Switzerland

Switzerland – So Surreal, Yet So Real

Despite the gloomy weather, Switzerland still appears majestic and dreamy, exactly like – or even better than – what is shown on my social media feed.

The panoramic view of the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, one of the most popular tourist spots.

Despite the gloomy weather, Switzerland still appears majestic and dreamy, exactly like – or even better than – what is shown on my social media feed.

On my social media feed, Switzerland seems to be among the destinations that appear the most, probably because the algorithm acknowledges how interested I am towards this landlocked nation since it is on top of my bucket list. And it was such a surreal moment when one day, my Editorial Director assigned me to travel to Switzerland. At that moment, I knew that the time had come for me to finally step foot in this central European country, hence have checked it off from my bucket list.

To get to there from Malaysia, you need to take a 14-hour flight to Zurich from Singapore using Swiss International Airlines. Though journey could be tiring, which is expected, it is nonetheless convenient. I even get to enjoy a special pre-booked and tasty Muslim meal onboard!

It was early autumn when I last visited Switzerland. Despite the gloomy weather, Switzerland still appears majestic and dreamy, exactly like – or even better than – what is shown on my social media feed.

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Good to know: If Covid-19 pandemic and restriction might be your concern, rest assured that there are no travel or entry restrictions for travellers to come into Switzerland.

VAUD

The vineyards at Lavaux
The vineyards at Lavaux overlook Lake Geneva and the Swiss and French Alps.

My first destination was Lavaux in the Canton of Vaud. This region is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007 due to its vast terraced vineyards overlooking the stunning view of Lake Geneva and the Swiss and French Alps. It is also understandably famous for its wines. There are 250 wines produced in the canton, all available at Lavaux Vinorama, one of the places recommended for oenophiles.

After spending nearly a day in Lavaux, we went straight to our first accommodation, which was Villars Alpine Resort (Villars Palace), which is more than just a five-star hotel overlooking the Vaud Alps; it is a heritage site on its own with over 100-year old history. I can still remember vividly waking up to the awe-inspiring view of Dents du Midi and Mont Blanc, including the scenic neighbourhood right below…

INTERLAKEN REGION

Goldenpass Panoramic
Goldenpass Panoramic train with its extraordinarily large windows offers a spectacular journey.

Switzerland is ultimately best discovered by taking the panoramic train. I experienced this on the way from Zweisimmen to Spiez by taking the GoldenPass Panoramic. The up-to-the-minute, large-windowed train alone is just as mind-blowing as the dramatic views along the way, including Lake Geneva, vineyards, villages and castles.

Swiss Travel Pass: Towns and cities in Switzerland are well-connected via public transport. I personally encourage travellers to purchase the Swiss Travel Pass that I find convenient as it covers the entire train, bus, and boat network, including premium panoramic trains. Not forgetting, it also offers free admission to more than 500 museums! Learn more at Switzerland Tourism’s official website.

Good to know: To make my journey in Switzerland smooth-sailing, I downloaded SBB Mobile App that allows me to plan and keep track of the public transport arrivals ahead of time.

Hotel Eiger Selfness
The writer enjoying the view of Grindelwald from his room’s balcony at Hotel Eiger Selfness.

Upon arriving at Grindelwald, I was quick to fall in love with this quaint village which lies 1,034 metres above sea level. The view of the Eiger’s North Face is visible from almost every corner of the village, including my room’s balcony at the comfortable, family-run Hotel Eiger Selfness. I also had a great time exploring this lively neighbourhood that is a popular base for mountaineers to climb the Eiger.

First Cliff Walk by Tissot
First Cliff Walk by Tissot offers an amazing view of the Eiger.

While in the area, I visited Grindelwald First – Top of Adventure. To reach here, I took a ride on a cable car. It was mesmerising to witness the changing colours of the surroundings – from the warm wooded hues to all white, as the gondola climbed higher.

There are a lot to experience at this attraction but due to time constraint, I only managed to experience the First Cliff Walk by Tissot, which is a 15-minute circular trail on a suspension bridge along the steep, sloping rock that ends at a lookout platform that juts 45 metres out into the void. From here, I enjoyed the jaw-dropping views of the Eiger alongside the alpine pastures, waters, and waterfalls.

My journey on the next day started off at Grindelwald Terminal, the most modern terminal in the Alps that almost made me forgot that I was inside a cableway terminal, not an airport because the terminal is well-equipped with all travellers’ needs, including a sports retailer, lockers, car park, restaurants and a shopping centre purveying international brands and Swiss-made products.

Eiger Express
The cutting-edge Eiger Express.

The main highlight, however, must be the most modern tricable gondola in the world, the Eiger Express, which can take up to 26 persons up to the Eiger Glacier station in just 15 minutes! And from here, I continued my journey to the highest railway station in Europe, the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe that sits 3,454 metres above sea level.

Jungfrau, which receives a UNESCO recognition, is best known for its ever-white ice and snow experience. That includes enjoying the view of the most powerful ice stream in the Alps, the Great Aletsch Glacier from The Sphinx Observation Terrace. The Alpine Sensation is where one can take a tour on a travelator, travelling back in time to the pioneering era of the Jungfrau Railway. I also visited the Ice Palace, a man-made glacier tunnel creatively decorated with sculptures carved from crystal-clear ice, including the Glacier Plateau, another viewing platform for the Aletsch Glacier all the way into Germany and France on the horizon.  

Trümmelbach Falls
Trümmelbach Falls is uniquely located inside the mountain.

