With annual leave disappearing like snow off a dyke, it’s important to cram as much as we can into the our precious annual leave allocation. If like me, you love the buzz of the city and the solitude of the great outdoors – why not enjoy both by seeking city breaks that offer mountain escapes. I’ve hand-picked five radically different destinations where you can spend the day clambering up mountains and be back in time for evening cocktails.
1) Prague – Renown for its baroque towers, palaces and burger houses, Prague is still one of Eastern Europe’s heavy-weight city breaks. But only 60 kilometres from the city gates is the magical kingdom of Bohemia: home to deep pine forests, fairy tale castles and gargantuan rock formations gracing the heavens. Declared a UNESCO Geo-park, the Bohemian Paradise is perfect for a full day’s hike before returning to the city for a well-earned pint of Pilsner. A range of self-guided tours can be found here.
2) Marrakech – Towering above the bubbling cauldron of the Djemma El Fnaa are the glittering peaks of the Atlas Mountains. Once you’ve soaked up the souks, a twisty 60-mile journey takes you to the land of the Berbers. Here goats and mules replace fug-fuelled taxis and coaches as you trek through vertiginous villages and fragrant Juniper forests. Take a day hike from Imlil along the Toubkal Valley or explore the Matate and Azaden valleys from the village of Aquersioul. If you fancy adding a on a few more days, why not climb up to where mules fear to tread on an ascent of Mount Toubkal – North Africa’s highest mountain.
3) Glasgow – Made from girders, Glasgow’s gritty charm makes it a vibrant destination for a weekend break but once you’ve had your fill of square sausage, the Trossachs National Park beckons. Located less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow, the national park provides breath-taking views of mountains and glens across to Loch Lomond – the UK’s largest mainland body of water. Pack a deep-fried Mars Bar to sustain you. Plan your route with these self-guided walking trails.
4) Avignon – Thanks to the new Eurostar route, Avignon is fast becoming one of the most favoured Southern European city breaks. Once you’ve posed on the “pont” and explored the Palais des Papes, further adventures await on the mighty Mount Ventoux – a mere 63 kilometres away. Known as the Provencal giant, this 1912 metre bruiser is infamous for providing torture on the Tour de France. There are three different routes to the summit, opt for the 13-mile north face route from the village of Malaucene, where you’ll also find a handy Tourist Information Office. Once at the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views to the Alps in the north and the Mediterranean in the south. More information on the three routes can be found here.
5) Granada – The jewel in Andalucia’s crown, Granada offers secret gardens, elegant fountains and polished plazas, nestled below the mighty snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Set off along old shepherd trails on the crest of the ridge between Beas and Granada to catch a jaw-dropping glimpse of the whole mountain range. After a day’s hike, you’ll be nicely warmed up to take on the flamenco clubs in the evening.
Can you recommend any city breaks that offers mountain escapes?