The Alpine Coaster at Hoch Imst, above Imst in the beautiful western Tyrol, claims to be the longest alpine roller coaster in the world. All the fun of tobogganing, but in the sunshine. A memorable day out is to walk through the Rosengarten Gorge from the town centre, which takes you through a rocky ravine with waterfalls to Hoch Imst; rest and enjoy the alpine views on the cable car up the mountainside, take a short hike to the stunningly positioned Muttekopf Hutte for an alpine lunch on the terrace; return down the mountain side at speed in control of your own toboggan on the Alpine Coaster. A fantastic day out in a beautiful area. Other days can be taken up with the sculpture trail at the next village of Tarrenz, visiting the spa pools for a refreshing paddle and visiting the town's Carnival museum.
Imst-Gurgltal is in the western Tyrol, Austria.
A bike tour of the Franschhoek wine valley was one of the highlights of our stay in South Africa's winelands. Eddie picked us up from our hotel and took us on a beautiful scenic tour - taking in vineyards and a reservoir. You get to see parts you probably wouldn't venture to on your own. He's a lovely guy and takes time to explain recent history as well as the origins of the town. The pace was just right - I imagine he could do something more gruelling if that's your thing! There are other options including winetasting by bike.
Monte Amiata offers something beyond stereotypical Tuscany for the discerning visitor. The spectacular summit (1732m) is accessible to most, but it is the slopes of the mountain that hold a special magic. Visit in October and join the locals as they fill their baskets with sweet chestnuts, then take a hike into the forest and, if you’re lucky, you might spot a family of wild boar in search of the same delicacy. At the end of the day you can stop to soak aching muscles in the thermal springs at Bagno san Filippo.
30km SW of Montepulciano
This must be one of the very best mountain restaurants, high above the Passo Pordoi, in the great, majestic bulk of the Dolomites. Sass Pordoi is a very well visited mountain top restaurant, viewing station, and walking base for many reasons. First off it is convenient, easily accessed off the major pass of Passo Pordoi that connects the main resort centres of the region. Second, the journey up is by cable alone, one of the truly great cable car ascents. Third, you can walk for miles, take in the sun, or simply sit back and marvel at the glorious views. Fourth, you can simply marvel at the glorious views. Fifth, well, you get the idea. And, while you are there, you can enjoy proper mountain food. Hearty, nourishing, and with a healthy side plate of views. Oh, did I mention the views. So, a simple menu. Convenient drive for starters, followed by a great cable ascent for our fishiest course of the day, hearty fare with a side of glorious views for main, views for dessert, and maybe a chance to drink some views as you relax afterwards. Stunning.
Perched on a mountainside watching over the tyrolean village of Alpbach and facing across to the slopes of the Wiedesbernhorn, the Rossmoos is best approached via horse drawn sleigh from the village. The Rossmoos is a charming and wonderful reminder of Austrian hospitality and unpretentious enjoyment. My vegetarian daughter and wife, suffer the stuffed mountain mammals and birds positioned around this home from home, but for the whole family this is an annual pilgrimage that never disappoints.The food and ambience are mutually excellent and even the ageing accordian accompaniment feels just right. Having been warmed throughout and fit to burst, you return to Alpbach by sleigh, stargazing a cloudless night sky.
This is a fantastic refuge with a great views of Mont Blanc, at 2352m, a few hours uphill climb from Chamonix. What makes it so great is the food. Their speciality is long cooked Pig's Cheeks, marinated in wine overnight and then slowly braised throughout the day with herbs, garlic and more wine. Served with immaculate roast potatoes it's the perfect fare after a long hard day's mountain walking. And their huge chunks of rustic mountain cheese are worth the visit alone, not to mention their red wine and deserts.
Aiguilles Rouge, Chamonix 4 50 53 49 14
My diary says it was “a really big one”, which is understandable as the Schilthorn mountain in Switzerland is a whopping 2970 meters. I was actually referring to the last of a series of cable car rides to the peak, so high I eventually just closed my eyes. Apparently on arrival there is a spectacular 360˚ view over glaciers, lakes, and 200 minor mountains including the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. All I saw was fog, as I froze on the viewing platform - and this was August. Warmth returned while revolving slowly in the Piz Gloria restaurant, better known as villain Blofeld’s hideout in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with George Lazenby as 007.
