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Calling on all Alps hiking experts for some advice

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Hi all,

I've posted a couple of questions about a trip to Europe for next summer but I don't think I've been specific enough, so here goes hopefully a better attempt.

I want to do a challenging multi-day hike next year, preferably in the Alps, but am open to ideas. I have picked the Alps because I have fallen in love with the romance of Mont Blanc from images and stories of others. However, this year I did some hiking in the Dolomites - in the Val Gardena area - so I do know that height is not the only qualifier for awesome. I would definitely consider the Dolomites again but only if I was doing a via ferrata as I want more challenge than single day valley hikes next time.

I also would like to see Slovenia and Croatia but whatever I do I just want to find some water after the hiking week and also would like a city to explore at some stage.

My trip will be four weeks and I come from Australia.

Questions:
1. do you have recommendations on week-long hiking routes in the Alps that include challenge (I would like to hike for more than 3-4 hours a day - up to 7 or more)
2. Have you heard of this route:
http://www.guidecourmayeur.com/montebianco/home-guide-alpine-courmayeur-english-programs-summer-excursion-hiking-the-giant-s-high-route.html

3. What are your thoughts on height of mountains? Does it matter for challenge, beauty etc?
4. I would like to do the Alps from the Italian side but am open to ideas. I would consider France, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia or even Germany.
5. Does anyone have ideas for the itinerary before/after the hiking based on my priorities above?
6. Is it a silly idea to do the Alps and then get to Slovenia/Croatia? The reason I would like to do this is because this year I saw Spain, France and Italy and I guess I feel like I should expand my cultural horizons. When you come from Australia you're never sure when you'll be back!
7. My budget for this trip would be well under €6000 if possible, including flights which cost around €1300. Is this doable? (I spent a lot more than that in six weeks this year but I didn't hold back and shopped a lot too!)

Thanks,
RT

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