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Swiss Alps

Great Destination:

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • The Rhine and Rhone rivers originate in the Swiss Alps within 15 miles of one another.
  • Early ski racers were dairy farmers skiing on summer grazing grounds; the Swiss still cheer skiers with cowbells.
  • Jungfraujoch, at 11,333 feet above sea level, is the highest train station in Europe.
  • More than 500 people have died climbing the Matterhorn since it was first scaled in 1865.
  • When St. Moritz hosted the 1928 Winter Olympics, there were no downhill or slalom events.

The Alps, from A to Zermatt

The Swiss Alps are an outstanding example of the many reasons tourists vacation in the mountains — the closeness to nature and relatively small populations, the beauty of the mountains themselves and the opportunities for activities that vary from sleigh rides and hiking to glacier skiing and mountain climbing.

In Switzerland, these attractions are enhanced with wooden chalets and charming villages tucked into the valleys, alpine folk culture (yodeling, playing the alphorn, Swiss wrestling) — and, not least, the welcoming Swiss people.

The Alps encompass 60% of the country, which translates into lots of choices, enough to make this a popular destination with travelers of all personality types, producing high ratings.

Much of the focus is on regions noted for skiing, but those same locations hold appeal in all seasons. Popular destinations include:

  • St. Moritz, set in the Upper Engadine, one of the country’s most scenic valleys. It is in Graubunden canton in southeastern Switzerland, where Davos and Klosters are found, too. St. Moritz is noted for its nightlife and the Beautiful People who visit, as well as its beauty and skiing. St. Moritz is on the spectacular route of the Bernina Express rail service. Davos draws elite of another sort to its World Economic Forum, but it also is a large ski resort and Europe’s highest-altitude town.
  • The Bernese Oberlund, a popular area loved for its classic Swiss scenery and appearance of the traditional alpine lifestyle. It is in south central Switzerland and home to the famed Jungfrau and ski resorts like the chic Gstaad. Interlaken is the gateway and other resorts are Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren — the latter a car-free site and one noted for its high-altitude views of the country. The Jungfraujoch station and its high-altitude scenics are here, too.
  • Zermatt, a car-free medieval village, with the Matterhorn as its backdrop. Some ski lifts and runs are open year round, but in summer, the area also offers superb hiking. Zermatt, in southern Switzerland, is a top mountain climbing area, too, but those who aspire to conquer the Matterhorn must be in top condition.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Undertake a hut-to-hut hike in the mountains. One destination choice is Grindelwald, summer or winter. It is on the Via Alpina, one of the world’s classic hiking routes.
  • Ski on glaciers in summer on the Matterhorn. Or, on the Fee Glacier at Saas Fee.
  • Cruise the hottest nightspots in St. Moritz. It won’t be cheap though.
  • In summer, at Zermatt, consider your choices: mountain biking, mountain climbing, paragliding as well as summer skiing.
  • Plan a mountain climbing trek. Get in shape if you want to try the Matterhorn.
  • Set off from Davos on a horseback or muleback trekking excursion.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Hop the cog railway that will take you to the high-altitude Jungfraujoch railroad station.
  • Go skiing in the fabled Alps. Or go snowboarding. Consider lesser-known resorts such as Celerina and Pontresina for the skiing, but try Davos and Klosters for the snowboarding.
  • Eat fondue, a Swiss favorite. It is a hot wine-and-cheese sauce into which you dip bread cubes, particularly nice for a winter night.
  • Attend the summertime International Alphorn Festival in Nendaz, and hear more than 100 alphorns playing together. The event also involves contests, a procession, a country dance and folk group performances. Or, attend the Yodeling Fair, held early in July, at Bachlager Alp above Grindelwald.
  • Ride in a horse-drawn sleigh in Davos. Make that a moonlight ride.
  • Sign up for a guided sightseeing tour to see and learn about the Aletsch Glacier, which is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Shop in a Christmas market in the Alps. Mount Pilatus claims to have the highest-altitude (6,995 feet) holiday market in Europe.
  • Ride the Bernina Express rail service from Chur past Ice Age glaciers to Tirano in Italy for the sheer pleasure of looking at the scenery. This journey takes you across Europe’s highest railway alpine pass, the Bernina, at 7,392 feet. Or, make that the Glacier Express rail journey from Zermatt to Davos or St. Moritz. It calls itself the world’s slowest express train.
  • Overnight in a classic mountainside Swiss chalet-style hotel.
  • Stroll in one or more car-free villages. Possibilities include Bettmeralp, Riederalp, Saas Fee, Wengen and Zermatt. Carry your best camera for strolls here or just about anywhere in the Swiss Alps.
  • Dine in some of the finest restaurants in the mountains, in or around Gstaad and St. Moritz.
  • Board a motorcoach — meaning a PostBus vehicle — for a trip through the mountains on one of several scenic routes. Consider the Julier Route Express (Chur to St. Moritz), but there are others, too.

Additional Resources

For information, consult Switzerland Tourism at www.myswitzerland.com