Switzerland

Switzerland is a montage of mesmerizing mountains, snow, rivers, valleys, lakes, chalets, red trains, flowers, cheese, wine, watches and chocolate. Its charm lies places like the verdant Engadine valley where the cows graze, or the Verbier, where its rich socialize over champagne in ice-carved flutes. The country has such dreamy locales that even the very name of its villages, like Zermatt or St. Moritz, evoke romance!

A small, landlocked country, Switzerland is where very concept of winter tourism was born and where the Golden Age mountaineers scaled newer heights. It featured as an important stop in every Grand Tour of European men. Be it the Holy Trinity of mountains, Monk (Monch), Ogre (Eiger) and Young Virgin (Jung Frau), or the legendary Matterhorn, the panoramic views of mountains in Switzerland is spectacular. A visit to the place will make your vacation a memorable experience.

‘Picture perfect’ is what Switzerland is all about. Right from its snowy summits, to its glistening glaciers, or the stunning ski-resorts, innumerable postcards carry their images. The highlife of Switzerland can be experienced everywhere, from its mountains to its resort towns. Riding cable cars up the peaks near Matterhorn, cruising the alpine lake and skiing down the slopes of St. Moritz provide an exhilarating outdoor recreation. Lavish spas, apre´s ski and fondue pots, all await to relax your tired nerves. Modern cities like Zurich and Geneva exhibit posh boutiques and upscale restaurants dotting the cobblestoned streets.

Switzerland remains one of Europe’s favourite destinations among travellers from around the world. Nestled among Austria, Germany, France and Italy, Switzerland imbibes the best of all, presenting a loveable mixture of dark chocolate, dizzying cable cars and dawdling cows grazing in the fields. The Swiss balance well their quaint traditions with their high-tech and independent life. Enjoy an unforgettable moment with a hike up the stunning mountain or with the cheesemakers in a valley or learning to play the alphorn!

The alluring landscapes of Switzerland tempt you to get out on your boots, or leap unto a board, or get on your bike to explore the land. The winter choice of skiing and snowboard will be in the cantons of Graubünden, Bernese Oberland and Central Switzerland. Tourists choose to hike or bike when the pastures turn green in the usually glacier-white mountain arears, or in the valleys, shining lakeshores and the vineyards. Enjoy a spectacular bird’s view from a hot-air balloon or parachute or on a white-water raft. The must-sees include the Eiger’s north face, up close, or the crevassed ice on Jungfraujoch (3454m). The interesting fact is that you need not be a mountaineer to accomplish this feet!

The rural and the urban are presented in a beautiful blend in Switzerland with amazing ease and grace. Take the little red train between mountains and forests, refresh yourself in the mountain spa waters, tread in snowshoes inside your igloo, or walk through the medieval bridges on foot to completely enjoy the goodness of Swiss life.

Indian Midsummer Dream

Indians are drawn to Switzerland like fireflies to the fire. Make no mistake. Switzerland the Mecca of Indian Tourists. No European tour is complete without a quick visit to Switzerland. Switzerland’s joining of the European Schengen area in December 2008 has meant that a Schengen visa is all one needs for a Swiss “darshan”.

The Swiss Federal Statistics Office recorded 217,082 Indian tourists visiting Switzerland in 2014. There has been a marked increase in the number of tourists, in the year 2015, as compared to the last three years, with a recorded growth of 26.7% between January and June this year. June was one the best months with over 40% growth over 2014. According to the Swiss Federal Statistics Office, 217,082 Indian tourists visited Switzerland in 2014 and they were responsible for slightly over 485,216 overnight stays in the country.

When to visit

Though Switzerland enjoys a pleasant climate, your to-do list would decide when to visit the country.

Sightseeing

:June to September (Summer) is the best time to enjoy the picturesque beauty of the land. Enjoy a spectacular panorama from the open mountain passes. It is peak tourist time and unfortunately that means lots of crowds.

Hiking

May and October (Autumn) is a good time for a hike in the Swiss Alps. The temperature begins to fall and the air gets cooler. Tourist inflow is comparatively low.

