… heed the call. Every summit in the bucolic country offers a unique slice of Swiss bliss
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity
― John Muir, Our National Parks
They say you have to climb up a large mountain to appreciate how small you are and Switzerland offers ample towering mountains for you to explore the world outside and the one within you. You cannot help but marvel at their breathtaking beauty. Whatever the season, you have the opportunity to appreciate unspoiled nature at its best – dainty wild flowers, dramatic rock faces, cascading waterfalls, snowy peaks, fresh and pure mountain air and a unique feeling of calm and tranquility…
Seeking a pleasurable high-altitude excursion? Head to the hamlet of Schwägalp that’s a favourite with the locals.
What you see are mammoth mountains enclosing you and free-roaming goats and cows dotting the lush green landscape while nibbling on fresh grass. Ride a cable car that departs every 30 mins up to the peak of Mt. Säntis. At 8,209 ft, it is the highest mountain in eastern Switzerland. The very shape of the summit— an arc of jutting rock that swings up to the jagged peak housing the station — is spectacular. In perfect weather conditions, you can get a 360 degree view of five other countries – Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy – all at the same time!
For a meal with a view, get to the Panorama Restaurant at the top of the mountain and settle with a Swiss specialty of Saltimbocca (veal marinated in wine) with Risotto.
For an interesting insight into the process of cheese making, get ready for a demonstration at the cheese dairy located at the foot of the mountain.
During sunny summer days, you can take the alpine hiking path up to the peak (around 3 hours) or opt for nordic walking. Make sure you wear hiking shoes and have no problem with heights. In the winter season, it’s a great experience to walk through perfectly tended paths amid snowy landscapes. For a dose of adventure, you can hire a sledge from the shop and go sledging on the prepared piste.
HOW TO GET THERE
Getting to Schwägalp from Zurich by public transport takes roughly 2 to 2.5 hrs. You can take a train to Urnäsch or Nesslau followed by post bus straight to the base station.
One of Switzerland’s most scenic cantons, Uri can fulfill all your Alpine fantasies and yet it remains as non-touristy as it can get.
Layers of green pastures, distant snow-capped peaks, swimmable cobalt alpsees (Alpine lakes), orchids and bright wild flowers, rare species of birds and butterflies, streams and rivers with crystal clear water and not-to-forget bell-clad cows – it’s a paradise where you’d want to stop to take pictures at every few steps and smell the fragrance of flowers.
At the entrance of the romantic valley of Brunni, a cable car takes you to Sittlisalp. During the ride, treat your eyes to the impressive view of the Ruchen – North wall. Once you arrive at the mountain station (1624 m above sea level) Sittlisalp, you can venture on either a long or short mountain hiking trip, depending on your fitness level. Though marked mountain hiking trails are well-kept, make sure to carry appropriate gear including mountain boots, napkins, swim trunks (if you feel like taking a dip) and nourishment bars for instant energy.
On your way to Klausen pass in Unterschächen, you’ll find Bielen Saws – an impressive historic sawmill from 1850, now run by a sweet Swiss couple. Take a look at some old wood working tools and the historic fountain made out of a single chunk of granite. Happily oblige your hosts by joining them for a session of Swiss refreshments – coffee or tea with some homemade bread, cheese and Ziegerkrapfen (fried pastry filled with sweet fresh cheese filling).
DO WHAT SWISS DO
The Swiss really know how to enjoy life to the full and make the most of the scenery. The Uri Canton offers ample riverside spaces where you can barbecue and spend a sunny day outdoors.
HOW TO GET THERE: Arrive in Flüelen by train and take a Post Bus to Unterschächen.
At 7,000 ft, Mt Pilatus – also known as the dragon’s den – in Central Switzerland is a must visit. While it’s located right outside Lucerne (around 15 km from the charming Old Town), it’s hard to believe that such an out-of-the-ordinary setting can exist in close proximity to the city. On a clear day, the mountain offers a panoramic view of 73 Alpine peaks. With inviting picnic spots, a number of summer hiking trails and mountain climbing routes with varying difficulty levels, king-size rope park that promises fun-filled adventure and the longest summer toboggan run – 1350 metres of pure adrenalin, you can easily spend a day here. Visiting Pilatus on a winter’s day? Pluck up the courage to hurtle down the snow-covered sledging runs. During your free time atop Mt Pilatus, you can indulge in a high-altitude lunch or coffee amid the peaks or relax on the expansive sun terrace. For a dose of mountain romance, you can stay back at the historic hotel Pilatus Kulm that offers magnificent Alpine views.
DO THE “GOLDEN ROUND TRIP”
Take the boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad. Get on the steepest (ascent 48%) cogwheel train to Pilatus. On your return, descent to Fräkmüntegg by the aerial cableway Dragon Ride and hop aboard on the panoramic gondola to reach Kriens. A short walk from Pilatus valley station takes you to bus stop Kriens, Zentrum Pilatus. Take bus nr. 1 to get back to the city centre (there is a bus every 8 min and the journey takes about 15 min).