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Romantic Switzerland

Enchanting Lakes
Romantic Switzerland
Switzerland seduces visitors with its stunning pastoral beauty. Romantic train, boat, and horse-led carriage tours wind through the mountains and across the lakes, giving you an up-close opportunity to enjoy Switzerland's natural charm.
By Simon Willis, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Christof Sonderegger/Switzerland Tourism
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    Enchanting Lakes
    Enchanting Lakes
    Listening to water lapping against pearl grey rocks as you gaze at the clear sky is a simple but signature part of a romantic Swiss experience—and Lake Geneva sitting along the Lavaux region is the ideal place to do just that. Its waterfronts at Montreux, Vevey, and Lausanne offer the most delightful spots for lounging on pale wooden decking; evening is an especially lovely time, as sunset illuminates the still waters with merging reds, oranges, and yellows. The Axenstrasse, running along the shores of Lake Uri, is one of Switzerland's most scenic drives. The Golzernsee is perhaps the perfect pristine Alpine lake you have always imagined—though truth be told, there are hundreds of lakes in Switzerland that fit the bill.
    Photo courtesy of Christof Sonderegger/Switzerland Tourism
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    Luxurious Spas
    Luxurious Spas
    Whether it’s after an adrenaline-fueled day on the slopes or a muscle-sapping climb, the Swiss know how to unwind in their luxurious spas. The Mineralbad and Spa Samedan is both a luxurious spa and a stunning work of architecture designed by husband-and-wife architects Miller & Maranta. Les Bains de Saillon, one of many thermal baths in the Valais canton, is a more popular option—the history of taking the waters here dates back to the days of the Roman Empire. Les Bains de Lavey are the warmest thermal baths in Switzerland, featuring saunas, Turkish baths, a revolving whirlpool, and various options for massages. Its location, in the valley of Lavey just north of Martigny, embodies the feeling of solitude needed for just such an occasion. The ski resort of Scuol has 25 natural springs, four of which keep Bogn Engiadina’s spa bubbling from the ground all year round. A mix of Roman and Irish bathing cultures come together in one feature, combining steam and hot, dry air to create a relaxing and sensual experience.
    Photo courtesy of Beat Huebscher/Switzerland Tourism
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    Breathtaking Train Journeys
    Breathtaking Train Journeys
    Switzerland’s mountains are central to its beauty, and a great way to take in some of the most epic alpine scenery is by train. Trains on the GoldenPass panoramic line allow passengers to gaze at the sprawling Alps through huge glass windows. The trains travel through Montreux, Zweisimmen, Interlaken, and Lucerne; early reservations can be made for VIP seats alongside the driver. One of the country's highest train lines is farther up in the Alps. Switzerland can also boast that it is home to one of three trains that has been recognized by UNESCO, the Rhaetian Railway which is only some 150 miles long, yet travels through 84 tunnels and by Celtic and Roman sites, as well as past Hapsburg castles and picturesque villages, on its route. In Canton Bern, the Gelmerbahn has the distinction of being Europe's steepest funicular. With its little red cars hugging the mountainside, it's not only a means of transportation, but a sight in its own right. The Bernina Express tour spirals its way through the mountains, nose-dives through tunnels, and shoots along bridges, passing glaciers and quaint villages. A highlight is the section between Thusis and Tirano, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    Photo courtesy of Christoph Benz/Switzerland Tourism
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    Romantic Boat Rides
    Romantic Boat Rides
    A boat trip across one of Switzerland’s many lakes is a relaxed, romantic way to experience the country. The Suisse steam boat, which crosses Lake Geneva alongside the Lavaux region, transports you back in time with glimmering wood-paneled decking and huge open-driving pistons evoking early 20th-century leisure travel. Meanwhile, on Lake Lucerne, 15 elegant steam motorboats cruise the waters, taking passengers from one village to the next as clusters of swans bob alongside. The waters are so clear that the submerged rocks are visible, and seemingly endless near-vertical cliffs line either side.
