Switzerland is a beautiful small country that sits smack dab in the middle of the Alps, making for 360-degree scenery wherever a person finds themselves. Numerous lakes also add to the picture postcard look of this country, whose most famous citizen may have been the fictional Heidi. From banks to bucolic alpine meadows, Switzerland has it all.
An overview of the best places to visit in Switzerland:
The Alps, the mountain range that arcs its way across much of Europe, is the youngest, largest, highest, and most densely populated mountain range in Europe. This mountain range was formed about 45 million years ago. The Alps covers most of Switzerland and Liechtenstein and extends into France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Slovenia. The total area of the Alps is 192,753 square kilometers, of which only 14% is in Switzerland, however most of the iconic peaks classic alpine scenery of the Alps is in Switzerland, making it the one European country people most closely associate with the Alps.
The crossing of the Alps has been an historic challenge for European merchants, armies, and travelers. The high passes, while an obstacle to travel, have also provided security and protection to Switzerland. Over the past 150 years, Switzerland has continued to improved its transalpine transportation routes. It began in 1882, by building the Gotthard Rail Tunnel to open a north-south rail route between Italy and northern Switzerland, and into Germany and Austria. In 1906 the Simplon Tunnel connected the Italy with the Rhone Valley. In 2007, Lötschberg Base Tunnel was completed to provide a direct route through the Bernese Alps. The 57-km long Gotthard Base Tunnel which opened in 2016, now provide a direct flat rail link through the Alps. This tunnel is the world’s longest and will eventually shave 45-minutes off the travel time between Zurich and Milan while increasing capacity, allowing high-speed rail, and providing greater efficiency in transalpine travel and trade.
The Swiss Alps are high, snow-covered mountains most of which are over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). The most famous peak is the Matterhorn which is 14,692 feet (4,478 meters) tall, but the highest peak is Dufourspitze at 15,203 feet (4,634 meters).
Icy air streams across your face, snow crunches under your feet, and the view nearly takes your breath away: on one side the view of the Mittelland up to the Vosges, on the other the Aletsch glacier, bordered by four thousand metre peaks. Standing on the Jungfraujoch 3,454 metres above sea level, you can feel it with your first step: this is a different world. It’s one you have to experience.
Lake Geneva is a four-season destination, offering everything from a weekend getaway to an extended family vacation. Located on the beautiful, spring-fed Geneva Lake, you’ll find a range of activities year-round, from boating to zip-lining, from skiing to snow-shoeing, from golfing to a day at the spa, from walking the shore path to shopping at the downtown shopping district. Lake Geneva is a world-renowned summer destination. But suffice it to say, this place only gets better during the autumn months.
For more than 100 years, the Jungfrau railway has been making its journey to Europe’s highest-altitude railway station at 3454 metres a.s.l. – right at the heart of the UNESCO heritage site “Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch”. All through the year, the cog railway runs steeply up through a tunnel to the Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg.
The tunnel leading up from the station Eigergletscher is seven kilometres in length and was built between 1896 and 1912. One stop within the tunnel offers spectacular views onto the glacier world outside through windows in the Eiger North Face. On the summit, visitors are greeted by a high-Alpine wonder world made of ice, snow and rocks. All of this can be marvelled at from the viewing platforms “Sphinx” and “Plateau” on the Aletsch glacier or from the “Ice Palace”.
The Matterhorn, the king of mountains, is the most-photographed mountain in the world. It is myth and emblem for Alpinists and photographers alike, as well as Switzerland’s most famous landmark and symbol. The Matterhorn has a magic attraction, both for day-trippers who love the view and for Alpinists who love a challenge and dream of climbing the peak of the Matterhorn at least once in their lives. The most popular ascent route is the Hörnligrat.
The world’s steepest cog railway starts its climb at Alpnachstad and tackles a maximum gradient of 48 percent, thereby passing forests, meadows and rock faces. On the north side, a gondola cableway and an aerial cableway connect Kriens to Pilatus Kulm.
The Bernese Alps are a group of mountain ranges in the western part of the Alps, in Switzerland. Although the name suggests they are in the Bernese Oberland region of the canton of Bern, portions of the Bernese Alps are located in the adjacent cantons of Valais, Lucerne, Fribourg and Vaud.
Chateau de Chillon has a beautiful location on a small island in the far western end of Lake Geneva between Montreux and Villeneuve. This romantic castle was long of strategic importance in controlling trade in the Lake Geneva region. The dungeons inspired Lord Byron. Chateau de Chillon is family-friendly destination and kids of all ages will enjoy exploring the dungeons, endless staircases, sentries walk, and donjon.
In 1536, the Bernese took the castle by force and kept it until the Vaud revolution (1798). By then the castle had lost strategic importance and served as storage space and gaol before becoming the most popular historic monument in Switzerland. From the nineteenth century onwards, the Chateau de Chillon has been a major tourist attraction for visitors to the Lac Léman region as well as for skiers in the Valais Alps in the Rhone Valley and the Chablais Alps in France.
The 150 m wide and 23 m high waterfall is located near the village of Neuhausen in Northern Switzerland. The nearby city of Schaffhausen is commonly associated with the falls too. Even though the Rhine Fall is a form of mass tourism, the natural beauty is overwhelming and for sure worth your time. May/June is the best time to visit because the amount of water peaks then.
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