Switzerland may be famous for many things – the beautiful snow-capped Alps being one of them. But this mountainous country in Central Europe doesn’t have snow all year round, and there are many other things to do in the great Swiss outdoors besides conquering slopes on a pair of skis.
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Enjoying wintertime adventures in the Swiss Alps is undoubtedly high on the bucket list of many an outdoor enthusiast, but there’s wonderful sightseeing, scenic hiking, and even taking to the skies to enjoy when the stunning Swiss landscape is without snow. Here I show you the kind of fun Switzerland has to offer in every season.
Skiing in the Alps
The best skiing destinations in the Swiss Alps include Zermatt, under the magnificent pyramid-like mountain of Matterhorn, as well as St. Moritz, which is considered the world’s premier winter-sports resort. Parsenn, which links the towns of Davos and Klosters, is also a winter wonderland with its multiple skiing playgrounds. Most of these Swiss ski resorts offer a combination of facilities that cater to a broad range of adventurers. There are challenging courses for the die-hard expert, as well as gentle slopes for families and beginners. Open: January–February
Sledging from Preda to Bergün
Ride the Albula line of the Rhaetian Railway to Preda for one of Switzerland’s most popular sledging tracks. The train ride treats you to some spectacular Swiss scenery as it passes the Landwasser Viaduct and through a spiral tunnel. The 6-km trail here is exciting and offers alpine views through viaducts as it twists through its turns. Riders looking for a more challenging run, steeper and with hairpin turns, can take the ski lift to Darlux and enjoy a thrilling ride down. Both runs end at the quaint mountain village of Bergün. Open: January–February
Hiking in the Jungfrau region
Take in the scenic Swiss countryside on foot. The Jungfrau region is a mountainous paradise in springtime. It’s perfect for trekking adventures thanks to its collection of hiking trails. These trails showcase stunning alpine vistas with green slopes, blue lakes, and pretty flower fields all set against snow-capped peaks. Popular routes include the Eiger trail in Grindelwald and Blumental and Via Ferrata in Murren. Many adventurers often veer off these trails for quieter routes like Obersteinberg, whichstarts at the village of Stechelberg. Most trails are clearly signposted and navigable. Open: March–June
Whitewater rafting down Lütschine River
Springtime sees some of the best Swiss rivers turn into pilgrimage spots for whitewater rafting enthusiasts. The Lütschine, in the Bernese Oberland region, is particularly popular for this adventurous sport. The rapids flow from Zweilütschinen down to Lake Brienz, just north of the Alps in Berne. The Lütschine rapids are exhilarating class III-IV rapids that take you on a thrilling ride down the scenic Interlaken valley. Most rafting operators include photo services to capture your in-action moments along the course. Open: March–June
Sightseeing on the Gelmer Funicular
Summer brings bright days to the Swiss countryside, and one of the most leisurely ways to take in the panoramas on offer is aboard the Gelmerbahn (Gelmer Funicular). What was once used to transport materials for the construction of the Gelmersee dam back in the 20s is now one of the steepest funicular rides in Europe. Riding down the slopes at an inclination of over 45° provides a distinct thrill. The funicular takes 24 passengers at a time. Tickets for return rides start from around 32 Fr for adults and 12 Fr for kids between 6 and 16 years of age. Open: June, September, and October: daily from 9am to 4pm, July–August: daily from 9am to 5pm Phone: +41 33 982 26 26
Paragliding at Lauterbrunnen
You can take to the skies and soar over breathtaking Swiss countryside on a tandem paragliding flight. Several operators offer tandem flights from Lauterbrunnen, the central town in the Jungfrau region. After some safety briefings, you’ll do some practice runs before an actual launch from a gentle slope. Together with your pilot-guide, you’ll soar over the mountains and distant meadows and circle around to capture some of the most stunning Alpine landscapes. You’ll also catch views of mountain villages normally hidden from view in their hilly settings. Open: July–August.
Jetboating in Interlaken
Thrill-seekers and adrenaline addicts are treated to high-speed boating fun on Lake Brienz in Interlaken. Jet boats seat up to 11 passengers who will share an exciting ride as the pilot revs the engines for speed runs, twists, and full 360° spins. There’ll be plenty of wind-in-hair and spray-in-your-face moments to remember. The ride also features a stop by the base of the tumbling Giessbach Waterfalls. There’s plenty of time to take a pause amid the excitement to enjoy the spectacular views of the turquoise lake framed by nearby forests and the distant Alps. Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm Phone: +41 78 845 56 99
Sliding down to Oeschinen Lake
The Rodelbahn, or Alpine Slider, is a fun summer toboggan run down a purpose-built slide track that runs through scenic countryside above Oeschinen Lake. You sit snugly in a wheeled toboggan as you whiz through the straights and turns over a distance of 750 metres. You can find the start of the Alpine Slider at Oeschinensee’s cable car station. The slide opens exclusively in the summer, and then only in dry conditions. This highly addictive ride starts from 4 Fr for adults and 3 Fr for kids. Open: May–October: daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm Phone: +41 33 675 11 18
Camping in Arolla
Wake up to stunning highland vistas in Switzerland. Autumn brings out nature’s moodiest colours and what better way to take in the splendour than spending a night or two in the great Swiss outdoors? The village of Arolla offers one of Switzerland’s best camping experiences as it’s home to one of the highest campsites in Europe. At about 1998 metres above sea level, the campsite is surrounded by lush pine forests with the glacial peaks of Mont Collon looming in the background. Even with all the pristine nature around, you will still find well-maintained, modern sanitary facilities and hot showers. Open: September–December Phone: +41 27 283 22 95
Mountain biking in Zermatt
There are plenty of exciting and scenic mountain bike trails to choose from in the mountains around Zermatt. Some of the trails here are made from natural materials that flow over the steep terrain, while others make use of manmade materials. But, natural or otherwise, they all share the same breathtaking scenery. For an initial taste of mountain biking in the Alps, you can pedal out along the moderate Moos and Sunnegga trails. While more experienced riders can challenge themselves on the Obere Kelle trail, which has more difficult climbs interspersed with rewarding vistas. Open: September–December
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