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So you've got the bug. You've started walking in Europe. Maybe you've had a couple of great walking trips in the Chamonix valley, you've maybe trekked the Tour of Mont Blanc, and now you're hungry to explore further afield in the Alps, but this time you want to avoid the crowds.
In the French Alps, just to the north of Chamonix lies the Haute Savoie, with spectacular mountains and views, good plentiful accommodation, and easy access from Geneva. Then there are the Tarentaise and Beaufortain Alps nestled between the Mont Blanc massif and the Vanoise, where the mountains offer a different landscape, but with superb views, and interesting opportunities to explore either side of the French/Italian border over into the Gran Paradiso.
Over the border and into Italy the Gran Paradiso provides a challenging walking environment, with steep passes, spectacular views and wonderful hospitality and italian food in the mountain huts, while further east, the Stelvio national park, which borders the frequently visited Dolomites to the east, is one of the most beautiful areas in the alps, yet seldom visited by the British walker.
Finally to Switzerland. While the crowds visit the iconic areas of the Bernese Oberland, the Engadine (of St Moritz fame) and the Valais, our guidebooks to these areas help you find fabulous walks away from the crowds, while there are whole regions such as in central Switzerland the the Ticino – Switzerland's Italian-speaking region, with an excellent network of mountain huts, and very few British visitors. (These last two books have not been updated recently – evidence that the areas are less popular, so you have the wonderful fun of less-prescriptive route descriptions, and the fun of discovering that the mountain huts have all been extended and modernised!)
Finally, 100 Hut Walks in the Alps provides some excellent alpine walking throughout the Alps, and serves as a good introduction to mountain huts, possibly as a good preparation for your first trekking holiday.
More often than not it's the Tour of Mont Blanc which first attracts the new alpine trekker. You will never encounter so many people on an alpine trail again, particularly the sections such as between Chamonix and Champex which are shared with the popular Chamonix to Zermatt route, or between the Brevant and Croix de Bonhomme, shared with the GR5. To enjoy superb trekking, but with fewer folk on the trail, here are some ideas:
The Tour of the Vanoise, between the Mont Blanc massif and the Maurienne valley, is a similar length to the TMB, but with many more options for accommodation and further exploration in this beautiful national park. The Tour of the Queyras, further south is also one of those regions relatively undiscovered by the British trekker, as indeed are most of the Maritime Alps and Mercantour national park. Which leads us nicely into Italy, with the GTA through the Italian Alps for the trekker with time to spare, starting near the Mediterranean coast and heading north to Monte Rosa, or the E5, and equally long trek from Lake Constance through the Swiss and Austrian Alps to finish in Verona. For a shorter trek, there's the nine-day Tour of the Bernina, spanning both Switzerland and Italy, (near St Moritz, but a world away from the glitz) with a Tour of the Valmalenco squeezed into the same guidebook.
Finally, thinking of Austria or Switzerland, why not try the fabulous border region of the Silvretta and Rätikon with plentiful accommodation on offer, or one of the Austrian trekking areas – the Hohe Tauern (the largest national park in Europe, taking in Tyrol, Salzburg and Karnten), or the wonderful Adlerweg, a three-week route but with higher- and lower-level options, with good huts and access points.