Adventure travellers have long been lured by majestic peaks around the world. Whether it’s trying to summit them or simply wanting to gaze up in awe of them from below, holidays in and around mountains offer up unique travel experiences.
There’s cuddling up next to a fire after a long day hitting the winter ski slopes or taking in fresh clean air with the scent of wildflowers while hiking during the spring and summer months. Mountain getaways can cater to adventure seekers or those simply want to escape the city and possibly technology to enjoy a more therapeutic holiday.
While Australia may be blessed with a number of beautiful mountain ranges including the Australian Alps, Blue Mountains, and Snowy Mountains, there’s no denying a number of other countries offer up some truly astonishing mountain ranges which are definitely worth highlighting.
Here are some of the top destinations for enjoying a truly memorable mountain getaway.
You’ll find Europe’s most iconic mountain range in Italy, although to be fair it does share the Alps with a number of other nations including France, Switzerland, and Austria just to name a few. Arguably some of the most beautiful peaks can be found in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Dolomites which make up a portion of the Southern Limestone Alps.
You can try summiting Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s tallest mountain or simply settle into one of the many lovely quiet mountain villages where cuisine made from fresh local produce abounds. Exploring the Italian Alps by train is another option or you may wish to rent a car and enjoy a scenic drive along Stelvio Pass in the Ortler Alps.
There are a number of popular winter ski resorts including Courmayeur which is touted by many to be the best all-round ski resort in Italy. It also happens to be where Saussurea can be found, Europe’s highest alpine botanical garden.
Meanwhile, Bormio hosts the annual Alpine Ski World Cup and Madonna di Campiglio offers up an impressive 150 kilometres of ski runs.
Of course, when we talk of the Alps, we must also include the Swiss Alps. Popular alpine villages abound throughout the country, many being accessed by trains and cable cars. The Swiss Alps can also claim to have a great majority of the Alps’ tallest peaks including Dufourspitze, the Dom, and the Matterhorn.
Many skiers dream of one day hitting the fresh powder of the Swiss Alps and in resorts like Zermatt which offers the highest winter sports area in the Alps, one can enjoy winter skiing year-round. Half the fun is taking the largest 3s Calbleway in the world to the Matterhorn Glacier.
Other great ski destinations include St. Moritz which has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, as well as the very instagrammable Grindelwald. You then have Mount Pilatus overlooking Lucerne which offers up a scenic the cableway and cog-railroad.
The Bernese Highlands is where you’ll find the very beautiful Interlaken, where trips can be had on the funiculars or the Schynige Platte Railway. There are also a number of beautiful alpine lakes including Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.
The US is blessed with a number of mountain ranges from the East Coast to the West Coast, attracting both domestic and international visitors in large numbers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina border and is said to be the most visited national park in America.
The Great Smoky Mountains sit within the Blue Ridge Mountains and can be accessed via cities like Asheville which is located near a number of main entrances to the park. Enjoy waterfalls, elk herds, and over 100 kilometres of the Appalachian Trail which bisects the park. There’s also the famous 750-kilomtere Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive with countless attractions along its route.
Out west, you then have the Rocky Mountains which stretch roughly 4,800 kilometres from north to south, taking in famous national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier NP where wildlife flourishes. Bears, moose, mountain goats, wolves, mountain lions, and bison are just a small sampling of the animals that can be observed.
Year-round outdoor recreation abounds in the Rockies, with fishing, hiking, camping, skiing, snowmobiling, and mountain biking being some of the most popular activities. You’ve likely heard about several of the more famous ski resorts such as Breckenridge, Aspen, or Vail.
And it doesn’t end there. Up in Alaska. you have Denali whish is North America’s mightiest peak. Here, you can seek out Alaska’s answer to Africa’s Big 5 animals. These include the moose, Dall sheep, grizzly bear, caribou, and the grey wolf. There’s incredible hiking and camping opportunities, as well as horseback riding, white water rafting, and ATV tours in the backcountry.
Meanwhile, back in the lower 48 states, the Sierra Nevada Mountains offers up the chance to visit famous national parks like Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon.
A trekker’s dream, Nepal is home to the Himalayas and can claim 80% of the world’s top 10 highest mountains. One of the world’s greatest challenges can be tackled here, that of course being to attempt to summit the mighty Everest.
Many others simply choose to reach Everest South Base Camp or try to summit Island Peak or Mera Peak if they lack the experience or funds to conquer Everest. Both these peaks can be trekked without prior mountaineering experience and offer equally as impressive views.
You could also opt for a scenic flight over the Himalayas or give mountain biking a go in Shivapuri National Park where Himalayan black bears and Indian leopards roam. In Kathmandu, feast on Newari cuisine and visit various temples and stupas.
Whenever planning a high-altitude holiday, always consult your doctor to assess your health and fitness level. It’s also worth mentioning that your travel insurance policy may only provide full coverage for hiking and trekking that takes place below a certain elevation.
You may still be covered for medical expenses below 6,000 metres which would include Everest Base Camp but may be excluded from any personal accident or personal liability insurance depending on your policy. You may require specialty insurance for climbing anywhere above 6,000 metres.
Now heading over to South America, Peru is easily one of the most popular mountain holiday destinations in the Western Hemisphere for travellers thanks to the Andes. This is of course largely due to the famous Inca Trail trek that leads to the UNESCO-listed, 15th-century Inca citadel known as Machu Picchu.
While many people are well aware of Machu Picchu, another site equally as impressive can be reached from outside Cusco as well. The more remote Lost City of Choquequirao is another example of well-preserved Inca city ruins which takes a generous trek to reach but can be more rewarding due to less tourism.
The Andes provides countless mountaineering activities and unique experiences, whether it’s trekking the Cordillera Huayhuash and Cordillera Blanca or exploring Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake where you can witness the Uros Floating Islands and totora reed boats
Other famous locations worth a visit include the magical Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain which is famous for its multi-coloured hillsides that are best observed under clear skies. Peru is also home to some of the deepest canyons in the world including Cotahuasi Canyon and Colca Canyon where giant Andean condors can be observed.