Natural attractions in Switzerland
Switzerland is famous for its mountainous landscapes, each of which is unique.
Among the limestone hills there are fossilized remains of sea animals that lived many millions of years ago. Majestic peaks covered with glaciers attract fans of skiing. Emerald valleys with clear lakes and neat villages appeal to absolutely everyone.
Pleasing to the eye and the water element. Turquoise mountain rivers, chattering waterfalls and lakes of bizarre shapes – to enjoy the natural riches of Switzerland, millions of tourists come to this small country every year.
The Sardon Tectonic Group
The Sardon Tectonic Group comprises an area of 32,000 hectares, dominated by seven mountain peaks. A unique pattern of mountain building can be seen here: the collision of geological strata of different ages and compositions as a result of tectonic pressure within the Earth. Old blocks of rock from the Permian and Triassic periods interacted with modern limestone and flysch rocks. In doing so, older, deeper rocks overlapped the younger rocks nearest the surface. This led to the formation of a bizarre rock massif that has been thoroughly studied since the 18th century.
The Verzasca is a river in Switzerland, famous for its transparency. The water in it is so clear that when you are at its bottom at a depth of 15 m, you can see a stone bridge.
This shallow river with very cold and crystal clear water is not on every map, because its length is only 30 km. It runs through the valley of the same name from the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 2864 m and flows into the mountain lake Laggo Maggiore, on the border between Switzerland and Italy.
The water here is like a transparent emerald or rock crystal, which attracts connoisseurs of the underwater world. Even through 10-15 m of water you can see how picturesque the banks of Verzasca are (although the feeling is a bit surreal).
Chestnut forests and vineyards grow on the banks, and the houses made of layered gneiss in the villages are 400 years old. In the heart of the valley there is a two-arch stone bridge of the XVII century across the river, which is worth seeing from the bottom of Verzasca.
Monte San Giorgio
Monte San Giorgio (1096 m) is a woody pyramidal elevation south of Lake Lugano in the Swiss canton of Ticino. It is the richest repository of marine fossils from the Triassic period, some 230 to 245 million years old. At that time, the climate was tropical and the uplands were the site of the sea. Prehistoric reptiles, fish, molluscs and crustaceans swam in the shallow waters. Today, the remains of these ancient animals are being extensively studied and archaeological work has been going on for a century. Most of the finds are preserved in the Zurich Paleontology Museum.
Overflowing alpine meadows, long ranges of mountains with peaks that pierce the sky and a string of crystal clear lakes, which reflect the sky and the landscape like a mirror – this is the Engadin Valley. The stunning landscapes mesmerize at first sight. It is no accident that Hermann Hesse and Friedrich Nietzsche loved to visit and create in this region. The valley looks most impressive in early autumn, when the emerald pines are diluted with the gold of larches, and the mountain peaks are already decorated with snow-white crowns.
The valley is divided into the Upper and Lower Engadine, which are equally good, but completely different from each other. The Upper is a splendor of turquoise lakes framed by mountains, meadows and forests, while the Lower is a secluded area where the retoromanic language is still spoken and the old houses of the local population are hidden among the quaint topography. In winter, the valley turns into a ski resort, one of the best on the planet. Numerous lakes are frozen at this time – a great place for skating. By the way, it was in Engadin where the skeleton and bobsledding were invented, so fans of these sports in the winter valley are also welcome guests.
The Bernese Alps are the largest glaciated area of this mountainous region of the European continent. Here you can find the largest mountain glacier in Eurasia – the Alechsky Glacier. The relief of the area is represented by beautiful valleys, mountain cirques, pointed, pyramid-like peaks and glacial deposits. By the example of the region you can trace the whole course of the birth of the mountains, understand how the mountain ranges were formed, to what effects the processes of uplift and folding lead. The flora and fauna of the region are rich and have adapted to life under the conditions of permanently receding glaciers. The Bernese Alps are particularly beautiful. When the weather is clear, one may enjoy the beautiful panorama of the famous Black Forest in Germany and the French part of the Alps.
