Getting up close and personal with the Alps takes time; connections are almost never direct. Allow at least three to four days per region.

Starting out in Geneva, take a day and night to enjoy the city's cosmopolitan lakefront, cafes and fountains. If you want to gain altitude immediately, transfer on to quainter, also-lakeside Lausanne – part former fishing village with a summer beach-resort feel, part upscale, elegant shopping and dining town.

Next, explore Valais and Switzerland's 10 tallest peaks. Don your stylish togs and base yourself beneath the Matterhorn in the ritzy 19th-century resort town of Zermatt. Nearby, cogwheel trains and cable cars provide access to amazing hiking, skiing and mountain-seeing.

From Zermatt take the 7½-hour Glacier Express train ride over high mountain passes to St Moritz. This region has 11,000km of hiking trails and incredible black diamond ski runs – and the town has fab nightlife to boot.

To the north, the Swiss National Park area is a quieter, more peaceful stop with rugged dolomite peaks, sprawling larch woodlands and untouched, topaz lakes. Stay in the village of Zernez or in the park itself.

Continuing on to the Liechtenstein Alps, you'll have to connect through Vaduz to get to the famous alpine hike, the thrilling Fürstensteig Trail. Don't forget to snap a shot of the town's famous hilltop castle.

Neighbouring Austria's wild and beautiful Arlberg region is home to St Anton am Arlberg, a huge draw for skiers and boarders, with an active party scene.

The Tyrolean Zillertal Valley is as much a summer playground as a winter one. Set off from the town of Mayrhofen to go cycling, hiking, rock climbing or rafting.

One of the best drives in the Alps awaits you in Hohe Tauern National Park, a nearly 1800-sq-km wilderness with 3000m peaks. You'll undoubtedly pass over Grossglockner Road, a 1930s engineering marvel with 36 switchbacks.

South in Slovenia, Triglav National Park encompasses almost all of the Julian Alps. A postcard-perfect mountain setting and cute village make Bled the most popular base. But you should also check out the larger, less-crowded lake at Bohinj or adventure-sports-oriented Bovec before connecting on from the capital, Ljubljana.


Three Weeks