This trip delivers endless opportunities for fresh-air thrills, from Austria's Sound-of-Music country to flower-carpeted meadows in Italy's Dolomites, fairytale castles in Germany's Bavaria, cut-glass peaks in Switzerland's Berner Oberland, and France's snowy Mt. Blanc. All along the way, Rick Steves' money-saving My Way tour gives you the freedom to decide your own daily priorities and pace. We cut the stress by providing comfortable rooms in well-located hotels, private bus transportation to each destination, and a travel-savvy escort to help advise you along the way. Join us for My Way: Alpine Europe in 12 Days!
You'll get all this!
- This is an "un-guided" tour — giving you the freedom (and responsibility) to manage your daily sightseeing schedule and meals
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people will share our big, comfy bus during the trip, but not do organized sightseeing together
- A Rick Steves escort will manage the group's transportation and hotel arrangements, and provide advice for sightseeing, meals, etc.
- All group transportation from Salzburg to Chamonix
- 11 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts are included
- All tips for escort and driver
- Free stuff including My Way: Alpine Europe Sightseeing Guide;Europe Through the Back Door travel skills handbook (one per household); French-Italian-German phrase book; map; moneybelt; and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2013
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Costs not covered: As this is not a guided tour, you will be responsible for the cost of all your lunches, dinners, drinks, admissions, sightseeing, and non-group transportation. Be sure to plan and budget accordingly. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
(r) = reserve a time before you leave the USA
* = included in Rick's audio walking tours
Day 1: Welcome to Salzburg
Welcome to Austria's charming city of Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. We'll rendezvous at our hotel at 5 p.m. for a group get-together. Your escort will give an overview of the days ahead, answer your questions, and offer a quick orientation to our neighborhood. Then you're free for dinner on your own, and maybe an evening stroll around Salzburg's delightful, pedestrian-friendly Old Town*. Sleep in Salzburg (2 nights). No bus.
Day 2: All Day in Salzburg
Today is all yours for savoring Salzburg. Begin or end your day with a climb up to the fortress and its sweeping view of the city and surrounding mountains. You can also enjoy exploring the town's Baroque churches, playful fountains and colorful markets. Rent a bike for an easy ride and picnic along the Salzach River, try your hand at Doe-a-Deer by joining a Sound of Music bus tour, or take an excursion out to nearby Berchtesgaden to see Hitler's infamous Eagle's Nest retreat. No bus.
Day 3: Heavenly Hallstatt
This morning we'll pack up, bid Auf Wiedersehen to Salzburg, and hop aboard our comfortable bus for a short drive to the picture-perfect lakeside town of Hallstatt. We'll arrive with plenty of free time for you to stroll around the town, take a peaceful boat trip across the mountain-ringed Hallstättersee — or go underground, tagging along on a tour of the world's oldest salt mine. Sleep in Hallstatt (1 night). Bus: 2 hrs.
Day 4: Dolomites Drive to Italy
We'll spend most of today enjoying breathtaking views as we drive into Italy, where the forested Austrian Alps give way to the chiseled 10,000-foot peaks of the Italian Dolomites. Late this afternoon we'll arrive at the university town of Bolzano, our gateway to the mountains and meadows beyond. You'll have time this evening to explore Bolzano's pedestrian shopping streets and lively piazzas before dinner and (this is Italy, after all) gelato. Sleep in Bolzano (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs.
Day 5: Bolzano and Alpe di Siusi
Today your options are as wide-ranging as the surrounding mountains. Stay in town, checking out the charms of Bolzano's colorful street market and the impressive South Tirol Museum of Archaeology, home to 5,300-year-old Ötzi the Iceman. Or, take a gondola lift to the higher, quieter village of Oberbozen. Feeling a little more active? Catch a convenient bus for an hour drive up to the Alpe di Siusi, Europe's largest high Alpine meadow, ringed with towering granite peaks and laced with walking and hiking trails galore. No bus.
Day 6: To the Zugspitze and Bavaria
This morning we'll head northwest, into Austria's Tirol country. On the way, you'll have some free time (weather permitting) to ride a gondola lift to Germany's highest point, the 9,700-foot Zugspitze. At the top, you'll stand with one foot in Germany and the other in Austria, enjoying vistas of each. Then we're off to the charming riverside village of Füssen in beautiful Bavaria. Follow Rick's walking tour around the old town, or maybe take a woodsy walk along Füssen's Lech river to the nearby Lechfall. This evening is perfect for sitting in an outdoor beer garden, and hoisting a liter-size mug with new friends. Prost! Sleep in Füssen (2 nights) Bus: 4 hrs.
Day 7: Bikes, Hikes and Castles
King Ludwig's fairytale Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles (r) are less than an hour's walk, or a quick bus or taxi ride, away. The Bavarian countryside is laced with wonderful bike paths, so you might rent a bike and ride to the nearby castles in Schwangau, to Tegelberg for a luge ride, or over the border into Austria to explore nearby Reutte. Be sure to break for coffee (or a cold eiscafe) with cake at a café along the way. No Bus.
