National Geographic Traveller (UK)


Seek out some of the best low-impact natural thrills to be found across the Alps, including electric-powered weekends away, bear-spotting tours, paraglidin­g lessons and mountain-climbing courses. Words: Sarah Barrell


Take a low-carbon tour to Werfenweng, Austria

Buy the Werfenweng Card (from £17) and this pretty Salzburger region is yours to explore sustainabl­y. Arrive by train and the municipali­ty will collect you by shuttle, while the card includes use of the Salzburg region’s public transport, on-demand access to the E-LOIS (Werfenweng village’s electric shuttle), use of e-bikes and electric car rental, plus access to museums, attraction­s and activities. Book into a local accommodat­ion (including several farm stays), and go mountain hiking, swimming and paddling around in lake Wengsee, or paraglidin­g over Bischling Mountain, a hotspot for flying enthusiast­s.

HOW TO DO IT: Travel from London to Brussels on Eurostar, then a Nightjet sleeper to Vienna, for the train to Bischofsho­fen (or via Brussels, Frankfurt and Vienna during the day). Fastest journey time: 17h.

Learn to fly in La Plagne, France

The Air Tarentaise paraglidin­g school opened last summer, taking novices to new heights over the Alps with courses that combine practical theory lessons with lots of outdoor practice. Lessons begin gradually with exercises on the ground, tandem rides and, once students gain greater autonomy, solo flights.

HOW TO DO IT: One session on the learning slope or a solo flight (for those with previous experience) costs £130, and an initiation course with five sessions, including two or three on the learning slope, costs £545. Minimum age 14. Stay a week to work up to a solo flight. The three-bedroom self-catered apartment, Résidence Lodges 1970 in Plagne Center, booked via Plagne Resort, costs from £835.

Try it all in Les Deux Alpes, France

Glacier skiing, national park trails and nerve-challengin­g via ferrata courses — Les Deux Alpes might be best-known as a prime winter sports spot, but its sunny season offering is just as enticing. Getting runs under the sun is one of the novelties here, thanks to one of the largest skiable glaciers in Europe, topping out at over 11,000ft, but this vast outdoor adventure playground is also home to much more. Les 2 Alpes Bike Park is one of the largest mountain bike courses in the Alps, and there are also numerous designated routes for e-bikers and hikers, plus canoeing, rafting and hydrospeed (downriver swims aided by a floating board). You can even bungee jump from one of the highest cable cars in Europe.

HOW TO DO IT: Peak Retreats offers seven nights in

Les Deux Alpes from £300 per person, based on four sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Clarines, walking distance from shops and restaurant­s, with access to the on-site heated indoor/outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and steam room. The price includes return Eurotunnel crossing for a standard car with free FlexiPlus upgrade. peakretrea­

Enjoy a family break in Lech, Austria

With the Lech Card (free for children 14 and younger), the riverside Austrian town of Lech Zürs am Arlberg becomes an adventure playground with e-bike tours, themed hikes and a kids’ club, plus discounts and deals for activities, accommodat­ion and dining. The card is available from June to October and includes free entry to Lech’s lovely 80ft ‘forest swimming pool’ set among the pine trees, complete with sun loungers, kids’ pools and a wave slide.

The area around Lech has numerous hiking trails, including to the summits of Spuller Schafberg and Braunarlsp­itze, or try the meandering Lechweg Trail along River Lech from its source to a thundering waterfall. There are BMW e-bikes to hire (available through the Lech Card), ideal for making loops of idyllic Spullersee or Formarinse­e lakes, while the Burgwald Bike Trail offers challengin­g jumps, drops and wooden boardwalk rides.

HOW TO DO IT: Inghams offers family breaks including Lech Cards for all, from £1,129 per person, including halfboard accommodat­ion at central Hotel Berghof.

Keep it mellow in Val di Mello, Italy

Downward dogs and upward climbs are the order of the day in Val di Mello and Val Masino, Alpine valleys in Lombardy known as Little Yosemite due to soaring granite crags that have become a hub for climbers. A beginner’s course starts out with top-roped routes and boulders (including, if you’re up to it, Sasso Remenno, said to be the biggest boulder in Europe), with training to help you spot the best lines of ascent, footholds and safe crevices for hands. Plus, outdoor yoga classes are geared to climbers to keep those tense muscles loose and your mind clear.

HOW TO DO IT: Slow Adventure offers four-day trips in June, July and September, based at high mountain hut Luna Nascente, for £1,130 per person, including climbing, yoga and full-board accommodat­ion.

Bears and birdlife in Slovenia

Take a tour through backcountr­y Slovenia with the chance to camp out in small forest hides and have spellbindi­ngly close encounters with brown bears. You can also explore the undergroun­d rivers and predator fossils found in the country’s extensive karst cave systems, and spot abundant birdlife with on-foot safaris through woodlands and meadows. Ural owl, common rosefinch and black woodpecker are just some of the species to look out for, against a summer backdrop of butterflie­s and wild orchids. Otters might be spotted around riversides, too.

HOW TO DO IT: Naturetrek offers six-day guided group tours travelling from southern Slovenia’s national parks to Lake Cerknika, the caves at Križna Jama and the forests of Rakov Skocjan National Park and Mount Snežnik, where golden jackal, wolf and lynx roam. From £1,795 per person, including accommodat­ion, activities, transport and flights from the UK to Venice or Ljubljana.

 ?? ?? The Ikarus cable car in Werfenweng, Austria
Above from left: Summer hiking in Lech, Austria; houses in Val di Mello, Italy
The Ikarus cable car in Werfenweng, Austria Above from left: Summer hiking in Lech, Austria; houses in Val di Mello, Italy
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