Ah, Switzerland. Land of pristine alpine views, neutrality, and chocolate.
When we think about Switzerland we tend to think of towering snow capped peaks, with views that stretch for days. And if you are thinking about mountains right now, you might be thinking of skiing. Right?
Well, in this post I want to bring you an insider’s guide to awe-inspiring activities you can do in Switzerland that AREN’T skiing. Most of which you have probably never tried or ever thought about doing. Activities that take you to the hidden side of Switzerland, or show you it from an angle of the country you have never seen before.
Are you ready to plan your next vacation? Let’s go…
Standing On Water
Where there are mountains there is often a lot of water. And it’s no surprise that Switzerland is home to some eye-poppingly blue lakes.
Snowmelt is mostly responsible for this and you will find amazingly blue lakes almost everywhere you go in Switzerland.
Note: If you have never been to a glacier-filled country before, get ready for shades of blue that will blow your mind.
You can certainly go swimming in these lakes if you want, but what really got me excited was the recent craze of Stand Up Paddling!
It’s something that started in Hawaii but has now appeared almost anywhere there is water (ok, maybe not Antarctica, yet). So, you may have seen or used these boards on a beach, but have you ever paddled across a high alpine lake, alone at 8 AM in the morning, with nothing but the reflections of the mountains around you!
This is what Switzerland has to offer. With over 7000 lakes, of which 103 are over 30 hectares, Switzerland is also a land of opportunity for the stand up paddling enthusiast.
If you have your own board (like I am lucky enough to) you can go almost anywhere you want. Just as long as you obey the main rules (which are, roughly – keep out of the way of boats, stay within 300m of the shore or otherwise have a life jacket).
And if you don’t have your own gear, it has become so popular you can rent them in most major cities, and then some. Here are some of the options in some more popular destinations – Zurich Luzern, St Moritz and lots lore more.
I have been to some stunning locations and then jumped right in to cool off after an hours worth of paddling (or “standing on water” as I like to think of it).
Floating On Clouds Of Snow
You’ve probably been skiing before, or at least know someone who has. It is, in many ways, the premiere mountain sport, at least in winter.
But quietly, especially over the last decade, the sport of snow shoeing has been taking off. In places like Switzerland where everyone has usually skied since childhood, people are starting to want something a little different in winter.
And that is where snow shoeing comes in.
Think of it like hiking, but in winter. The biggest difference, aside from the snow, is that you can go almost anywhere you want. There doesn’t even have to be a trail.
Where skiing is fast, furious, expensive and a little dangerous (I shattered my tibia back in 2013, so I should know) snow shoeing is almost relaxing in comparison.
There are far fewer people, and you can get to some amazing mountain locations where resorts don’t even have a chance. Plus, with so much nature and snow in Switzerland in winter, you can go almost anywhere you want.
And the other bonus is, it costs almost nothing. All you need are decent winter clothes, some hiking poles and snow shoes. No ski passes worth hundreds of dollars, no expensive ski gear. Just the basics.Again, if you don’t own them, you can rent them. And often for almost nothing (compared to skiing).
Again, if you don’t own them, you can rent them. Often, ironically, from ski rental stores.
Depending on where you end up in Switzerland, the amount and difficulty of the terrain will vary, but, there is almost always be a trail nearby. You just have to ask your local tourist office or even the hotel you are staying in.
Here are some great tools to help you find the closest options:
Flying Like A Bird
I saved the best for last, at least for the adrenaline junkies.
If you have never heard of it before, it is basically a cross between hang gliding and parachuting. You run, then glide/take-off from a steep field and then fly using a “wing” (long/thin parachute) catching thermals (hot upward air drafts) to keep you aloft for longer.
Switzerland is full of high places to jump from (aka mountains), so it will come as no surprise that paragliding is insanely popular here.
Whether you want to learn, already do it, or just want to experience it once during your vacation here, there are lots of options for everyone.
One of the most popular places in Switzerland to do anything adrenaline-related is Interlaken. Probably because it is right in the heart of the alps and surrounded by 12000 ft peaks.
If you want to see all the paragliding options in Interlaken, just head over to this detailed post.
You can also find a detailed summary of most other paragliding options on My Switzerland.
And finally, if you want to read more about what it is really like, what to expect, what to wear and more (all from an experienced paraglider in Switzerland), check out this post.
It truly is a great way to experience the alps while in Switzerland from yet another perspective you will probably rarely ever have.
Get Out And Experience Switzerland
Whether you are on a big budget or small, there are plenty of jaw-dropping outdoor activities for you to experience in Switzerland. And many of them you or your friends will have never experienced before.
All you have to do is seize day, book your flight and let me know when you arrive!
Roger is a drone enthusiast, traveler and lover of the outdoors. Originally from Australia, he is now living in Switzerland where he spends most of his time blogging, hiking, mountain biking or flying his Mavic Pro drone.
You can find him online via his blog.