Best Books on the Via Alpina

The Via Alpina trail stitches together some of Europe’s most famous hiking routes and attractions: like the Tour du Mont Blanc in France, the Triglav Lakes Valley Circuit in Slovenia, and the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard between Switzerland and Italy to name just a few. Those hearty souls that set out to complete the entire length of the Via Alpina from the top of Slovenia down to the beaches of Monaco not too long ago were required to pack a virtual library of guidebooks. The prospect of travelling potentially thousands of miles on foot with 30 pounds of dense literature in your backpack was not attractive. But with today’s newer publications and electronic tools like GPS, even a brand new trekker can be as sophisticated about the Via Alpina as the accomplished of veteran Alpine hikers.

In addition to spending the equivalent of over $6 million dollars to create this magnificent network of trails, the Alpine Convention organization has also developed the most comprehensive web site for Alps hiking (www.via-alpina.org) ever assembled in one spot. The official Via Alpina website is the single best place to start your search for Via Alpina books. It contains detailed information on each of the trail stages in five languages, such as distances, GPS coordinates, difficulty, and indoor or outdoor accommodations from huts (or “refuges” as they are commonly known by hikers on the trail) to fairly posh Swiss and French chalets. For do-it-yourself hikers, the website allows you to custom-tailor your own ideal expedition. For travellers who prefer professional guide or porters to help carry your heavy load, the Via Alpina’s website contains a helpful database that lists outfitters for exactly where you want to hike.

While it is certainly possible to navigate the entire trail from end to end solely with maps downloaded for free from the official Via Alpina web site, there are still many good reasons to have at least a few quality guidebooks with you. One of them is the ability to better appreciate the tremendous features of the local cultures along the route. With so many different countries represented on the Via Alpina trail, and so many richly varied ethnicities and so much history within each of those countries, no one person can be knowledgeable about so much. Having a quality guidebook is the next best thing to have several local guides to help you learn and appreciate the wonders Via Alpina has to offer.

The official Via Alpina organization lists four recommended books at:

http://www.via-alpina.org/en/page/680/official-guidebooks

The website also has a section for “brochures and leaflets” that are all very interesting reading, including individual information for the lesser-known countries of Slovenia, Monaco, and Liechtenstein.

The “Commission Internationale pour la Protection des Alpes” (CIPRA) has been working in support of sustainable development in the Alps for more than 50 years, much longer than either the Via Alpina or the Alpine Convention has been around. CIPRA also offers a good book on the network of the Via Alpina, available in all four of the main languages spoken in the Alps plus English.

http://www.cipra.org/en/CIPRA

While you’re considering books for the Via Alpina, consider a blank one… to be written in as your trip diary. Your thoughts and feelings while experiencing such an incredible journey deserve to be recorded. A pocket-sized booklet with a brief introduction to the Alpine Convention organization and some basic maps is available free of charge from the official website (http://www.via-alpina.org/en/page/682/tour-diary) with about 100 blank pages for you to use as your personal trail journal.

Some of the best-selling books on the Via Alpina according to Amazon.com are the “Cicerone Guides” series from Cicerone Press. These inexpensive books describe in detail with maps and pictures numerous sections of the Alps by sub-topics, with titles on specific areas like the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, or certain cultures and activities such as “100 Hut Walks in the Alps”.

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