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The Alps

Explore Europe's Most Beautiful Surroundings.

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The Alps
Photo courtesy of Alps Europe
By Susan Breslow Sardone

An escape from summer's heat, these gently rolling hills, fragrant fields, sun-dappled lakes, and snow-capped mountains at the roof of the world await your discovery.

Visit the Alpine Countries>

Part 2: Austrian Alps
Part 3: German Alps
Part 4: Italian Alps
Part 5: Swiss Alps
Part 6: Alpine Cuisine
Part 7: Alpine Spas

After the snow has melted on the pastures, summer's lush greenery emerges and sounds of songbirds fill the Alpine landscape. It's also the moment when the region's picturesque places and sparkling lakes come alive again, ready to welcome you in the season of fun and festivity.

In Upper Austria, northern Italy, Germany's Bavarian and Black Forest regions, and across Switzerland, there's a town for every taste, from quaint mountain villages to glamorous international resorts. In sophisticated lakeside cities you can take a refreshing swim -- even drink the water -- and later rendezvous at a restaurant by the shore.

Easy access via international gateways makes travel effortless from one country to its neighbor. Clean, fast, modern trains offer impeccable cuisine, service, and world-famous panoramic views. You can circle most lakes on bike or on foot. At Lake Constance -- bordered by Austria, Switzerland, and Germany -- boats dock at sites around the lake that reflect the exceptional culture of each country.

The Sporting Life

There are activities for everyone, from beginners and spectators to championship-level competitors. Hiking the unspoiled Alps allows you to challenge yourself on endless trails. At trail's end, pamper yourself with comforting amenities.

You needn't scale the highest peaks to enjoy the freedom found in the silence of the woods, the romance of a walk under a full moon, or the pleasures of a picnic on a sunny meadow.

Like to bike? The home of numerous World Cup stops, bike shops, and monster downhills conveniently reached via trams, funiculars, and gondolas, the Alps give mountain bikers a unique opportunity to ride the world's most exciting terrain.

Hang-gliders, hot-air balloonists, and parasailers take to the skies for unparalleled Alpine vistas. On water, savor the thrills of sailing, canoeing, white water rafting, and windsurfing. On land, golf, tennis, and horseback riding facilities enable active vacationers to perfect their skills.

There's a Place for You

Spa resorts, with their soothing waters and healthful treatments, rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit. Inns, huts, and refuges also dot the Alps, offering lodging, friendly greetings, and hearty fare. Imagine yourself in a chalet? Interhome offers a choice of 20,000 vacation homes in 15 European countries that can be booked online.

Best of all, an Alpine vacation can be surprisingly affordable, especially with a package deal. And this year's introduction of the Euro has eliminated the confusion of exchanging currency in multiple countries. So reward yourself with an extraordinary Alpine vacation that adds European flair to the delights of summer -- and enjoy nature's bounty in the world's most beautiful surroundings.

Getting There

You needn't be a mountain climber to experience the thrill of crossing the Alps. At points where Austria, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland meet, border crossings are often as smooth as traveling from state to state. Plus, you can do it your way: On foot or on skis, by train, bus, lake cruiser, bike, or rental car. And every time you cross, it's an opportunity to experience the food, culture, and people of another country.

Throughout history all types of individuals have made their way across these magnificent ridges. The Smugglers' Museum in Switzerland offers testimony to bygone days when border-hoppers frequently bypassed the law.

Efficient, clean, and modern trains are the main means of transportation between cities today. Rail Europe's Eurail Selectpass entitles passengers to unlimited first-class train travel within three adjoining countries. There are 17 to choose from, and each of the Alpine nations participates in this program.

For fun, bike or hike across borders; you can send your luggage ahead. If you care to drive, secure an International Driver's License before leaving home. Car-rental companies are located at airports and in key railroad stations, major cities, and resorts. Cruising by boat is perhaps the most romantic way to discover Alpine lands and culture. On a visit to Lake Constance, you can actually cross three countries in just two hours' time.

Visit the Alpine Countries>

Part 2: Austrian Alps
Part 3: German Alps
Part 4: Italian Alps
Part 5: Swiss Alps
Part 6: Alpine Cuisine
Part 7: Alpine Spas

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