Eco Holidays in the Alpine Pearls
The Alpine Pearls is a collection of 27 beautiful alpine areas bordering Europe's largest mountain range across six countries.
From towns and villages steeped in tradition to magnificent national parks and nature reserves bursting with wildlife, each of the Alpine Pearls encourages sustainable activities, from biking and mountaineering to llama walks, guided torch-lit night hikes and mountain railways.
Those without a head for heights will have lots to keep them entertained: wallow in Switzerland’s crystal clear lakes, go on a gourmet break in Italy, absorb the sights by horse and carriage in Slovenia, explore the salt mines in Germany. Children, too, are well catered for: there’s emerald digging in Slovenia and treetops to swing through in adventure parks.
And the best bit is you won't have to touch your car all holiday – the Alpine Pearls are pioneers in carbon-free travel: there are e-Bikes to borrow, free shuttle services, segway tours and electric boats to get you around the region.
Dr. Peter Brandauer, president of Alpine Pearls (pictured), says: "Alpine Pearls is a one-of-a-kind network in the Alps. We aim to give visitors a unique and unforgettable holiday in breathtaking landscapes whilst also preserving the natural environment.
"Travelling in the Alpine Pearls is stress free and environmentally-friendly way to discover the picturesque beauty and rich culture of the Alps. We want our guests to leave feeling invigorated, inspired and empowered having enjoyed and embraced our green principles.
"Each destination offers a variety of different soft mobility options, whether going car free, trying out an e-Bike, exploring the Alps on a hike, horseback or mountain bike, we believe that getting around in climate-friendly ways can enhance visitors’ experiences and encourage a more adventurous and memorable trip."
Here is Green Traveller's Guide to the Alpine Pearls in each of the six countries:
The Alpine Pearls, Germany Soak up history and heritage, indulge in some relaxation on a spa break or head into the Alps for exhilarating mountain pursuits – the spa town of Bad Reichenhall and the Berchtesgaden National Park cover all bases.
For over 150 years, people have flocked to Bad (meaning ‘bath’) Reichenhall to enjoy the town’s healing saline waters. But there’s more to this delightful Bovarian town than thermal springs and spas: don’t miss the chance to go deep underground to explore the salt mines, climb to dizzying heights in the world’s oldest cable car for stunning views, or absorb the town’s historical sights on a stroll around the old town.
Further south, the municipality and nature reserve of Berchtesgaden is a haven for walkers and families, with its low alpine pastures, dense forests, and swimming lakes. Towering over the region is the Watzmann – Germany’s third highest peak and a star attraction for those after high-octane mountain activities.
Did you know?
The Berchtesgaden National Park, founded in 1978, is the only German national park in the Alpine region
The park at the foot of the Watzmann is home to twelve pairs of golden eagles
The Watzmann mountain is Germany's third highest mountain
The Predigstuhlbahn is the oldest large-cabin cable car in the world, climbing up to 1600 metres
The salt mining industry goes back thousands of years
Sustainable transport in German Alpine Pearls Bikes can travel for free on most train routes between Salzburg and Berchtesgaden. Other local transport options include Movelo electric bike hire, electric boats on the Konigssee lake, weekly bus tickets for the entire Berchtesgaden area, an Alpine Adventure Bus for hikers, and guided or self-guided segway tours.
Bad Reichenhall: The town is easily – and best – explored on foot, but there's a great train and bus network servicing the town. Alternatively hop on a 'Movelo' electric bike and get around under your own steam. The town has plenty of rental and charging points so you're never very far from a station.
Berchtesgaden: The comprehensive Kurkate tourist card is a great way of exploring the region by bus, allowing you unlimited travel on regional buses and discounted travel to Salzburg.
The Alpine Pearls, France
Hike through stunning wildflower meadows or tackle the biking routes in summer; in winter, strap on your skis and explore the snowy peaks: whatever time of year you visit, the Alpine Pearl areas of Les Gets and Termignon in France have something exciting going on.
At the gateway to the Portes du Soleil – one of Europe's best skiing areas – Les Gets has plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy, from adventure parks and farms to electric mountain bike trails. Those with reduced molbility will enjoy the region's off-road chairs and mountain railways.
Termignon, nestling in the Vanoise National Park, has 350km of trails for hiking and biking from the Grand Tour de Haute Maureinne trail to the salt and cheese routes. But there's plenty for culture vultures and foodie fanatics too: don't leave without sampling the famous 'Bleu de Termignon' and 'Beaufort' Cheeses. More unusual activities include a twilight barefoot walk through the park's lakes and glaciers.
Did you know?
