Where can you cool off from Switzerland’s summer sun? With mountains covering almost two thirds of the Alpine country, it has much to offer holidaymakers escaping the mid-summer heat. Here are ten options to include into your summer plan.
When the mercury climbs in Switzerland under the summer sun, the country’s Alpine geography offers a great variety of places to cool off. What the land-locked country lacks in beaches, it more than makes up for this in high-altitude lakes, glaciers and mountainous summer resorts. While Switzerland is best known for winter sports, it has 7’000 lakes, about 250 mountain summits over 3’600 metres and some 40 glaciers. You can swim and sail in some of Europe’s most beautiful lakes, ski the glaciers and take your choice of sports from mountain biking, to walking, to kayaking and climbing up in the mountains. The further you get into the high lakes and valleys, the more you leave the mid-summer sultry heat behind.
Here are ten lakes, mountain resorts, cities, rivers and glaciers to cool down:
1. Berne’s River Aare
In Berne you can find ways to take a break from the heat without going far. The Thun-Bern float trip is a hugely popular way to spend a summer’s day. Hire an inflatable dinghy from one of the rental companies at Thun-Schwabis – or bring your own. Then spend three hours drifting down the River Aare to Berne.
2. Crans-Montana mountain village
At an altitude of 1’500 m, the resort of Crans-Montana is part idyllic mountain village, part alpine town. As one of the largest holiday destinations in Valais, it offers not just stunning mountain views but also the widest range of summer activities. Swimmers can choose between five lakes located right next to the village. For cyclists, the terrain that favours skiing in winter is ideal for biking in summer. Crans-Montana is also very popular amongst golfers.
3. Zermatt Glacier
At over 3’800 m, Zermatt Glacier with its 21 km of pistes and eight ski lifts is the largest and highest summer skiing area in Europe. Skiers particularly value the broad motorways of well-groomed, obstacle-free snow. Zermatt Glacier’s high-altitude, huge summer ski area and snow park attract national ski and snowboard teams from not just Switzerland but also neighbouring European countries. The glacier has the highest cable car station in Europe (3’883 m) and offers views of neighbouring mountains in Italy, France and Switzerland. Right by the Italian border, you gain a fresh perspective on the Matterhorn.
4. Lake Lugano
On the border with northern Italy, Lake Lugano blends the chilled out feeling of the Mediterranean with the majestic beauty of the Alps. Almost a third of its 48.7 km2 lie in Switzerland, the rest belongs to Italy. Choose one of the 50 bathing establishments on its shores to take a dip into the fresh water or explore the coast on a cruise. Other popular water sports include water skiing, jet skis and paddle boarding.
5. Verzasca Valley
Located in Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, this valley is long, wild and the perfect place for an unusual swim. The clear green waters of the Verzasca river flow over polished rocks and natural jacuzzis, as well as under the double arches of the mediaeval Ponte dei Salte bridge. For adrenaline seekers, the valley ends with a 220 m high dam, made famous by the bungee jump in the opening scene of James Bond’s GoldenEye. Aspiring Bonds can take the jump too if they wish.
6. St. Moritz and Engadine
The Engadine is a high, long mountain valley in the eastern Alps. St. Moritz and the surrounding region have been the historic home of Swiss winter sports since the 19th century. It is the site of Switzerland’s oldest ski school, the world’s last remaining natural bob sleigh run and two Winter Olympics – in 1928 and again in 1948. The famous White Turf St. Moritz is a breath-taking spectacle, a winter horse race across the town’s frozen lake. Come summer, Engadine St. Moritz lends its beauty and topography to different activities, from kite surfing to mountain biking and hiking.
Summer in Zurich is all about meeting up in one if the city’s many ‘Badis’ (outdoor swimming facilities), which are located around Lake Zurich and its main river. On a hot day, children as well as adults alike can’t wait to cool down in an open air pool. The most popular times? Before work, during lunch break, or on the way home. Everyone has their favourite place. There are women-only Badis, Badis for men and those for families.
8. Viamala canyon
An aquatic canyon, the Viamala offers an exciting adventure to water lovers. 321 steps lead down this technically easy canyon. How to make it back to civilization? Participants of guided tours needs to swim and slide!
9. Lac de Joux, Jura
With a surface area of 9.5 m2, Lac de Joux lies at over 1’000 m above sea level. Located in the Jura region, it has the stark beauty of the high mountain valley. Its underground outward flow contributes to its unique shape. The lake is a playground for lovers of nature, water sports and open spaces. The water temperature can reach 24 degrees in summer, making it ideal for a swim to cool off from the mid-summer heat. Well-known for its favourable wind conditions, the lake attracts yachters and windsurfers, but is also ideal for windsurfing, wakeboarding and water skiing.
10. Great Aletsch Glacier
The largest glacier in the Alps, the Great Aletsch Glacier is a huge river of ice that is 23 km long and covers about 81.7 km2 in the eastern Bernese Alps. As part of an area designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, it is protected and not all of the glacier can be visited. You can admire its beauty from the Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn viewpoints, which are accessible by cable car. By crossing the Massa river suspension bridge, you can also hike between the left and right part of the glacier. Between Riederalp and the glacier you can find the historic Villa Cassel, the former summer residence of many distinguished politicians and financiers. Today, the villa hosts the environmental organisation Pro Natura – an ideal place for you to witness the effects of climate change on the glacier, which is shrinking by 50 m each year.