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Alps on All Cylinders
You probably don’t need to be told the Alps can feel like they were designed with adventurous travelers in mind. This has been a part of the world that has long presented a challenge to mountaineers and Olympic athletes. Its peaks and rivers offered open invitations to thrill-seekers. In recent years, activities like kayaking and climbing have been joined by others, from ziplines to canyoning. 

Here is a week’s itinerary, starting in Stuttgart, Germany and ending in Innsbruck, Austria, of some of the adrenaline-inducing highlights of the Alps regions of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. No one, however, can spend all day, every day at 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, so we’ve included some more leisurely options as well. Between the white-knuckle activities, there’s also time for Michelin-star meals, gin tastings, and spa treatments.
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    Photo By DZT, Burg Hohenzollern
    Day 1
    Stuttgart is the home of two iconic German brands associated with speed—Mercedes-Benz and Porsche—making it perhaps the perfect place to start a tour of the Alps inspired by a search for excitement.

    First, though, start your day with a somewhat lower-key stop, the city's Hohenzollern Castle, an hour south of town. The 19th-century castle has a dramatic position atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. While the castle is one of Germany's most visited ones, it was oddly never lived in permanently by any of the Hohenzollern rulers who used it instead mostly as a ceremonial center.

    Back in Stuttgart, the Porsche Museum provides an introduction to one of Germany's iconic brands. The Viennese architecture firm Delugan Meissl have created a stunning contemporary home for this car museum with 80 different models on display. Tours of the factory also start at the museum (advance reservations are necessary).

    If you are a serious foodie, you can send your palate on a culinary adventure thanks to Stuttgart's decidedly international restaurant scene. At Olivo, Chef Nico Burkhardt creates contemporary French dishes that have earned him a Michelin star. At Cube, with its floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides of the restaurant, Asian fusion cuisine is paired with city views.

    Retire at the end of a full day in the Meridien, just across from the City Garden Park. The Hotel Am Schlossgarten is also an ideal city retreat, a five-star hotel overlooking another patch of green in Stuttgart, the castle gardens.
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    Photo By Hotel Traube Tonbach
    Day 2
    Black Forest
    While the Black Forest's name may sound somewhat sinister, it is largely a reference to the dark appearance of the thick pine woods. Still, the Brothers Grimm helped cement its association with mystery and magic.

    Today you can get an unusual perspective on one of Germany's most famous destinations ziplining over the canopy of the Black Forest with Hirschgrund Zipline. You'll reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour as you travel at heights of up to 273 feet above the forest floor.

    Take things down a notch by sampling some of the region's gourmet offerings. The Schwarzwaldstube Traube Tonbach has been awarded three Michelin stars and serves perfectly composed dishes that celebrate ingredients from the region, from hare to schnapps. Wolfshöhle, in the university town of Freiburg, has a more casual atmosphere and menu of small plates.

    In the afternoon head to Lossburg to sample one of the Black Forest's most interesting products, Monkey 47 gin. Praised by many connoisseurs of spirits as the world's best gin, its complex flavors are due in large part to herbs grown in the Black Forest—tours are free, though you'll need to make an appointment.

    Spend the night in Freiburg, at the Colombi Hotel which is convenient to the city's old town. The Engel Obertal, in Baiersbronn, is a five-star wellness resort with its own decidedly Swabian style.
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    Day 3
    A drive over the Swiss border will bring you to one of the country's most appealing mountain towns, Gstaad. Long a favorite of the wealthy and famous, it is also an ideal destination for anyone who travels in search of adrenaline highs with mountain biking and hiking trails crisscrossing the peaks here.

    Check into your hotel before you head out exploring. Both the Ermitage Wellness & Spa and the Alpina Gstaad are excellent choices with flawless service, elegant rooms and public spaces, and spas offering treatments ideal after a day of hiking, or simply sightseeing. For those interested in a farmhouse experience instead, Jakob and Erika Zumstein offer stays along with a hands-on class in making cheese.

    In the afternoon, grab your backpack and put on your boots and head out on the Panorama Trail, with its breathtaking views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains.

