Ron Stern | Global Gumshoe
Although Switzerland is an iconic winter travel destination, summertime has charms of its own that will enchant the senses and delight the soul. Here are some of my favorites from a recent visit to St. Moritz, Crans-Montana and Bern.
The Swiss Travel System (swisstravelsystem.com)
This is your ticket to fun and convenient travel covering 16,000 miles throughout the country. The travel system includes trains, buses and most of the lake transportation, all for the price of a single ticket. The trains are comfortable, efficient and almost always on time. Additionally, for one price you have access to about 400 museums throughout Switzerland: truly a great deal.
Advertised as the slowest express train in the world, the Glacier Express from St. Moritz offers some of the most spectacular mountain scenery you will find anywhere in the world. There are a variety of Swiss passes available on their website offering flexibility and different classes of travel.
St. Moritz, an Outdoor Playground (stmoriz.ch)
Located in the larger Engadin Valley, St. Moritz is a postcard-perfect playground for anyone who loves the outdoors. With its majestic snow-capped mountains, lakes, forests, and meadows, St. Moritz offers the traveler a wealth of engaging activities.
I would recommend starting off easy with a tour of the Ricola herb garden in nearby Pontresina. More than 100 Swiss farmers are involved in growing herbs for these popular medicinal drops and they are quite proud of their final product. Next, rent an E-Bike for a ride through the Alps to Morteratsch. These cycles are partially powered, making you feel like a superhero gliding up and down inclines. At your destination, enjoy a feast of meats, breads and cheeses at the alpine cheese dairy (alp-schaukaeserei.ch).
In the early afternoon, take a train and gondola to Diavolezza Mountain for a top-of-the-world view of the Swiss Alps. While you’re soaking in the scenery, you can relax with appetizers, wine and cheese or a nice lunch. Here, you will also find the highest-elevation hot tub in Europe (diavolezza.ch/en).
For your final activity of the day, hire a horse carriage to take you past green meadows and stately pine trees to Lake Staz and the Hotel-Restaurant Lej da Staz. Enjoy some typical Swiss dishes, and for dessert, you simply have to have a generous helping of their vanilla ice cream: the best I have ever had anywhere in the world. Happy cows, I guess (lejdastaz.ch/en.html).
Crans-Montana, natural family destination (crans-montana.ch)
Enjoying 300 days of sunshine each year, Crans-Montana is a mountain resort that lies on a plateau 3,000 meters above sea level. Surrounded by mountains, lakes and trees, it has one of the few alpine sandy beaches in the country at the Crans-Montana Beach Club, making it the ideal family destination.
From the railway station, take the funicular from the town Sierra up to Crans-Montana. The towns are spread out and offer a variety of restaurants, cafes and historic highlights. Stop by David L’instant Chocolat for exquisite truffles, chocolate-covered almonds and other heavenly temptations (instant-chocolat.ch).
Hiking trails are everywhere and the one that runs along the irrigation channels is particularly beautiful. Pink and purple wildflowers adorn the slopes as you pass by waterfalls and shaded country pastures. Near the top, you can enjoy a lunch in a rather modern restaurant constructed out of concrete and glass. There is nothing like having wine, risotto, meat and melting raclette cheese in front of a fire while gazing out at the idyllic landscape through large windows.
Bern, Swiss capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1983, this capital city is located in the heart of Switzerland. It is quite the cosmopolitan city with beautiful churches, bridges, the famous Zytglogge clock tower and even a bear park.
The Aare River runs around the town, and is a popular swimming location at certain times of the year. The bear is the symbol of Bern and a newly constructed park is situated on one of the Aare’s banks, attracting thousands each year.
The 16th century Zytglogge guards one of the city’s original gates and is an amazing feat of engineering. Each hour, figures on the outside turn and whistle and crowds start massing early to watch the spectacle. Take the tour, however, to see the inside workings where one man, without any formal training, created this amazing mechanism.
Bern has the longest covered arcades in Europe as well as a modern mall, and you can shop for jewelry, clothing, watches and chocolate, among many other things. Dining options run from casual to elegant, and the Kornhauskeller offers great local fare set among warm wood tones and artful decor from the Baroque era.
A relatively small country, Switzerland is easy to visit from a variety of gateways. Trains, buses and trams make getting around easy. Summer is a great time to visit and, like me, you will find yourself falling in love with the country and its people, who welcome you with open arms.
Where to Stay
Hotel Giardino Mountain (giardino-mountain.ch/en)
A charming upscale hotel with wonderful décor, scenic views of the Alps and what I would consider to be a full breakfast.
Hotel de l’Etrier (hoteletrier.ch)
A moderately priced hotel property with basic rooms and nice views of the town and mountains out back.
Bellevue Palace (bellevue-palace.ch)
Luxury property with some of the best views of the city and the Aare River. As you would expect, rooms are spacious with upscale amenities. Breakfast includes freshly made juice combinations.