Whether you take a two hour walk after a leisurely lunch or tackle a long-distant hike over sunny green meadows and alpine passes, Switzerland has the trail for you.
Hikers tackling the classic Via Alpina, a legendary long-distance trail through eight countries including Switzerland, are spoiled for choice. The Swiss section runs from Vaduz to Montreux, traversing 14 magnificent alpine passes and through six cantons across the northern Alps. The trail is broken up into 20 stages, and if you want to do just one, Stage 12 is a wonderful option. This route covers 22 kilometres and takes around nine hours, beginning in Lauterbrunnen. The route will take up to sunny Mürren, and from here, hike through verdant fields to the Rotstockhütte, where you can rest and recharge before climbing up to the Sefinenfurgge Pass. The Pass delivers phenomenal views of surrounding peaks and valleys before hikers descend past waterfalls and gurgling brooks to finish the section at Griesalp.
The Alpine Passes Trail is another challenging trek running between Chur and Lake Geneva and taking you through some of the most spectacular passes in the Graubünden and Valais Alps, while the Jura Crest Trail is for the less adventurous hiker. This trail, relatively unknown outside of Switzerland, is the oldest long-distance route in the country, running from Zurich to Geneva via the Jura mountains.
If long distance is not your thing, don’t worry – Switzerland has 65,000 kilometres of marked trails on offer, so you are spoiled for choice. In fact, trekking is such a part of Swiss life that the maintenance of hiking trails is part of the constitution.
It is not just the government of Switzerland that takes hiking seriously, it is also the citizens, some of whom volunteer their time to maintain the trails. One such path runs between the Klingenstock and Fronalpstock peaks high above Lake Lucerne, delivering 360-degree views. Even accessing this 4.5-kilometre ridge walk is a scenic treat, with hikers able to ride the world’s steepest funicular to the car-free village of Stoos before heading up to the Klingenstock in a chairlift.
With so many walks in this diverse country, it’s possible to have breakfast in the heart of a city, head up to the mountains for lunch with a view, and wander back to town for dinner or a show. All the planning has been done for you, with 12 such mountain daytrips mapped out across 10 Swiss cities.
From Rotenboden in Zermatt, experience the four-hour hike to the Monte Rosa Hut and, when you get there, pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming. This lodging is an architectural marvel, a shining jewel in the rooftop of the Swiss Alps. Catch it when the light is right, and you will feel like the heavens are shining on you. The accommodation is available for overnight stays, and who wouldn’t want to wake up to those views?
From Interlaken, head for Grindelwald First, which is where many hiking trails start, including the pretty-as-a-picture walk to Lake Bachalp. Grindelwald First has jaw-dropping views to the Eiger and has adrenaline rides such as the 800-metre-long First Flyer zipline, and the spectacular First Cliff Walk by Tissot lookout.
Also, from Interlaken, as well as from Thun, take the trip up to Niesen. Situated between the Simmen and Kander valleys, Niesen gives astounding panoramas over Spiez Bay and over the Bernese Alps, from Thun and Brienz Lakes toward the Jura. Niesen is also home to the world’s longest staircase. Are your legs up to tackling 11,674 steps? If not, take the funicular. There are also mountain day trips available from Zurich, Bern, Lugano, Lausanne, St Gallen, Winterthur and Zurich.
Switzerland really does have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to alpine scenery, and there are countless walks to showcase the mountaintop masterpieces. One little known, but very worthy, candidate for a day walk is the round-trip from Mount Brè up to Monte Boglia in the Ticino canton, taking you through chestnut woods and giving glorious views of Italy and Lake Lugano. This walk is 12 kilometres and will take around five hours.
Wine lovers will undoubtedly take longer than the suggested three-and-a-bit hours to enjoy the 11-kilometre walk through the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces. Lavaux is the largest contiguous vineyard region in Switzerland, and its cleverly constructed hillside terraces have been protected by UNESCO since 2007.
In the Grisons canton, the Lake Toma walk is 12 kilometres long and explores what is regarded as the source of the Rhine river. The walk starts on the Oberalp Pass and takes you up to the lake, which sits at 2,344 metres in the shadows of Piz Badus.
Why should people who can hike have all the fun? In Switzerland, there are many places where you can ascend to the top of mountain peaks without any physical exertion. From Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald, venture up to Kleine Scheidegg to catch the century-old cog railway up to the Jungfraujoch. No hiking required as you head north through the Eiger to this mountain saddle, where you can see the Aletsch glacier and a wonderful world of ice and snow. If you are tempted, there is a difficult two-hour trek from the railway’s Eigergletscher station that takes you almost within touching distance of the north face of the Eiger.
More eye-popping views await at the Brienzer Rothorn, which offers vistas across the Bernese Alps and Lake Brienz, to Pilatus and Hogant. The journey is also an experience, with small steam locomotives pushing red panorama coaches from Lake Brienz up the mountain. At the end of the track, step onto an aerial cableway from the UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch (Sörenberg) up to the 2,350-metre Rothorn. Stay for lunch at one of the summit’s restaurants, or linger overnight at the Mountain Lodge Rothorn Kulm.
Hotels of a million stars
Visitors to Switzerland can immerse in the spellbindingly beautiful scenery even more, by staying under the stars. Launched in July 2020, the country’s Million Stars Hotel is 50 ‘hotel rooms’ in exclusive and intimate settings around the country, all offering unobstructed views of landscapes and cityscapes. Designed for two people, these accommodations range from bubble tents and tiny houses to outdoor beds, tree tents and some rather unusual objects: Tiny House Gondel is in a decommissioned cable car, situated at 3,000 metres on Piz Nair, with masterful views of the surrounding Engadin mountains.
Whether up in the clouds on Piz Nair or perched in a bubble tent on the rooftop of Zurich’s Widder Hotel, all the hotel rooms have one thing in common – unforgettable views of the stars.
This article was produced with content supplied by Switzerland Tourism and is a Vacations & Travel digital exclusive. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the e-newsletter here.