Switzerland may have a reputation for its famous historical neutrality, the metronomic precision of its horological engineering and the secrecy of its banking, and when taken together they could easily give the impression that the country is, well, a bit boring. Throw in cuckoo clocks and the die could well be cast. But throw aside those thoughts and prepare yourself for the Switzerland I know and love.
This Switzerland is a small but perfectly formed nation of glacial troughs, Alpine valleys and snow-capped peaks; a land of wild flowers, endless lakes and captivating waterfalls; a pristine, gleaning beacon of environmental wonder where simply opening one’s eyes and filling one’s lungs can be enough to lift your soul.
If that sounds good – and if it doesn’t, what’s wrong with you? – then let me tell you how to make the most of Switzerland’s treasures. It may be obvious but given the outdoor splendour of this landlocked haven the best way to see the sights and breathe the air is by getting round on your own steam. Whether you prefer walking, cycling, or – in the winter months – skiing, person-power is the most serene, satisfying way to holiday in Switzerland.
Cycling through the Jura region
For those keen on a two-wheeled adventure (but less keen on Bradley Wiggins-style mountainous ascents), the Jura region on the border with France is an ideal place to start. The 4,478 meters of Switzerland’s most iconic peak, the Matterhorn, may make a spectacular photo but not even Wiggins could cycle up it!
The Jura, on the other hand, with its relatively flat terrain, sparse traffic and essential watering holes (aka vineyards) is simply ideal for a cycling holiday. You get the glittering, ethereal lakes, namely those at Biel, Murtensee and Neuchatel, are ideal for a spot of free swimming. There are waterfalls aplenty too, the fertile hillsides and valleys tick the wild flower box and with the Jura mountains reaching skywards at over 1,700 meters you have that department well covered too.
Reward your efforts with a relaxing spa visit
There is no sacrifice in terms of simplicity or comfort, even for the cycling novice. With Switzerland’s efficient rail network you can even shorten some of the longer stretches, if you must, by taking your bike on board and watching the scenery roll by from your carriage. Of course, the more authentic, rewarding option if the miles on the road are starting to affect the body is a good spa. And what better way to get over a long ride than the healing powers of the hot springs at Yverdon-les-Bains?
This region also offers up Roman remains at Avenches, pretty towns such as Murten with its mediaeval feel or Neuchatel with its Louis XI architecture and the aforementioned vineyards for oenophiles, with Cortaillod a particular highlight.
Explore Alpine regions
Of course, there are many other regions of Switzerland with a similar rainbow of treasures and, like the Jura, they are suitable for exploration either on foot or bike. If the Jura is a little flat and you prefer your peaks over 4000m then the Bernese Oberland could be the place for you. This is what Switzerland would be like if painted by a fine artist who had only read the words of poets describing its Alpine splendour. Except it really is that idyllic.
The snow-capped peaks of the Eiger, Matterhorn, Monch and Jungfrau will punctuate your journey whilst meadow after emerald green meadow springs to life with wild flowers. Almost two thirds of Swiss territory is Alpine and the tremendous network of paths makes much of that easily accessible. With such beauty just a footpath away, isn’t it time to pack your walking boots or cycling Lycra and get over there?
Many thanks for this Guest Post by Dave Hanson brought to you by Headwater, who offer holidays designed so that you really get under the skin of the place that you’re visiting, like activity holidays in Switzerland.
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Photo credits: All Photos from Wikimedia Commons
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