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Backpacking and Hiking Switzerland: all our tips and favorite places
Welcome to Switzerland! Our country of origin and also where our hearts belong.... We were both born in Switzerland and even if today we spend a lot of time travelling outside our dear little country, it is still the place we call "home" (we have a base in a small mountain village called Morgins) and that we always love to discover and visit. On this page you will find a lot of general information to prepare your trip to Switzerland and at the end of the page you will see all our blog posts.
- Our Map of Switzerland
- The best time to visit Switzerland
- The best things to do in Switzerland
- Switzerland: Cities to visit
- Get to Switzerland
- Travel Switzerland by car
- Travel Switzerland by train
- Switzerland on a budget: our best tips
- The best hikes Switzerland: our favorite
- Travel Guide to Switzerland: our best resources
- Our Blog posts about Switzerland
Our Map of Switzerland
We have been wandering around Switzerland quite a bit in recent years and are starting to know our pretty little country very well (although we are clearly missing a trip to the Grison-region). At the end of the page, you will find all our articles about Switzerland in chronological order, but if you prefer to take a look at our content by location, you can simply click below to display the map with all our articles on Switzerland.
The best time to visit Switzerland
First things first: there is no such thing as the best time to visit Switzerland!
Why? Simply because the best time of the year will clearly depend on what you want to do/see... To help you decide what would be the best time to visit according to YOUR expectations, here is a little month by month list with good reasons to visit:
Visit Switzerland in January
January is usually our coldest month and is thus the perfect month for skiing and winter sports in general (you can find some of our favorite ski resorts here). I personally would not plan a trip to Switerland in January if it's not for skiing or enjoying our beautiful mountains under the snow. If you like skiing, then you might want to go to Lauterbrunnen (Wengen) as well! Every year, this beautiful little town holds one of the most prestigious skiing world cup races.
Other major event: the hot air balloon festival in Chateau-d'Oex!
Visit Switzerland in February
February is also a very nice month for skiing and winter sports. In addition, February is (generally) also the month of carnival. The dates change from year to year and carnival might be in the beginning of March but usually it's in February. Carnival is very famous and a great reason to come visit! The best carnivals in Switzerland are most probably the ones in Basel, Lucern or Zurich. These are the biggest and the most traditional. But if you want something really authentic, do not hesitate to look at the "Brandons de Payerne". Payerne is a small town close to Fribourg but it holds one of the most famous carnival in the country!
Visit Switzerland in March
March is a nice month for skiing as well! The temperatures tend to go up a bit and it's thus the perfect month to enjoy the sun on the slopes and eat a good swiss fondue on a terrace.
Visit Switzerland in April
It's not exactly what one would call high season... ski slopes are usually closed already (or about to finish their season) and it's still too early for hiking because of the snow. Temperatures are still pretty cool but it's usually quite sunny too. It's a good month if you want to avoid the crowds and visit cities for example.
Visit Switzerland in Mai - Spring Time
To me May is probably the best month to visit cities in Switzerland. It is usually nice and sunny but not too hot neither. It is not the highest touristic season and thus prices tend to be slightly lower and the weather is really great.
Visit Switzerland in June - Sunny days
June is generally our rainiest month of the year... But it's also one of the sunniest... :) yeah, quite weird, but it's nice I promise! Landscapes are all green and beautiful and it's the perfect month to go on a train ride for example! It's also a good month to start hiking, even though you might not be able to go very high in altitude because there is often still quite some snow on our mountain peaks.
Visit Switzerland in July - Summer Vibe and Festivals
In July the weather is usually the warmest. It's the perfect month to go for a swim in one of our numerous lakes or simply enjoy the "holiday-mood" and spend some time sipping a cocktail on a terrace.
July is also the month of swiss open air festivals. The best ones if you ask me? The Montreux Jazz Festival and the Paleo festival.
Visit Switzerland in August - Party and Hiking
August is a party month! First, there is August the 1st, our national day! On this day you can expect big parties and fireworks in most major cities. In August we also have the Street Parade in Zurich, a gigantic electo music festival that is simply amazing! hundreds of thousands of people in the streets and an incredible atmosphere!
If you are not in a party mood, August is also a really nice month to simply come to enjoy the nice weather and hike! Yes, hiking can sometimes still be difficult in June (or even July depending on the year) because of high altitude and snow. August, is thus the perfect hiking month!
Visit Switzerland in September - Hiking
September is the perfect hiking month as well! Heath is more bearable, there is still no snow to be seen (at least most years) and the colors start changing. It is usually also the month in which there are fewer thunder storms in the mountains (these can be an issue in July or August as these can be very strong).
Visit Switzerland in October
My favorite month for hiking on lower altitude (snow might already be present on high altitude). Why October then? Because of the incredible colors! Whole Switzerland turns orange and it's simply mesmerizing to hike in these landscape.