    Photo courtesy of Andy Mettler/Switzerland Tourism
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    Bear Witness to Nature's Beauty
    Bear Witness to Nature's Beauty
    Switzerland is blessed with breathtaking natural scenery, with each new vista more impressive than the last. One of the most memorable images is Switzerland’s iconic Matterhorn. The mountain, which overlooks Zermatt, is mesmerizing in its slightly slanted grandeur, particularly at sunrise when its peak illuminates like a solitary candle in the wilderness. The Swiss National Park was the country's first national park and the 67-square-mile preserve remains a remarkably pristine and undeveloped corner of the German-speaking part of Switzerland. A hike from Grütschalp to Mürren will take you through some of the country's most beautiful scenery, all in the shadows of some of the country's towering peaks. Aletsch Glacier is the largest in the Alps, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Those prepared to trek can seek out unique picture spots; however, the view of the ice snaking its way through the mountains from Bettmerhorn or Eggishorn—both of which are accessible by cable car—is just as photo worthy.
    Photo by Robert Boesch/Switzerland Tourism
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    Switzerland's Outdoor Festivals
    Switzerland's Outdoor Festivals
    Don't be fooled: For all their punctuality, hard work, and efficiency, the Swiss do know how to have a good time. A highlight in the annual entertainment calendar is Montreux Jazz Festival. Held on Lake Geneva's gorgeous waterfront, this free, 16-day festival, usually held in July, hosts acts from all over the world. Attendees snuggle up on grassy banks or stroll stall-laden paths while sipping glasses of wine or cocktails. In the evening, couples not lucky enough to have their own boat, or be invited onto someone else’s, settle down among lakeside rocks to watch the sun slip behind the Alps. Once the stars come out, clothes are shed and the water fills with bare-bottomed men and women.
    Photo by Simon Willis
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    Quaint Swiss Villages
    Quaint Swiss Villages
    Pockets of Switzerland seem stuck in a time warp; here, the stresses and strains of modern life appear nonexistent. One such place is Sonogno. This Swiss national heritage site, located in the Valley of Verzasca, Ticino, dates back 1,000 years; its classic buildings are made of granite from the valley. Among its population of 100 people, a few still speak the language unique to the village. The town of Gruyères is more popular among tourists, yet maintains its medieval ambience of 800 years ago. Lined with gorgeous cobblestones, and poised against a stunning mountain backdrop, this town seems perfect. A must visit is its spectacular 13th-century castle.
    Photo courtesy of Roland Gerth/Switzerland Tourism
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    Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides
    Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides
    It’s the very picture of romance: glimpsing picturesque views of snow-capped Swiss mountains while snuggled up in a horse-drawn sleigh. Zermatt uses a traditional horse and carriage to transport visitors to and from ski lifts, while Klosters has a highly reputable selection of sleigh tours, including one to the secluded restaurant Alphütte Garfiun. But for unrivaled romantic ambience, head to Dischma Valley in Davos, where you can take a moonlit sleigh ride underneath the warmth of thick furs. If you find yourself yearning for a similar experience in summer, trips in horse-drawn carriages through the mountain of Rigi, dubbed the “Queen of the Mountains,” are available.
    Photo by Robert Boesch/Switzerland Tourism
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    Hiking in the Great Swiss Outdoors
    Hiking in the Great Swiss Outdoors
    A stroll through Switzerland's picture-perfect villages or a saunter along its intimate paths makes for a simple romantic experience that will leave you with long-lasting memories. One choice spot is Bavona Valley, in the Swiss-Italian region, a true show of nature’s beauty. Paths wind their way through meadows, and riverside trails weave between fascinating rock formations before revealing an 80-meter waterfall in the delightful Foroglio Valley. In the Swiss-French valley of Solalex, paths lead up the mountains to breathtaking viewpoints, which are reminiscent of the North American Rockies. Don't be surprised to see eagles circling. Trails leading through conifer woods are popular, especially under the stars in winter with snowshoes.
    Photo by Robyn Patty
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    Candlelit Dinners
    Candlelit Dinners
    One of the most popular spots for candlelit dining is along the banks of Lake Geneva at Montreux. One particular highlight is Fairmont Le Montreux Palace Hotel’s restaurant, La Brasserie, which combines amazing views of the lake with a romantic ambience and fine Parisian and Swiss cuisine. Alpine valley restaurants also offer some great opportunities for intimate dining, none more so than in Bavona Valley, where the restaurant La Froda takes the idea of candlelight literally. Set in the only valley in Switzerland with no electricity, this traditional Ticinese restaurant is popular thanks to its delicious local Italian food and stunning waterfall views.
    Photo by Elliott Kaufman/age fotostock