The Rhine is a leisurely river that flows majestically through fertile meadows, ancient towns and foothill vineyards. At one point, near the Swiss-German border, its waters drop from a height to form one of Europe’s most famous landmarks, the Rhine Falls. It is rightly called the largest in the Old World, though its height is only 23 meters, but its width is 150. But the volume of water thrown down he really has no equal: in winter it is 250 m 3 / s, and in summer – all 700.
This natural wonder came about 15,000 years ago when the Rhine changed its course yet again, and the massive boulders that line the waterfall are nothing more than the remains of one of the rocky banks. Because of the waterfall, the stretch of river from Lake Constance to Basel is not considered navigable, but cases of kayaking have been documented. But since 1999 such a pastime is forbidden by law, and violators face a fine of 5000 Swiss francs – a little over 160 thousand rubles.
To allow visitors to see the Rhine Falls in all their glory, equipped with several viewing platforms. The most popular of them is located on a huge boulder in the center of the waterfall – it is reachable only by special boat. The most spectacular pictures are obtained from the lower observation deck, where the powerful stream pelts tourists with a fresh wave of icy spray.
The majestic Staubbach Falls shooting down water from a height of 300 m nestled near the town of Lauterbrunnen in the Swiss canton of Bern. It is one of Switzerland’s most impressive natural wonders, and until 2006 it was even considered the highest waterfall in the country. However, later, more accurate measurements gave the palm to the Zierenbach waterfall, and Staubbach took second place, but it did not lose any of its beauty and spectacle.
The waterfall is especially beautiful in spring during the snowmelt or after heavy rains, when the force of its water verse reaches its maximum. Due to the great height of the fall and the structure of the mountain from which it falls, the stream at the very bottom turns into a cloud of water spray. This mesmerizing spectacle can be enjoyed both from the city and from a tunnel through the rock. The Staubbach is captivatingly beautiful and was the subject of literary works by Goethe and Byron. The waterfall was also the subject of a three centime postage stamp issued in the 1930s.
The Alech Glacier, or Great Alech Glacier, is one of the most picturesque glaciers on the planet and the largest in the Alpine Mountains. It looks like a frozen river or a man-made road of pure ice. The length of this icy river is 24 km. But you can’t call it frozen: it moves at a speed of 200 m per year. The exceptional purity of the ice body is another difference of this natural wonder.
Alech is located on the southern slope of the Bernese Alps. Its area is 86.63 km 2 , and the ice is 100 m thick. The glacier consists of three glaciers, and where they converge, the ice is up to 1 km thick.
On the territory of the glacier there is a relict wild forest, so Alech is declared a nature reserve. However, natural processes contribute to the melting of the glacier, and in recent years its length has decreased by 113 m. Protesting against the activities of corporations contributing to global warming, in 2007 hundreds of naked enthusiasts went right out onto the ice, organizing a spectacular photo shoot.
Mount San Salvatore
The popularity of this mountain began with a legend. According to legend, the Son of God stopped there during his ascension to heaven. To honor his memory, Christian pilgrims have long come to San Salvatore. Over time, the religious significance of the mountain has been diminished, but it has become a popular tourist attraction. The summit offers spectacular views of two countries at once – Switzerland and Italy, and this attracts many travelers here.
At the end of the XIX century to climb the mountain was built funicular. It is made entirely of glass, including the roof, so during the ascent nothing prevents you from enjoying the magnificent scenery. From the observation deck at the top of San Salvatore, you can admire the snow-capped mountains of the Lepontine Alps in winter and, in summer, the snow-white liners that ply Lake Cerezio. This glacial lake occupies a huge mountain crevice, its maximum depth is 288 m. At the top of the mountain there is a cafe where you can combine contemplation of the surrounding beauty with tasting aromatic coffee.
The 20 Main Sights of Switzerland
When you think of Switzerland, you immediately think of Alpine meadows, the famous cuckoo clock and melting chocolate in your mouth. Basically, this is the quintessence of this small, mountainous and rich country, conveniently located in the heart of Europe. Add to that the trendy ski resort of Zermatt, or celebrity-driven St. Moritz or politician-driven Davos, plus the enchanting old town of Bern, banking-class Zurich with its art galleries and cosmopolitan Geneva, and you know what makes Switzerland so appealing to tourists!
Here are 20 of Switzerland’s must-see attractions if you decide to visit this beautiful country.
