Photo by Sonderegger Christof/age fotostock
Forty miles from Zurich in the heart of central Switzerland, the Axenstrasse is a historic motorway that’s so achingly scenic it might even cure your vertigo. It winds for seven miles around the base of the Uri Alps hugging the verdant ridge of turquoise Lake Uri (a branch of the four-fingered Vierwaldstätter See—Four Forested Cantons Lake—more familiar to most tourists as Lake Lucerne). It occasionally careens through century-old mountain tunnels and past painted bell towers and Roman-era viaducts scattered around the region’s Alpine villages, where the legendary folk hero William Tell is supposed to have come from. There are numerous picnic areas along the older sections of the Axenstrasse, and the entire stretch of lake is swimmable in the summer. Hikers can find a variety of trails along the road that can take them to higher altitudes, where they can spot ibex, chamois, alpine orchids, purple gentian, and acrobatic alpine choughs, riding the thermals of the warm foehn winds, said by locals to cause madness.
By Adam H. Graham, AFAR Contributor
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Axenstrasse, 6452 Sisikon, Switzerland