Things to Do in Swiss Alps
Dating back to 1898, Switzerland’s Gornergrat Railway (Gornergrat Bahn) continues today as Europe’s highest open-air railway. Its train whisks sightseers and skiers from the resort town of Zermatt to the mountain’s 10,135-foot (3,089-meter) station, while providing views of Alpine hamlets, colossal glaciers, and the iconic Matterhorn.
Perched on a rocky precipice 11,716 feet (3,571 meters) above sea level, the Sphinx Observatory is a working lab with a large telescope. The landmark sits on Jungfraujoch peak—known as the "Top of Europe"—and offers stunning views of the Bernese Alps and beyond from its observation deck, one of the highest in Switzerland.
Lake Thun—or Thunersee as it’s known locally—is a glacial lake near Interlaken. Its bright turquoise water and the surrounding mountains and valleys are pure picture-postcard Switzerland.
Nicknamed the “Mountain of Mountains,” the Matterhorn is one of the highest peaks in Europe, reaching a mighty 14,692 feet (4,478 meters). Known for its jagged triangular shape, it’s one of Switzerland’s most famous peaks—not only for its views, but also for its appearance in the logo for Toblerone, the iconic Swiss chocolate brand.
High above the Swiss town of Interlaken stands Harder Kulm, a viewpoint with panoramic views of the mountains and valleys of the Berner Oberland region. Visitors can hike to the spot from town, or take a funicular railway. Once at the top, you can enjoy the views, have a refreshment, and enjoy a variety of attractions.
Lake Brienz (Brienzersee) is one of the two lakes that flank the popular resort town of Interlaken. The village of Brienz, which sits on the opposite side of the lake (and from which the lake takes its name), is a picture-perfect Swiss spot made up of traditional wooden chalets with the snow-capped Alps rising behind them.
Reaching 10,626 feet (3,239 meters) above sea level, Mt. Titlis is Central Switzerland’s highest peak and probably its finest vantage point. The mountain has a cutting-edge transportation system—including, most famously a revolving cable car that turns 360 degrees during the ride to the top station at 9,908 feet (3,020 meters). Those lucky enough to be inside the car are graced with stunning panoramic views of Alpine peaks, sheer rock faces, and an icy crevasse-cracked glacier.
The Jungfrau, a sky-high saddle in the Swiss Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers jaw-dropping views of the Bernese Oberland’s massive glaciers and snowy peaks. Travel by narrow cog railway to Jungfraujoch and stand on “the Top of Europe” as you gaze out at the Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, and far, far beyond.
Forces of nature are on full display in Glacier Canyon, which was formed as the Lower Grindelwald Glacier slowly carved its way through the rock in the area. As waterfalls and streams pour down into the Lütschine River, a walk through Glacier Canyon is a total sensory experience.
Covering a total area of over 45 square miles (72 square kilometers, the Great Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacial landscape in Europe. It’s located in the eastern Swiss Alps flanked by the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains.
More Things to Do in Swiss Alps
Soaring over the Bernina Pass and climbing to a dizzying 7,392 feet (2,253 meters) above sea level, the famous Bernina Express is one of Europe’s most beautiful railway routes. Running for 75 miles (122 kilometers) from Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy, it’s the only railway that connects the North and South Alps, and offers dramatic mountain views.
Maienfeld is the picturesque town, in which the best-selling Heidi story by Johanna Spyri takes place. The famous novel tells of the life and adventures of a cheerful young girl growing up in the alps in her grandfather’s, the Alm-Uncle’s, care. The town of Maienfeld, which can be found in the canton of Graubünden in eastern Switzerland, embodies this image of a romantic and nature-oriented Switzerland and transports visitors back in time. Experience an emotional journey to the Swiss mountain world of the 19th century and visit the Heidi Village and Trail detailed in Spyri’s novels. The venue makes history come alive and displays everything from the goat barn, to Heidi’s house as well as a museum dedicated to the author and shows nothing but pure dedication to the story that has inspired children around the world.
Heidi made the little town famous, but Maienfeld would have probably done just fine without her too. The village has become well known for producing the Maienfelder Beerliwein, a fruity red wine, in the vineyards surrounding the village. The excellent quality of the wine is based not only on the favorable climate, warm winds and a lot of sun, but also on the quality conscious work of the vintners. In the midst of these wineyards lies Salenegg Castle, a feudal mansion dating back to the year 950. The big estate has been producing wine since 1068, making it the oldest winery in all of Europe.
