Switzerland definitely ranks highly in my list of favourite European countries. For an outdoor extravaganza it's second to none, but there is also enough history and culture to keep anyone amused. I could return time and time again, and still find something new and exciting. Here's my tips for travelling to this beautiful country.
- Spend at least a day of your trip hiking. The beauty of Switzerland is that there are such a variety of hiking paths that you can choose the best one (or more) for you - there are gently sloping walks through forests and valleys, more challenging hikes higher into the mountains and tough ascents over glacier passes. Lace up the walking boots!
- Enjoy the national dish of pungent cheese fondue. There's little more satisfying than smothering thick squares of bread in slowly congealing molten cheese, particularly after burning off calories on a good walk...
- Consider using the excellent train system to get around. It's reliable, not too expensive, and the views are breathtaking.
- Think strongly about camping if travelling during the summer months. Switzerland is quite pricey compared to its neighbours, with higher accommodation and food costs during peak season. Sleeping under the stars is a much more affordable option, with the added bonus of waking up in picture-perfect locations each morning. Similarly, grabbing a sandwich or making your own lunches from supermarket supplies reduces spending on food, allowing you to indulge in an extra fondue pot or two...
- Forget to check the core language for the area you are visiting. The area around Bern is German-based, and a few words here and there are appreciated by the locals, although English is generally spoken well in areas that receive a number of tourists regularly.
- Underestimate how varied the weather and temperature can be. The clear days are a blessing during the day, the added altitude intensifying the sun and having you sweating on even a short stroll. One or two days during our trip reached thirty degrees Celsius and had us stripping down to shorts and t-shirts. By dusk, however, those cloudless skies have become crisp, very cold nights. Rain showers are not uncommon, although tend to arrive in the early mornings or late evenings. It's essential to pack for all eventualities.
- Try to squeeze too much in. We spent over a week just in the area around Kandersteg, and there were still activities we hadn't managed to do. Despite this being my second trip to the region, I could still identify hikes I'd like to tackle in the future and little towns I haven't yet got around to visiting.