Adventure Sports

Late December to March (Winter) is ideal to enjoy the snow sports like skiing, snow-boarding and ice-skating at ski resorts like Gstaad, St. Moritz and the lesser known, but beautiful Val d’Anniviersin the French-speaking Switzerland. The White Christmas is a wonderful experience. The price of the ski resorts tend to be on the higher side during winters, as there is a surge in the number of tourists.

How to Reach Switzerland

By Air

Airports

The Zurich Airport (ZRH) and Geneva’s Cointrin Airport (GVA) are the major gateways into Switzerland. The Zurich Airport is the airline hub through which most Swiss flights pass.

You need at least two hours to transfer to your connecting flight. Plan ahead. On the outskirts of Basel is located the Euro Airport, which is used as a stopover by many low cost flights, that fly to numerous destinations across Europe. It also helps that Zurich is close by.

For 22 SF per bag round-trip, passengers on Swiss and partner airlines with tickets on Swiss Federal Railways can forward their luggage to their final destination, allowing them to travel unencumbered. This means if you are on Swiss Air or its partner airlines and your final destination is Interlaken, you can checkin your baggage at Mumbai or Delhi and it will be delivered to Interlaken where you can pick it up from the Interlaken railway station. You can avail the same facility when returning back to India. Baggage check-in and airline boarding passes can be arranged at more than 50 train stations around Switzerland, but can only be done less than 24 hours in advance. You can also choose the same facility for transporting your luggage around Switzerland while you travel bag free. An English-language “Fly-Rail Baggage” brochure is available free of charge from the Swiss Federal Railways

How to get to Switzerland by Rail

The SBB/CFF/FFS or The Swiss Federal Railways has one of the world’s densest transportation networks. The service is extremely prompt and the trains and stations are maintained well. The Inter-city or the Express are the fastest and stops only in main towns. Local train (Regionalzug, train regional and treno regional) make more frequent stops.

The Golden Pass and the RhatischeBahn are private rail lines besides the federal rail lines. Private lines are mostly integrated with the main network and accept discount rail passes. They also offer other reductions on the price.

The Swiss Federal Railways website is comprehensive and helps you in planning your itineraries, which may include travelling by suburban trains, trams and buses. It also facilitates online booking of your tickets.

There are many passes available for visitors if your destination in Europe is only Switzerland. The pass with the best value is the Swiss Travel Pass, as it offers unlimited travel on Swiss Federal Railways, postbuses, Swiss lake steamers, and the local bus and tram services in 41 cities. There are reduction offered too on many privately owned railways, cable cars and funiculars. The pass also provides you free access to 480 museums in the country.

Non-residents of Switzerland and Liechtenstein can avail the Swiss Family card is available cost-free. Children under 16 accompanied by a parent, can travel for free!

Why is Switzerland alluring?

Winter Joy: Swoosh down the celebrated ski slopes, and relax in the luxurious spas!

The Alps: Picturesque alpine hamlets and peaks that provide majestic views!

Sylvan scenes: Panoramic views of picturesque landscapes from trains!

Food and Drink: Haute cuisine and local wine, with Swiss cheese and chocolate!

Urban Life: The cosmopolitans Geneva and Zurich and the historic Basel and Bern.

Shop-o-mania: From holiday markets to designer boutiques – you have it all!

A few of the beautiful places in Switzerland are:

The Matterhorn

Matterhorn will mesmirise anyone who has seen it just once, even if it is on a picture postcard. The unique shape of Matterhorn, a picture perfect triangular shape resembling a jagged tooth brings forth a sense of awe and wonder. The Matterhorn has been attracting alpinists since time immemorial. It is known worldwide as a mountain with ideal proportions. It is a triangular rugged rock resting in a carpet of clouds, exuding a magical luminescence.

Matterhorn is also called Il Cervino (Italian) or Le Cervin (French). At its foot is an eco-friendly village, Zermatt, a car-free village that is a magnet for tourists all over the world and is one of the most important tourist attractions of Switzerland. Zermatt offers chalets, restaurants, carriage rides, and plenty of shops and souvenir shops, creating the perfect template of a Swiss Alpine village.

