Switzerland’s landscape, history, and culture are abundant with contrast. Bordered by France, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, and Germany, it boasts four national languages — and the terrain alternates between dramatic mountain peaks, pure turquoise lakes, and lush valleys. Nature lovers may find themselves taking a river rafting trip through Europe’s “Grand Canyon” one day, and the next day is on their way to the continent’s highest mountain station via train. From bustling cities and remote villages to snow-covered landscapes and tropical climates, it’s easy to see why Switzerland is a hot destination for travel enthusiasts. And, with soaring alps and ancient castles, as well as a bucolic countryside, there are countless options for visitors to take in the panoramic views while taking an eco-friendly day hike on numerous trails. If a breathtaking destination is on your itinerary, don’t miss these three secrets of Switzerland.
Swiss National Park
Schweizerischer National Park, one of Europe’s first national parks, and Switzerland’s only national park, is located in the lower Engadine Valley. Home to a 67,000-acre wildlife sanctuary, the park features spectacular scenery from lush woodlands and verdant pastures to snow-capped glaciers and waterfalls. One-third of the park consists of mountains, another third of Alpine forests, and the rest Alpine meadows. The Ofenpass is the only road through the park, but there are numerous hiking paths to choose from. Walking any one of the 21 hiking routes sprawling through the park, hikers will experience the magnificent flora, and, at any point on the 50 miles of trails, lucky sightseers may glimpse various birds (including rare golden eagles), marmots, ibexes, chamois, goats, deer, and other fauna. The best time of year to see the Alpine birds and flora is during June and July, and the best month to observe the deer, chamois, and ibex is September.
Appenzell is a popular tourist destination for good reason. This historic village in northeast Switzerland is a picturesque, car-free area with narrow streets and colorful frescoes gracing the building facades. Unlike many other Swiss towns, because the village was connected to few roads or railroads it attracted little industry, Appenzell is known for its focus on fine folk crafts. while the village is popular among visiting sight-seers, the area is a must-go destination because of the hiking opportunities in the surrounding area. During the winter months, visitors can enjoy a vast network of cross-country ski trails spanning approximately 200 km through Appenzell. Hiking tours of the Alpstein region begin at Ebenalp; a leisurely hike through a gentle incline and two caverns leads to the spectacular “Wildkirchli” cave chapel; another trail leads to the Santis Summit. Novice hikers need not worry as there are “experience trails” such as the circular chapel trails, a trail to let you explore nature, and a barefoot trail near Gonton.
If you are traveling to the Lake Lucerne area, make sure to set time aside for a day trip from Lucerne to Burgenstock Felsenweg to hike beneath the Burgenstock mountain’s shadow. After taking a boat ride from Lucerne, the sweeping panoramic view from the summit will stun you. This easy, rewarding trail features many highlights, including stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountain, and an exhilarating thrill as you follow the cliff trail carved out along the side of the mountain. At the conclusion of the scenic trail, is the famous Hammetschwand glass elevator running from the lake to the hotel complex above, providing a breathtaking view.