The first wisps of wild flowers are sprouting in the Alpine valleys, and soon the snowy mountain peaks will clear to reveal a verdant wilderness hiding beneath. Why not hop in a car this summer to explore this breathtaking scenery, travelling on bracing mountain roads where jaw-dropping views emerge at every turn? We’ve picked three of our favourite Alpine routes to inspire you.
Route 1: Geneva – Morzine – La Thuile
3 countries (France, Switzerland, Italy)
6-9 days (staying in 3 different hotels)
Includes Abondance Valley, Great St Bernard pass and Mont Blanc Tunnel (open all year)
This picturesque road trip takes in three beautiful countries, three gorgeous Alpine resorts and three wonderfully individual hotels. Using motorways for most of the journey, it’s an easy but scenic route, broken down into small, manageable drives each day. This would make a great family road trip; there’s no need to worry about little ones getting too fidgety, and there are so many activities on offer at each stop.
Fly into Geneva, then cross the border into France and weave your way towards Montriond, a charming village close to Morzine. Stay at former farmhouse La Ferme du Lac Vert, a chalet-cum-boutique hotel nestled amongst flower-strewn meadows close to a glistening lake – it’s the perfect introduction to Alpine life.
Cross back into Switzerland and travel towards Monthey, where a remote eco-camp tumbles down a slope in a nearby valley; Whitepod’s igloo-shaped pods are a cosy back-to-nature hideaway to experience glamping, Swiss-style.
Turning south, continue to the Italian Alps, travelling via the 6-km Great St Bernard Tunnel. Head towards La Thuile, and round off the holiday with a stay at super-swish Nira Montana, a traditional wooden chalet with designer interiors.
Make your way back to Geneva, via the Mont Blanc Tunnel, and look out for the soaring peak of Europe’s highest mountain as you pass.
Route 2: Geneva – Morzine – La Thuile – Bourg-Saint-Maurice
3 countries (France, Switzerland, Italy)
9-12 days (in 4 different hotels)
Includes Abondance Valley, Great St Bernard pass, Mont Blanc Tunnel & Little St Bernard Pass (open May-Oct)
An extended version of route 1 (see above), this scenic journey takes you a little further south to incorporate a stay in the Tarentaise Valley. From La Thuile, travel via the Little St Bernard Pass to the tiny French village of Villaroger, where Mineral Lodge is an uber-stylish base for mountain activities. Flaunting contemporary architecture and sleek interiors, this luxurious lodge wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of Grand Designs. Bask in its blissful surroundings before making your way back to Geneva.
Route 3: Chamonix -Zermatt
2 countries (France, Switzerland)
4-5 days (with fantastic 5* hotels to start and end)
Includes Matterhorn views & the stunning Col de la Forclaz pass (open most of the year)
Based on the classic “Haute Route” hiking trail, this iconic journey takes in remarkable mountain panoramas and some of the highest peaks in the Alps. Swap motorways for winding mountain roads and twist and turn your way from France to Switzerland, topping and tailing your journey with stays at top-class hotels.
There are so many activities to do around Chamonix – mountain biking, kayaking and rock climbing to name but a few – so we’d suggest spending a few days in the area before hitting the road. Le Portetta, in Courchevel 1650, is a great base; it’s a cosy, chalet-style hotel with a sunny terrace that opens out onto sumptuous views over the famous Trois Vallées region.
Leaving Le Portetta, head to the Col des Montets, a small mountain road that crosses into Switzerland at Le Chatelard, and then travel over the stunning Col de la Forclaz pass and down to Martigny. It’s not only a spectacular route, it’s also shorter and cheaper than going via the Mont Blanc Tunnel and the Great St Bernard Tunnel.
Zermatt is car-free, so as you approach the town you’ll need to ditch your vehicle and hop on a train to complete the final 5km of your trip – we didn’t call this a “great Alpine journey” for nothing! Conclude your adventure in style and base yourself at The Omnia, a designer hotel with stellar views accessed via an elevator that ascends through 45m of rock.