Switzerland: the Magic of the Mountains

An untouchable sense of magic envelops the mountains; the crisp, clean air and crystalline azure alpine lakes tucked in the shadowy ebbs of the valleys. Infinite vistas each a picture perfect postcard. As the sun burns through the early morning haze that blankets the hills, a sound serenity sweeps across the peaks. Dotting the skyline as far as the eye can see, the jagged slopes jut through the pillowy clouds, floating above the little Swiss villages lying peacefully below. Hours fly by as you meander along barely beaten paths, passing contently grazing cows, through fields of vivid alpine blossoms. Its hard not to want to spend all your free time trekking to yet another lookout, plunging in to the icy blue lakes, even if only to lie submerged for a second or two, picnicking with views unrivalled. The mountains are my happy place; here are a few of my favourite spots in Switzerland, so you can share in on their striking beauty too.

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SEEALPSEE

Nestled in-between the cantons of St. Gallen and Apenzell, the Alpstein massif is home to a mountain lake that promises to take your breath away. Climb through the shadows of the pine forests, under the watchful eye of the Säntis’ pyramidal peak, as you make your way to this the pristine lake. Escape the world and lounge out along the rocky shoreline in one of the secluded little coves; let the awe inspiring panoramic views engulf you in their majesty.  Although the crowds you pass along the winding path up might throw you off, once you reach the plateau, it’s easy to feel like you have the whole place all to yourself. Grab a boat and head out on to the still waters for a rather wobbly row, or better yet dive in for a swim in waters so clear, you feel like your floating in a flawless aquamarine pool, a thousand tiny sparkles surrounding you. If you forgot to pack a picnic, dine at one of the lakeside spots, or hike an hour or so further to the Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchli, a little wooden mountain hut hugging an extremely precarious looking cliff face.

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How to get there: Hike up from the Wasserauen-Ebenalp Cable Car Main Station, through the dense woods, emerging above the tree line for the final stretch to the lake. Loop around the lake and head back down the way you came up, or hike for another hour and a half uphill, past the Äscher-Wildkirchli. Here, you’ll find a chapel and church quite literally carved in to the mountain’s caves. Emerge at the Ebenalp peak, from where you can jump on a cable car back down to Wasserauen.

KLINGENSTOCK TO FRONALPSTOCK

Probably the most scenic of the hikes on my list, this panoramic trail takes you along a precipitously perched path across the ridges connecting the two peaks. With your head quite literally in the clouds, walk along from the Klingenstock to Fronalpstock, where you can either take the cable car back down to Stoos. Or opt for the fairly short, and thankfully mostly downhill, walk through the fields flowers. Expect an eery mist to sweep across your path and wipeout any visibility from time to time as the sun battles to burn through on colder, overcast days. With the glacial Vierwaldstättersee (or Lake Lucerne) curved out directly below and Lake Zug stretching out in the background, try to keep an eye on the path as you soak it all in. This hike is a challenge, and definitely has the potential to induce some serious vertigo, but the views back across Central Switzerland and on to the Alps are unparalleled.

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How to get there: from Schwyz-Schlattli, take Europe’s steepest funicular up to the car-less village of Stoos. From here, jump on the chairlift up to the Klingenstock, from where you can start the hike. Alternatively you can hike from Stoos up to the Klingenstock’s summit, but be warned the ridge hike with its steep slopes and plenty of steps, is in itself fairly challenging. Your legs will thank you later for taking the easier option.

ENGSTLENSEE

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A true gem, you’ll find the Engstlensee hiding in the shadow of Mt. Titlis, with the almighty Jungfrau, one of Swiss Alps most distinctive summits, jutting through the clouds in the bold alpine background. Join the hordes on the cable car up to the Titlis middle station, parting ways as they head further up on the lift to lay their eyes on the glacier nestled just below the peak and possibly even brave Europe’s highest elevation suspension bridge. As you head out on your hike, you’ll first set sights on the Trübsee, where little rowing boats are available for hire. From here, make your way up and over the Joch Pass, descending down to the Engstlensee once you reach the other side. Another crystal clear alpine lake, it’s hard to resist biting the bullet and diving in to the icy blue waters, even if only for a stroke or two. Cold, refreshing, and oh so otherworldly beautiful, no where is quite as serene as here.

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How to get there: From Engleberg, take the cable car up to the Titlis middle station. Here, you’ll find small and steep trail that will take you over the Joch Pass, from where you can make your way down to the Engstlensee. Another option would be to make your way up from Melchsee-Frutt, however this is a significantly longer hike.

P.S. All of these hikes are accessible by both car and public transport. Check the national railroad site at sbb.ch for up to date bus and train connections. If you have a Half-Tax travel card, you can also use this for discounted cable car rides on most of the lifts mentioned above. The hikes are also all meticulously signposted, thanks to the Swiss’ penchant for perfection, so even with minimal planning, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll find yourself getting too lost.