Switzerland is known worldwide as one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is no wonder why with the towering Alps, lush green valleys, sapphire blue lakes, and varied cultures. Switzerland is an international destination for people with varied interests.
Switzerland is also (and officially) known as the Swiss Confederation. It is made up of 26 Cantons, with Federal offices located in Bern. The population of Switzerland is ~8.2 million, with ~1/4 of the population being expats from other (mostly European) countries. This makes Switzerland the country with the most foreign population.
The climate of Switzerland is as varied as its population. There are three main geographies of Switzerland. The Alps, the Swiss Plateau, and the Jura mountains. Most of the population reside on the Plateau where all of the major cities are located. The climate is temperate, but ranges wildly depending on the locality. You will find year-round snow and glaciers in the mountains, but also palm trees in the southern plateau.
The Alps are among the highest and most rugged mountains in the world. The highest peak is Dufourspitze. It is the second highest in Western Europe at 4,736m and is a challenge for any climber. They were formed by the collision of the African and European plates, and continue to grow.
Besides climbing, the Alps are home to a myriad of winter sports like skiing (alpine and cross-country), sledding, snowboarding, and summer sports like para-gliding and skydiving. For the less active, the valleys in the Alps offer absolutely stunning vistas and easy hikes. One of the favorites is the Lauterbrunnen valley. Lauterbrunnen is home to the highest railroad in Europe (Jungfrau Railway), taking you to the peak of Jungfraujoch at 3,454m.
The Plateau is where you will find all of the major cities and beautiful lakes. With Zurich and Basel in the north, Bern centrally located and Geneva in the South, the Plateau is a collection of rolling hills, lakes, rivers and culinary delights like cheese and chocolate. (We recommend a trip to the picturesque town of Gruyere where the cheese is king and the views are stunning. kick back and enjoy some fondue!)
Lake Geneva is easily the most famous of the large lakes, but Lakes Zurich, Lucerne, and the twin lakes of Brienz & Thun are all equally beautiful. If you visit the twin lakes, stay in Interlaken and you will have easy access to both lakes! You can enjoy swimming, boating and hikes around the lakes.
The Jura mountains aren’t as famous as the Alps, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth visiting. It is the demarcation between France and Switzerland. The Jura aren’t as tall and rugged as the Alps, but there is still lots of great opportunities for hiking, climbing, skiing, and cycling. This region is also known for its watchmaking industry. You can even be an “Apprentice for a day” and build your own watch!
The people of Switzerland are as varied as its geography. The landlocked country boarders France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstien. This mixing of cultures creates a diversity in language as well as food, Local dishes are pulled from all of these countries and tend to align country to which that canton is closest. For example, one of our favorite lasagnas was enjoyed in the south, closer to Italy, while in Zurich we had fantastic bratwurst closer to Germany. This melding of cultures also shows in languages spoken, and traditional dress.
When travelling to Switzerland from international origina you will typically Fly into Geneva or Zurich. You may also find flights into Bern, but this is smaller international airport, and is typically used on a regional basis. Once you are in country, the train system is a fantastic way to get around. The trains run remarkably on schedule and are always clean and modern. You will find that the local trains are also used by schools to transport their students, so don’t be surprised to share the ride with lots of kids.
Speaking of trains, we recommend the GoldenPass Line for sightseeing. The GoldenPass trains are designed with huge windows so you won’t miss a bit of scenery. There are 3 main lines: 1) Montreaux > Zweissimmen, 2) Zweissimmen > Interlaken Ost, & 3) Interlaken Ost > Lucerne. You can break up the trips stopping for a night or two in certain areas (we highly recommend the Lauterbrunnen Valley) and enjoy what these localities have to offer. You can also join an organized tour who will handle all of the bookings and activities along the way.
Switzerland is a truly majestic country with varied geography and cultures. There are many, many activities to enjoy year-round for people of all ages and physical abilities. We recommend travelling in June or July for the best weather. So grab your passport, pack your binoculars to make sure to see all of the stunning vistas and don’t forget your OneSimCard eSIM World or standard global roaming SIM card (the Switzerland SIM card we recommend is the Universal card) because you will want to stay connected to share all of your memories!