Now all your dreams of travel may come true as Switzerland opens its doors to Indian tourists. The Swiss Tourism Board’s website says, “For FULLY vaccinated third-country nationals with CHE, EU and WHO recognised vaccines, the regular entry requirements will be applicable again from June 26, 2021. This also means that these travellers no longer have to be quarantined after arriving in Switzerland.”
Known for its stunning, picture-perfect landscapes, Switzerland is a mecca for tourists, which has been forever romanticised by Bollywood.
Here are some off-beat locations and experiences in the Alpine country.
The large Aletsch Glacier is the Alps’ mightiest ice flow. The river of ice stretches up to 23 Km from Jungfrau region and carries 11 billion tons of ice. Primitive views of the glacier can be enjoyed on a guided glacier walk. Visitors can stay in the nearby village Bettmeralp; a car-free village in close proximity to the glacier. The ideal time to visit: May to September
Flims, in the region of Graubünden has varied terrain, suitable for families and adventure lovers alike. The Rhine Gorge aka the Swiss Grand Canyons or Ruinaulta are a must-visit. 10,000 years ago, 100 billion cubic metres of rock thundered into the valley, creating the canyon. It’s perfect for adrenaline junkies who can river raft in the pristine waters, hike or bike along the craggy rock formations. The Lake Cauma nearby is great place to relax post the hike.
The ideal time to visit: End of May to October
-Adventure activities near the Ruinalta
-Swim and sunbathe in the blue waters of Caumasee
Say cheese! You can take postcard-worthy photos and gorge on the cheese that’s named after the town in Gruyères. The medieval town has a fortified 13th-century Gruyères Castle that looks like something that is straight out of the movie. The Fondue Academy gives visitors the opportunity to gain insight into the art of fondue preparation by master cheesemakers. The whole world of chocolate is presented in the nearby Maison Cailler, the Swiss Chocolate Factory. Ideal time to visit: March to August.
– Visit the 13th century Gruyères Castle – Hike to see panoramic view of Gruyère Pre-Alps and the Bernese and Valais Alps from Moléson – Visit the Gruyere Cheese Factory Museum
Though Switzerland is not as famous for its wine as cheese and chocolate, one must visit the popular wine-growing region, Lavaux. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, this region has 800 hectares of terraced vineyards.
Ideal time to visit:June to August
-Cycle or walk a 32km path leads from Lausanne-Ouchy to Chillon Castle, on the way you can read educational signs about local wine cultivation
-Enroll for wine tasting
-Try local white wine Chasselas
If you’re planning a skiing holiday in Switzerland, Nendaz is a must-visit. The town lies above the Rhone Valley near Sitten, the capital of the Valais. In winter, it transforms into a haven for sports enthusiasts. Nendaz is at the heart of the ‘Four Valleys’ ski region with its 92 ski transport facilities. During the warmer months, it is great for bikers and hikers. The traditional timber houses, barns and grain stores in the village give it a quaint charm.
Ideal time to visit: May to September or in the winter months
– Explore 250 kilometres of hiking trails
– As it is one of the biggest raspberry and apricot growing areas in the country, one must sign up for Nendaz’s local trails dedicated to fruit growing
– Excursion by cableway or mountain bike to the glacier terrain on Mont Fort
Swiss National Park
170 square kilometres of beautiful wilderness, 80 kilometres of hiking paths, nature trails and excursion destinations, make this an ideal stop to reconnect with nature. The Swiss National Park was founded in 1914 and is the oldest parks in the Alps. It is inhabited by ibexes, chamois, marmots, bearded vultures and golden eagles that you can witness in the wild.
Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a Michelin star meal by the Rhine? Experience sauce king Peter Knogl’s French haute cuisine, enriched with Mediterranean and Asian influences. Knogl heads the restaurants at the Grand Hotel Les Trois since 2007. It has been distinguished with the highest rating of three Michelin stars.
Christmas in Switzerland
Gstaad is a Bollywood celebrity favourite skiing destination during Christmas time. However, if you’re looking to celebrate the festival in a typical Swiss town then St. Gallen is the way to go. The UNESCO World Heritage site sparkles with 700 stars strung across the streets. Three Christmas markets, a procession called the Chlausritt where Santa and his elves come to town, and of course, a huge Christmas tree, make the festive season extra special in St. Gallen.
Swiss chocolate tours
A trip to Switzerland is incomplete without chocolate! Don’t miss a chocolate tour wherever you are in the country. Lindt’s interactive world of chocolate in Kilchberg features a spectacular chocolate fountain, and you can learn about the Swiss cultural heritage of chocolate. Flawil’s Chocolarium of Maestrani allows kids to decorate their own bars and gaze in wonder at the tour of its working factory. A chocolate train along scenic route from Montreux to Montbovon with a stop at the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory in Broc is another option for sweet-lovers.
The land of watchmaking has lots of things on offer for watch lovers. Try your hand at making your own timepiece at Initium in Le Noirmont. They have different types of programmes from a simple introduction to watchmaking (1.5 to 3 hours) up to the full assembly of a watch (1/2 to 1 day). The Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva and Omega Museum in Biel / Bienne also make for an interesting visit.