Amélie and Benjamin of the Hellolaroux travel blog spent a relaxing yet invigorating winter getaway exploring the Massif des Vosges. Their trip was shaped by nature and wellness and rich in discoveries. Read on to find out about their experience and top picks.
The Massif des Vosges: a hiker’s paradise
There’s nothing better than hiking to immerse yourself in nature. To be at one with the elements, raw and without artifice. Taking a deep breath of invigorating mountain air, feeling the wind sting your cheeks and forgetting the time. I don’t think I’ve felt anything better than the feeling you have after hiking through unparalleled landscapes. We were content: our stay was bright, and the weather encouraged us to play outside. We managed to strike the perfect balance between an adventure holiday and a relaxing getaway. Three hikes enabled us to appreciate the multifaceted nature of this majestic mountain range. Three very different hikes that each offered us incredible panoramic landscapes. There is plenty to do in the Massif des Vosges with no less than 16,500 km of marked trails.
On the first day, we met our naturalist guide Jean-Michel for a hike at the unmissable Champ du Feu in the heart of La Bruche Valley. The mountain heathland meant we could spot the highest point in the Bas-Rhin département from a distance. It is one of the few ski areas where you can do Nordic skiing for free and a meeting point for locals looking to escape a stone’s throw from home. A host of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails enable you to appreciate its various facets and immerse yourself in this tenderly preserved nature.
During our second day, we went for a hike along the ridges of Hautes-Vosges, this time with Vanessa. Unlike with Champ du Feu, on the approach to the peak of the Hohneck, the vegetation disappeared, leaving slopes battered by the wind. The few remaining trees were frozen by the magic of winter. Then, we walked through a lunar landscape that reminded us of high mountain scenery or Scandinavia. Clouds covered the Alsace Valley, and we could see the Black Forest in the distance. You can even see the Alps from this vertiginous hike on a clear day.
The fleeting sunset at the Temple du Donon, our last hike, is another favourite memory. Even though the hike started badly: caught in a heavy mist, walking along a frozen path, we weren’t sure we’d see the summit uncovered. But we hadn’t counted on thermal inversions, which, once again, showed how quickly the weather can change. When we finally arrived at the top, the Donon inspired us to let go with its very mysterious and almost mystical aura.
Sleeping at the Landscape hotel: 48° Nord
To make the most of our discoveries, we needed to find a place to stay that would become home sweet home for a few days. As we love design and places championing eco-friendly approaches, we chose 48° Nord. When we left the curving road, strange wooden houses soared like trees. Intriguing yet perfectly integrated into the landscape, these so-called “hyttes” make quite an impression.
Here high-end meets eco-friendly. Because behind the architecture and the very Instagram-friendly nature of the hotel is a virtuous approach championed by Emil, the owner. For example, the wood used to build the hyttes came solely from local forests, and no trees were cleared when the hotel sprouted in the heart of this Natura 2000 site. But sustainability doesn’t end there. The restaurant features a locavore menu with ingredients from the kitchen garden and producers within 150 km of the hotel. The result is an incredibly successful fusion of Alsace and Danish cuisine.
48° Nord is exactly the kind of place we like to discover. Form does not take precedence over substance, and substance does not hinder the desire to offer something visually beautiful. Quite the opposite, the two are perfectly correlated and show that it is possible to provide high-end experiences while sticking to your environmental convictions.
An authentic discovery in La Bruche Valley
Our nature holiday in Vosges was also notable for the wonderful encounters we made along the way. Perhaps you’d like to discover a region through the eyes of its residents by meeting them, sharing good times with them and listening to their individual stories. In the heart of La Bruche Valley, which we explored over four days, artisans welcome you with open arms to show you a bit of their life, a bit of their home. The tourist office has developed a number of tools to help immerse you in their daily lives around a ‘Meet the locals’ programme. We met two enthusiastic craftsmen through the programme: Luc, an organic baker, and Yvan, a wooden toymaker. They each had their own story to tell but shared a profound love of their native or adopted region. The tourist office has also developed nature excursions accompanied by locals who become your guide for the day. The desire to involve locals, promote them and so include them in an ever more responsible tourist approach is, in our eyes, one of the most authentic ways to discover a region.
Exceptional experiences at La Cheneaudière
Before leaving the Massif des Vosges and heading to Strasbourg, we treated ourselves to one last moment of relaxation in a literally extraordinary spa. La Cheneaudière is a Relais & Châteaux hotel in Alsace with a well-deserved reputation. Hidden on the hillside of the village of Colroy-La-Roche, its openness to the landscape made us feel we were in perfect harmony with nature. All that was missing was some snowflakes to put the finishing touches on this magical rocky mountain scenery. We couldn’t have dreamed of a better way to (regretfully) end this cocooning nature break.
This stay halfway between Alsace and Lorraine was more than just revitalising. Rich in discoveries, we experienced a preserved region where locals work to ensure this Vosges treasure remains cherished and untouched. Far from mass tourism and guided by responsible local initiatives that we’d highly recommend, the mountain range is a natural setting that aspires to remain so. Ideal for families and couples alike, we returned home still in awe of the region, with our minds and bodies recharged. What about you? What are you waiting for?
Find out more about Amélie and Benjamin’s trip and take a look at their photos on their blog