A landscape full of mirrored lakes and emerald valleys, the Alps offer more than 80,000 square miles worth of stunning elevations, slopes and wonders to discover.
Many spectacular moments of history have passed through this rolling landscape in the centuries covering Celtic and Roman settlers through today. The list includes Hannibal crossing the Alps with a herd of elephants, Napoleon traversing mountain passes in front of an army of 40,000 and the celebration of several Winter Olympic Games.
This is where the horned mountain ibex guards from cliffs, mountain flowers poke up from limestone and writers and artist seek solace. It’s all waiting for you in the Alpine villages that remain untouched by time. In fact, you can traverse many trails that will bring you to places where people rise early to make their livings through farming and woodworking in these hills that echo sounds of nature and music.
Are you feeling inspired to hike among the fragrant edelweiss flowers on your way to an under-the-radar destination in the Alps? Get your mountaineering boots ready to go off the beaten path in the Alps because we’re looking at undiscovered Alpine destinations!
Yes, spots like Rome, Venice and Florence get lots of attention due to their gilded domes and awe-inspiring ruins. However, anyone’s who has been to Italy a few times knows that you can’t wrap up your trip without sneaking away to an old-world village in the Italian alps! Luckily, most tourists are completely unaware of what is waiting in the mountains.
Take a look at the best undiscovered Italian villages in the Alps.
Klausen: Located Along the Dolomites Panoramic Trail
Klausen is what you’re looking for if you have a remote Italian village on your mind. Nestled in a steep valley in the Alpine Dolomites, Klausen is famed for its narrow, winding roads lined with beautiful homes and churches. The outskirts of town are shaped by lush chestnut groves and sprawling wineries.
The must-do activity while staying in Klausen is a hike up to a Benedictine nunnery perched on a mountaintop just beyond town limits. This stunning landmark was settled by the nuns of the Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg in 1687. Klausen is a truly Medieval Italian town with architecture and customs that seem to exist outside of time.
You’ll find Klausen tucked away in South Tyrol. It is located roughly 12 miles away from the South Tyrol capital of Bolzano. You can pick up a portion of the 37-mile Dolomites panoramic trail in Klausen to continue on to reach Lajen for some of the best views and most unusual rock formations in the region. The route is dotted with Alpine huts serving up tasty mountain dishes!
Arco: Situated Adjacent to Brenner Pass
Stunning Arco in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region is shielded from the outside world by a barrier of limestone cliffs. The glorious Arco Castle guards the town below from its steep limestone throne located just opposite from a valley clothed in citrus orchards. The commune of Arco is an ideal spot for those with wanderlust due to its position right at the mouth of Brenner Pass.
Arco’s position makes it a point of convergence for Germans and Austrians crossing the Alps into Italy. You can fill your itinerary in Arco with a windsurfing adventure on nearby Lake Garda, a rock-climbing excursion or a tour of the 15h-century sanctuary and convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Via Ferrata Colodri is Arco’s most famous trail. However, ropes are required to make a journey that includes vertical passages and large boulders that ultimately lead to world-class views of Lake Garda and Arco’s neighboring villages.
Brenner Pass will be right at your back door to open up the Austrian Alps for you!
Unending lakes and blue skies that seem to go on forever can make it easy to forget that you’re in a landlocked country when visiting Austria. Get ready to hear Bavarian dialects echoing through Ice Age valleys as you climb through the majestic Austrian Alps. Here’s a look at the best places to get lost in nature in the land of “The Sound of Music.”
Rattenberg: Located in the Tyrol Region of the Alps
Nestled in a steep Alpine valley tucked between the Inn River and a castle-topped fortress, Rattenberg is Austria’s smallest town. Rattenberg features a pedestrian-only, Medieval-style town center full of glass shops and cafés selling sticky cakes. You’re likely to catch a live glass-blowing session when you step into Rattenberg’s center after a morning climb to the town’s old castle ruins. Rettenberg is a town that’s worth checking out if you’ll be hiking through Tyrol along the Eagle Walk.
Alpbach: Located in the Tyrol Region of the Alps
Alpbach is considered to be the prettiest village in all of Austria by those who know the country well. In fact, it was officially voted “Austria’s Most Beautiful Village” by Austrian television viewers back in the 1980s.
Alpbach is a village that stays very close to its farming roots. In fact, the 105 farms that were in working order here 100 years ago still stand! Also known for its ski resorts, Alpbach has gone to great lengths to preserve the architectural traditions that give it a distinctive Alpine soul. You’ll notice beautiful wood chalets with colorful flower boxes pinned to their sides as you explore this village in the warmer months. Alpbach offers lovers of the outdoors more than 155 miles worth of bike trails. You can make the trek up to the summit of Gratlspitze Mountain by starting in Alpbach’s town center.
Next, we’ll move to the beautiful hiking and ski spots peppered within the French Alps. What’s better than nibbling a croissant while looking out over Alpine peaks that pierce the sky like nature’s handmade Eiffel Towers during a holiday in the French Alps? Let’s take a look at some of the best French retreats in the Alps!