It might not be a household name, but with a panorama spanning some of Europe's most iconic peaks—including Jungfrau, the Eiger, and even the distant Mont Blanc—the Schilthorn summit offers one of Switzerland's most spectacular mountain views. The 9,744-foot (2,970-meter) mountain lies in the Bernese Alps and is famous for its revolving mountaintop restaurant, Piz Gloria, which was featured in the 1969 James Bond movieOn Her Majesty's Secret Service.
The Grimsel Pass route through the Swiss Alps reaches some 6,500 feet (1981 meters above sea level—linking the canton of Bern with the canton of Valais. Wild and often treacherous, the path was once used by traders and mules to transport Swiss cheese, and holds a sacred place in Switzerland’s history.
A long winding valley cupped between the snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps and following the Inn River, the 50-mile-long (80-kilometer-long) Engadine (or Engadin) valley is one of Switzerland’s most desirable holiday destinations. A sunny climate, beautiful lakes, and a stunning alpine backdrop make Engadine, which encompasses star-studded destinations like St. Moritz, one of Europe’s most highly populated valleys.
Adventure Park Interlaken (Seilpark Interlaken)
Home to nine unique courses of varying difficulty level, this high ropes park in Interlaken is a nature lover and thrill seeker’s paradise. Adventurers can experience more than 120 unique physical challenges across the park’s treetop ziplines, bridges, and swings, while little ones can have a go on the family-friendly Butterfly Walk.
Located just north of Grindelwald, the 7,106-foot (2,166-meter) First Mountain is one of the region’s most accessible peaks. Affording spectacular views of the neighboring Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains, it’s a scenic spot for hiking and skiing.
Lake Walen (Walensee)
Lake Walen (Walensee is a lake in eastern Switzerland, separating the cantons Glarus and St. Gallen. It is part of a region known as Heidiland, which is named after the famous story by Johanna Spyri. The mountains rise almost vertically on all sides of the lake, and nestled on little plateaus and along the shores are several traditional Swiss towns.
Lake Staz (Lej da Staz)
Encircled by the vast Staz forest, Lake Staz (Lej da Staz) takes on a mythical ambiance with its floating islands of marsh clover and towering reeds. An easy 30-minute walk from St.Moritz leads to the lake, passing through some incredible mountain scenery, or if you fancy an alternative, horse-drawn carriage rides are available along the pathways surrounding the lake.
A series of suspended walkways and cave tunnels make this limestone gorge easily accessible for explorers after an intimate glimpse of the Alpine landscape. Formed by Ice Age glaciation, the mile-long Aare Gorge (Aareschlucht ranges in width from three to 100 feet and flanks the Aare all the way from the Grimsel Pass to Lake Brienz.
The bright-red Glacier Express passes over glaciers, across gorges, and above river valleys through Switzerland’s spectacular mountain scenery. This narrow-gauge line is the only direct service between the exclusive ski resort of Zermatt and chic St. Moritz—and is considered among the most beautiful scenic trains in Europe.
Mönch is a mountain peak in the Switzerland’s Bernese Alps that, together with Eiger and Jungfrau, forms one of the most recognizable groups of mountains in the country. Located on the border between Valais and Bern, it is the most climbed of the three peaks. Mönch was first summited in 1857 and today, is thought to be a good starting point for climbing in the area. A one-day climb up Mönch can be a good way to adjust to the altitude and get an introduction to climbing in the area. The normal route follows the southeast ridge, which includes come exposed ridge climbing on snow and gneissic rock. The Nollen route on Mönch’s northwest side is considered more challenging due to the presence of ice.
The Rhône Glacier in the Swiss Alps is the source of the Rhône River, which travels through Switzerland and France into the Mediterranean Sea, and contributes to Lake Geneva. It’s estimated to be more than 10,000 years old. Visitors can view it from the outside and also walk inside the glacier.
Home to the longest glacial downhill ski route in Switzerland, as well as a varied network of ski runs, it’s not hard to see why Diavolezza is a popular haunt for powder junkies. Standing over 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) proud, Diavolezza Mountain adds an impressive eight peaks to the Bernina skyline, and is accessible by gondola from the Diavolezza train station.
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