    This evening you have earned a meal at one of Gstaad's leading restaurants. The Hostellerie Chesery has a Michelin star and is located in one of the traditional chalets typical of the town. The dishes at the Restaurant Sonnenhof reflect a diversity of influences—French, German, and Swiss.
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    Day 4
    Lucerne (or Luzern, in German) embodies many of Switzerland's most appealing aspects. It's a quaint and historic destination, and yet a sophisticated one as well. It has all the appeals of a city, with leading restaurants and cultural highlights, and yet it sits on a pristine lake in the shadow of snowcapped mountains.

    Among the must-sees for thrill seekers is a ride on the world's steepest cog railway which climbs to the summit of Pilatus. You can also reach the summit on the Dragon Ride, an aerial cable car with incomparable views of Lucerne and its lake. Turn from the natural beauty of Switzerland to artistic spectacles with a visit to the Kunstmuseum Luzern, one of the country's top art museums which sits atop the city's convention and cultural center designed by starchitect Jean Nouvel.

    One of the most popular activities among Swiss, and visitors to the country, in the summer is not about thrill seeking, but it has its undeniable appeals: Sitting on sunny terrace, with a cold drink in hand. At Zunfthausrestaurant Pfistern, you can pair your beverage with a meal of some typical local dishes—barley stew, venison, or raclette. The Seehotel Sternen is a short trip from the center of town, but it's worth the drive to enjoy the lakefront view from its terrace.

    If you aren't tired of gorgeous views of Lucerne and its lake, spend the night at the Art Deco Hotel Montana Luzern, a grand dame that first opened in 1909 on a hill above town. The Boutique Hotel Schlüssel is 20 minutes from the city, and offers a chance to experience life in a quiet lakeside village.
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    Photo By Daniel Zangerl
    Day 5
    The region of Ötztal, in Austria's Tyrol, can feel like it was designed with adventurous travelers in mind. Whether you want to bike up mountains or scale them, dive or kayak, there is no shortage of opportunities—and challenges.

    The High Alpine Road is one of Austria's most famous attractions—a 30-mile route with soaring peaks and green pastures around each turn. In this case, getting there is more than half the fun. Among the sights you'll see from the road are the country's highest peak, Grossglockner (12,461 feet). Climbers may want to attempt to conquer it or you can explore its trails while not attempting to reach the summit. If you want to ride a cable car to the Wildspitze glacier instead and simply take in the views of the Grossglockner, that's fine too.

    There are 19 different climbing gardens you can explore today, while a number of outfitters can arrange white water rafting expeditions on the Ache, Sanna and other rivers. Many of them also offer canyoning excursions.

    For lunch today, head to the ice Q restaurant. If this modernist cube in the sky looks like something out of a James Bond movie, that's because it is-you may recognize it from its appearance in Spectre.

    This evening you can sleep in one of Austria's most unusual overnight accommodations, a teepee at Area 47, an outdoor adventure park. You'll have to bring your own sleeping bag, however. The Hotel Bergland Sölden is a contemporary design hotel which also has a certain contemporary James Bond look. Its spa is an excellent place to end a day of adventure in the Ötztal region.
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    Photo By Innsbruck Tourism
    Day 6
    The Austrian city of Innsbruck is a fitting place to conclude your adrenaline-inspired adventure having twice hosted the Winter Olympic Games (in 1964 and 1976). When the city decided to refurbish its Olympic venues in 1999, they realized they would need to replace the ski jump and Zaha Hadid was commissioned to create the beautiful Bergisel jump that has become one of the Innsbruck's most famous landmarks. While you won't be able to strap on your skis and fly through the air, you can enjoy a meal at its café, take in the views of Innsbruck, and even stand on the edge of the jump itself.

    Hadid also designed four stations for the Hungerburgbahn funicular system. With their sweeping shapes that evoke melting snow and ice, the stations have become destinations in their own right.

    For lunch, fuel up for an afternoon hike by dining on Tyrolean specialties at Die Wilderin or enjoying the hearty brunches at either Café Immerland or Soulkitchen. Then head out of explore the Sillschlucht creek, which feeds into the Sill River. At the gorge here you'll feel like you are miles from the lively restaurants and bars of Innsbruck.

    Spend the last night of your Alpine adventure at another unforgettable hotels. The Adlers Design Hotel is the tallest in the city, and its 12th floor bar and restaurant are worth a visit even if you aren't staying there. The cozy family-run Hotel Weisses Rössl is another option near all the dining options in the heart of Innsbruck.