When it comes to alpine scenery and quaint storybook charm, it’s hard to beat Switzerland. The soaring snow-clad peaks, emerald valleys, glittering blue lakes, glaciers and lakeside hamlets imbue this picturesque landlocked nation with a fairytale wonder. And nestled among the mountain valleys and lakes lie world-class resorts with climbing, hiking, biking, paragliding and skiing at your pleasure.
Austria, France, Germany and Italy border Switzerland, their languages and customs infusing the Swiss with a multicultural sophistication. Be it the Italian architecture of palm-studded Ticino to the Swiss-German and Latin-derived Romansch dialects, Switzerland often feels like several countries in one. All with the slick packaging and punctuality for which the Swiss are famous for.
The iconic pointed peak Matterhorn is one of the highest mountains in the Alps. This legendary mountain on the border with Italy rises 4,478 meters, and its four steep faces lie perfectly in line with the compass points. Nowadays, thousands of experienced climbers scale the peak every summer.
At its foot lies the charming village of Zermatt, replete with quaint chalets, world-class restaurants, and horse-drawn carriage rides. Motorized vehicles are banned in the village to preserve the air and peaceful ambiance.
During winter, skiers can race down more than 300 kilometers of fresh snow and in warmer times, tennis and swimming are popular pursuits as are hiking, climbing and biking in the mountainous terrain. Glacier skiing(!) is also available in summer.
One of the most popular and breath-taking experiences is the train journey to Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe.” The peak is perched at a height of 3,454 meters with an observation terrace and scientific observatory on top.
The Great Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, begins at Jungfraujoch and is deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to the famous Eiger Trail from the glacier to the Alpiglen that clings to the rocks at the foot of the north face, other popular walks abound.
These include the Panorama Way on the sunny, south-facing First slope; and the Öpfelchüechliwäg, a high-altitude trail from Holenstein to Brandegg through alpine pastures, fields of flowers and woodlands. The actively less inclined can choose to ride cable cars or gondolas to popular viewpoints across the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
The picturesque Grindelwald village in the Jungfrau region makes a great base station for adventures into the surrounding mountains. One of Switzerland’s oldest and most popular resorts, it nestles at the base of snow-cloaked mountains. One of the planet’s most dramatic and difficult climbs, towers above this alpine valley.
Between the mountains – the tiara-shaped Wetterhorn and the sheer north face of the Eiger – lie Grindelwald’s two glinting glaciers. Faulhorn, at 2,681 meters, offers breathtaking panoramas of the giant peaks.
A sparkling blue lake surrounded by mountains, a medieval old town, covered bridges, waterfront promenades, frescoed historic buildings, and sun-splashed plazas with bubbling fountains, all free of automobiles. No wonder Lucerne is a top spot for tourists.
Most tourists arrive for the jaw-dropping views but leave charmed by the numerous cultural attractions. Steeped in history, cities like Geneva, Zurich, and Lausanne offer remarkable galleries and museums alongside historic buildings and renowned music fests.
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