Visit Switzerland in November
This is probably the cheapest month to visit Switzerland. The reason for this? well, it's most likely because it's not really an ideal month neither... It's getting cold, but most of the years there is still no snow around. November is also quite rainy. If you come to Switzerland for the food and for museums (and maybe for hiking), then this might be an option... other than that? I would skip this month (or at least the second part of the month) ;)
Visit Switzerland in December
I like December a lot! It's not quite skiing season yet (even if some resorts start their season early) but it's a nice month to enjoy the "pre-Christmas atmosphere". Most cities are nicely decorated and some nice Christmas Markets start to pop in many different towns. My favorite Christmas markets? It would definitively be Montreux, Zurich or Bern!
The best things to do in Switzerland
There are many things to be done in Switzerland, especially if you are fond of nature and beautiful cities. It's hard to give you a full list here, but let's start with my favorite things:
- Hiking: Yes, hiking is almost like a religion in Switzerland! Ok I'm kidding, but our country is probably one of the best countries to hike. There are well-marked trails everywhere, it's beautiful and safe.
Travel by train: Our train network is really well developed and it is an amazing experience by itself to travel Switzerland by train. The best rides? Maybe the ones that go through our mountains like the Bernina Express, the Golden Pass or the Glacier Express
- Visit lake Geneva and the Lavaux Vineyards
- Go see the Matterhorn
- Visit the most beautiful cities such as Lucern, Zurich, Bern, Locarno or Lausanne
- Go to the Jungfrau region
- Go see Appenzell! This region is not very touristic but it's a pure gem
- Explore Val d'Herens: a purely authentic and stunning valley in Switzerland
- Eat Cheese! Fondue, Raclette, croûte au fromage... swiss cheese is simply the best cheese in the world (and be warned, it is way better than the "swiss cheese" you would find abroad)
Switzerland: Cities to visit
Switzerland is a country of nature and mountains (cliché? yeah... probably a bit... but it's true!), but promised, we don't only have Heidi and Edelweiss in beautiful mountains! Swiss cities are also a charming asset of our small country.
Of course, all cities have their assets but if we had to give you our 5 favorite cities in Switzerland it would probably look like something like that:
- Lausanne: The city where Fabienne grew up! With its breathtaking panoramic view of Lake Geneva and the Alps and a stone's throw from the incredible vineyards of Lavaux, Lausanne is a charming city where life quality, history and new technologies coexist harmoniously! See an (old) article on Lausanne that we had written.
- Locarno: This is a bit like our own "south"! So no, Switzerland has no access to the sea, but Locarno is a small part of Switzerland where the sun tends to shine more than anywhere else and where stopping for a coffee on the terrace and hearing Italian spoken around you is a real pleasure! Our article about this region
- Montreux: We stay in the Lake Geneva area with the city known all over the world for its jazz festival. A little more upscale than Lausanne, Montreux is a charming city that you can't get enough of!
- Lucern: Oh, she's beautiful Lucern! Overhung by the Pilatus and the Rigi, this city is a little paradise to visit without moderation! Well... even if you have to know that it tends to be on the classic itinerary of Chinese and Indian tour operators so it is not quite the most "calm" city from a tourist point of view, but it is still superb! Our article on hiking around Lucerne
- Bern: Our capital! (yes yes, our capital is neither Geneva nor Zurich). I admit I hesitated for the latter... we lived 4 years in Zurich and I love this city and Neuchâtel, Basel or Fribourg were close to the top 5 too... But Bern and its old center finally won!
Get to Switzerland
It obviously depends on where you are coming from, but Switzerland is fundamentally very easily accessible because of its very central location in Europe. Our common borders with France, Germany, Austria, Italy and even Liechtenstein offer many options to arrive either by road or rail.
Then if you want to come by plane you also have several options. The easiest way to find a flight to Switzerland is to take a look at Skyscanner.
The most served airports (and therefore those that generally offer the best prices) are Geneva and Zurich!
|Airport||annual traffic (passengers)|
|Zurich||29 361 201|
|Geneva||17 259 942|
|Basel||7 868 537|
Advice: if you plan to come to French-speaking Switzerland and you come from far away, do not hesitate to include Lyon airport in your research! Sometimes you can find better deals for this airport and the journey from Lyon to Geneva can be done in less than 2 hours by train!
Getting around Switzerland
Travel Switzerland by car
If you are travelling by car then you should have no problem visiting Switzerland! The roads are generally in excellent condition and above all they go almost everywhere (over the mountains, at the bottom of the valleys and even over the passes).
