South Tyrol, Italy.
South Tyrol is a jagged, Narnia-esque dreamscape in winter, and transforms into a verdant paradise in summer. Whatever the weather, the focus is always on the mountains here; skiers, snowboarders, hikers and mountain-bikers traverse South Tyrol's peaks and troughs year-round. There are no big cities to discover - it's too hilly for that - but instead a healthy speckling of mountain villages filled with wood-panelled lodges so cute you'll wish you could wrap them up and stash them in your carry-on. Believe us when we say that the villages of Merano, Vipiteno and Kastelruth will charm your hiking socks off.
The transumanza - every village in South Tyrol has one of these festivals. It's a homecoming of sorts and signals the return of cattle from the high-lying pastures (their home during the summer) back down to the flatter plains of the lower valley. The accompanying festival serves old-school mountain charm with bells on - hulking great cowbells, that is - as the cattle parade through the valley adorned in an array of bonkers headdresses made alternately from crepe and tinsel offcuts. It's a jingly calamitous hoot which starts early in the morning and, once the cattle have returned to their respective pastures, lasts until late in the evening, fuelled by lashings of beer.
Who to bring with you
Bring an outdoorsy type who's not afraid to get muddy in the mountains and won't think twice about diving headfirst into a bracing (read: cold) freshwater lake.
When to go
Trekkers should visit in summer, bearing in mind that villages at higher altitudes are generally a little cooler. Alta Badia is South Tyrol's most popular ski resort: the season generally runs from mid-November to April.
Most likely to bump into
A mountain herder. We're talking about the real McCoy, with a bushy beard, a staff and a stream of cattle trailing behind.
Essentials to bring with you
Pack some hiking-boot-shoe-hybrids. An audacious pair from LOEWE's latest collection should do the trick.
How to get there
Fly to Innsbruck, Verona or Venice airports and drive into the valley. Those prone to travel sickness should buckle themselves in for a rollercoaster of hairpin turns.