VILLARS – SUMMER BREAK IN THE MOUNTAINS
by Chené Koscielny
The thought of a summer break in the mountains has never occurred to me before. Having spent every summer of my youth on a beach in South Africa, summer holiday to me = beach holiday.
But too many traffic jams, overcrowded beaches and overpriced seaside restaurants in Europe have started to wear me down. Add to that the stress of travelling with two reluctant teens and a stroppy 10-year-old and I’m ready for an alternative.
So, when Villars Tourism Board offers us a short summer break in the mountains, I’m happy to give summer in the heart of the Vaud Alps a go.
WHERE IS VILLARS?
After a pleasant drive, only about one-and-a-half hours from Geneva, we arrive at the four-star Eurotel in Villars at around 4pm, enough time for a stroll down to the Villars Sports Centre before dinner.
As we are staying in a local hotel, our host offers a free access card, which covers all transport and loads of free or discounted activities in Villars, Gryon and Les Diablerets!
SKATE BOARD PUMP TRACK – A TEEN FINDS HIS TRIBE
My 15-year-old heads straight for the impressive skateboarding pump track and quickly finds members of his tribe, leaving us to explore the huge, beautiful deck area with sunbed and stunning views over the mountains in peace. Time for an ice-cream in a most instagrammable spot.
The place is marvelously deserted – no jostling for a towel or chair space and no queues at the kiosk.
THE POOL AND WATERSLIDE
The 25 metre indoor swimming pool is a bit busier on a Friday afternoon, but nothing feels too crowded. The 10-year-old enjoys the outdoor waterslide which ends in a little paddling pool, while my 17-year-old daughter and I escape to the wellness area in the same complex.
THE VILLARS BATHS
Overlooking the mountains, the stunning wellness pool (36 degrees Celsius ) is as close to paradise as you’ll get. Apart from one other person, we have the pool, massage jets swan-neck fountains and bubble loungers to ourselves and we really start to unwind.
There are also two hammams with a temperature of 48 and 50 degrees Celsius or one of the two saunas (60 and 90 degrees Celsius). For an even more intense experience, dip into the cold-water pool after your steam bath or sauna session.
The hotel offers us a set menu as we are on half board – which includes a choice of a starter of smoked salmon rosette with horseradish whipped cream or a salad from the generous and varied salad buffet. This is followed by a delicious creamy carrot soup.
We sit outside on the pretty terrace and the atmosphere is peaceful.
The main course is a choice between fish or meat. I opt for the trout fillet with poppy whipped butter, leaf spinach and steamed potatoes topped with pretty little flowers from the hotel garden, while the others choose the Swiss beef rosette, reduced juice with wild garlic, potato gratin and vegetables bouquet.
For dessert the choice is iced Vacherin – this ‘cheese’ ice-cream is very unusual and surprisingly good or a cheese selection.
The food is simple, stylishly presented and delicious.
WORLD CLIMBING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Villars and nearby Diableret offer various events during the summer and we are lucky that our stay coincides with the finals of the world speed and lead climbing finals on Friday night and Saturday.
After dinner we follow the sounds of cheering and music to a large outdoor space with two huge temporary walls and a festive atmosphere with bars, food stalls and loads of families.
Two climbers at a time race each other to the top of the wall in seconds while the crowds cheer them on. It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement.
Inspired, the boys try out one of the practice walls for spectators.
We go to bed early, exhausted – no Youtube or Netflix needed after all the activity and mountain air. Result!
Copyright image: Daniel Gajda- IFSC
After a hearty breakfast of fruit, croissants, eggs and bacon from the hotel buffet, we set off for the village train station – where we take one of the cute little green cog trains on the rack railway up into the mountains. We take in the views of the snow-capped mountains and what must be one of the world’s most beautiful golf courses.
We get off at Bretaye from where we take a short hike down to the Lac Chavonnes (1690 metres) where there is a beautiful little restaurant overlooking the lake. This is a great spot for a picnic or a dip in the lake, too.
Our second hike is a bit more ambitious – again from Bretaye to Roc D’Orsay, as it entails a very steep hill and it’s very hot, but we push through and try to block out the whining from the teenagers.
We make it to the top and take the gondola down – everyone feeling tired, but basking in a definite sense of accomplishment.
Down in the village, we pop into a few of the local shops, which offer cute souvenirs. The 10-year-old buys himself a pocketknife and I simply had to have a stunning black and white hat!
We head back to the climbing competition for some more climbing action and enjoy a very tasty Thai chicken risotto and some donuts from the food truck.
So, of course there is no beach, but if you’re looking for an affordable and peaceful holiday in a stunning environment, without the crowds, this is an excellent option.
There is so much to discover, we feel we need to go back for more.
The 15-year-old: the skate park and mountain climbing competition
The 10-year-old: the waterslide, climbing competition and hike
The 17-year-old: the wellness pool and centre, sundeck and food!
My husband: The affordability and hiking
Me: I loved the fact that we could be active and do different, physical activities – which meant far less screen time for everyone!
FREE ACCESS CARD:
FOR THOSE ON HOLIDAY iN THE AREA
In Villars, Gryon or Les Diablerets your host will provide you with a Free Access Card. (If registered and contributing to the 2019 holiday tax).
FOR REGULAR VISITORS, OR FOR DAY TRIPPERS
You can buy a Free Access Card CHF 170.- for the 2019 summer season. (Keycard CHF 5.- extra.)
Hiking: The Vaudois Alps offer countless hikes for hikers of all levels – leading to lakes, waterfalls, overnight chalets and more.
The Villars tourism website has an excellent selection of guided walks, family walks, more strenuous hikes with information.
Diableret – climbing walls
Underground caving experience
Mountain scootering and biking
For smaller children activities include: mini-golf, bouncy castles and a miniature train ride!
COOP RANDO FAMILY – explore the story of Robin Hood – August 24 – Villars sur Ollon
Gourmet Walk – August 17 – Ollon
Summer Gourmet Tour – September 7 – Diableret
BIKE RIDE TO ISENAU FOR DINNER
AUG 23, 2019 / LES DIABLERETS
E-bike ride to Isenau for dinner
OUR MOUNTAIN BREAK WAS SPONSORED BY VILLARS TOURISM