It’s likely that at some point, you have had a piece of Switzerland in your home even if you are yet to visit this attractive location in person; be it in the form of divine Swiss chocolate, Emmental cheese, a Swiss army knife or the mechanics in your watch.
Traditionally known for maintaining exceptionally high standards of craftsmanship, Swiss products can be relied on for their elite quality and precision. Regarded as the world’s leading watch manufacturer, Switzerland has its own ‘Watch Valley’, stretching a 200km distance from Basel to Geneva. Aside from incredible watches, cuckoo clocks, chocolate and cheese, this country’s beloved Swiss Alps and chalets make for world-famous scenic beauty paralleling that of a fairy tale.
Step into a world of snow-capped mountains, traditional alpine villages and warm hospitality. This idyllic journey takes you to fairy-tale castles, breathtaking peaks and storybook meadows. Along the way you’ll meet Local Experts and passionate foodies who will share local specialties, such as fondue and creamy chocolate, with you.
For keen skiers, Switzerland has it all, with Zermatt, St. Moritz, Gstaad and Jungfrau being some of the most sought-after ski destinations. This country holds immense beauty that can be enjoyed year-round, with its idyllic lakes, including Lake Geneva and Lake Constance, and pure mountain landscapes. It also holds a reputation for being a place of ‘neutrality’ when it comes to global affairs and has not actively fought in a war since 1847.
In the Engadine Valley you’ll find the chic ‘jet set' resort of St. Moritz. With more days of sunshine annually than anywhere else in Switzerland, it’s no wonder this is a well-loved destination. Winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, curling, tobogganing and bobsledding attract thousands of visitors each year. You don’t have to be a sports fanatic to make the best of St Moritz though.
Alternative activities include admiring the stunning scenery on a leisurely mountain hike, indulging in relaxing spa treatments or shopping in the elegant, designer boutiques. The Glacier Express is an iconic train ride not to be missed. Taking a total of seven hours, travel from St. Moritz to Zermatt, appreciating the incredible Alpine landscapes. While in Switzerland, you also need an adventure on Gornerhrat Bahn - the cogwheel train that winds slowly up the Gornergrat mountain. As the highest open-air railway in Europe, the views are astonishing.
In Montreux, be sure to visit Chillon Castle. This medieval property is situated at the foot of the Alps on a rocky islet in Lake Geneva. Boasting exceptionally beautiful architecture, the castle has been a source of inspiration for many writers and poets through the ages. Continuing on the medieval theme, the nearby, ancient town of Gruyères (home to the cheese of the same name) is a beautiful place to wander and explore. Likewise, Lucerne is another region that will capture your heart, with the options to: cruise pretty Lake Lucerne; admire the stirring Lion Monument (an immense structure dedicated to those who lost their lives in the French Revolution); visit the Old Town Hall; take in the breathtaking scenery at the covered bridges across Reuss River, and marvel at the quaint Weinmarkt Fountain, which dates back to the late 15th century.
It is possible to see all of these incredible sights, plus many other appealing locations when travelling through Switzerland on a Luxury Gold vacation.
Hearty cuisine is a given in Switzerland where you can feast on carb-rich, filling savoury and sweet dishes. Let’s start with the cheese – around 450 different kinds, predominantly made from cow’s milk but a small percentage using sheep or goat’s milk.
While multiple copy-cat ‘Swiss’ cheeses can be found in other parts of the world, Emmental, Gruyère, Appenzeller, Sbrinz, Schabziger, Tilsit and Vacherin-Fribourgeois are just some of the native cheeses that are worthy contenders for your palate. Not surprisingly, cheese forms the base of many customary recipes, such as: rosti – like a hash brown comprised of fried grated potato, onion and cheese; fondue - where bread is dipped into a concoction of melted cheese, wine and garlic; ‘raclette’ - comprised of raclette cheese melted in layers over boiled potatoes, pickles, onions and sometimes cured meats; and ‘tartiflette’ - creamy Reblochon cheese melted over potatoes, bacon and caramelised onion.
Supposing cheese isn’t your thing, other popular foods that are readily available include delicious breads, sauerkraut, meat dishes (mainly veal, beef, pork, chicken or turkey) accompanied by potatoes and generous servings of vegetables and many pasta dishes. If you’re the sort that lives for dessert, Switzerland will be good to you, with heavenly chocolate in abundance and treats like meringues, Apfelküchlein (deep fried apple cookies, accompanied with vanilla sauce), wonderfully sweet Basel cookies, Nusstorte (a short crust tart with a nut filling), Vermicelles (a pastry tart filled with puréed chestnuts refined with butter or cherry brandy) and Engadiner Torte (a layered cake with vanilla butter cream and a Florentine top).
Breweries are plentiful in Switzerland and consequently, you’ll have your pick of craft beers. Appenzeller, Eichhof and Feldschloesschen are some of the favourites with locals.
Like many European countries, the Swiss make their own varieties of wine, with Pinot Noir, Chasselas, and Gamay being some of the most significant. Liqueurs also play a dominant role when it comes to beverages. Made from the juice of cherry pits, Kirsch is a common choice, as is Pflümli (made from plums) and Träsch (brandy made from cider pears).
Hot beverages like coffee, tea and hot chocolate will keep you toasty in colder altitudes. Meanwhile, refreshingly cold soft drinks like Flauder, Elmer Citro, Rivella, Passaia and Goba Cola are perfect in the Swiss summer sun. Chocolate even finds its way into soda in the form of Choclo (chocolate-flavoured carbonated Swiss water).
Landscape and wildlife
As a small, mountainous, landlocked country, Switzerland is geographically surrounded by Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Lichtenstein. In addition to the Alpine region in the South, Switzerland’s two other significant landscapes are the Jura Mountains and the hilly Swiss Plateau. The latter is where approximately 70% of the population reside, as most of the main towns and cities are located here.
With close to 1,500 lakes, seven major rivers and large glacial expanses, Switzerland has a temperate climate that varies depending on altitude. Higher altitudes bring colder temperatures that make it difficult for fauna and flora to survive. Animals that have specially adapted to life in the Swiss mountains include chamois, ibex, marmots and red deer. Nearly 400 different varieties of bird inhabit this country, including kestrels, hawks, eagles, cranes, swans, woodpeckers and kingfishers. Meanwhile, the lakes and rivers attract beavers and otters (once both extinct in this region due to overhunting but now protected and making a comeback) and multiple freshwater fish species, such as trout and Atlantic salmon.