Location scouts found the place half built, and filming was permitted on the condition the restaurant was completed afterwards - financed by the film company. Downstairs, a room shows film clips of dashing ski chases on a loop. If you must, you can have a James Bond buffet and a martini – shaken, not stirred. Naturally.
Piz Gloria Restaurant
Last week we walked to Lago Pilato under Monte Vettore in Le Marche, an ancient glacial lake, where legend has it that Pontius Pilate drowned himself. Nowadays it is home to a unique freshwater shrimp.
The circular walk is 20km and quite a challenge in places, but the spectacular scenery makes it all worth while. We have walked various sections of the gran' Anello (a 120km ring) in the Sibillini Mountains of Marche. There is a great map for the area, the 1:25,000 scale Club Alpino Italiano map of Parco Nazionale Dei Monti Sibillini. You can buy it in any local tabacchi around the national park or buy it in advance via www.sibillini-walks.com/index.html.
There is also a guidebook that explains the nine-day route, but if not, try this link where you can buy it direct from the National Park emporio.parks.it/product_info.php
There are some great rifugi (refuges) that you can stay at: www.parks.it/parco.nazionale.monti.sibillini/Esog.php or eat at. Many of them are newly restored.
On our hiking holiday we ate at 3 rifugi at Monte Amandola, at Ragno near Pintura and Il Tribbio at Lake Fiastra and have to say that the food at all was superb.
If you contact the national park they will also arrange a guide if you need it. Alternatively, Spring CAI and the National Park organise excursions and treks. The CAI walks can be found on the board on the right in sarnano as you enter the centro storico. The national park guided walks are listed on this page and need to be prebooked via the email address. www.sibillini.net/chiedi_sibilla/indexVisiteGuidate.html
If you need more information, free walking itineraries or a lovely place to stay on the edge of the park try www.villasanraffaello.com/free-time/marche-hiking-walking.html
Sarnano, Macerata, Le Marche, Italy
A small town/large village with hardly any tourists - foreign ones that is. Walk one of the several paths up Mount Olympus or take the 15 minutes bus ride to the beach for €2.5 return where you can spend the day with the Greeks on a sunbed with umbrella for the price of a drink.
In the Hotel Mirto, just down from the main square, which is clean and comfortable if a little unexciting, you can get B&B with views of the mountains from your balcony for €30.
Take a cheap flight to Thessaloniki - Easyjet go there on Fridays - and then a bus goes every hour from the Makedonia bus station to Litohoro for €8.
An old mountain world impervious to (or unaware of) the heady modern culture that characterizes the rest of Spain. Well-kept whitewashed villages stuck to the mountainside. Wholesome food, peace and quiet, fabulous for walking holidays, free tapas, good rental cottages, friendly and easy-going.
By hire car or bus from Granada or Malaga Airport. Most popular villages: Capileira, Bubión. Introductory guide to La Alpujarra in www.rusticaltravel.com
We've just spent a superb weekend in wonderful Autumn sunshine here in Le Marche staying at lovely Villa San Raffaello with its great apartments, amazing views and free organic vegetables.
On Friday we visited the lovely medieval town of Sarnano, ate at the excellent Le Clarrise ristorante in the Centro Storico and then dressed up and joined the locals at L'ex disco for Halloween.
The next morning we had to blow away the cobwebs using the local maps of old mule tracks walking in the fantastic Italian rolling hills, past the heady scent of locals making vino cotto (a cooked wine that was first made by in Roman times), past 13th century churches and a 15th century mill.
On Sunday, fuelled by a desire to eat something local and unpretentious, we hiked into the Sibillini mountains and ate at the rifugio (refuge) at Monte Amandola. This is one of a chain of mountain refuges at around 1500 metres, which walkers can eat, drink and stay at. The food was really tasty and included many seasonal dishes, including strozzaprete (literally priest strangler) pasta with truffle and sausage, and succulent lamb cooked on coals. The bill, including wine, coffee and home made tiramisu, was only €13 a head.
Wonderful horseriding opportunities at this Bavarian riding stables located near to Sami. The surrounding area is perfect for exploring the nearby mountain trails and old villages. The horses are beautifully cared for and easy to ride and the owner, Conny, is a welcoming and knowledgable host with a deep love for her horses. All levels are catered for and there's even the option of swimming with your horse in the sea!
Bavarian Horse Riding Stables
28080 Sami/Koulourata, Cephalonia
+ 30 6977 533203
It's a walk from Ladybower Reservoir to near Baslow in aid of Edale Mountain Rescue. The walk is along the nine main edges in the valley. A great view and day out for a great cause.
