Travel Thoughts: I’m a mountain-kind-of-guy
“I think you’re more impressed by mountains” my girlfriend told me recently, after visiting a beach in South Spain. And thinking about it she’s right. As a pale-skinned, blond, Scandinavian guy I’m not exactly beach boy material, and if I don’t apply plenty of sunscreen or frequently hide in the shade, I’ll turn into a Scandi-lobster in no time.
That said, I enjoy most kinds of travels. Beach holidays included. But it’s true, I have come to realize through the years that I’m especially drawn to mountainous areas and countries in Europe. Like North Wales, the highlands of Scotland, The Swiss Alps, The northern regions of Spain and the volcanic landscapes of the Azores. There’s just something about a natural skyline of mountain peaks and the dramatic landscapes they create below.
I think what makes it special to me is the way these giants make us humans feel small and humble, and being between mountains gives a feeling of hiding from the world beyond… except for Google Maps of course! I’m not talking of climbing or anything extreme, although I can understand why people gets into that for sure. But simply enjoying mountainous views is a treat for me. And maybe it’s connected to my home country of Denmark being (almost) as flat as an ironing board – with a few exceptions.
Since I started writing about travels I have been fortunate to get to visit Switzerland several times, and each time I am equally impressed with the mighty alps. This year alone I got to go dogsledding in two different alpine regions, and I also got to ride the magnificent Bernina Express through snow-covered landscapes. This adds to my list of great mountain themed experiences in this beautiful country, where I have also visited the Säntis mountain, travelled by train to The Top of Europe and taken the Glacier Express across the alps.
The Scottish Highlands are very different from the jagged alpine peaks, but equally impressive, and I got my taste of them as I travelled by train along the West Highland Line for a few days in 2017. The tracks begin in Glasgow and lead to two separate ends on the coast further north – Mallaig and Oban. A real treat for a train AND mountain lover like me. And it sure inspired me to return with my hiking boots next time.
Further south in the UK – but in the north of Wales, the area surrounding the Snowdonia mountains is just spectacular, and some of the most beautiful scenery I have come across on my travels. Despite having a very special connection with Wales, I haven’t spent enough time up north. But I still have some great memories from the top of Mount Snowdon (took the easy way by train) and from a couple of other amazing train journeys – one on the Welsh Highland Railway and one to the rustic slate town of Llanberis.
In Spain one of my favourite regions is the northwestern corner of Galicia. An often overlooked region tourism-wise, except for the famous ‘Camino de Santiago’ of course – but it’s definitely the most lush and green in all of Spain. I call it Spain’s green corner, and like with Wales I have a special connection with Galicia, since my girlfriend’s family is from there. Therefore I get to visit from time to time, and I’m always excited to discover new areas up there, where mountains are plentiful and colourful too. Galicia got a tough competitor last year though, as my girlfriend introduced me to Picos de Europa on an epic roadtrip up north from Madrid. Who could choose between these two scenarios…
My most recent mountainous experience came when I visited the Azores. A group of 9 Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. All of them are volcanic islands and therefore their landscapes are highly dramatic, with huge craters, mirroring crater-lakes and lush green mountainsides towering above you. I got to visit three different islands this time around, but I would definitely love to return in the future to explore more of them. Among the highlights was spotting the peak of Pico above the clouds. The highest mountain in Portugal.
So, where is your favourite mountainous area in Europe?
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