If you plan to cross Switzerland then it is likely that you will want to take the motorway at some point. Unlike many of our neighbors, we do not have tolls in Switzerland, but we do have our "vignette"! Sold for 40 CHF it is mandatory if you take the highway and is valid for 1 year (calendar year and not from the date of purchase). If you come to Switzerland for the end of the year holidays, there is nothing to worry about, you don't need to buy 2 stickers. Indeed the "valid" is valid from December 1st preceding the year of validity to January 31st of the year following the year of validity!
To be valid the "vignette" must be stick on the windshield
Its price is relatively low for a year-round use, but it does hurt quite a bit if you only intend to use the highway twice. So think about how many trips you plan to make before you buy it and see if it's worth it (our country roads are free and very beautiful too... but of course it takes more time). ;)
Driving on mountain roads in Switzerland
If this is your first time in Switzerland and you are not used to mountain roads, here are some tips that could be useful on our small, winding and sometimes narrow roads:
- If the road is not wide enough to cross, it is usually the vehicle that goes up that has priority! (Unless the vehicle that climbs has a good spot for crossing just behind it, in this case it is it that car backs up... but if in doubt, it is the one that goes down that backs up to find a place where both vehicles can cross safely).
- The above rule applies only to 2 vehicles of "equal size". If a truck, camper van or bus is in the equation then it is ALWAYS the truck that has priority and it is up to the other vehicle to back up (no matter if it goes up or down)
- In our mountains it is not uncommon to see the impressive post buses. Bus drivers are often the best people to know "whether it will fit or not". If in doubt, stop as close as possible to the edge and wait to see the instructions given by the driver in front of you.
- If you come in winter snow tires are mandatory in the mountains (they are not mandatory in themselves, but if you obstruct traffic because of unsuitable tires you can be fined for this) and having chains in your trunk is highly recommended!
Car rental in Switzerland
Renting a car in Switzerland is quite easy and if there are several of you it will often be cheaper than the train! To rent a car we recommend you to compare the rates for the desired period on Rentalcars. Prices generally start at around 30€ per day for a small car (variable depending on the season and where you take it).
Travel Switzerland by train
If you don't have a car or don't want to rent one, you don't have to worry: Switzerland's public transport network is probably one of the best in the world and you can reach almost every small village by bus or train! But let's get things clear right away, it's not cheap! But there are still some tips to limit costs!
To find an itinerary or timetable you will find everything you need on cff.ch, the official Swiss transport website. (This includes buses, trains, and boats)
What are the options for the tickets
- Buy tickets as you go: it is the "flexible" option and the cheapest if you do not plan to make several trips per day (and no very long trips). Tip: Ticket prices are cheaper if you book in advance on the site or via the mobile application. Supersaver tickets are available during off-peak hours but only on train lines. So if your trip includes train and bus, do your research in 2 steps to get only the train trip on the one hand (for some reason I don't understand the site doesn't offer the reduced price if a bus is added).
- Supersaver day passes: This day pass gives access to the entire Swiss transport network (all trains, buses, subways, trams and boats). If you know your travel dates and plan to make a big trip (or a lot of smaller ones) this can be a cost-effective option. The day ticket is available from 52 CHF (without half-fare) or 29 CHF with half-fare. The earlier you book your card, the cheaper it is... (you can buy up to 60 days before the trip). More info
- The Swiss Travel Pass: This is the thing they have launched for foreign tourists visiting Switzerland. Being Swiss we have never had the opportunity to test it, but the idea here is that you can have a card that offers unlimited transport and access to more than 500 museums. The prices are pretty high tough.. The 3-day package costs 232 CHF (77 CHF per day) or for example 15 days for 513 CHF (34 CHF per day). In short, the more you move and the more you like museums, the more it is worth it;) More information
Personal opinion: the train in Switzerland is expensive (very expensive even) but it is really a great way to travel! Overall, trains and buses are punctual (we are not Swiss for nothing after all)... and honestly, some train rides in the mountains are just magical!
Note: we are not affiliated with SBB/CFF. The prices above are those in effect at the time of writing and we will try to keep them up to date, but to get the latest prices go through their site.
Switzerland on a budget: our best tips
Switzerland is an expensive country.... That's it, that's it..... We will not lie to you, coming to Switzerland will almost necessarily cost you more than going to Asia (if we ignore the plane ticket of course). But then I reassure you, travelling to Switzerland doesn't necessarily cost a ton of money!
Here are our best tips to reduce expenses a little:
Accommodation in Switzerland
Accommodation: this is most likely the part that will hurt your travel budget the most! If you manage to stay with friends, it's a big plus! If you don't have any swiss friend or if you'd rather not stay at their place, here are the different options:
- Hôtels: there are no miracles... Swiss hotels are often expensive! The quality standards are very good and even the 2 stars offer clean and quality rooms, but the price is accordingly. To find a hotel the reference site for comparing rates on Hotelscombined. After that, as always, the further away from the centre or in a less "well-known" place, the more likely you are to find something affordable!
