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A Guide to Alpine Huts and Refuges

Travelling from hut to hut enables complete immersion into the majestic mountains. A high-level trek through the Alps guarantees breatht... Read more
A Guide to Alpine Huts and Refuges
Travelling from hut to hut enables complete immersion into the majestic mountains. A high-level trek through the Alps guarantees breathtaking views of Europe's highest peaks, rising above flower-strewn meadows and impressive glaciers. This experience provides some of the most exceptional walking anywhere in the world and you're far removed from the hustle and bustle of the world below. Discover the magic of a hut to hut experience in the Alps; read on to learn everything you need to know to embark on a hut to hut adventure. 

What are the huts and refuges of the Alps?

Stretching over 1200km across AustriaSloveniaItaly, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany and France, a vast network of mountain refuges lie throughout the Alps to provide shelter and food to hikers and mountaineers. Also known as cabane (French), rifugio (Italian) or hütte (German), these secluded huts can often only be reached by foot and act as the greatest viewpoints within the magnificent mountain range. The warm, homely charm of these refuges make them the perfect destination to relax and enjoy some local cuisine after a long day in the mountains. 

What is the history behind them?

The original construction of refuges and huts in the Alps can be traced back to Roman times when they led across the mountain passes. However, the introduction of Alpine huts as we know them today began in the latter half of the 19th century, a period affectionately known as the Golden Age of Alpinism. Initially used as safe havens against challenging weather conditions for those embarking on ambitious ascents in the Alps, these structures played a pivotal role in facilitating mountaineering achievements. As the popularity of mountaineering grew throughout the 19th century and beyond, the number and diversity of Alpine clubs also expanded along the mountain trails.

What is the accommodation like?

A standard Alpine hut is a stone structure spanning two or three floors. The larger huts boast a cosy atmosphere accommodating 70-90 guests, while the more intimate ones host no more than 15-20 guests at a time. Alpine huts embrace simplicity so don't anticipate any glamour; they do have electricity, plumbing and water supplies and they guarantee a homely charm that warmly embraces tired hikers.

What facilities can I expect?

Anticipate a comforting, hearty meal, the possibility of a warm shower if the hut provides it and a place to rejuvenate before continuing your journey. The overnight accommodations are simple, featuring either bunk beds or a room with mattresses, along with basic washing and toilet facilities. Most huts are staffed (bewirtschaftet), meaning they also offer food and drinks. This allows the huts to deliver services similar to those of a modest hotel which is appreciated by all tired trekkers. If you're seeking indulgences such as saunas and hot tubs then there are high-end mountain huts now dotted around the Alps which offer such luxuries. 

Dining in the huts

A warm, hearty meal is the perfect way to relax and reflect on the day's adventures while sampling some traditional Alpine cuisine. Most mountain huts offer a set dinner menu, often featuring regional specialties such as Alpine cheeses, sausages and traditional mountain dishes. Meats, vegetables and fruit are often supplied by local farmers and used to make hearty soups, stews and main dishes. Local wines and beers are available too and there are often homemade desserts such as cakes or pies to finish the meal off perfectly. 

Breakfasts in the Alpine huts are designed to set you up for the day ahead so they are served bright and early and you can expect plenty of tea and coffee as well as cereal, yoghurt, bread and jam.


What is hut etiquette?

The Alpine huts are often isolated so it can be challenging for them to access regular provisions. There are a few basic guidelines that help the Alpine huts to operate smoothly with their restricted supplies and staffing and to ensure that staying in the huts is a pleasant experience for you and your fellow trekkers. These include:

Sheet liners are required. For all Alpine huts, sheet liners are necessary. While some huts used to provide paper sheets or actual linen, the practice has gradually shifted towards guests bringing their own sheet liners. This helps the huts to minimise their laundry requirements.

No boots inside. Keeping boots outside the hut is a standard practice to maintain cleanliness. While socks are generally acceptable inside, some huts provide slippers but many trekkers choose to bring their own.

Maintaining quiet hours. It is important to respect quiet hours after a certain time to allow your fellow trekkers to rest early and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go. 

Is it dorms or private rooms?

A private room could feature either a double bed, two bunk beds, two narrow single beds on each side, or it could be a more spacious option for 4, 6, or 8 individuals while still remaining exclusive for your group. Whenever possible, we prioritise booking couples into twin rooms. Other travellers will be assigned to same-sex twin or triple rooms, some of which may have shared bathrooms. Single rooms are not offered.

Do they have WiFi and charging ports?

While a lot of the huts have WiFi now, we can’t guarantee that you will have internet throughout the trip. Similarly, most huts in the Alps have electricity and charging ports, although we do recommend bringing a portable charger in case this isn’t available.

Should I pack anything special for staying in a refuge?