Lauterbrunnen was the destination I visited the day after. Many people associate this otherworldly village situated between valleys with the Elven village in the Lord of the Rings film called Rivendell. It was said that JRR Tolkien, the creator of the best-selling fiction novel took inspiration in creating Rivendell based on Lauterbrunnen, which is also known as ‘The Valley of 72 Waterfalls’, the most famous among them is the Staubbach Falls. Another famous waterfall that I stopped by was Trümmelbach Falls, the only glacier-waterfall in Europe that is uniquely located inside the mountain and still accessible. You can see 20 thousand litres of water gushing down per second from the height of around 200 metres!

Birg
The splendid view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau from Birg.

Then, I took a gondola from Stechelberg, ready to take on the peak of Schilthorn. But before that, we stopped by at the mid-station Birg. Besides admiring that million-dollar view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau all in one spectacular frame, I experienced the riveting Thrill Walk, walking over a 200-metre steel platform attached to the vertical rock face. If that is not thrilling enough, wait until you step onto the glass-bottomed or cattle grid walkway, balance yourself on the tightrope, and crawl through a metal cage tunnel!

Schilthorn Piz Gloria
The 360° revolving restaurant at Schilthorn Piz Gloria.

At Schilthorn Piz Gloria (2,970 metres), I feted over another breathtaking view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, alongside 200 more craggy mountain peaks. This place is incredibly famous as the main filming location of the iconic James Bond’s movie entitled On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1968 and 1969. There is even a permanent exhibition, Spy World, as a tribute to the movie. Taking the experience one notch above, I savoured the wholesomely fulfilling James Bond Brunch at the 360° revolving restaurant.

On the way down, I strolled around Mürren (1,638 metres), an Alpine village regarded as the cradle of Alpine skiing during winter. This car-free village is filled with wooden chalets, making it a perfect stopover for travellers who want to enjoy an idyllic environment.

Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant
Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant

When being in Interlaken, visiting Harder Kulm, which sits at an elevation of 1,322 metres, is a must. On a clear day, this peak is one of the best spots to take in the aerial views of Interlaken, the peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, as well as Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Unfortunately, it was cloudy during my visit, and I only got to catch a glimpse of the scenery. But the dinner at the picturesque Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant was indeed memorable!

Iseltwald
Iseltwald, one of the villages that will be passed by during the boat cruise on Lake Brienz.

The name Interlaken means ‘between the lakes’ and it is geographically correct as the city is located between two lakes: Lake Thun, and Lake Brienz. To indulge in this picture-postcard city, I rode on the Lake Brienz boat cruise from Interlaken Ost to Brienz. The experience was beyond words. I had a wonderful time taking in the gentle breeze while adoring the shimmering turquoise waters of the lake, pastoral stretches of the shorelines with the mighty mountains as backdrop, the graceful Giessbach Falls, and the charming little village of Iseltwald where Captain Ri played the piano on a landing stage in the K-drama Crash Landing On You. Oh, even photos could not do the phenomenal view justice! Well, that does not mean you will not carry your favourite camera with you while traveling to Switzerland. Keep it and capture photos! The rest will be taken care of by Adobe Express photo editor online! Find the best possible snaps this time with the editing magic.

LAKE LUCERNE REGION

On the sixth day, after spending overnight at Weggis (“the most charming place on Earth”, according to the great American author, Mark Twain), I went up to Rigi, the Queen of Mountains, situated 1,800 metres above sea level and considered a paradise for hikers with its 120 kilometres of great trails surrounded by unrivalled natural landscapes waiting to be explored. Do not worry if hiking were not your cup of tea because Rigi welcomes travellers of all fitness levels. Even for myself, I spent time walking leisurely, which turned out to be one of my most unforgettable hiking experiences. Apart from the views along the way, Rigi on its own is naturally grand and splendid. I had my lunch at Kräuterhotel Edelweiss, best known for sustainable dishes using 400 species of own-grown herbs from the garden.

I was a bit astounded when I arrived at Lucerne. Compared to the previous regions I visited earlier, Lucerne is energetic and touristy, which is understandable given the interesting attributes it possesses. Many attractions, especially the historic buildings and landmarks, are also close to each other, making it doable to just walk rather than taking public transport. Among the must-visit attractions are the Chapel Bridge and the Lion Monument. For something more modern, visit the contemporary KKL (Lucerne Culture & Convention Centre) and the Swiss Museum of Transport, the most visited museum in Switzerland.

Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort
The iconic facade of Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort.

The Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort is an absolute legend. It was here where I spent my last night in Switzerland as a fitting culmination to my journey in this wonderful country. This favourite bolthole is exceptionally famous among the glitterati, particularly Audrey Hepburn, not just because it was her favourite Alpine hideaway, but also the property that hosted her wedding. The entire property is all about luxury, from the moment you board the state-of-the-art boat from Lucerne, arrive at the lobby by specially-made funicular, to the room characterised by timeless furniture and branded amenities, including facilities like wellness centre or the heated infinity pool overlooking Lake Lucerne, plus the exquisite gastronomy – everything. There are various activities that can be done around the resort, but one I would recommend is to hike around 30 minutes to Europe’s highest outdoor lift, The Hammetschwand Lift.

Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to Switzerland Tourism for organizing this trip and making the writer’s dream to Switzerland a reality. Visit Switzerland Tourism’s official website and let’s start packing now!

This article is featured in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 17.2. Read the magazine online here or buy the magazine here.

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