Day 8: On to the Best of Switzerland
Today we'll drive across Bavaria and climb high into the heart of the Swiss Alps. By dinner time we'll be in the Berner Oberland's magnificent Lauterbrunnen Valley, flanked by vertical, waterfall-laced cliffs and crowned by a trio of Switzerland's most formidable peaks: the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. After settling into our creaky old chalet, you'll find hearty dinner options and spectacular views just a short walk away. Sleep in the Lauterbrunnen Valley (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs.
Day 9: All Day to Explore the Swiss Alps
This morning you'll wake up in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. Take off on a mountain excursion that combines the local cog railway, a gondola lift up to Männlichen, and a spectacular Alpine walk above the tree line, surrounded by a vista of cut-glass peaks. You can also book a seat on the Jungfraujoch train, which leads to Europe's best glacier panorama. Or, explore what's above the opposite side of the valley: ride a gondola lift to the top of the 10,000-foot Schilthorn, and hike back down. For a more restful day, stick closer to home and walk to the thundering Trümmelbach: a unique set of waterfalls encased behind the valley walls. No bus.
Day 10: To the French Alps
This morning we'll head west toward France and our final Alpine destination: the resort town of Chamonix, site of the first Winter Olympics. Spend the afternoon soaking in the French Alps ambience at the foot of Europe's highest peak (at 15,780 feet), the mighty Mont Blanc. Consider taking the gondola lift to Le Brévent for a spectacular view, and end your day enjoying a traditional dinner of raclette or fondue. Sleep in Chamonix (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs.
Day 11: Aiguille du Midi Dreamin'
Today is your day to enjoy the wonders of the French Alps. You can choose between several great hiking trails with stunning views of Mont Blanc and a supporting cast of Alps that seem to stretch forever. For one of Europe's great Alpine thrills (weather permitting), take Europe's longest vertical gondola ride up to the 12,600-foot Aiguille du Midi viewpoint. From there, mini-gondolas take travelers over the snowfields and on to Italy. Or, if you prefer, simply find a café table with a view in Chamonix, and take the day off in après-ski style. No bus.
Day 12: Tour Over After Breakfast
From Chamonix, it's a convenient two-hour shuttle bus ride to Geneva's airport. Your escort will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Au revoir!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our My Way: Alpine Europe in 12 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- Be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
- Be responsible for your own daily sightseeing, admissions, meals (except breakfasts) and non-group transportation.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
When you arrive in Salzburg, use your Alpine Europe Sightseeing Guide to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of German, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Walking tours make a great introduction to any town. Use your free Audio Europe™ app for Apple and Android (or get free podcast/mp3 files) which include a Salzburg town walk.
Remember, you will be in charge of your own sightseeing for ALL destinations on this trip. We strongly suggest you begin planning well before you fly to Europe!
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). It's easiest to fly into Salzburg (Munich and Vienna are alternatives with easy train connections) and home from Geneva (using airport shuttle bus service from Chamonix).
Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com. Thinking you could use some expert, in-depth help to plan your sightseeing days? Tour members enjoy a 50 percent discount on Rick's Trip Consulting services!
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
There will be great opportunities for hikes on this tour. We recommend you bring a pair of light hiking boots or comfortable walking shoes with good traction. The weather can change suddenly in these alpine regions, so please pack a lightweight rain jacket.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
We also recommend that you consider bringing a smart phone, tablet or other device to assist in planning your activities, and to access Rick's Audio Europe app and walking tours.
Tour Member Raves about Rick Steves "My Way" Tours
"This tour experience was excellent. In the past I have always traveled independently with Rick Steves' guidebooks, but the 'My Way' tour allowed the convenience of a tour to be blended with independent travel, which was appealing to me. The high quality of our tour experience is much appreciated and I will definitely consider another Rick Steves tour in the future."
— Jamie in Plattsburgh, NY
"Perfect tour, fun and the people were a blast. This was a perfect style of tour for us, we've traveled a lot so this gave us additional skills and allowed us to explore without stress. Keep up the good work."
— David in Casper, WY
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick Steves on YouTube.)
- The Great Escape (1963)
- The Sound of Music (1965)
- The Eiger Sanction (1975)
- Amadeus (1984)
- North Face (2010)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Classical: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Strauss
- Opera: Wagner, Lisa Otto
- Pop/rock: Nena, Tokio Hotel, Falco
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Guidebooks: Vienna, Salzburg & Tirol, Italy, Switzerland, and France
- The Story of the Trapp Family Singers — Maria von Trapp
- La Place de la Concorde Suisse — John McPhee
- Beyond Chocolate: Understanding the Swiss Culture — Margaret Oertig-Davidson
- Starlight and Storm — Gaston Rebuffat
- Heidi — Johanna Spyri
- Frankenstein — Mary Shelley
- Into Their Labours trilogy — John Berger