Trade your snowboard for sunglasses in Switzerland with our guide to snow-free summer fun, writes Lucy Levin
Switzerland is synonymous with Instagram-worthy wintry Alps, and its mountainous regions offer a winning blend of excellent skiing, striking scenery and a lively après ski scene. But when temperatures climb as the season progresses, Switzerland reveals rolling hills and crystal-clear lakes that make summer visits more than worthwhile. Here are the 10 best activities that you can do in Switzerland, just don’t forget to pack your courage.
GoldenEye bungee jump from Contra Dam
This bungee over the Verzasca Valley first got our blood pumping in the opening scene of the classic 1995 James Bond film, “GoldenEye”. Today thrill-seekers can hurl themselves over the ledge like Pierce Brosnan with views of the Locarno region’s steep rock sides and lush greenery. Channel your inner 007 and jump 220m (712ft) from Ticino’s Contra Dam. Strap in anytime from April until October, and make sure to keep an eye out for special summer night jumps. Some classic Italian cuisine in Ticino is an excellent way to reward your bravery after this ‘dam’ good time.
Paraglide over Interlaken
Interlaken is the gateway to mountains with superb skiing conditions and vast hiking trails, but sometimes it’s better to get your feet off the ground and fly over one of Switzerland’s most coveted winter sports destinations. Shuttle to your starting point in Beatenberg, meet your trained paragliding co-pilot and takeoff in tandem with panoramic views of Lake Thun, laced between the alps and grassy Swiss plains. With an 800m (2,625ft) descent to Interlaken that takes approximately 20 minutes, this is sure to be a thrilling adrenaline rush. Though many Swiss adventurers use Interlaken as a starting post for winter fun, landing here in the summer is just as surreal.
Treasure hunt across Basel
Save exploring the city’s countless museums for when it rains and spend a warm summer’s day discovering the hidden treasures of Basel, organised by the local tourism body. Meet at Tinguely Fountain and take to the cobblestone streets, uncovering this artistically-renowned city’s nooks and crannies over the course of three hours with a group, a map, and a Polaroid camera. Traverse across town deciphering perplexing clues with your team, this hunt is a great way to see Basel’s quaint Swiss houses and minimalist modern architecture.
Climb the mountains by rollercoaster
Ascend the Bernese Oberland in one of Europe’s steepest mountain railways. The Gelmer Funicular is an open carriage that takes daring tourists 1,860m (6,102ft) above sea level. Forget a gradual incline – Gelmer Funicular’s maximum slope reaches a whopping 106% when it climbs the Grimsel Pass. Catch picturesque, 360-degree views of snow-capped mountains and endless treetops on the ride; then stretch your legs after the uphill journey with a hike around Gelmer Lake, where sparkling blue waters make the perfect setting for picnics. Each funicular car only has 24 seats, so make sure to book tickets in advance.
Cheer at the Tour de Suisse
A professional precursor to the world-renowned Tour de France, the first Tour de Suisse took off in 1933, and today participants, spectators, and children can break a sweat on the trail. Not only can you enjoy seeing some of the world’s best athletes in their element cycling through the Alps, but amateurs and children are also able to participate in events during the course of the 9-day tour. Bring the family to TdS Kids World’s mini-courses, or cheer on photo-finishes at TdS Village, with nine stages in total you can expect to pedal to high altitudes through hilly mountain passes and even over Lake Zurich.
Hike the Aletsch Glacier
Here, you can beat the heat on the ice at the height of summer. Grab a trekking pole and wear a good pair of boots because this frozen river has plenty of ice chasms and uneven surfaces. Aletsch is the Alps’ largest glacier, stretching 23km (14 miles), and during the summer its white ice is particularly striking against the tree-dotted Bettmerhorn mountains beside it. The Aletsch Glacier runs through the middle of the Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage Site and is currently shrinking due to effects of climate change. If the glacier melted completely, every person on Earth could drink one litre of water per day from it for 4.5 years. The ice stretches 900m (2953ft) deep at its thickest point so you won’t have to worry about falling through.
Visit an alpine dairy Stafel in Zermatt
Earn your cheese with a hike to Zermatt’s Alpine Dairy Stafel. From the end of June until the beginning of September, dairy-lovers can venture past grazing cows to an altitude of 2,200m (7,218 ft) to watch cheese-makers stir, salt, and shape wheels of traditional Swiss Ziger cheese. Swap your typical summer lemonade for a fresh glass of milk and enjoy bread, cheese and pickles in the Alps, then descend to the base of the Matterhorn when you’re done with enough Ziger to feed a small army. Please note, bookings are required 24 hours in advance.
Mountain Slide across Kanderstag near Oeschinen Lake
Plunge through the mountains feet first on this Swiss summer toboggan run. After a day at Oeschinensee Lake, hop in this open-air metal slalom and zoom for 750m (2,461ft) with stunning views of Dodelhorn Mountain scenery. This Rodelbahn is open to children and adults, and after everyone screams their lungs out for the first time with the alpine wind in their hair, they’ll definitely want to ride more than once. The slide is open from early May to late October, but check weather reports before you go; it closes in the rain.
Weave through Chillon Castle’s historic courtyards
Chillon Castle is open year-round, but roaming its corridors on Lake Geneva in the summer sun will transport you to the 13th century, the heydays of the Counts of Savoy. After entering castle grounds by water from the lake or land via a wooden bridge, explore Chillon’s four open, sunlit courtyards, gothic underground prison (which once held François de Bonivard, the inspiration for Lord Byron’s famous 1816 poem “The Prisoner of Chillon”), and waterfront great halls. Unwind after your royal outing on the castle’s beach with Lake Geneva and the Dents du Midi mountains as your backdrop. From June to October, Chillon’s beach is rentable for private use from 21:30 until midnight; perfect for barbecues on a Swiss summer evening.
Try canyoning in Thusis
Save your thick coat for the slopes and don your best wetsuit. Viamala canyon does not require safety belts like most alpine canyons, but its winding rock structures and swimmable gorges make it a daredevil’s summer dream from June until September. Lean into the rush and make a splash leaping from cliff to cliff or let the gorge carry you downstream. Be sure to bring a spare change of clothes and a towel because there’s no way to canyon here without getting wet.
Before you go, see our Switzerland travel guide.
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