There are 1,200 species of plants in the region, 107 of which are strictly protected
Wildlife includes Alpine ibexes, chamois, and 20 pairs of golden eagles
Termignon is situated at an altitude of 1,300m
There are 24 trails specially marked and suitable for electric mountain bikes in Les Gets
There's more than 30km of bike trails geared to people with reduced mobility in Les Gets
Sustainable mobility in the Alpine Pearls, France
Les Gets: There are two buses and a small train shuttle between the region's villages. A traffic-free zone allows you to explore the village in peace and quiet. Make sure you take advantage of the Portes du Soleil multi-pass, which allows you to use 23 aerial lifts and more than 850 km of hiking trails at no charge. You can test out the electric mountain bikes for free every morning in July and August!
Termignon: There are regular shuttle buses ferrying visitors between Termignon village and the national park: the 'Skibus' in winter, and the 'Estibus' in summer. In winter, there's a horse-drawn carriage service, the "Trottibus des neiges". The family-friendly Exploration pass includes admission to lots of cultural and heritage places of interest.
The Alpine Pearls, Italy
Italy contains the largest number of Alpine Pearls – thirteen in total. You're spoilt for choice for things to see and do: come to sample country’s famous hospitality, culinary traditions, historic sites and breathtaking scenery.
It’s a region packed with diverse flora and fauna: watch eagles soar over Gran Paradiso National Park, inhale the aromatic scent of herb meadows in Forni di Sopra, walk with donkeys in Valdidentro. There's stuff for history buffs to do, too: climb to the world’s highest Benedictine abbey in Mals and discover World War history in bunkers and trenches in Moena.
Italy is renowned as Europe’s culinary capital, and the country’s Alpine Pearls region is no exception: from fresh mushrooms, to venison, to cheese – there’s even an annual bacon festival in the Eisack valley – the region is a must for foodies. Escape the crowds in Chamois, nestling in the foothills of the mighty Matterhorn, or Limone Piedmonte, the smallest Alpine Pearl with just 200 inhabitants.
Did you know?
National Park Gran Paradiso is Italy's oldest national park
Chamois-La Magdeleine is the smallest of the Alpine Pearls, with only 200 inhabitants
Cogne has 150 frozen waterfalls
Marienberg in the municipality of Mals has the highest altitude Benedictine abbey in Europe
The famous Enrosadira spectacle where the rocks of the Rosengarten Massif change from red to orange to purple is a natural spectacle caused by the mineralogical composition the Dolomites
Sustainable travel in the Alpine Pearls, Italy
Italy has the largest number of Alpine Pearls: Ceresole Reale, Chamois-La Magdeleine, Cogne, Forni di Sopra, Limone Piemonte, Mals, Moena, Moos, Prageleto, Ratschings, Tiers am Rosengarten, Valdidentro, and Vilnos. As such, the country has a fantastic, comprehensive network of carbon-free travel routes and options.
Electric transport: Electric bikes and electric cars are widely available to hire throughout the region. There are also e-car shuttles between lifts and villages in Chamois, and region's with lakes have e-Boats.
Shuttle bus: Most of the Alpine Pearls have free shuttle buses during the winter, and usually during the summer months too, ferrying passengers between ski lifts, towns and villages and major visitor attractions.
Travel cards; It's worth buying a travel card, when available, as they'll give you free or discounted travel across various transport options including shuttle buses, e-Bikes and trains.
The Alpine Pearls, Austria
Climb peaks in Mallnitz – the birthplace of mountaineering – and paraglide off the top; get lost in Werfenweng's spectacular cave system; go paddle-boarding on the green-blue lakes in the Weisennsee nature reserve; hike, bike and horseback your way around one of Europe’s most thrilling outdoor playareas. Austria's five Alpine Pearls are peppered with crystal clear lakes, villages and some wonderful foodie experiences.
It's a fantastic area for kids too; they'll love emerald digging in the Habach Valley, spotting marmots and ibex in the Wildkogel-Arena and gliding across the lakes in pleasure yachts.
This is a region which truely puts eco-tourism first: large areas are car-free and many lakes are out of bounds to motorboats, so you can soak up nature without the drone of an engine to disturb the peace. E-bikes and Segways are widely available and the region is crisscrossed by hundreds of miles of mountain trails.
Did you know?
With an area of 1.800 km2 the Hohe Tauern National Park and the neighbouring Nature Park Rieserferner-Ahrn make up the biggest conservation area of Europe
The first ascent of Mallnitz' landmark mountain Ankogel occurred in 1762, making it the earliest glacial alpine peak mountaineers ever scaled
The Wildkogel-Arena is home to one of the most majestic waterfalls in the world – the Krimmler Waterfalls
The Hinterstoder has a network of 120 km of well-signposted trails
Mallnitz is located at 1,200 m above sea level
Low carbon transport in the Alpine Pearls, Austria
Hinterstoder: There's a great public transport system covering the entire region, such as a hikers' bus, ski bus and horse-drawn carriages. The town also has electric bike rentals.
