Which one is the Matterhorn? What’s the name of that sparkling turquoise alpine lake? Is that a glacier? These questions—along with rows of passengers taking pictures out the windows—is a sure sign you’re on a SWISS fight.
It’s understandable. Few places in the world generate as much curiosity from passengers as Switzerland’s majestic and achingly gorgeous Alps. Seeing them from the plane is breathtaking, but there’s no substitute for experiencing edelweiss flowers, a chamois (an alpine goat-antelope), freshly groomed piste, rustic fondue chalets, and bell-clad cows (yes, they really exist).
Whether you fly into Geneva or Zurich, the iconic mountains are less than an hour away. But first you’ll want to spend some time in one of these magical gateway cities. So after enjoying authentic Swiss cheese and wine onboard your SWISS flight (and don’t forget to sample the legendary Swiss chocolate as you deplane), here’s how to make the most of your time in Switzerland.
There’s no shortage of hiking trails in the Alps, where walking trails and ancient migratory routes have led walkers across the rugged glacier-capped Alps for millennia. Each canton offers awe-inspiring views, whether you want to see snow-capped Alps, ice-blue glaciers, or tranquil Alpine lakes.
For history buffs, it’s hard to beat the trails around Lake Lucerne in Central Switzerland, notably in Canton Uri, the origin of Swiss demi-mythical hero William Tell. The Will Tell Path visits sites relating to the country’s 12th-century foundings, like Tell’s hometown of Altdorf and Rütli Meadow, birthplace of Switzerland. To get off the path, try the Buiräbähnli Safari, a series of farmer’s cable cars in Canton Nidwalden’s Engelberg Mountain connected by a network of trails. The alpine farm trek makes use of several farmer’s private gondolas, which whisk you up to remote farms and wildflower strewn meadows just above the treeline. There you can buy cheese, yogurt, and alpine butter while hiking through Entlebuch Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage reserve noted for its endemic flora and fauna, like enzian, edelweiss, cuckoos, and grouse.
Switzerland has the densest concentration of Michelin stars in the world, including three 3-star restaurants—one of which is Canton Graubünden’s Schloss Schauenstein, run by chef Andreas Caminada. But several micro constellations of stars are found throughout the country; they include newcomers like Vitznau, a tiny lakeside village on Lake Lucerne which received three new stars in 2019; and tried-and-true classic destinations like Cantons Ticino and Valais, which create Italian and French cuisine (respectively) with Swiss flair.
Beyond Michelin lies a world of melted-cheese dishes, like delicious Fondue (invented in bilingual Canton Fribourg), ubiquitous Raclette, and gooey Älplermagronen (Alp Herder’s macaroni), found on menus across the country. Of course, there’s also incredible dining in Zurich, Basel, and Geneva, all of which offer exciting ethnic cuisine, tasty street food, farmer’s markets, vegetarian, vegan options, and the latest food trends like waste-free cooking and zero-kilometer cuisine.
Focus on Wellness
Switzerland is a land of water, and there’s no place better to get wet year-round than in the hundreds of spas and thermal baths across the country. These include designer-favorites like Swiss Pritzker prize winner Peter Zumthor’s 7132 Therme Vals, a bathing temple made of Vals quartzite located high in Rhine Alps. There are also dozens of relaxed, lido-style “Badis” on the urban rivers and lakes of Bern, Basel, Geneva, and Zurich which swell in summer months. Many even offer river surfing, floating saunas, SUP yoga, kayaking, and water aerobics.
Travelers seeking day spas and clinics will find a range of facilities with everything from physical rehabilitation centers featuring the latest high-tech medical equipment to sybaritic resorts that boast a full range of massage treatments, facials, and wraps for pampered getaways.
There are 162 ski resorts in Switzerland, with a wide range of terrain and piste for skiers and boarders alike—and all with iconic alpine views. Big-name resorts like Gstaad, St. Moritz, Davos, and Verbier still draw VIP and celebrity skiers for skiing and après-ski activities, but lesser-known Swiss ski areas like Leinzerheide, Hoch Ybrig, and Flumserberg are not to be dismissed. Plus, your skis and boots fly for free with SWISS. Yet even non-skiers will appreciate the staggering variety of organized winter sports festivals, as well as the plethora of options for wintertime fun, like snow hikes, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, tobogganing, snow golf, and snow tubing.
Luxury-brand shoppers—and those in the market for Swiss watches—can head straight for Zurich’s world-famous Banhofstrasse or Geneva’s Rue du Rhone. If instead you’re looking for authentic Swiss gifts like fondue caquelons, wood toys, Swiss army knives, chocolate truffles, and ethical fashion, you’ll find an array of interesting indie boutiques and galleries in both the big cities and in more under-the-radar destinations like Lausanne, St. Gallen, Chur, and Locarno.
Discover your own favorite place in Switzerland—and get there by booking a flight on SWISS.