Megève: Located 45 Minutes West of Chamonix in the Mont Blanc Portion of the Alps
Rural meets designer in Megève. This is a quiet, secluded mountain village that attracts upper-crust society. You’ll notice ski chalets and beautiful farms that seem perfectly planned for the landscape when you roll into Megève. This is actually by design.
The village was built as a “planned” resort for the French aristocracy during the 1920s. The Domaine Évasion Mont Blanc skiing area within Megève is considered to be the fanciest ski resort in the world. Summers in Megève bring opportunities for golfing, hiking and cycling. You’re really choosing your own adventure when it comes to planning where to hike when checking out Megève. In fact, the village is especially famous for being a gateway to a number of waterfall hikes. The list includes the Creux Saint Jean Waterfall and the Belle au Bois Waterfall.
In addition, hiking and sightseeing can be enjoyed at Lake Javen and Moulin Contant. Journeys through the Alpine pastures surrounding Megève offer charming views of farms, stony bridges and old millstones.
Beaufort: Located in Savoie in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region
Beaufort is a stunning little village located within the Beaufortain mountain range. The village is actually set against the Arêches-Beaufort ski resort. This village’s history dates back to pre-Roman times.
Beaufort is best known for being where Beaufort cheese originated. Yes, you’ll be able to pick up fresh, unbelievably delicious Beaufort cheese as you explore the pastures and bakeries in this quaint village. This delicious Alpine cheese is a firm variety made of raw cow’s milk that is similar to Gruyère.
While Beaufort stays very true to its agricultural and livestock roots, this mountain town also features just a touch of glitter that stems from its history as a prosperous mining town. Beaufort is a perfect spot for picking up a trail along Cormet de Roselend. This is a beautiful, high Alpine pass in the Savoie region that connects Beaufort with Bourg-Saint-Maurice in the Tarentaise Valley. The pass has been included in the Tour de France a total of nine times since 1979. Cormet de Roselend became a part of sports history when Johan Bruyneel disappeared over a ledge before quickly climbing his way back to safety during the 1996 Tour de France. Adjusting your route just a bit when hiking Cormet de Roselend can bring you to treasures that few ever see. For instance, you should mark your map to make a detour to a stunning reservoir called Lac de Roselend along the pass.
Slovenia is a land of glacial beauty set in Central Europe that covers about as much space as the state of Massachusetts. It is famed for its Alpine peaks, lakes fed by hot springs and world-class ski resorts. Of course, getting off the beaten path for a bit in Slovenia can make you feel like you’re in an undiscovered simulation so beautiful that it could only be created by pixels. Let’s explore the unexplored Alpine villages of Slovenia.
Bohinj: Located in Upper Carniola
Nestled in the Julian Alps, Bohinj is your best bet if you’re looking for a secluded, low-key place to set up camp for a hike in Triglav National Park. While quiet, Bohinj is a popular starting point for visitors setting out on excursions and day trips in the Bohinj Valley.
Bohinj offers plenty of natural attractions that should keep you tied to the village for at least a few days. The biggest draw is Lake Bohinj. This glacial lake is actually Slovenia’s largest permanent lake. It is fed by multiple streams that create intriguing walking and hiking paths. Tourists who come to explore the lake in the summertime can enjoy swimming, kayaking and fishing.
The fact that Bohinj has largely been secluded throughout history adds to the feeling that you’re “discovering” a hidden jewel in the Julian Alps. However, the stunning Bohinj Railway route creates a nice passageway for tourists seeking a very easy and beautiful pathway between Slovenia and Italy.
Bovec: Located in Slovenia’s Soca Valley
Located near the border with Italy, Bovec is a mountain retreat enclosed by the towering peaks of the Julian Alps. The breathtaking Soča River flows through this village under the shadow of Mount Kanin. One can follow routes through the neighboring Trenta Valley to enter Triglav National Park.
Bovec was largely overlooked by tourists until quite recently. However, tourist stops in quiet, secluded Bovec increased after filmmakers took advantage of its surreal landscape to film scenes for “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” The list of attractions to mark on your map if you’ll be setting up camp in Bovec include Boka Falls, Kanin Ski Resort and the Kanin circular cableway.
Bovec also happens to be a great place to settle for bit if you’re planning to cover UNESCO’s Walk of Peace trail. Beginning in the Soča Valley, the trail brings you through more than 142 miles of stunning landscapes set aside to honor the losses spanning from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea during the First World War. The Walk of Peace trail brings you through Slovenian and Italian territory peppered with a total of six outdoor museums. While the trail is well-defined, it’s still important to prepare with proper gear and directions before taking off from the Soca Valley.
The Hidden Alps Are Waiting
It’s impossible to cover the hundreds of secluded villages nestled in the emerald hillsides of the Alps. However, the villages covered here offer a nice cross section of the history and great trail access that can be found when you step just outside of the larger resort towns in the Alps. All of these villages give the best of both worlds because you will feel worlds away from civilization while still enjoying easy access to the mainstream trails and attractions that brought you to Europe.