When packing for an Alpine hut holiday, consider bringing a portable charger, earplugs, comfortable spare clothing, slippers or Crocs, a season-appropriate mountain hut sleeping bag and swimwear in case there's access to a sauna or hot tub. A full equipment list can be found on each trip page on our website. 



What KE trips include staying in Alpine huts?

At KE we have an array of incredible holidays throughout the Alps. These are some of our favourite trips that include Alpine huts:


Ultimate Tour du Mont Blanc

Embark on the ultimate Tour du Mont Blanc, encircling the glaciated massif at the crossroads of France, Italy and Switzerland. Our extensive expertise has shaped a walking holiday that offers the very best of this renowned long-distance route. Opting for high-altitude paths whenever possible, you'll traverse iconic passes like the Col des Fours (2,665m) and the Col de la Breya (2,401m) and venture along the stunning Monte de la Saxe Ridge. Throughout the journey, lodge in strikingly positioned mountain huts, such as the Cabane d'Orny. This extraordinary adventure showcases the Mont Blanc region at its best, featuring awe-inspiring vistas, Alpine meadow trails, charming hamlets and a profusion of wildflowers - the definitive experience of the Mont Blanc area.

Walking Slovenia's Lakes and Mountains

Explore Slovenia's lakes and mountains on foot as you traverse the country's finest trails, leading you to enchanting waterfalls, serene lakes, picturesque meadows and idyllic shepherd pastures. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes by staying in an Alpine hut before embarking on a hike through the Seven Lakes Valley of Triglav, reaching the Komni Mountain Hut at 1,520m. Nestled in the heart of the national park, this Alpine refuge boasts one of the most stunning locations, providing a bird's eye view of the pristine lake below - an ideal spot to relish the evening and witness the sunset. The journey continues along the spectacular mountainous border between Slovenia and Austria.


The Dachstein Circuit - Hut to Hut in Austria

Experience the breathtaking Dachstein Circuit, a 7 day walking holiday that encircles the magnificent Hoher Dachstein at the border of Upper Austria and Styria (parts of the massif also extend into the state of Salzburg, earning it the name Drei-Länder-Berg, or "three-state mountain"). Immerse yourself in the charm of traditional Austrian mountain huts strategically positioned in idyllic locations. Embark on this adventure holiday in the picturesque town of Gosau where the stunning mountain landscape sets the standard for the week ahead. As you circumnavigate the impressive massif, be prepared for awe-inspiring views of the Dachstein Glacier, a magical stroll across the 'Am Stein' plateau and daily encounters with stunning mountain vistas. With the added charm of staying in traditional mountain huts nestled in the most picturesque locations, this holiday truly offers an all-encompassing experience.


Bernese Oberland Haute Route - East

Embark on an extraordinary Alpine trekking adventure with the Bernese Oberland Haute Route - East, seamlessly blending glacier walking with accessible climbing in Switzerland's Bernese Oberland. Nestled near the charming ski town of Kandersteg, this region stands as one of the most awe-inspiring mountain groups in the entire European Alps. This exhilarating glacier-walking journey entails a high-level traverse of the eastern Bernese Oberland, featuring some straightforward climbing sections. As you traverse this elevated expanse, surrounded by the dramatic peaks of the Eiger (3,970m), Monch (4,099m) and Jungfrau (4,158m), you'll navigate through high and rugged terrain. The route includes a passage through the Aletsch Alpine glacial system with its centrepiece, the renowned junction of glaciers known as Konkordia. Trekking across several airy Alpine mountain passes and spending nights in perfectly placed Bernese Oberland refuges, the adventure culminates in an ascent to the snow-capped summit of the Abeni Flue (3,962m). This exceptional journey promises a blend of challenging landscapes, stunning vistas and unforgettable mountain experiences.


Italian Summit Climber

There is nowhere in the Alps which has such a high concentration of 4,000m peaks than the Monte Rosa group. This is an epic week climbing up to six 4,000m summits: Pyramid Vincent (4,215m), Balmenhorn (4,167m), Ludswighohe (4,341m), Parrotspitze (4,432m), Signalkuppe (4,556m) and the Zumsteinspitze (4,563m). This region of lofty summits, once very remote, is now easily accessible from the Italian side by a comprehensive lift and hut system; it offers many straight-forward glaciated peaks that can be within the grasp of any fit and acclimatised trekker. You'll stay in the highest mountain refuge in the Alps, the stunningly located Margherita Hut that boasts truly breathtaking mountain views as far as you can see


If you would you like to know more about any of the above holidays, then give us a call on +44 (0) 17687 73966 or USA/Canada toll-free 1888 630 4415. We offer trusted holidays with financial protection and flexible booking conditions. 

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