Reminiscent of frostier times, the scent of pine perplexes the senses, conjuring a winter wonderland in the mind's eye. Known to send shivers of excitement down the spines of skiers, formidable limestone peaks frame the radiant valley. Bathed in sunbeams as the train speeds past churches and toytown chalets, these sweet summer meadows are anything but chilly today.
Once a year, go somewhere you've never been before
For centuries, the Alps have been the retreat for those who have sought wellbeing with a view. We're mountain bound tonight with Europe waiting on the new dawn.
Our alpine adventure begins north of the border in beautiful Bavaria, checking into the Bayerischer Hof hotel for three nights.
The city of Munich is a joy to discover on foot. A free afternoon may send you in search of frothy steins, intriguing galleries and technological innovations. We reconvene for dinner inhouse at the hotel.
Hosted by an expert local guide, a morning city tour adds context to the places whose story may have remained unexplained when you strolled past yesterday.
An afternoon jaunt out of the city takes us to the neatly manicured gardens of Nymphenburg Castle. Feeling rather stately, we're back to the city where an authentic Bavarian dinner awaits with lashings of ale at an illustrious local brewing house.
The hills – and the cities – are alive with the sound of music as a morning train trip takes us across the Austrian border to Salzburg, the self proclaimed 'stage of the world.' From Hohensalzburg, a walking tour reveals its high notes and most intricate melodies.
We follow the dulcet chink of cowbells to admire the wood carvings of Oberammergau and lunch in the fairytale shadow of Neuschwanstein Castle. Arriving into Innsbruck, we look forward to the first of three elegant nights at Grand Hotel Europa.
All aboard the alpine express, we chug to Mayrhofen aboard the Zillertalbahn steam train past lush meadows and forgotten streams on our way to lunch in one of Austria's most iconic ski resorts. But summer blooms paint a different side to Mayrhofen in the more clement season.
Ready for our first taste of the Italian Alps we board the cable car from Renon Plateau over the Dolomites to meet the Ritter Railway bound for the hilly vineyards of Bolzano. Here we make the acquaintance of Otzi the Iceman in the archaeology museum and take time out to bask in the sunshine of the medieval town square.
With a reputation that precedes itself, Switzerland's original glamour resort is always ready to wow. There's not a snowflake in sight, but you might still be lucky enough to spot some celebrities enjoying some surreptitious vacationing on our afternoon walking tour. Enjoying the celebrity standard, you'll want for nothing with two nights at the Hotel Schweizerhof St Moritz, where we settle in for dinner with a view over the mountains.
All aboard the Bernina Express to Tirano this morning, the views are set to get even more impressive. Passing the Bernina Glacier over the Swiss Alps and back into Italy, quaint wooden chalets slowly merge into terracotta houses and pretty piazzas. It's always a pleasure to take a little trip to Italy for lunch!
Boarding the glass topped carriage of the Glacier Express to Zermatt, we'll travel cross country, enjoying the ever changing panorama of snow dusted peaks and forests, admiring Switzerland in a living gallery as the Alps drift past.
Arriving into Zermatt, we're just in time for dinner at Hotel Schonegg, our home for two nights. This quaint and traditionally styled Captain's Choice favourite boasts guaranteed Matterhorn views that are certainly worth yodelling about.
Riding the mountain train to Gornergrat, the mighty Matterhorn is standing right there before you. At the very top, twenty picturesque peaks await our company. There's plenty of time to walk off lunch as you breathe in the fresh air of your surroundings.
Tracing the contours of the Alps, it's no stretch of the imagination to picture the region blanketed with snow as daring skiers conquer black runs and city folk enjoy cosy apres ski by the fire. Even in summer, the scene is still frosted with snow, but it's snug and warm admiring it from the comfort of our seats.
We've one final passport stamp to obtain. Crossing into the French Alps, we celebrate our arrival into France with two nights at the Hamaeu Albert 1er.
When the slopes are thawed and you're craving the cold stuff, where else to go but to the Mer de Glace, France's longest glacier. The 'sea of ice' is over seven kilometres long and accessible only by the Montenvers train, which makes an impeccable journey even more memorable.
We have earned our lunch in a rustic setting at Grand Hotel du Montenvers.
We've quickly become connoisseurs of border hopping and just like that we're back in Switzerland this morning, enjoying a gentle stroll around beautiful Lake Geneva.This afternoon, we raise the standard again, checking into the award winning Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, set right on the lake. This jewel of the Swiss Riviera is our home for the next two nights.
If when you think of Switzerland you think of chocolate and cheese, you're in for a treat today as we taste some of the country's finest and most indulgent produce.
The day of gourmet indulgence continues aboard our train ride Gruyeres, a medieval township on the Saane River which is famous for our two favourite treats. No doubt you'll stock up on plenty to take home for family and friends.
Taking the Golden Pass Panoramic Express to Interlaken, the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel & Spa is our alpine retreat for the next three nights, boasting spectacular views of Jungfrau itself.
Aboard the world's highest cog railway, the view is dazzling. On a clear day, we will be able to see every country we have visited on our trip. At Europe's highest station, it almost feels like we are surveying our kingdom.
Chug up into the clouds aboard the steam rack railway from the village of Brienz, before steaming across the lake. Surrounded by imposing mountains, turquoise sky and soft, hovering cloud from above and below, all sense of perception becomes surreal.
Back aboard the Golden Pass Panoramic Express train, we are bound for Lucerne. A walking tour leads us to the glorious lake.
We've stayed in some impressive properties over the past weeks, but we've saved something truly special until last, with two nights at the lavish Palace Luzern.
At the top of Mt Rigi, the Queen of the Mountains is the piece de resistance of a memorable trip. Lush pastures, glassy lakes and snowcapped peaks exemplify all that's majestic about the Alps and our dazzling journey, brought together with one last paddle steamer journey on the lake.
We travel from Lucerne to take a tour of Switzerland's financial capital, Zurich before our afternoon flight home.
There's a noticeable rosiness in our cheeks returning to Australia today. We like to call it the Alpine cure – we're sure it works wonders!
Imagine a trip where you won’t have to lift a finger, or worry about bringing your wallet.
All meals are included with your tour price along with beer, wine and soft drinks. Dining experiences can range from Michelin-starred restaurants to intimate local eateries.