The best outdoor activities in Switzerland this summer
In the summer months, Switzerland is a glorious symphony of wildflowers and sparkling lakes, sunny days and long warm evenings. Whether you want to travel from hot springs to the top of the mountain, or prefer to explore the cultural highlights of Zurich and Basel, or have your heart set on small lakeside towns, summer is the perfect time to the year to allow you to take a slow approach to travel. , on one of the many footpaths or cycle paths in the country.
With nearly 65,000 km (40,000 miles) of marked trails, serious walkers and hikers will have plenty of opportunities to scale peaks, walk the shores of turquoise alpine lakes or tackle one of the famous passes with their epic views on the big screen. You’ll find the Swiss making good use of their cycle paths, whether on the mountains or on the roads, chasing adventure or simply cellar to cellar during an open cellar wine tasting.
Here are the best hiking routes for:
When the Albula/Bernina Railway opened in 1904 in the Central Alps, it brought major and lasting socio-economic changes to this isolated mountain region, and it’s not hard to see why. Its 55 tunnels and covered galleries, 196 viaducts and bridges covering the 122 km from Thusis to Tirano constitute a spectacular Unesco World Heritage Site.
Today, visitors can walk the Via Albula/Bernina trail along the railway line (130 km, 5,100 m of elevation gain), enjoying the spectacular views along the route.
The eight stages of Lake Lucerne
Many visitors’ favorite lake can be seen from the new Tell-Trail long-distance trail through the Lucerne region, which winds, in eight stages, through 156 km (7,126 m of elevation gain), via small alpine villages and encompassing central Switzerland” “Big Six” mountains: Fronalpstock (Stoos), Rigi, Pilatus, Stanserhorn, Titlis and Brienzer Rothorn.
Modernity among the peaks
For something completely different, climb up to Mario Botta’s swirling red stone church on Monte Tamaro, built in the mid-1990s above Lugano. Views embrace Lake Maggiore, the snow-capped Alps and verdant fields in all directions.
Climbing the Matterhorn (4,478m summit) is a big challenge – 3,000 people climb the peak above Zermatt every year. Be prepared for between nine and 12 hours of level 2 or 3 scrambling terrain. But the views are worth it.
Alternatively, slightly less intrepid hikers looking to reach a summit could consider Grosser Mythen, which offers stunning panoramas and the option of a Rotenflue gondola ride over Schwyz.
And here are the best cycling routes for:
Slow journey through the Alpine foothills
The Herzroute takes cyclists from Lausanne to Rorschach (700 km, 14,800 m ascent), along a quiet path away from traffic and through some of the most beautiful forests and meadows in the lower Alps.
The whole range of Swiss life
Travel the north-south route from Basel to Chiasso (380 km, 4600 m of elevation gain) and you will cross all the main landscape regions, including the Jura range, Mittelland, central Switzerland, the Alps and then the south. Start with the cultural center of Basel, with its must-see museums, swim in Lake Lucerne and feast in the old town of Lugano.
Follow the following links for a full list of hiking and biking routes through Switzerland, each clearly marked for difficulty.
The best new places to stay
This famous Swiss hospitality will not disappoint you this summer, with the opening of no less than six new hotels, providing the perfect places to rest and recuperate after all that alpine activity.
The famous Mandarin Oriental Palace reinvents a grand hotel from 1906 on the shores of Lake Lucerne, with 146 rooms and suites, a spa and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The opening is scheduled for late spring 2022.
Hotel Gütsch opened in Lucerne in early January and the magnificent 19th century castle perched on the mountains above the lake hosts weddings, romantic weekends and gourmet culinary getaways. English artist Turner painted the view of Lucerne from here – he knew an unforgettable scene when he saw one.
Also slated for spring 2022, the Z-shaped Hôtel des Horlogers, Le Brassus, is a streamlined building designed by Audemars Piguet, the watchmakers, overlooking the Vallée de Joux on the outskirts of Geneva. Gourmet note: the kitchen is directed by Emmanuel Renaut, three-starred in the Michelin guide.
The mountain town of Villars-sur-Ollon, where Brits have come to get some fresh air and ski for generations, will see the grand reopening in June 2022 of the renamed Villars Palace, Villars-sur-Ollon. With its spa, workout facilities, and bright alpine decor, this promises to be an impressive revival for a grand Victorian hotel.
Opened in June 2022, in one of the vast valleys between Grindelwald and Lucerne, the family-friendly Trauffer World of Experiences pays homage to traditional wooden toys. The on-site Bretterhotel is a study in stylish Alpine wood interiors, but there’s a great sense of fun too — Family Rooms feature tunnel slides from the top bunk.
In another major lady renovation, July 2022 will see the opening of the Grand Hôtel du Cervin St Luc, Val d’Anniviers, as well as the Bains du Cervin, a public wellness centre.
Switzerland is easily accessible by train from London or by Swiss International Air Lines. And once ashore, public transport, renowned for its efficiency, will take you to the regions you wish to visit by train, bus or boat thanks to the Swiss Travel Pass, available from the Switzerland Travel Centre.
Discover Switzerland for yourself at myswitzerland.com.