Mallnitz: There's car-free hiking in the area, with public buses taking hikers to all three plateaus and other tourist destinations. In'Skitourenbus' takes passengers to some of the region's most remote and beautiful areas. The Mobilitats-Pass allows holders free access to numerous free services. There's a fantastic guided wildlife observation e-bike tours in the national park.
Neukirchen: Lots of free e-bikes available throughout the region. In summer, the new Wildkogel-Card gives great offers and discounts during your stay and reduced rental on e-bikes.
Weissensee: With the all-inclusive 'Adventure Pass Mobile+' card (free at certain places to stay) you can use several mobility services for free. The nature bus runs to the park every 30 mintes, whilst there are plenty of 'movelo' e-bikes available to use, as well as dog sledding in winter and horse carriage rides in the summer.
Werfenweng: The SaMo card gives you access to Werfenweng's comprehensive transport network, including shuttle buses, cars running on biogas, and electric vehicles running on biogas.
The Alpine Pearls, Slovenia
Slovenia provides a very different Alpine experience to the rest of the Alpine Pearls. Here, age-old traditions reign: travel around by horse and carriage, marvel at Bled's medieval castle, explore the lake on a traditional 'pletna' boat, feast on local dishes.
Historic Bled lies at the foot of the stunning Triglav National Park, Slovenia's only national park. There are glacier landscapes, lakes, mountain pastures and abundant wildlife - perfect for hikers, bikers and climbers.
Cycilng is the best way to explore the region. The Radovna valley cycling route through the national park is one of the region's highlights. Those after a less energetic break will enjoy the town's spas and saunas.
Did you know?
Triglav National Park was founded in 1981 and is Slovenia's only national park
The lake was venue of the World Rowing Championship in 2011
Mount Trigla stands in the middle of the protected area and is the highest peak at 2,864 m
Bled has been a spa resort since the 19th century
Bled was a nominee for the seven new Wonders of the World!
Sustainable mobility in Slovenian Alpine Pearls
There's a fantastic eco-friendly hop on-hop off service in the national park, as well as several e-bike rental outlets in the town. As well as the tourist train around Lake Bled during the summer months, there are regular bus services connecting Bled and Slovenia's bigger cities.
Horse-drawn 'fiakers' are one of the best ways to explore the surrounding area, and there are miles of well-groomed hiking trails.
The Alpine Pearls, Switzerland
This is the classic Alpine scene, of cows grazing on wildflower pastures, of crystal clear lakes reflecting distant snowcapped peaks, of wooden chalets with balconies overflowing with colourful blooms. It’s a region wrapped up in legend and customs – and culinary traditions abound: don't leave without sampling some of the region's finest local products, from the 'Capuns' dumplings to delicious nut-filled pastries.
Bathe in Burgseeli’s natural lido, climb aboard the Jungfaujoch railway, or take some time out fishing – whether you're looking for a relaxing break, an action-packed holiday or a family adventure, you'll find something here.
It’s not all about the mountains and meadows though: those after something a bit different will enjoy the opportunity to ride llamas, pan for gold, walk the alarmingly wobbly chain bridge, swing about in the treetops at the rope park, or pursue the local centuries-old cheese-making traditions.
Did you know?
Between Arosa and Lenzerheide there are 225 km of slopes in two valleys, and 200km of walking and hiking trails
The Jungfaujoch mountain ridge soars at 3,454m above sea level
The protected area of Weissenau is an important stopover for migrant birds and also a winter habitat for sedentary birds
Bitter des Diablerets is a drink characteristic of Les Diablerets based on a recipe dating back to 1876
Along Lauterbrunnental's hiking paths are an impressive 72 waterfalls
Sustainable transport in Swiss Alpine Pearls
Arosa: Taking the Arosa bus during summer is free with the Arosa-Card, and all cable cars, pedal boats and electric bikes are free of charge. A night express bus running until 3am during the winter.
Interlaken: No need for a car - there are about 25 different means of transport, from trains to cable cars. The guest card ovvers 20km of free travel within the selected zone. The town has rental for e-Bikes, e-Cars, and e-Scooters.
The Diablerets: The traditional train connecting Aigle with Les Diablerets operates year-round. A free shuttle bus during winter takes skiers to lifts. The 'Free Access Card' lets you use all means of public transport in the region free of charge.
Disentis: Every site and attraction is easily accessible on foot, via train or the no-charge bus, and there are many rental outlets for electric bikes. Hop on the no-charge local bus, a convenient way to get to the Lukmanier pass from Disentis.
For more information about the Alpine Pearls, see alpine-pearls.com/en
The photo of Dr. Peter Brandauer is TVB Werfenweng / Bernhard Bergmann