I‘ve been living in Switzerland for almost all of my adult life, and it’s arguably the country that I’ve come to know best. Switzerland is beautiful and unique, a treasure amongst treasures, and there’s nothing I love more than to spend an idle summer weekend wandering its mountains, lakes, and valleys.
If you’re planning a trip to this little Alpine paradise, allot yourself a few days to step out into its pristine nature and experience the rosy and spellbinding landscapes for yourself. Don’t know where to begin? Have a look below at my absolute favorite spots in all of Switzerland. These are the places I fell in love with, and the destinations I can wholeheartedly recommend to any traveler.
It’s incredibly easy to move around the country using public transportation, and you don’t need to look any further than the Swiss Federal Railway’s website or the SBB app when planning your itinerary.
A glacial lake hidden in the highlands of Bern
The region of Switzerland known as Berner Oberland or the Bernese Highlands boasts some of the most majestic panoramas in Europe, and it’s easy to see why: glaciers, green grass, happy cows—this is pure, unadulterated Switzerland in all its glory.
Many visitors flock each year to the extreme sports capital of Interlaken before moving on to the picturesque villages of Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald, located on different ends of a forked road. You’ll have to make a decision on which one you want to see first, although both are worth a visit.
If you’re strapped for time and can only choose one, then head to Lauterbrunnen and simply immerse yourself in the scenery. But if you have a full day to spare and would like to discover the highlands on foot, then go to Grindelwald, jump the cable car to First, and from the summit, follow the well-marked trail to Bachalpsee.
The walk and back takes roughly two hours and the view is resplendent. If the mountain lake with the towering Wetterhorn in the background seems familiar, it’s not déjà vu: you’ve probably seen it at one point as one Gmail’s featured backgrounds.
A village overlooking the vineyards above Lake Geneva
The Lavaux region of canton Vaud on Lake Geneva, famous for its vineyards atop sloping hillsides, is another highly beloved destination. This is the most romantic place in Switzerland and a trip best enjoyed by two.
Let yourselves be enchanted by the charms of French-speaking Lavaux by spending an evening in Chexbres (the x and s are silent), on the balcony of Lake Geneva. Savor a glass of local white wine and watch the sun slip into the distance from Le Baron Tavernier.
In the morning, stroll through the idyllic hamlet and make your way slowly down to neighboring lakeside Rivaz. From there, it’s a quick 12-minute journey to Montreux, home of the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival. If you’re visiting in July and combining your Lavaux getaway with a Festival act, then treat yourselves to a night at the elegant Grand Hôtel Suisse Majestic. It’s well worth a little splurging on and is the perfect conclusion (or start) to a couple of days of proper pampering.
3. Alp Lauweli
An alpine pasture in the old heart of Switzerland
This one is for the history lovers out there. The Swiss Path, or Weg der Schweiz, was created in 1991 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Switzerland. This national route guides hikers around the arm of Lake Lucerne called Urnersee (Lake Uri) and through all the original founding states of the Old Swiss Confederacy.
Begin by taking the train to Brunnen, and then the boat to historical Rütli. Legend has it, it was on this meadow where the chiefs of the forest communities of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden swore an oath that laid the first foundations for modern Switzerland.
The Weg der Schweiz continues onwards from Rütli through Seelisberg, Bauen, Flüelen, Sisikon, and Morschach before finally coming to an end at Brunnen. However, feel free to stray off the path, as it can also bring some unexpected rewards. For a truly spectacular experience, get on the cable car at Seelisberg for Alp Weid, and once there, keep walking until you reach Alp Lauweli. The area just above Lauweli offers some prime locations to pitch a tent, as well as magnificent vistas over the Urner Alps, Lake Uri, and Flüelen. From there, you have the option of summiting the Niederbauen-Chulm or making your way back down to Bauen and continuing along the Swiss Path.
A natural wonderland tucked deep in the Verzasca Valley
A country with four national languages, Switzerland is very diverse for its size. Situated at the intersection of German, French, and Italian, the presence of the Alps helped draw and solidify natural linguistic borders. Tucked deep into the hills of the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino is Lavertezzo; its Roman bridge and rustic stone houses are relics of bygone days. Luckily, this tiny village is anything but forgotten, having become a favorite summer retreat for locals and visitors alike.
Pack a picnic and a towel and get on the train to Tenero. There, a dandelion Swiss Post bus is waiting to take you through a winding climb of Valle Verzasca. You can either hop off at Lavertezzo or ride all the way to the end of the line to Sonogno for a more unfiltered experience. For the brave of heart, head west of Sonogno to the froda, meaning “waterfall” in the local Ticinese dialect, and dip into some literally glacial waters. Then, make your way down the valley back towards Lavertezzo as you dry yourself in the balmy summer air.
A most serene wilderness in the expanse of the Valais
Rounding out the list of my favorite Swiss landscapes is the Valais, Switzerland’s vast and wild southwestern frontier. Feast your eyes upon the Matterhorn, one of nature’s most wonderfully perfect creations, as you trek to Stellisee, a mountain lake situated 2,500 meters above sea level. (Tip: bring a puff jacket!)
The journey to Stellisee begins in Alpine chic Zermatt. Once you arrive, part ways with the crowds taking the Gornergratbahn and instead head for the cable cars going up to Sunnegga mountain station. From Sunnegga, it’s one more cable car ride to Blauherd station and then a half-hour walk to the lake. (Well, it can take anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how distracted you are by the marmots.)
Nearby, you can spend a night or enjoy a warm meal at the Bergrestaurant Fluhalp Zermatt. The surrounding area is a nature-lover’s dream, with plenty of beautiful options to sleep under the moon and stars. In the morning, pack up your bags and take the scenic 5-Seenweg, or “Five Lakes Walk,” back to Sunnegga; it’s sure to promise an unforgettable experience.