- backpackers and Hostels in Switzerland: I unfortunately have some bad news! There are certainly a few youth hostels in Switzerland, but overall they are still damn expensive for what they are! Prices are probably the most advantageous thing for solo travelers, but once you are 2 or more then other options can quickly become more profitable!
- Bed and Breakfast, Guesthouses: the charm and terroir option! The easiest way to find a perfect place to say at much more affordable prices. There are B&Bs on Hotelscombined as well, but my best advice for these more charming accommodations would be to type the name of the region followed by B&B or guest house in Google ("auberge" in french and "Gasthaus" in German) and see what comes out (ignoring all the ads for booking, trip advisor and Co)... Googling in french and german will allow you to find as well the local addresses which are not necessarily translated to English.
- Airbnbs: Renting a single room in someone's house or even an entire apartment can be an excellent option! In addition to often being cheaper than other accommodations, it also gives you access to a kitchen and therefore makes it possible to save a lot on food as well! --> If you are not yet on Airbnb you can register via our referral link and receive 25€ of starting credit.
- Camping: Last option and of course one of the cheapest (even if in Switzerland we find that the price of camping is still very high... we prefer the bivouac for that! :) )
- Couchsurfing: the cheapest option is in fact couchsurfing of course. It's a system that works well in Switzerland and will allow you to meet new people.
The Best hikes in Switzerland: our top picks
Hiking is most probably our favorite activity in Switzerland: cheap, we see beautiful landscapes, we meet beautiful people and especially get to do some exercise! In short, on our blog you will find all kinds of hiking ideas: short walks, hikes of a few hours, loops over several days and even our series of articles about our crossing of Switzerland through the Alps!
Here is a list of all the day hikes in Switzerland you'll find on our blog:
|Tour des lacs de Fenêtre||12km||Average||1000m+ / 1000m -||5h||Lacs de Fenêtre|
|Sanetsch||8km||Easy||300m + / 300m -||3h||Sanetsch|
|Le Grammont||13km||Average||1100m + / 1100m -||4h||Grammont|
|Snowsheoing - Morgins||plusieurs||variable||N/ A||variable||Snowshoeing|
|Pointe de Bellevue||13km||Average||860m + / 860m -||5h||Pointe de Bellevue|
|Chalavornaire||12km||Average||700m + / 700m -||4h||Chalavornaire|
|les gorges de l'Orbe||16km||Easy||500m + / 230m -||4h30-5h||gorges de l'Orbe|
|Dent de Morcles||14,5km||Difficult||1050m+ / 1200m-||6-8h||Dent de Morcles|
|Lavaux||11km||Easy||200m + / 200m -||4h||Lavaux|
|Frinvillier Chasseral||18-21km||Average||1350m + / 350m -||5h||Frinvillier- Chasseral|
|Gorges du Taubenloch||3km||Easy||50m||45 minutes||Gorges du Taubenloch|
|Other parts of CH|
|5 lakes hike||11km||Average||750m + / 1100m -||4-5h||5 lacs|
|Wallensee||10km||Easy||500m + / 500m -||4h||Walensee|
|Vitznauerstock||9km||Average||1200m+ / 1200m -||5h||Vitznauerstock|
|Rigi||9km||Easy||600m + / 600m -||4h||Le Rigi|
|Hôtel Aescher||9km||Easy||850m +||3h||Rando Aescher|
Hikes in Switzerland lasting several days (with nights in a bivouac or in a hut/refuge)
|Via Alpina||380km||Very difficult||25'000m + / 25'000m -||21 days||Via Apina|
|Jura Crest Trail||320km||Difficult||13'700m + /13'800m -||15 days||Crêtes du Jura|
|Saint-Bernard tour||88km – 100lm||Difficult||about 8000m + et -||6 to days||Tour du Saint-Bernard|
|Dents Blanches tour||44,4km||Difficult||4200m + / 4200m -||5 days||Dents Blanches|
|Dents du Midi tour||42,5km||Average||6000m + / 6000m -||4 days||Dents du Midi|
|Val d'Hérens||49km||Average||2300m+ / 2400m -||3 days||Val d'Hérens|
|Malatraix – Rocher-de-Naye||30km||Average||2300m+ / 2400m -||2 days||Malatraix|
|Salvan-Champéry||26km||Average||2'000m + / 2'000m -||2 days||Salvan - Champéry|
|Churfirsten + bivouac||22km||Difficult||2400m + / 1200m -||2 days||Churfirsten|
|from Evolène to Nax||23km||Average||1900m + / 1900m-||2 days||Evolène-Nax|
|Champex and Val d'Arpette||19km||Average||1200m + / 1200m -||1-2 days||Champex-Arpette|
|Panossière hut||12km||Average||1400m+ / 1200m -||1-2 days||Panossière|