In the heart of Europe lies vast mountain ranges, the echoes of cow bells radiate for miles over vibrant green rolling hills. The sounds of a train rolling down the tracks brings you to the place you’ve been searching for all your life. The Swiss Alpine harbors a pristine essence unparalleled to anywhere else on the planet. If you’ve ever craved to walk into a fairytale of endless untouched hiking trails or swim through crystalline waters below the towering peaks, Switzerland is the place for you.
The air quality is pure and crisp, filling your lungs with a sense of limitless adventure. Switzerland is one of the most sought after countries in Europe yet the feeling of peaceful isolation is easily reached when you travel just a little further away from the beaten path. Solitude amongst mystic mountains is only a short ride away. The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range in Europe stretching across Austria, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland. There are four different languages spoken according to region: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Immerse yourself in Swiss culture by observing how the different linguistic areas effect the architecture, cuisine and lifestyles. Switzerland is the classic destination for any outdoorsman: from mountaineering to base jumping you can find an exciting range of extreme sports that have taken refuge in the Mecca of Switzerland’s mountainous regions.
Let’s talk specifics:
*Keep in mind that in order to reach some of the locations described here a healthy physical condition is a necessity however there are many alternatives easily available.
The Cliffhanging Hostel
This remote mountain guesthouse is guaranteed to be the one of the most beautiful places you will ever see with your own eyes. Featured as the cover of National Geographic’s Destinations of a Lifetime, this hostel lives up to the hype. To get in touch with this hostel directly visit here. Furthermore, to access this area of north eastern Switzerland you must take a train to Appenzell and then onto Wasserauen which is the last stop on the Appenzell Railway. Always check time tables (there’s a handy Eurail app for that!) before making a trip but trains leave from Gossau every half hour. Once you’ve arrived at the Wasserauen train station cross the parking lot to the Wasserauen-Ebenalp cable car will carry you up through thick clouds to the top of a steep mountain. Once on top, tighten your backpack straps and take the main trail through prehistoric caves that were inhabited more than 40,000 years ago. There is even a small church carved into the side of the cliff along with the hostel. Turn a few more corners and prepare for the breath taking first glimpse of the hearty, wholesome hostel itself. Pearched high above Lake Seealpsee, the sounds of cow bells and serenity will welcome you home with open arms.
Highly recommended: Hike from Aescher to Seealpsee and take a paddle boat trip below the snowy peaks. Don’t forget to admire the waterfalls along the way.
Valle Verzasca, Ticino
Crystalline Waters & Bungee Jumping
Only a short bus ride away from the lakeside city of Locarno lies Valle Verzasca; a region reminiscent of an old European fairytale one can only imagine with a child’s mind. Golden green mountains and pastures, petite arching bridges with characteristic stone buildings and crystal clear waters. Surprisingly, this area in southern Switzerland is often overlooked by the average tourist.
The romantic village of Lavertezzo is the place to go relax after an adrenaline filled morning of bungee jumping at the Contra Dam on Lago di Vogorno. This place is perfect for both lovers and avid adventurers. A popular photo opportunity is the old double arched stone bridge leading into Lavertezzo over the Verzasca river. The frigid jade green river flows peacefully yet powerfully over smooth polished rock creating natural jacuzzis and cascading waterfalls. The river has incredible visibility and is a famous river diving destination.
*Disclaimer: the rocks in Verzasca are extremely slippery and there are parts of the river that are deadly; respect the nature and its boundaries by only swimming in safe areas.*
The bus system has 18 stops around the valley, passing through all villages and surrounding areas making it easy for travelers to hop in and out at any point. In Lavertezzo, the bus will stop near the church tower in the center of town.
If traveling to this area I recommend staying somewhere in Locarno, preferably with a view of the beautiful Lake Maggiore. The 007 Bungee Jump: In the opening scene of the 1995 movie GoldenEye, James Bond makes the 220 m (750 ft!) jump off the Contra Dam, breaking the world record for biggest stunt ever performed at the time. Nowadays, this company will charge you around $200 USD to repeat the exact bungee jump yourself. They are very professional, they make you feel as comfortable as possible and don’t give you time to change your mind. Reservations are highly recommended. If you are unsure whether or not to take the jump, speaking from experience, just do it!
Whether its gliding peacefully above 400m peaks, climbing behind gigantic waterfalls or hiking the pristine trails of the Bernese Oberland; Interlaken is the place to start. Conveniently located in central Switzerland, Interlaken acts as a gateway to one of the most breath taking sections of the Swiss Alps. A highlight of the region is Jungfraujoch: Top Of Europe at 3454 m. which you can only access by cogwheel train departing from the highest elevation train station in Europe. The train and cable system in this region is very reliable and a wonderful experience itself. This high alpine wonderland can also be referred to as a paragliding paradise. If you have never tried paragliding this is definitely one of the best places in the world to do it.
*Insider Information for Hikers: If you have the time, opt to hike from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen (uphill) or Wengen to Grindelwald (downhill). Once you reach Lauterbrunnen by train from Interlaken the towns of Wengen and Grindelwald are connected by cable trams up and down the mountains. Since the cable cars have been established practically no one hikes on the trails below! These hikes are challenging to say the least but the views of the Alps were like nothing I have ever seen before and the best part was we were completely alone. Perfectly maintained trails with no tourists and insane views, guaranteed to be one of the most awe inspiring experiences of your life. “Inter-laken” literally means this city is a small divider for the two beautiful turquoise lakes Thun and Brienz.
There are two train stations in the city of Interlaken: Interlaken OST and Interlaken WEST. If you get off at the wrong stop in the middle of the night its only a 20 minute walk through the city to the other side. The city is centered around a large green field (Höhematte) where you can find information about paragliding and also the field is used as a landing zone.