Switzerland’s 20 Greatest Sights:
1. Chillon Castle
Situated in a fantastic location on the east side of Lake Geneva, framed by rocky mountains, Chioln Castle is one of Switzerland’s main attractions. As if growing right out of the water, this medieval fortress and famous prison is one of the best-preserved examples of medieval architecture in Europe. Take a leisurely stroll through the Great Hall, the Hall of Justice, the Arsenal, the Chapel of St. George and other halls of the castle that reveal the history of this fortress. You will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere of the Bonivar prison and to admire the magnificent scenery of the shores of Lake Geneva, on foot or on one of the cruise ships.
2. the Jungfrau-Aletsch protected area
Virtually untouched except for trails and a few picturesque mountain huts, the Jungfrau-Aletsch region in the Swiss Alps is the largest glaciated area in Western Europe. Located between the cantons of Bern and Valais, the area is a group of eternal mountain glaciers covering an area of about 35,000 hectares. The longest glacier in the Alps Aletsch, stretching for 23 km, is located here. A trip here is a real journey into the world of ice and rocks, steep peaks and alpine flora and fauna. No wonder that the Jungfrau-Aletsch region has long been one of the most popular hiking destinations, with spectacular skiing and hiking, breathtaking panoramic views and local specialties.
3. lake Lugano
Lugano, in the Italian speaking part of Southern Switzerland, has an Italian flair with palm trees, picturesque boulevards, and spectacular views of the Alps and Lake Lugano. With picturesque villages along its shores and surrounded by green mountains, Lake Lugano is an ideal place for leisure and active tourism. It is quite long, 36 km long and no more than 2 km wide, Lake Lugano is the only lake in Switzerland which has a bridge.
If you like hiking (the lazier ones can take the cable car), you can climb Monte San Salvatore mountain to enjoy the best view of the lake and the surrounding area.
4. Matterhorn Peak.
It is here, in the small village of Zermatt, that nature lovers start their routes into the magnificent kingdom of the Swiss Alps! More than 400 km of hiking trails await you here, leading to magnificent scenery, with breathtaking views of the Alps. You will feel insignificant compared to the majesty of the Matterhorn, which cuts through the sky. Although it is not the highest mountain in Switzerland (4,478 meters above sea level), it is definitely one of the most famous peaks, which has been a real challenge for many. Many experienced climbers have fallen here in an attempt to conquer the impregnable steep slopes of the Matterhorn. In any case, your route will start from Zermatt – albeit small, but one of the most prestigious ski resorts in Europe.
5. Lake Firwaldstätt (Lake Lucerne)
How about a steamboat cruise through the shimmering expanse of the lake, surrounded by a ring of lofty mountains, made all the more majestic by the reflection in the water of their wooded slopes descending to the lake? Called the “heart of Switzerland” and the “lake of the four cantons”, Lake Lucerne or as it is often called, Lake Lucerne attracts many tourists with its beautiful mountain slopes, the color carpet of the famous Rütli meadow, the medicinal springs of Caltbad, the chestnut and almond forests of the Riegue and the soothing waters of azure, immersing you in the Swiss nirvana.
6. Bern’s Old Town
Set on a hill and surrounded on three sides by the river Aare, medieval Bern retains the charm of times gone by, with its sandstone squares, its clock tower and the numerous arcades that line its streets. Cobblestone streets, gurgling fountains, fabulous clocks and ornate arcades echo the city planning concepts of the 11th and 12th centuries. If you find yourself in Bern, don’t miss the Zytglogge, the clock tower. With its moving figures and prison in the backdrop of history, it’s the city’s main attraction. Other sights in Bern include Albert Einstein’s apartment, the cathedral (Munster) and the Bear Pit, now turned into an entire park on the river slope, where you can admire Bern’s symbol, the shaggy bears. The parent bears were a gift to the city by President Medvedev at the time. Symbolic, yes
7. Terraced Vineyards of Lavo.
The picturesque Lavaux Terrace Vineyards (Lavaux) are located along the shores of Lake Geneva. Framed by medieval stone walls, they stretch for 30 km and are the most famous wine region in Switzerland and an outstanding example of the interaction between nature and people over the centuries. The magnificent views of the Lavaux vineyards and the Savoie mountain peaks on the horizon have inspired not only winemakers to produce great white wines, but also many artists and painters who have been mesmerized by this beauty. The Lavaux vineyards, cultivated since the era of the ancient Romans, are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Autumn is particularly beautiful, from late September to early October, when the local vineyards are coloured gold and the air is particularly clear. Just the season of young wine!
8. Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke)
Built in 1333 and badly damaged by fire in 1993, the Kapellbrücke in Lucerne was almost immediately restored to make it the oldest wooden bridge in Europe. The 204-meter-long bridge connects the two banks of the river Röyss, curving beside a 43-meter-high stone tower, once a prison and a treasury. Note the medieval paintings under the triangular roof of the bridge. Don’t mistake Kapellbrücke for the Spreuerbrücke, not as famous but no less impressive and authentic (only slightly younger and not as lushly decorated with geraniums, but no less noteworthy).
9. Rhaetian Railway
The Albula and Bernina railroads pass through spectacular landscapes, through dozens of tunnels, galleries, viaducts and bridges. Departing from Hur, St. Moritz or Davos, the Bernina Express takes you on a spectacular journey past the Piz Bernina glaciers, to the highest railway pass in Italy, Bernina Pass. and on to Tirano. In 2008, this route was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an outstanding example of an engineering marvel and a particularly ecological way to overcome the isolation of the Alpine settlements through rail connections.
On the way, even on a normal train, not just on the panoramic “Bernina Express,” there will be comments in German and English about the route and the peculiarities of this route. If you drive from Hoor to St. Moritz, sit on the right side: this is where that impressive viaduct between Thusis and Tiefencastel stations in the photo above will be.
10. Mount Pilatus
Steeped in legend, Mount Pilatus has long been a taboo for locals. According to legend, the body of Pontius Pilate was finally buried in a lake on Mount Pilatus. In fact, the name of the mountain came from the Latin word pilleatus (“in a felt hat” – meaning a cap of clouds around the top of the mountain). Legend has it that dragons lived here (this characteristic jagged silhouette of Pilatus can be seen in Lucerne, behind Kappelbrücke – it resembles the profile of a sleeping dragon).
From Alpennachstadt, the steepest railroad in the world leads to the top of Mount Pilatus. To prevent the wheels from slipping, it is equipped with a special mechanism – toothed wheels roll on a serrated rail and pull the train up. True, in winter, the road does not work. Then you can climb the Pilatus from the suburbs of Lucerne – the town of Kriens (Kriens). In summer you can take the boat to Alpennachstadt, climb to the top, and take the cable car down to Kriens, from where you can take the bus back to Lucerne – the so-called Gold Route from Lucerne to Pilatus.
11. the Benedictine Monastery of St. John
In the rural valley of Müstair, just near the border with Italy, is an even more idyllic village of the same name that few tourists reach. The last building you see here before you get to Italy is the Carolingian monastery and church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. And no wonder. According to tradition, the monastery was founded by Charlemagne, and the monastery itself and its church present a magnificent series of Romanesque frescoes and stuccoes. The Benedictine monastery is still active, and it, together with the adjacent cemetery. retains a mystical atmosphere that is sure to impress you.
12. Rhine Falls
You shouldn’t expect a Niagara-type waterfall, but you’ll feel this moment worth it as you feel the spray of the waterfall on your skin, admiring a series of rainbows through a cloud of spray. Impressive in its latitude (150 meters) and rather modest in height (only 23 meters), the Rhine Falls are considered the largest in Europe by volume of water and one of the main attractions of northern Switzerland. The best view of the Rhine Falls is from the Schloss Laufen tower, the observation deck overhanging right above the falls. The best adventure will be the ride to the central rock that sticks out right in the middle of the waterfall!
13. The castles and fortifications of Bellinzona
In the cradle of the Ticino valley, the majestic city of Bellinzona, whose history is reflected in the walls of the medieval architectural ensemble, which is protected by UNESCO. The three castles of Bellinzona – Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro – and the city walls were erected by the dukes of Milan and were supposed to serve as protection against the troops of the Swiss Confederation during their aggressive campaign to capture the southern territories of the Saint Gottard Pass. The attempt to defend the territory failed, and Bellinzona was subjugated to Switzerland for three centuries, until 1803, when the canton of Ticino became independent. Now the city’s fortifications have become the main attraction of Bellinzona, also serving as an arena for numerous cultural events, among them Rabadan (Carnival in February) and Piazza Blues (open-air blues festival with big-name performers).
