This summer we didn’t want the same old family beach holiday – Tanning on a sun lounger, dozing off to the sound of lapping waves, kids frolicking in the sand. All very nice and believe me exactly what my body craves sometimes, but not this year. Instead I was after some action and adventure. So off we headed to South Tyrol. The land of lush green mountain valleys, bubbling streams, dense forests, isolated villages and snow-tipped mountains all surrounded by the magnificent pink-grey walls of the Dolomites.
A hiking holiday in the mountains with a four and seven-year old is not the first thing that pops into your mind I suppose when you think of a family holiday. Well this post is here to change your mind. Here are seven reasons on why an Alpine summer holiday should be next on your travel hit list!
1. Something different
I’m the type of holidayer who wants to enjoy different experiences, cultures and countries every time I step off a jet plane. Going to the same place year on year just doesn’t cut it for me. I’m always on the hunt for new and unusual ways to spend my hard-earned holiday time. Since having children I’ve been tied to resort style holidays for ease, comfort and quite frankly a god damn break from my mummy chores! Don’t get me wrong I’m by no means knocking the summer beach holiday. From my past jaunts you can see I revel in them as much as the next person. However, I can’t deny I’ve been itching for an adventure and the Alta Badia region in the Dolomites was just the ticket!
Introducing the kids to an activity based holiday and broadening their horizons beyond beach holidays also played a huge part in the decision-making. Although there is always room for both lazy beach and action mountain holidays in my world if annual leave days allow it.
2. Mountain prices aren’t sky high in the summer
Summer in the mountains can be very cost effective! A lot of the luxury ski chalets slash their prices during the summer months. You can bag some incredible bargains, on average accommodation can be 40% cheaper than in winter. We stayed at a charming hotel Rosa Alpina in the quaint village of San Cassiano. It’s home to a two Michelin star restaurant too and we received a fantastic five night deal you can read about here.
And it’s not just about taking advantage of the off-season perks and lack of crowds. For us it was about making the most of the alternate world that’s uncovered once the snow melts.
3. Jaw-dropping scenery
In the summer months the 90,000 acres of breath-taking mountain landscape morphs into a stunning playground for both active types and those just seeking a peaceful and picturesque escape. The white blanket is replaced by vibrant green with thick grass and beautiful wild flowers. The Dolomites are known as the ‘pale mountains’ for their limestone hue. The peaks emerged from the sea as coral reefs millions of years ago. They are widely regarded as the most beautiful mountain range in the world and the area was named a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site in 2009.
On our walks it was like we were on constant rewind of the opening scene from The Sound Of Music, with the blue skies, rolling countryside and faint tinkling of cowbells in the distant. It was our own slice of alpine heaven.
4. Sunbathing on top of a mountain
Well have you? You’re bloody missing out if you haven’t. And believe me there is nothing like resting tired legs on a massive bean bag thousands of feet above sea level surrounded by stunning views. When the sun is out the temperatures can soar to the mid to late twenties on the lower slopes. Being the mountains you can also have some unpredictable weather days, but as long as your prepared with sensible clothing. Even the rainclouds make for a spectacular picture.
5. Little people? No problem…
Many of the chalets are accustomed to catering for younger guests during ski season, so the same applies in the summer too. Most hotels and chalets are fully equipped with cots and high chairs, buggies, children’s bikes, kids menus and so on. Babysitting can be very easily arranged too if required.
Plus you are spoilt for choice when it comes to parks – adventure, trampoline, animal. You name it, they’ve got it. Along with themed child friendly walks. Before you even get to the parks there are chair lifts and cable cars helping you access the various peaks, which will provide no end of fun for your mini hikers. I mean you can’t expect those little legs to climb all the way up the mountain. That would be plain mean!
6. Adventures with your family
We found a walking holiday in the Dolomites perfect for families due to its flexible landscape. Depending on the age and ability of your family you can choose to meander across meadows and woodlands or enjoy more challenging walks. There is something for everyone. The endless list of flattish hikes with easy access, amazing playgrounds, absence of dangerous predators (bonus!) and idyllic rolling hills for the perfect picnic stop makes it an all round hit!
Adrenaline junkies can always try their hand at mountaineering, potholing, mountain biking, skyrunning, abseiling and paragliding. And if that puts the fear of god into you electric bikes are all the rage here, so cycling up steep mountain slopes is a doddle. Plus you’re allowed to cheat. You’re on holiday!
7. Recharge your battery – healthy mind & healthy body
By the time I returned from our mountain adventure I felt like I’d come back with a new set of lungs. I kid you not there’s something in that fresh mountain air or maybe it’s just the biology. Apparently staying at altitude gives your body a natural boost by encouraging it to produce more red blood cells, given the lack of oxygen. So whether you care about running a faster 5k or not – a holiday in the mountains will always makes you feel better.
Plus I think its the first time I’ve come back from a holiday and not put on any weight. With all the glorious food on your doorstep from the mountain huts to the abundance of high-end cuisine available in the Alta Badia, weight gain could be an issue. Not on this holiday. Your super active days will easily burn off those pesky calories – Win Win? Glad we’re agreed!
8. Food glorious, food
The region of Alta Badia in South Tyrol boasts 16 Michelin star restaurants. Considering it’s an area the size of Devon with half its population that’s pretty impressive! I was lucky enough to eat at two of the restaurants La Stüa de Michil in Corvara (you can read my review here) and Restaurant St. Hubertus in San Cassiano (you can read my review here)
The food in the Rifugios or mountain huts is extraordinary too. Diverse menus feature cured meat platters, dumplings, polenta, grills, pizza to pasta. And don’t miss the Kaiserschmarren – shredded caramelised pancakes served with a plum compote and powdered sugar. I could’ve dined on this alone after every hike.
9. Picturesque towns
While the horizon is dominated by majestic mountains the valleys are dotted with picture postcard towns full of flower lined wooden houses, castles straight out of fairy tales and quaint churches.
The hospitality and warm welcome from the people of South Tyrol is incredible. The towns almost create their own magical vibe against the jutting mountains in the background.
10. Unique cultural diversity
You will be greeted with Halo in German and Ciao in Italian. The Dolomites were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but the border lines were ultimately drawn to take them into Italy. Through this melting pot of two traditions the Austrian alpine and Italian dolce vita along with the regions strong Ladin culture, makes this an area unlike any in Italy. Many of the towns and villages often have three names – German, Italian and Ladin. Makes it interesting when driving around and reading the road signs!
If you’re after some action, movie worthy vistas and some healthy air in your lungs the Alta Badia region in the Dolomites is the place for your next family holiday. Trust me, you won’t regret it. We didn’t!
Have you spent summer in the mountains? I’d love to know about your experience. If not have I convinced you to go? Let me know in the comments box below.
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