Mürren

Murren is a mountain village that is seemingly perched precariously on a mountain cliff a whopping 5,413 feet above sea level, overlooking the southern end of the Lauterbrunnen valley. It is unreachable by public road. Cable cars and mountain trains are the only modes of transportation. From this quaint little town, that feels like a levitating terrace, the view of the Eiger and Jungfrau peaks are spectacular!

If you continue your journey on the cable car past Murren, you would reach the Schilthorn peak. The Piz Gloria viewing station and restaurant atop the peak provides a mesmerising panorama.

Mürren is a small village with just 350 residents and is circled by the kind of mountain panorama you only dream about. The town just has a few transport trucks and farmers’ vehicles in it

The village is surrounded by wildflowers, grazing cows and quiet trails. It is one of the enchanting hiking destination in the Alp and is also a great base for relaxing and soaking in the ambiance and mountain scenery.

Murren is fairy-tale Switzerland come to life, and you won’t find a better combination of alpine scenery, mountain culture, and breath-taking scenic activities

Schilthorn

Continuing on the cable car past Murren, you reach the top of the Schilthorn which is 2970 mts high. Atop is the rotating 3600 restaurant Piz Gloria that provides a spectacular panoramic view of 200 mountain peaks! On a clear day, you can see from Titlis around to Mont Blanc, and across to the German Black Forest.

The place is famed being featured in the James Bond movie – On Her Majest’s Secret Service, shot in 1968-69. The new Bond World 007 interactive exhibition gives you the chance to pose for photos secret-agent style and relive movie moments in a helicopter and bobsled.

From Interlaken, take a CHF 121.80 excursion trip (Half-Fare Card and Swiss Card 50% off, Swiss Pass 65% off) going to Lauterbrunnen, Grütschalp, Mürren, Schilthorn and returning through Stechelberg to Interlaken. A return from Lauterbrunnen (via Grütschalp) and Mürren costs CHF107 as does the return journey via the Stechelberg cable car. A return from Mürren is CHF77. Ask about discounts for early-morning trips. En route from Mürren, the cable car goes through the Birg station (2677m), where you can stop to take in marvellous views.

Lauterbrunnen

“The stateliest bit of landstrip” said Lord Tennyson about the Lauterbrunnen Valley, one of the most beautiful places of Switzerland. More than 70 waterfalls on the 1508 feet rocky face, lining the 3km long valley, truly mesmerise the souls of the beholders. Lauterbrunnen means “only springs”. Some plummet from sky-high crags, others cascade out of cliff-face crevasses, while many are hidden within the rocks themselves; the largest, the Staubbach Falls, were immortalized by Goethe, Wordsworth, and Byron, who described them as “the tail of a white horse blowing in the breeze.” For scenery supreme, Lauterbrunnen can’t be topped.

This grandeur and splendour of this picturesque view hits you with all its beauty as you arrive by train. The neat town has numerous Swiss chalets and is a starting point to two of the major excursions – to the Schilthorn and to the Jungfraujoch. The rail terminal has an excellent parking space that takes care of your long and short time parking needs while you head for Wengen, Murren, the Jungfraujoch or the Schilthorn. You could consider keeping this town as your base for your day trips by train, funicular or cable as it works out to be more economical. There are also interesting hiking options available. The trails include the Panorama Spazierweg that connects Lauterbrunnen with Wengen. Help yourself with a map from the tourist office on the main street.

Luzern

Among the azure lakes and mammoth mountains nests one of the most gorgeous of Swiss cities, Lucerne, with its immaculately preserved medieval old Town centre. It is well-known for its lilting music, romantic covered bridges, bright coloured houses and waterfront promenades. Legend has it that an angel with a light showed the first settlers where to build the town chapel. The chapel still stands tall, exuding amazing grace!

The town is famed for its beautiful lakefront, alluring shops and its medieval ambience that well exceeds its size (a mere 9 square miles)! It would be no surprise if the lakeshore promenade and other alpine views look familiar, for, this is the place that decorates many travel posters and many Indian film songs have been shot in these wonderful locales.

The view from the sidewalk café seat, of the medieval wooden bridge, the baroque church and the old-age charm, set amidst the pristine water and the rocky mountains, is stunning.

