Sparkling rivers and world-renowned resorts, all nestled between majestic snow-capped mountains, makes Switzerland every travellers dream destination. Ghalib Abdullah Al Fori takes a look at what the incredible country has to offer.
Situated in the very heart of Europe, Switzerland is famous for its abundance in natural beauty and varied tourist attractions. A landlocked country bordering Germany, Italy, France and Austria, Switzerland is known throughout the world for its chic Alpine weather, 4000 metre high mountain peaks and lavish winter sports – including mountaineering, tobogganing, sledding and skiing. And of course, one can’t miss the spectacular scenery and enchanting cities. Whether you’re on the lookout for a serene holiday in a winter wonderland, or an action-packed adventure with some incredible sports, there’s a little something for everyone.
Arriving at the Zurich Airport itself is absolutely delightful. It’s easy to escape from the hustle-bustle of the busy international airport as you indulge in the luxurious surrounding and world-famous Swiss hospitality at the Arrival Lounge. Take some time out to relax and rejuvenate in the many facilities that the Arrival Lounge has to offer – showers, a washroom, three separate bedrooms, not to mention a variety of delectable eateries in its spacious cafeteria.
After leaving the Arrival Lounge, there is no shortage of gorgeous attractions to see! Just a few minutes away from Zermatt through the efficient underground funicular railway, is Sunnegga – a world famous ski area and a paradise for families. Located 2,288 metres above sea level, Sunnegga offers tourists a glimpse of some incredible landscapes and is only a short walk away from the marmot observation post and the crystal-clear Leisee Lake. With numerous hiking and walking trails, plenty of marvellous playground and camp fire areas, not to mention the Wolli adventure playground located at Blauherd (only five minutes away), there’s plenty of activities for the entire family around Sunnegga.
And of course, from there, you can always take a cable car up to Rothorn, where you can enjoy one of the most spectacular views in all of Switzerland – one of mountains stretching out all around you! The ‘Peak Collection’ Exhibition around the Restaurant Rothorn is also worth a look. But most importantly this is a chance to get a glimpse of the incredible Matterhorn – one of the highest peaks in the Alps and widely known as the most photographed mountain in the world!
Finally be sure to stop by Zermatt, a quaint village located at the foot of the Matterhorn. With world-class resorts and thrilling sporting experiences, there is never a dull moment in Zermatt. One can take a leisure stroll through the Hinterdorf, the oldest part of the village, and catch a glimpse of barns, stables and storage barns built between the 14th and 19th century! If you’re a true mountaineer, you wouldn’t want to miss the memorial fountain to the legendary Ulrich Inderbinen – the mountain guide who scaled the Matterhorn over 370 times! And of course, be sure to stop over at the Matterhorn Museum. Enter through the glass dome and step into ‘Zermatlantis’ – an underground paradise, where scientists are busy uncovering and presenting the history of Zermatt. The museum showcases Zermatt as it was in the 18th century, far removed from the affairs of the world, and surrounded by the breathtaking Alps. Here is a glimpse of the lives of farmers as they try to ward off the forces of nature. You also get a chance to learn more about the unfortunate failure of four mountaineers who tried to conquer the Matterhorn, an incident that changed Zermatt forever.
Over the years, Zermatt has also gained recognition as one of the most famous ski resorts around the world. With the incredible beauty of the Swiss Alps at every corner, Zermatt is a paradise for intermediate and advanced skiers from every corner of the world looking for a thrilling adventure holiday. It’s also a great sport for the entire family, and even children as young as four can have their first skiing experience! Being the highest ski area in the Alps, surrounded by stunning ‘four thousander’ Alp Mountains (mountains with their peaks over 4000 metres) and boasting almost 300 sunny days per year, the skiing in Zermatt is as good as it gets!
Brimming with world-class restaurants and hotels, Zermatt is also the ideal location for a little rest and relaxation. The Chalet Hotel Schoenegg, in particular, offers visitors a panoramic view of the Matterhorn, exquisite dishes from its renowned restaurant, and world-class facilities to meet your heart’s every desire.
