The Swiss Alps have been an adventure hotspot ever since the summit of the 4,158m Jungfrau was first reached way back in 1811. And the adventure opportunities across Switzerland haven’t aged badly in the 200 years since.
What’s the best thing about Switzerland? Well, the flag is a big plus. But the best thing about Switzerland is the fact that the Swiss Alps cover 65% of the 41,285 km2 surface of the country. To repeat that for those up the back, the Swiss Alps make up 65% of Switzerland. The majority of Switzerland, therefore, is Swiss Alps. The country is pretty much purpose-built for adventure – from hiking to skiing to mountain biking and everything in between. The Swiss flag is a big plus, sure, but the Swiss Alps are even better. Here are just 10 awesome adventure ideas in the Swiss Alps to get your wanderlust flowing, from Zermatt and Engelberg to Jungfrau and Saint Moritz:
1. Trek the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
If you’re looking for a trek that’s real hot property, look no further than the Haute Route. It’s all in the name (kind of). The Haute Route is a legendary trek. It sees you travel from Chamonix in France, home to Mont Blanc, to the inimitable Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. It’s a trek between the two most famous, remarkable mountains in Europe. The Swiss Alps have more than 40 peaks over 4000m high. These will make up the skyline as you travel from hut to hut via mountain villages and sample all sorts of culinary delights. You’ll pass glacial lakes, stunning valleys and rarely lose sight of the mountains throughout. The Haute Route is not an easy trek. Not by any means. You don’t need crampons or any technical gear, but it is physically demanding. The trek takes 10 days. So you’ll be on your feet a lot. But the rewards are obvious, and those rewards make for unbeatable Instagram fodder.
2. Go ziplining in Jungfrau
The summit of the Jungfrau was first reached on 3 August 1811 by the local Meyer brothers. However, the climbing pioneers arguably didn’t get the full experience on the mountain, because at that point – unsurprisingly – there wasn’t a zipline. Now, thankfully, there is. Above Grindelwald (the Swiss town, not the Harry Potter villain) you can fly down an 800m long steel cable at speeds of up to 55mph. You’ll be dropping 675ft through the mountains with your legs wobbling 50m above the ground. The panoramic backdrop of the Swiss Alps is a bit of a bonus card as well. If you’re a bird lover, you can also take an alternative flying fox in Grindelwald. It’s called the ‘First Glider’. It basically involves strapping yourself into a large eagle-like structure (pictured) and then flying down the same cable described above, at the same speed, too. Is that weird? Yes. Definitely. Does that mean you shouldn’t do it? Don’t be ridiculous. All the best stuff is weird. Like you. Sorry. Sending love.
3. Strap into a snowshoe in the Swiss backcountry
Crunch. Step. Crunch. Step. Picture the scene. You’re strapped into a set of snowshoes, travelling through deep white powder. You left the morning before from the small mountain village of Trient, deep in the Swiss Alps. Now you’re immersed in nature, hiking 800m up to a panoramic, 360-degree view of the mountains that surround you. Before that, though, it’s pure valleys, forests and the odd rustle of scurrying wildlife. This is serenity and meditation at its finest. There’s nothing quite like snowshoeing. It’s an epic outing. And you can get a proper snowshoe adventure in the Swiss Alps in just a weekend too. Stay in mountain huts, stuff yourself with cheese and look out at views from the Rhone Valley to Mont Blanc Valley as you go. Day time is unspoiled nature and unforgettable views. Night time is igloos, mountain huts and roaring fires. It certainly beats staying in and watching the TV.
4. Take the Titlis Cliff Walk high above Engelberg
Engelberg is a freeskiing haven. Athletes come from around the world to ride the vast on and off-piste options in the central Swiss Alps resort each year. But there’s a lot more to Engelberg than that already tantalising offering, too. Whether you’re in the ski resort to slide down the mountains on planks or for any other reason at all, get the Titlis Cliff Walk on your to-do list. The Titlis cliff walk is one of the most spectacular suspension bridges in Europe. It’s 3,041m above sea level, 500 metres off the ground and 100 fairly-terrifying metres long at the very top of the Engelberg-Titlis ski resort. The rugged, near-vertical views down the mountain faces that surround the bridge will blow you away (hopefully not literally, be careful). And the cable cars up to the Titlis Cliff walk are outrageously scenic, too.
