grown in size to now house 80 people over 5 dormitories. It has solar panels on the roof to power lights and wood to fuel the stoves. Pies, cakes, tartiflettes, soup, bread and omelettes are all made on site and stores for the hut are replenished by helicopter and locals who carry up supplied on their backs.
*Top Tip: When you’re spending multiple days hiking from hut-to-hut without the opportunity to shower, we recommend wearing merino wool t-shirts and thermal tops as you can wear them for days without developing a new aroma – it’s the polite thing to do!
KE Adventure Travel – established in 1984, is a worldwide, adventure travel tour operator. They are specialists in small group, Hiking, Family, Cycling, Climbing, Discovery and Polar adventures. All vacations are led by experienced leaders who have an unrivalled knowledge of the areas, cultures and environments in which they work. Go to keadventure.com to learn more about the 88 destinations and 400 active vacations they offer. Call KE’s travel specialists toll free on 1 888 630 4415. 2018 and 2019 dates are on sale now.