Located only three kilometres east of Zermatt is Gornergrat – a rocky ridge of the Pennine Alps. It can be reached from Zermatt by the Gornergrat rack railway, the highest open-air railway in Europe that lies roughly 3000 metres above sea level. Bask in the sunny viewing platform as you take in one of the most beautiful views in Switzerland – a panoramic glimpse of the second largest glacier in the Alps, the Gornergletscher, not to mention several other 4000 metre high peaks. This is also your chance to stay in the highest altitude hotel in Switzerland – the Kulmhotel Gornergrat. Complete with a restaurant, observatory and shopping mall, a stay in the Kulmhotel Gornergrat is an experience to be treasured.
If it’s a little adventure you’re craving, experience winter at its best, as you descend to the railway station Rotenboden, known for its incredible tobogganing opportunities. Tobogganing is an exhilarating and safe winter sport for the entire family wherein one slides downhill a snowy slope on a sled, and is a great alternative for people who do not ski. Open from December to April, the downhill toboggan journey from Rotenboden down to Riffelberg, lasts between five and 10 minutes – and is great fun for all ages!
Moreover, no trip to Switzerland would be complete without taking a cable car up to the incredible Matterhorn Glacier Paradise – the highest altitude railway station in Europe. Once there, you can brace yourself for the unforgettable scenery of alpine giants and crisp Swiss air. Adventure seekers will be thrilled to discover that this is the starting point for a two-and-a-half hour hike across the glacier to climb the 4000 metre mountain, the Breithorn. Those looking for a slower, but equally thrilling activity, can check out the highest Glacier Palace in the world. Walk into the palace through an ice tunnel that is almost fifteen metres below the surface of the glacier and revel in the discreet lighting and ethereal sounds that accompany you.
Even travelling through Switzerland can be an experience onto itself! Experience luxury at its best with the Glacier Express, one of the most famous railways in the world, as it takes you from gorgeous Zermatt to Davos or St. Moritz in just seven hours. The Glacier Express is known for providing its passengers a glimpse of untouched mountain landscapes, steep gorges, breath-taking valleys and glamorous resorts, not to mention over 91 tunnels and 291 impressive bridges. Experience the beauty of Switzerland, all from the convenience of your seat – and don’t forget to enjoy the delicious three-course meal along the way!
St. Moritz is yet another sight to behold! A resort town in the Engadine Valley, St. Moritz is world-famous for its exquisite hotels and restaurants, chic shops, incredible natural beauty and exceptional sporting attractions. Brimming with fun and adventure, there’s no dearth of activities to keep you occupied, from summer sports such as polo, cricket and golf to thrilling winter activities like ice skating, hiking or the bob run. St. Moritz is also known throughout the world, for its excellent skiing opportunities, with a wide range of freeride slopes, spacious nursery slopes and a glacier downhill run. Thanks to its high altitude, and abundance of sunshine, it is always attracting snow sport aficionados from all over the world. Entertaining for the entire family, the cool Swiss air along with the thrill of skiing downhill is sure to get your blood pumping. Widely known as the ‘birthplace of Alpine winter tourism’ the name ‘St. Moritz’ is now an international symbol of style, elegance and class.
A trip to Muottas Muragi, a mountain located on the outskirts of St. Moritz, is an absolute must! The view over the Upper Engadin is so spectacular that one can easily feel all their worries float away as they gaze upon flawless valleys and peaks in the vicinity. Moreover, the location offers a wide array of sports such as the fantastic Toboggan Run or the Philosopher’s trail, making sure that there’s never a dull moment in Muottas Muragi.
Designed to keep your legs busy, the Philosophers Trail will also leave you deep in thought as you walk through marvellous scenery as well plaques bearing quotes from thinkers such as Socrates, Sartre and Nietzche. Or if you’re in the mood for something a bit more fast-paced, the toboggan run – an almost vertical drop of 705 metres, over four kilometres – is sure to get your heart racing!
And finally, no trip to stunning Switzerland would be complete without sampling some of their world famous Swiss cuisine. Tucking into some piping hot fondue – a dish of melted cheese served in a pot over a portage stove and eaten by dipping bread with long stemmed forks into it – is absolutely divine. Or one could always indulge in rÃ¶schti, a popular Swiss delicacy, made of coarsely grated potato and served delightfully warm.
Incredible adventure sports, breath-taking mountain views, world class hotels and some of the cleanest air you’ll ever breathe – Switzerland is a true paradise for the avid traveller. A visit to the winter wonderland is sure to leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
(SWISS flies daily from Muscat