5. Go head first down the Cresta Run in Saint Moritz
Saint Moritz is often seen as equal parts snowsports mecca and playground for the rich. Those two things combine at the Cresta Club, where you can ride the Cresta Run. “What’s that?”, we hear you roar! Well, reader, it’s a natural ice toboggan racing track. And it’s one of the few in the world completely dedicated to the ‘skeleton’ discipline. Didn’t expect that, did you? For those who don’t know, the skeleton discipline is that one in the Winter Olympics that’s a bit like the bobsleigh, but headfirst, and on what looks like a reinforced baking tray. It’s the one Lizzy Yarnold won the gold medal in for Team GB in both 2014 and 2018. There’s a lot of the history at the Cresta Club. It was formed way back in 1887 and has sent many people to the hospital in the 125 plus years since. It’s hosted the Olympics twice, as well. Beginners can book in to try the Cresta Run out. You’ll get an introduction, some tips on how to get going, and then be unleashed to practise on the course. Careful, now.
6. Circumnavigate the mighty Matterhorn
The Matterhorn is one of the most distinctive mountains on the planet. Straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy, the pointed peak is instantly recognisable on any skyline. It’s become the stuff of fiction – immortalised by legends like Dr Seuss and… err… Toblerone. Of course, it’s even more instantly recognisable when you’re walking around it. Quite hard to miss, really, at 4,478m high. And circumnavigating the mountain gives you the chance to see the Matterhorn from every angle. Starting in Zermatt, a trek around the Matterhorn usually takes eight days. Along the way, you’ll cross the Charles Kuonen suspension bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world. You’ll travel through typical Swiss villages, tackle mountain passes and dip into mountain lakes. You’ll take in the stunning views from Mont Dragon and Breuil Cervinia on the Italian side of the border. You’ll stay in mountain refuges which go as high as 3,840m and whatever happens, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Matterhorn from dusk till dawn. This is some of the best scenery in the Swiss Alps, with some of Italy’s best too as a bonus.
7. Tackle the mountain bike trails in Lenzerheide
Remember we mentioned how the Swiss Alps make up most of Switzerland? That makes the country pretty good for mountain biking. Shocking, we know. In all seriousness, though, most mountain bikers will know of the famous Swiss trail options, from Verbier to Zermatt. One slightly newer Swiss spot now renowned for its gravity mountain biking, and a real variety of trails, is Lenzerheide. A town found at the bottom of the Parpaner Rothorn, Lenzerheide is one of the most bike-friendly places in all of Switzerland The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup regularly stops here for elite cross-country and downhill races, so you know Lenzerheide is the real deal. Whatever your level, you’ll find the trails here.
8. Trek the Tour du Mont Blanc in a long weekend
Hold the phone. Mont Blanc is – famously – in France, isn’t it? Well, yes. But if you trek the Tour du Mont Blanc, circumnavigating the peak on high mountain trails, you’re going to spend a lot of time in Switzerland, as well. And in Italy, for that matter. Who knew? We did. That’s why we’ve included it in this list. It’s an ambitious hike, the Tour du Mont Blanc, taking in three countries in four days, but the rewards of hiking in the shadow of the highest peak in Europe are rather obvious. Starting on the Italian side of the mountain, you’ll ascend into Val Ferret, enter Switzerland and enjoy views of Mont Blanc, Dent du Géants and the Grandes Jorasses massif on day one alone. Views of Switzerland’s Rhone Valley are a real highlight of the trip, as is the stay in Refuge Le Peuty in Trient in Switzerland, high up in the Alps. And the fact you’ve got Mont Blanc for company on the trip means you’re never far from the perfect selfie.
9. Take flight in a paraglider high above Interlaken
There’s a lot of paragliding in Switzerland. They’ve got the scenery for it. And where better to see the mixture of mountain tops, lakes, towns and huts from the literal middle of the air? In Interlaken, a traditional little resort in central Switzerland, you’ll find some of the best paragliding in the Swiss Alps. Summer or winter, you can fly up into the air and enjoy a fantastic view over the Interlaken region and the Jungfrau mountain beyond. You don’t need any previous experience, but you definitely need a good head for heights. For obvious reasons.
10. Challenge yourself to finish the 26km Glacier 3000 run
We’ve already covered the fact that Switzerland has a lot of mountains, but we’ve not yet mentioned that those mountains are also covered in glaciers. The glaciers of the Swiss Alps cover 3% of all Switzerland. Which is pretty cool. So, if you’ve got to the end of this list and thought – yeah great, but seems a bit easy – then here’s a challenge for you. Each August in Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, you’ll find the Glacier 3000 Run. The race is a 26km mountain run. It starts at 1050m and ends up almost 3000m above sea level. That’s a gain of almost 2000m. Terrain ranges from flat road to soft forest trails to hiking routes and, of course, snow and ice. It’s a life experience that’s only for the real endurance athletes out there. If you have to think twice about it, it’s probably not for you.
If that’s got you restless to get out to the Swiss Alps ASAP, check out our Swiss mountain adventures, including circumnavigating the Matterhorn, trekking the Haute Route and snowshoeing in the alpine backcountry (not all at the same time).