Hiking is one of the most rewarding forms of exercise in the world, and what country is more made for this particular exercise than Switzerland? In the summer, peak hiking season, it is a land of wide blue skies, lush green meadows, and glittering turquoise lakes. Its incredible mountains challenge even the most experienced mountaineer, yet the valleys and lakes provide easy strolling for those just wanting a jaunt. So famed is Switzerland for its unbeatable walks, that there are entire resorts built around the exercise - and here are our favourites.
Kandersteg is the undisputed king of walking resorts in Switzerland. Here at Great Rail Journeys, we adore this quaint corner of Switzerland so much that we have designed an entire walking holiday around it!
One of the best walks from this particular tour are the walks around Oeschinensee. Begin with a gondola from Zermatt, taking you through some exquisite landscapes, and arrive at this breathtaking glacial lake, surrounded by mysterious pine forests and rugged mountains that rise straight from its waters to snow-topped splendour. For an easy walk, there is a simple circle around the lake, however if you are wanting a bit more of a challenge, Blumisalp and Doldenhorn are perfect to give you practically birdseye views of the expanse of beauty around you.
Zermatt is a delightfully car free resort. Walking here is a way of life, because it's one of the main ways people get around. Of course, this is only to be expected from a town in the shadow of the famous Matterhorn. I am certainly not going to say that the Matterhorn is something I would advise doing, unless you have many years of mountaineering under your belt. There are, however, some truly lovely walks in and around the town - over 250 miles of trails in fact. One of the best walks around Zermatt is the 5-Seenweg (or '5 Lakes') walk. It is a moderately difficult walk of about 5.8 miles, but the views of the Matterhorn you can get from here are unmatched. Walk around the Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee and admire the reflection of the mighty mountain in the waters - and if you need to cool down, the Leisee is great for a swim!
Grindelwald is home to the awesome Eiger Trail - and even better, you get to the starting point on the Jungfrau Railway. Don't be fooled by how easy it is to get there - this trail is not for the faint at heart. At only 3.7 miles long, this fairly difficult level trail skirts the face of the mighty Eiger, at points using ropes to keep yourself actually on the mountain itself.
If you don't particularly feel like flirting with danger and would prefer a more gentle way of seeing the area, why not enjoy the Royal Trail? It is a short and fairly simple walk, punctuated by information points where you can learn the history of the region. At the top, you are greeted by a spectacular panorama - which can be viewed from a platform shaped, strangely enough, like a crown.
You don't particularly need to go too far with a walk in Lugano - not when the spectacular lake is right there in front of you. A really lovely, and also easy walk in Lugano, is to walk around the Parco San Grato. It's absolutely filled with a myriad of flowers and trees, and on a handy hillside location so you can see the stunning lake stretched out below you. As can be expected in the spring, it is also a veritable explosion of colour. It takes around 3 hours to walk around completely, but it's a gentle walk which can be done at a slow pace to absorb your surroundings.
For a more moderate hike, try the Monte San Giorgio. This mountain is ancient, with millions of years of natural history and offers a magnificent view of Lake Lugano to recommend it. You'll need a reasonable amount of stamina - it's around 5.1 miles in a circle trail and, as it is a mountain, there is a fair amount of climbing - but on a clear day, the views are out of this world, and it is well worth the exercise.
Set between two lakes (hence the name), Interlaken, like Grindelwald, is set fairly near the Jungfraujoch, and so several trails are shared between the two. One of the best walks near here, however, are definitely the beautiful trails around Schynige Platte. Head along the cogwheel railway to get to the starting point, a favoured railway journey in Switzerland that is an experience in itself, then meander over and around some truly idyllic meadows all the while enjoying the sight of the beautiful peak above. The panoramic trail also gives you some spectacular sights over Lake Brienz - one of the two lakes that Interlaken is set between.