Titlis

Mt. Titlis is Central Switzerland’s tallest mountain. It is known for the world’s first revolving cable car, it is reached by. Completed in 1992, it is still one of its kind. It is also the last phase of the four-stage journey. The first three are the ascend to Gerschnialp (1300 m), then over the Trubsee (1800 m) by cable car and to Stand (2450 m) on a large gondola.

Boarding the Rotair, where only the cabin inside revolves, will take you to the Titlis Glacier from Stand. The Titlis station is at 3020 m and has good restaurants and other tourist attractions like the ice cave. The summit is at 3239 m and is a 45 minute hike. There are also snowboarding and skiing for you, to participate or to enjoy viewing!

The Ice Flyer chair lift takes you to the glacier park down. Enjoy the 150 m long slides on rubber tyres!

Mt. Pitalus

Wagner wrote verses in the 19th century about Mt. Pilatus, rising above Lucerne in the southwest. Queen Victoria visited the alpine vista on horseback. This peak is 2132 m high and legend has it that it was named after Pontius Pilate though it is widely acknowledged that that the name is much more likely to have been derived from the Latin word ‘pileatus’, meaning ‘cloud covered’.

From May to October, you could travel to Mt Pilatus on a classic round-trip, one way by boat and the return by bus. Get on board a boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, and climb your way up the steepest cograilway to Mt Pilatus. While returning, take a cable car from the summit down to Kriens via Fräkmüntegg and Krienseregg, and then take bus 1 which will take you back to Lucerne. The reverse route (Kriens–Pilatus–Alpnachstad–Lucerne) is also possible. The return trip costs CHF 97 (much lesser with valid Swiss, Eurail or InterRail passes).

The Jungfraujoch

The mountain peak of Jungfraujoch was difficult to access once but thanks to Swiss engineering skills, a cog railway now goes takes you up to the the highest railway station in Europe – Jungfrau railway station.

At 3,454m (11,332 ft.), it is the highest peak in Europe, it is a once in a lifetime experience. You can acess Jungfrau any time of the year and you are treated to a spectacular view of icy glaciers and steep mountains around you.

Burrowing a tunnel through Eiger, the last stage of the train journey takes you from Kleine Scheidegg to the Sphinx meteorological station. The tunnel was opened in 1912 and took 3000 men in 16 years to drill. En route, you stop at Eigerwand and Eismeer which offer panoramic views of the ice below.

You can get advance information on the weather at Jungfrau from the website www.jungfrau.ch or you can 033 828 79 31. Good weather is essential for the trip, as are warm clothes, sunglasses and sunscreen. In the Sphinx weather station, where passengers disembark the train, an Ice Palace gallery with ice sculptures, restaurants and indoor viewpoints, is open to public.

The journey from Interlaken Ost takes 2 ½ hours each way and the return costs CHF 197.60. The last train is at 5.45 pm in summer and 4.45 pm in winter. It would be prudent not to do the entire journey in one day. Start early from Interlaken and plan a long midday at in a town like Grindelwald before proceeding to Jungfrau as the sudden change in the altitude from the valley floor to the peak could be giddying.

Thun

Located at the lower end of the Lake Thun, where River Aare flows out, is the city of Thun. The city exudes an old-age charm with its beautiful streams with wooden bridges across them and streets lined with arcades. Pedestrians busy shopping in the Old Town’s shopping thoroughfare will find flower terraced sidewalks built on the first floors of the shops and climb down to visit the shops built in below.

The city has all the factors that would allure any tourist, be it the museums and castles, or the medieval town centre or picturesque vistas, interesting hiking trails and a breath taking view on the shore of Lake Thun with the backdrop of the snowclad mountains of Bernese Oberland! Thun is also the gateway to the Bernese Oberland.

There is a castle in the centre of the Old Town that dates back to the 12th century and houses the museum. The historic centre is about a kilometre from the lake and the river Aare.

The history of the city goes a long back with a town church that dates back to around 1330 and town hall dating back to the 16th century. Lake Thun is the largest lake in Switzerland, well-admired by locals and tourists alike. Located in the alpine city, the lake is open for water sports and swimming and there are various hiking trails and mountain biking.