14. Art Museum in Basel
Names like Monet, Cézanne, Picasso and Chagall have made this museum famous, the incredible historical scope of its collection has brought it even greater fame. With one of the largest collections of Holbein family works in the world and exhibits dating as far back as the 15th century, the Kunstmuseum Basel is a must-see for art lovers. Separately focusing on movements like Cubism, German Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, it has earned worldwide recognition as one of the most representative museums of its kind.
15. Geneva Old Town
Geneva may be a world center of diplomacy and international cooperation, but it is certainly not without its own special character. Walk along the winding Rue St-Léger right into picturesque La Vieille Ville, Geneva’s Old Town, immersed in a medieval atmosphere, with narrow cobblestone streets with tiny cafes spilling out onto the sidewalks. Take a seat on the longest wooden bench in the world (126m) on the Promenade de la Treille, see works by Pissarro, Cézanne, Renoir and Modigliani in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, find the house where Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born (40 Grand-Rue), and see if you like the mix of architectural styles that marks out St. Peter’s Cathedral. Either way, you’re sure to be captivated by the undeniable charm of La Vieille Ville.
16. Via Mala Gorge
Just a stone’s throw from Tusis this six kilometers long gorge stretches 500 meters deep between two vertical rocks jutting out on the Hinterrhein. The gorge widens and narrows in turn, in some places reaching a width of less than 1 m, creating a dramatic rediscovery effect. You can descend the 321 steps down to the bottom of the gorge, passing an old bridge built back in 1739 and a series of fantastic curved potholes on your way. The marked educational route through this grand natural monument can be started from the towns of Tusis or Zillis. Just remember that Via Mala translates as the Devil’s Road…
17. Lindenhof Hill
Considered a European banking hub and a soulless financial machine (the latter rather undeservedly), Zurich boasts its own peaceful oasis. Lindenhof Hill, part of the Old City, not only bears the traces of centuries-old history, but also serves as an exceptionally comfortable area for citizens to socialize and relax in the open air. Once a Roman customs post and later a royal residence, the Lindenhof is now a quiet, shady square with stone benches and tables, pétanque and chess. The best views of the river Limmat, the towers of Grossmünster and the roofs of the old town can be seen from here.
18. St. Gall’s Abbey
At the center of the picturesque town of St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland, which grew out of a 7th-century hermitage, is St. Gallen Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a valuable monument to Carolingian monastic architecture. The abbey library, with its emblematic Baroque architecture and Rococo decoration, contains one of the richest and most diverse medieval collections in the world. And St. Gall’s Cathedral itself, in addition to its design and fanciful decorations, boasts one of the three oldest surviving bells in Europe. According to legend, the bell was brought by Gallus himself during his wanderings from Ireland in the 7th century.
19. the tectonic arena of Sardon
What made this massive pile of rock come under UNESCO protection? The answer lies in the 300 square km area called the Tectonic Arena of Sardon and in the geological uniqueness of the inverted geological layers of the canton of Glarus. Here one can see the amazing phenomenon where older and deeper-lying rocks have been squeezed upwards over the newer layers. The three-dimensional interplay of structures and the clear evidence of tectonic mechanisms has had an enormous impact on scientific research. It is thanks to the rock formations here that the current geological picture of the world has been shaped.
20. The Cathedral of Lausanne
Elevated above the city of Lausanne, like an enormous crown on the head of the king, this 13th-century cathedral has long been the spiritual center of French-speaking Switzerland, and is considered one of the finest Gothic buildings in the country. Indeed, the mix of Anglo-Norman and northeastern French architectural details makes the cathedral one of the most outstanding buildings in Europe’s artistic heritage. Its spacious, colorful interior is actually capable of evoking faith. But the greatest masterpiece kept under the vaults of Lausanne Cathedral is the magnificent 7,000-pipe organ, whose unparalleled power and new harmonics invariably win the hearts of listeners. It is one of the most expensive instruments in the world, so the organ itself is reason enough to visit Notre Dame de Lausanne.