An Alpine Summer

Discover europe’s best-kept travel secret.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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Discover europe’s best-kept travel secret.

My Reading Room

Think of the Alps – where does your imagination take you? Off-piste adventures? The thrill of fresh powder? The roaring log fires of aprs-ski? Now picture a sun-soaked hike across the mountains, where the rich greens of the valleys contrast against glistening white peaks and the glow of the sunset as it dances across the water. Welcome to the Alps in summer.

The longest mountain range in Europe is famed as one of the most stunning with varied settings for exhilarating pastimes like skiing and snowboarding. If visiting between May and September, prepare to be greeted by an entirely different facade.

While the snow-capped mountains remain, the air turns fresh and warm and the landscape comes alive with colour and wildlife. Mild temperatures make it perfect for hiking and mountain biking, as well as rock climbing, swimming, kayaking and golf. Combine that with sky-high peaks and sprawling panoramas for an idyllic alpine summer.


The small yet energetic metropolis of Geneva is all about the culture, the architecture and of course, the views. With its dramatic mountain backdrop and chic shops and galleries, this enchanting city on the Rhne is truly endearing, with a number of hotels to match.

Five-star luxury and classic Swiss charm are epitomised at the Mandarin Oriental, Geneva. Its tranquil setting overlooks the water with the Alps on the horizon, with interiors featuring warm tones and art deco style. As the first hotel built in Europe after World War II, it has been heralded as the most luxurious in the city, complete with Michelin-starred dining, marble bathrooms and five-star service.

It’s also in a great position for exploration. A short walk east along the lakefront reveals the Pont du Mont Blanc Bridge, offering a spectacular view of the Alps, the Lake and the 140m-high Jet d’Eau fountain. The landmark that can be admired from most parts of the city, but is most impressive from the bridge, jetty or aboard the public shuttle boats, les Mouettes Genevoises. Look out for a little island called le Rousseau too; named for its statue of prominent former resident and philosopher, writer and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

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On the other side of the bridge is the old town or vieille ville. This ancient labyrinth of quaint streets and historical buildings extends from the Roman marketplace of the Place du Bourg-de-Four, the oldest and most central square in Geneva. Cute coffee shops, restaurants, a Swiss chocolate tea room and souvenir stalls surround a medieval fountain, making it perfect for a mid-morning meander.

Just a few minutes away is the neoclassical St. Pierre Cathedral. Sitting proudly on the site of an ancient Roman temple, it’s worth a visit for the First Century ruins and 360-degree view from the tower. Other examples of Geneva’s medieval past include the Maison Tavel, known as the city’s oldest private residence and home to the Museum of Urban History, and military landmark L’Ancien Arsenal. Contemporary art gallery Quartier des Bains may also be of interest, while those with a penchant for art and luxury watches
may like to visit the Patek Philippe Museum which delves into the
history of watch-making.

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT:  The Mandarin Oriental, Geneva boasts a tranquil setting that overlooks the water with the Alps on the horizon; Caf Calla at the Mandarin Oriental offers health-conscious cuisine; the Mandarin Oriental, Geneva marries five-star luxury with classic Swiss charm.

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 If the sun is shining, stroll down the tree-lined walkway of the Promenade de la Treille in the old town. Originally an observation post and artillery, today it’s a peaceful place from which to admire the Parc des Bastions. This botanical garden is located at the foot of the city, and is the venue for the Festival of Music each June. Also worth a mention is the magnificent rose garden Parc de la Grange, where you’ll find two outdoor theatres that play free concerts during summer.

Outside the old town, visit the United Nations headquarters. Book a guided tour of the Palais des Nations, or explore the 46-hectare grounds (Ariana Park) on foot where peacocks roam freely. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mont Blanc.

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THIS PAGE: The scenic region of Evian is known for its therapeutic mineral water; Htel Royal's airy President Suite. OPPOSITE PAGE: Enjoy sweeping views of Lake Geneva when staying at Htel Royal.


With its pristine waters, fairy tale chateaux and beautiful beaches, the utter majesty of the alpine lake shared between France and Switzerland has rendered it one of the world’s must-sees. known to French speakers as Lac Lman, it is an oxymoronic hive of peace and activity year-round. The warmer months see visitors and locals take to the lake to swim, wind-surf, scuba-dive and wakeboard. Regattas and yacht races run throughout the summer too, including the Tour du Lac rowing race at the end of September, recognised as the world’s longest non-stop rowing regatta.

While Geneva sits to the west, on the eastern side is pretty resort town Montreux, known for its mild climate, lakeside promenade and jazz festival held in July. From there, those travelling north-west may direct their attention to Lausanne, the capital of the Swiss Canton of Vaud. This picturesque municipality is known for its gothic architecture, and as the home of the Olympic headquarters and Muse Olympique. It also sits nestled between two wine-growing regions: la Cte to the west, and the famed Lavaux to the east. The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with breathtaking vineyard terraces of Lavaux. Vines cover the mountainside and quaint, historic architecture frames the view of Lake Geneva.