Bern

Bernis the capital of Switzerland. Its wealth of culture, the leisure and entertainment encapsulated with its Old Town ambience has made generations of tourists go weak in their knees and it is no wonder Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s in 1779 wrote to his friend Charlotte von Stein that “It is the most beautiful that we have ever seen”.

The Old Town that has managed to retain its historic features and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with its 6 kilometres of covered arcades and long shopping promenades, with boutiques and bars and the small street cafes attract the tourists and locals alike. Bern is a city that is best explored by foot.

Bern’s centre is cobbled and was rebuilt in a distinct grey-green sandstone, after a fatal fire accident in 1405. The city is an aesthetic delight either on foot or if viewed from one of the hills nearby of the red roofs festooned by the bend of the River Aare.

With its excellent museums, the prancing bears at the Bear Park and the friendly locals who are comfortable with English, Bern is doesn’t stop to surprise us.

The fountains, sandstone facades, narrow streets and historic towers, render a medieval air to this city. The best view of the old town can be got from the elevated Rose Garden above the Bear Park and the platform of the 101-metre-high cathedral tower.

Bern is where the Swiss government functions from. The Houses of Parliament (Bundeshaus) is very close to the railway station. It is open to visitors.

Bern is in the heart of Switzerland and can be easily reached by car or by air through the Bern-Belp airport and buses. The dense rail network with its direct connections to the major European cities, make travelling easier. The city, located in the centre makes a perfect base, to stay overnight and to plan your excursions throughout Switzerland.

Appenzell

The village of Appenzell is the capital of the cantonof Appenzell Innerrhoden and is located on the green blanket of the rolling hills. The region is known for itscustoms and traditions. For instance, the start of September sees the ceremonial descent of hundreds of cows from the Alpine pastures! The rich folk music and rustic dances enlivens the village. Ranging from a leisurely walk to a strenuous but enchanting mountain hike, the alpine region offers many interesting options to explore.

Appenzell is the political and the cultural centre of the Appenzell Innerrhoden. Its population is 7,000 and is the smallest Swiss canton. The clear air, thanks to the car-free policy, makes the beautiful lanes and healthier too. The stores and boutiques offer shopping and browsing opportunities. Frescoes decorate the facades of the buildings. A cross-section of the Appenzell’s history and culture is showcased in the Appenzell museum.

A ridge of green hills separates Appenzell from St. Gallen.Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden are the two sub-cantons of Appenzell. They are Switzerland’s least-explored regions. The Appenzellers are known for their ‘anstand’, which means decorum or decency. They are old-fashioned and have a quirky senses of humour. Appenzell is also a country of cheese and beer. Do not miss either!

Appenzell got its name from the Latin abbatiscella (abbey cell). The region served as a colony to the St. Gallen abbey.

The regions is famous for its fine embroidery. Alpfahrten, a local festival sees the cows herded up or down the mountains. Women have their hair coiffed in tulle and their dresses exhibit their embroidery skill, with lace and edelweiss motif. Men wear embroidered red vests and suspenders that are decorated with edelweiss motif or cow figures. The people are very serious about these traditional dresses which can cost thousands of Swiss francs. But here, the stress is more on pride than money.

Zurich

Zürich is a beautiful city that extends on either side of the Limmat River at the north end of Lake Zurich. The Altstadt (Old Town) makes up a great part of the city centre and boasts of elegant historic edifices. The shopping experience that it offers is first rate, in terms of exclusivity and uniqueness. Centuries-old mansions dot the shores of the lake that are overlooked by the mammoth snowy mountains.

Zurich is located at the meeting point of river and lake. The city is rich in culture and beautifully set in its alpine environs. Besides being the financial centre, Zurich is efficiently run and is the largest and wealthiest metropolis of Switzerland. It has as one of central Europe’s hippest tourist destination of the 21st century, with its post-industrial superiority that is showed in its Street Parade.

Zurich has fondly embraced the contemporary trends balancing well by keeping intact its ancient centre, lanes and church steeples. The old factories have been converted into cultural centres and new living spaces. This beautiful blend is evident in Züri-West, the focal point of the city’s nightlife.

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