Switzerland Activities Guide
Hiking on Switzerland's Mannlichen - Kleine Scheidegg trail, with Jungfrau mountain in the distance
© A Grosskrueger
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Switzerland has organised the most ambitious network of totally integrated, non-motor transport routes in the world, with around 20,000 kms (12,500 miles) of superb trails for walkers, cyclists, inline skaters, mountain bikers and canoeists over 169 routes.
Furthermore, Switzerland Mobility - as the umbrella organisation is known - also runs a fleet of vehicles that conveniently transport baggage to the next destination for anyone who prefers to travel light (and has a very fat wallet, we abandoned Swiss biking plans recently due to costs), while bicycles can be rented at one station and dropped off at another, or carried on trains and some buses that are equipped with bike racks. Some bikes even have a battery-powered assist feature if a cyclist needs help up hills.
Hiking: With magnificent views of mountains, flower-carpeted
meadows and alpine valleys, waterfalls and superbly organised and supported
trails, this is a must-trek destination. Possibilities are too many to list with 6,300 kms (4,000 miles) of hiker-dedicated footpaths
Cycling or Mountain Biking: There are over 150 well designed
mountain bike routes in Switzerland, ranging from the easy to the
insane, all with breathtaking views and totalling 3,300 kms (2,000 miles) . For regular cycles there are over 8,500 kms (5,300 miles) of mostly asphalted trails.
Inline Skating: Around 1,000 kms (625 miles) of specially
asphalted, reasonably flat, scenic routes, such as the Rhine, Lake Constance and around Mittelland lakes, make this possibly the world's best wheel-based skating
Canoeing: SwitzerlandMobility has set up 410 kms (256 miles) of waterways for kayaks and canoes. The Muota River (Schwyz)
and the Doubs (Jura) are most wanted.
Windsurfing: Wind can be erratic due
to altitude or rock interference, but some popular spots are these
lakes: Estavayer-le-Lac, Leman, Bieler, Urner, Alpenmacher, Maggiore (north), Lugano.
Canoeing on one of Interlaken's lakes
Photo © Xdrew
White-water rafting: The Rhine and
Saane rivers are well known but the Alps provides many more possibilities.
Climbing: Zermatt, Pontresina
and Meiringen are areas favoured by serious climbers.
Para/Hangliding: yet another use for those
huge hunks of rock...hang/paragliding are well provided for
in most larger resorts, including first-time tandem flights where no experience is necessary; particularly popular at Interlaken and Engelberg.
The highest revolving restaurant in the world, the Allalin at the Saas Fee resort (3,500m/11,482ft) on Mittel-Allalin, Swiss Alps
Snow sports: Vast quantities of the
white stuff are just about everywhere of course, but what makes
this country a bit special is firstly, doing the white thing in the shadow
of a truly awesome mountain, such as Zermatt near the base of the Matterhorn, adds infinitely to the experience, and secondly that
in some places the snow is available nearly all year.
Zermatt and Verbier St-Bernard are the best targets for skiing (tho' not, perhaps, for beginners) and nightlife.
Apart from skiing, dog sleds and horse-drawn sleigh rides are popular with tourists.
Wellness: With pure alpine air and
a teutonic attitude to health, Switzerland offers a mass of spas,
saunas and therapy centres in stunning locations.
Leukerbad natural hot springs in the Swiss Alps
Unusual activities: Switzerland goes in for some off-the-wall sports too, such as canyoning,
zorbing (rolling down a mountainside in huge transparent ball) or
house running (abseiling down tall buildings at high speed). Interlaken
and Lucerne are centres for these mad moments.
Two luscious Swiss babes at the Fasnacht Carnival in Basel
Snow freaks have plenty of wacky winter festivals to attend, such
as: pop festivals at 1,800m in deep snow (Fuchstival, mid March
or Kleine Scheidegg early April); dog sled racing (Zinal, mid March
or Chandolin early April); Waterslide Contest (Bettmeralp, late
March or Valais, April); downhill mountain bike races (on snow)
from 3,600m (Allalin, early April)...
Feb/March (Mon-Thurs after Ash Wednesday), Fasnacht (carnival) - especially colourful in Basel where up to 20,000 masked revellers take to the darkened streets and make mad music, starting at 4.00 am on the Monday!
July, Montreux Jazz Festival.
August 1, Swiss National Day - with various activities including
fireworks, dancing and accordion performance overload.
Some 'Secret' Swiss ski resorts:
This charming and tranquil village is in the Valais region of south Switzerland. It's hidden away at 1,650m and accessible via twisting roads with views of the Matterhorn. St Luc has 75km of slopes and a funicular that takes you to pistes that are best for intermediates and beginners.
Just three miles from St Moritz in the Engadin Valley but in a world of its own next to the gorgeous Lake Silvaplana, Surlej has a couple of small restaurants, an old boulangerie, and a small cluster of chalets and hotels. It is just a short trip via shuttle buses to the cable car that takes you to the mass of St Moritz ski slopes.
This village is part of the Four Valleys ski region that is dominated by Verbier. It is the most attractive of Verbier suburbs, and offers a great selection of bars, cafés and restaurants. Veysonnaz is close to more than 400m of ski runs.
Lurking on the mountainside in the Upper Valais close to the stunning Big Aletsch glacier, Riederalpis a tiny, car-free village. It's adjacent to a number of calm, family ski slopes that connect to Bettmeralp and Fiesch-Eggishorn. The area sports 104km of runs including roomed slopes that are suited to beginners and intermediates.
Switzerland Tourism Official Site
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