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Visible from Lausanne on the opposite side of Lake Geneva is the charming spa town of vian-les-Bains. Poised elegantly on the border of France and Switzerland, it has lured royalty and health-conscious visitors to its shores since 1807, when the therapeutic nature of the mineral water was first discovered. Today, Evian water is still hailed for its purity.

It takes over 15 years for rain and melting snow in the Alps to filter through glacial sand before it reaches the aquifer and surges up through the Cachat Spring in vian-les-Bains. Running at a constant 11.6 degrees Celsius, the spring is free to visit and drink from, with its mythical rejuvenating powers drawing thousands of people every year.

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THIS PAGE: The Chamonix valley is also a renowned golf destination. OPPOSITE PAGE: The Nuxe Spa at Hotel Hliopic Sweet & Spa is the perfect place for relaxation aprs-hike or aprs-ski.

Aside from the water, vian-les-Bains’ location on the brink of the pre-Chablais Alps makes it a great base for hiking. Golf too is highly popular, which is largely thanks to the Evian Resort Golf Club at the world-renowned Htel Royal. The 18-hole course is the venue for the esteemed Evian Championship Tournament and the first Major course in continental Europe. With mountains on one side and Lake Geneva on the other, golfers could be forgiven for being distracted by the spectacular vistas.

As for Hotel Royal itself, one of the Leading Hotels of the World, its five-star luxury and grandeur sit atop 47 acres of heartland. From the ornate archways and domed ceilings to the neo-baroque frescoes in the lobby, the hotel has a feeling of utter decadence, proving its worth as a favourite of world leaders throughout history. All three restaurants boast incredible views to accompany the gourmet cuisine, as does the beautiful infinity pool overlooking Lake Geneva.

The hotel is also home to the popular Evian thermal baths, and the sprawling 1,200sqm Spa Evian Source with an entire hydro circuit and aqua gym fitness pool. Their signature treatment is the four-hour Luxury Caviar Signature Ritual, the ultimate in spa indulgence. Products from La Prairie are used throughout, alongside their own luxury range with the rare ingredient of caviar.

The first part of the treatment focuses on the complexion. Lasting 80 minutes, the Ultimate Lifting Caviar Facial nourishes while smoothing, lifting and firming to leave your skin bright and radiant. Then relax into the full body scrub and massage that make up the 75-minute La Prairie Royal Caviar Body Treatment. Mind quiet, skin soft and muscles relaxed; the final step is the Sublime Caviar Hair Treatment served with champagne and caviar. After this kind of pampering, you’ll float out of the spa on a high. The skill of the therapists is evident, and results in a delightful experience.

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Of all the ski resorts in the Alps, Chamonix and Morzine are two of the most well known. They bustle with excitement year round; playing host to weekly markets and festivals, and everything from alpine adventures to hot-air balloon rides, fishing and museums. These quintessential mountain towns are a hub for every type of visitor.

The vast expanse of Western Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, offers a variety of routes, allowing all fitness levels and ability to explore the mountains and marvel at their splendour. Even better, the ski lifts operate throughout the summer providing easy access to hundreds of footpaths and bike trails, which are likely to take your breath away both in altitude and awe-inspiring panoramas.

One to take at a more leisurely pace is the nature ‘discovery path’ atop the Aiguille Rouge Nature Reserve. This biodiverse expanse overlooks the Col des Montets mountain pass and provides impressive views, so keep your camera at the ready. Sunbathing or picnicking next to an alpine lake such as the Chavants Lake at the foot of Mont Blanc is also a highlight.

Outdoor types and adrenal ine seekers are often drawn here thanks to Chamonix’s status as the global capital of mountaineering, and to try paragliding or white water rafting down the Chamonix valley. For the less adventurous, the glass-box cable car allows you to admire the mountain from all angles, and can be a good way to scope out your next hike route too.

As for where to stay, little beats the legendary location of the Hotel Hliopic Sweet & Spa. It’s situated at the foot of Aiguille du Midi lift in Chamonix, the quaint chalet hotel has a homely yet luxurious feel, a subtle addition to the landscape that’s a treat for the eyes and the senses. Large windows and balconies look out on the colossal Mont Blanc, while the works of globetrotting photographer and climber Monica Dalmasso adorn the walls.

At the heart of the hotel is the Nuxe Spa. Dedicated to Zen and vitality, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing treatment using products from the Laboratoire Nuxe, expert in natural-origin cosmetology. Savour the warmth of the sauna or hammam, before an invigorating dip into the ice cave. Just as in the Nordic climes, the ice cave is kept between six to eight degrees Celsius; particularly useful in speeding recovery aprs-hike or aprs-ski. The pool and spa are completely relaxing with low lighting and earthy hues.;;