Switzerland travel guide
2 minute summary
The closer you get to the borders with France, Germany and Italy the greater the cultural influence, although Switzerland’s main identity stems just as much from traditional Alpine lifestyles as from its noisy neighbours. Mountains are a major part of Swiss life with Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn both straddling borders to allow travellers to explore over long distance trekking routes interspersed with basic, yet comfy, Alpine huts and convenient cable cars. Swiss lakes offer a far less undulating approach to outdoor activities and often feature marinas adorned with twinkling yachts alongside picnic points and lakeside towns bordered by spacious larch forests – perfect for walking without the gradient. Visiting Switzerland, no matter which season, can be an expensive business although sticking to hearty lunches in rural restaurants rather than evening alternatives in Bern or Zurich will save holiday budgets for much more important things, like a souvenir cuckoo clock or all that lovely chocolate.
Find out more in our Switzerland guide.
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SWITZERLAND MAP & HIGHLIGHTS
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Switzerland is a country of dramatic peaks and glacial valleys with the Alps, Berner Oberland and Jungfrau regions providing travellers with an eclectic range of year round activities. Lakes like Lucerne, Brienz and Thun, are surrounded by pungent pine forests, whilst Lake Geneva is renowned for its terraced vineyards, and Lake Neuchatel is equally well regarded for its heritage sites and sophisticated old town ambience. Melting snow forms fast flowing water features with the Lauterbrunnen Valley awash with waterfalls alongside untouched Alpine villages such as Gimmelwald, Murren and Wengen. From Gothic cathedrals and medieval castles, to free roaming cows feasting on fragrant flowers, Switzerland is fresh, clean and perfect for taking your next holiday to new heights.
The village of Champex provides the setting for a glimpse at life in an authentic Swiss mountain valley where a patchwork of pastoral landscapes stretches away from the shores of Lac de Champex from where the presence of the Mont Blanc massif begins to dominate. Hiking routes aplenty offer ample opportunities to explore amongst the dips, curves and gorges around the lake and close to French and Italian borders.
Stretching across the Swiss shores of Lake Geneva, the terraced vineyards of Lavaux are an absolute treat for walkers and wine lovers alike with hiking trails from Saint-Saphorin or Grandvaux to Lutry or Cully highly recommended. As a UNESCO site, Lavaux promises just as much from its cultural landscapes as its selection of wine cellars with local vintages and lakeside views combining to fantastic effect.
As this traditional Walser village can't be accessed by public road it’s an incredibly peaceful place to soak up the scenery with the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains all visible over meadows criss crossed with hiking trails. Most travellers arrive by train, just an hour from Interlaken, whereupon there's a cable car down to the villages of Gimmelwald and Stechelberg or up to the 2,970m summit of the Schilthorn.
The location on the banks of Lake Neuchatel encapsulates this town’s naturally attractive appeal with several churches, abbeys and national heritage sites adding to time spent on or around the water. This is the perfect place to stroll from one historic house or street fountain to the next with the fairytale towers of Neuchatel Castle providing a gloriously scenic lookout point overlooking the town and the lake beyond.
Wengen has been welcoming visitors since the 1860s with views over the Lauterbrunnen Valley and access to Europe's highest train station helping to swell tourist numbers during peak seasons. Visiting either side of summer allows you to experience central Switzerland as nature intended with hiking trails to the Trummelbach Falls or over the Kleine Scheidegg Pass making evenings by the fire all the more pleasurable.
Set between the Jura Mountains and Lake Neuchatel, Yverdon-les-Bains has Roman roots with thermal spas and ruined ramparts amongst medieval turrets, quirky museums and wooden sailors' huts which line the parks and beaches around the water's edge. Cycling trails lead out of town along well posted country lanes with the forested eastern edges of Lake Neuchatel providing ample shade for exploring on foot.
In order to protect the environment and views over the Matterhorn, Zermatt is joyfully combustion engine free with battery operated cars creating near silence amid the year round, snow covered peaks. Outside of the busier ski season the transport systems allow visitors to access high altitude hiking routes and glorious views, with the 45-minute ride to Europe's highest cable car section certainly no exception.