Houssine is a kind and friendly guide who will arrange a trek to suit your needs. We spent four days walking in the area around Jebel Toubkal, staying in gites/refuges in Berber villages, with a guide (Hassan), a cook (Mohamed) and a very lovely mule (Hasht-hasht). The mule carried our spare clothes, the food, and occasionally also the cook! We opted for four quite tough days walking (5-9 hours walking per day), culminating in a starlit ascent of Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa at 4167m.
Whilst it would have been possible to go up the mountain itself without a guide, having the guide enabled us to spend longer in the surrounding area and see more of the local villages than we would have done on our own; plus we had all our meals prepared for us and didn't have to carry too much gear. The extra few days trekking also ensured we had no altitude problems ascending the peak as we were well acclimatised to the altitude by that point.
Houssine's Ouassaggou Guest House was lovely - a good 15 minute walk from Imlil but small (just two guest rooms), peaceful and comfortable. Houssine met us off the bus and the mule carried our bags up to the guest house.
A four-day trek with just two of us in the group cost 360 euros total, including food and accommodation. This may be more than arranging something locally, but worth it for the security of having trek arranged in advance from the UK. A double room in the guest house cost about £28 a night including breakfast.
Stresa, like many of the other towns which reside on the lakes, is a typical tourist trap, but is good if you are short of time and fancy some mountain biking or walking (skiing in the winter). You can hire bikes from the cable car at Stresa for €10, put the bike in the cable car to Mottarone and bike down. The routes are clearly signposted and there are free route maps. If you take route L1, one third of the route is on road (not so fun!) but there are other routes you can take.
Stresa has it's own train station. You take the train from Milan Centrale towards Domodossola, the journey takes 1 hour 10 minutes.
We did the cable car ride up to the old castle on the top of the hill at Montjuic. There are some spectacular views from the top of the port and the gardens below. Highly recommended!
We took the metro which was close to our rental apartment (Paralelo) which has the funicular train, and the cable car is just over the road! Sorry I don't know if there's a website.
If you're visiting Toulon, don't miss a visit to Mt Faron. Take the bus to the departure point, then you get up the mountain by means of an exhilarating, if slightly terrifying, cable car ride - the highest cable car I'd ever travelled in, it felt like being in an aircraft!
Once up the top, there's miles and miles of wooded paths to explore, a military museum, spectacular views across Toulon and out to sea, a few cafes, and a weird zoo, which I'd probably give a miss next time. We stupidly went in the middle of the day so most of the animals were asleep (either that or they'd been replaced with stuffed toys), so it might be better in the mornings, but it wasn't anything to write home about.
The walks around the top of the mountain were great though, highly recommended!
You can buy combination bus/cable car tickets from the tourist office on the waterfront in the centre of town. These are cheaper than paying for the bus and cable car separately, and the bus stop is just a few hundred yards from the tourist office.
Flexible cycle schedule taking you round the base of Kilimanjaro, across the plains to the Serengeti and through the cooling shadows of the Rift Valley Wall.
Spectacular scenery, unique cultural experiences and a wildlife safari on top! How can you resist?
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The Sierra de Gredos, which forms part of Spain's Sistema Central, is approximately 140 kms in length running from Cerro de Guisando in the east to the Sierra de Bejar in the west, and boasts glacial cirques, mountain rivers and falls, and peaks reaching nearly 2600m.
Every season has something to offer in Gredos – from winter snow and ice, through the verdant and flower-rich spring to the pleasant temperatures of summer and the beautiful colours of autumn.
For those who like to be active, the Sierra offers walking for all abilities, climbing and scrambling on both rock and ice, cycling, mountain biking, paragliding, horse riding and both cross country and extreme skiing.
For others, there are rivers to swim in, historical sites and cities to visit and many beautiful natural spaces rich with an abundance of wildlife and nature to discover and explore.
Borneo is an island off mainland Malaysia. It is awesome. I climbed Mount Kinabalu (the biggest mountain in South East Asia) while there. I reached the summit at sunrise and got the best views of my life.
While there I also got to relax at some wonderful natural hot springs and visit the amazing orangutans. Sabah contains one of only three sanctuaries in the world, so I felt privileged to see them. In addition, the people are extremely friendly and everything is cheaper than on the mainland - a top spot!
South East Asia
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