Postcards from Italy

Avoiding the Crowds in Switzerland

After a few weeks of admiring the view from your living room window, many of you are probably dreaming of when you can get back to exploring the world. Switzerland has begun a phased reopening – a bit ahead of the original schedule as the Swiss Covid-19 response seems to have slowed the spread and impact of the virus on the country. All businesses and institutions must put in place a set of precautionary measures and everyone is encouraged to continue observing hygiene and social distancing rules. International access at this point is with some countries in the European Union and Schengen area, with other countries added over time. Switzerland may be an ideal vacation destination as early as this summer. There are plenty of outdoor and open air activities to experience a safer vacation in a beautiful landscape.


 (Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Though Switzerland does have a number of world-class museums and other cultural attractions, the country’s sweeping Alpine landscapes are the true headliners. By spending much of your visit exploring the great outdoors, you can sidestep most situations that require close confinement and enjoy greater peace of mind during your trip. Here are a few crowd-free ideas for exploring the peaks and lakes of Switzerland.

A Driving Tour of Switzerland’s Mountain Passes

Take in some of the most spectacular scenery in Switzerland without the hassle and risks of public transportation or crowded gondolas and lifts with a driving tour through the mountains. You can opt for a self-driving adventure armed with a map and GPS, or relax and let the professionals handle the winding mountain roads by booking a private driver (driving services have the added advantage of guaranteed deep cleaning between each client).

Mountain Pass Driving

(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Scenic Mountain Pass Drives

The Great St. Bernard Pass – One of the most famous Alpine passes, the Great St. Bernard Pass offers majestic views from an elevation of more than 8,000 feet (2,500 meters) along the E27 between Martigny, Switzerland to Aosta, Italy. The drive takes about 90 minutes, though you’ll want to stop along the way to take in the scenery and visit the Great St. Bernard Hospice, founded in the 9th century and birthplace of the St. Bernard breed of dogs.

The Furka Pass – For vistas of glaciers, craggy mountain peaks, and dense Alpine forests, take Route 19 from Gletsch to Andermatt to admire the scenery that featured in the James Bond adventure, “Goldfinger”. Rising almost 8,000 feet (2,450 meters), the pass straddles the border between the Italian and German areas of Switzerland; on the Valaisian side of the pass, stop at the Rhone Glacier to explore the ice tunnel dug 300 feet into the glacier.

The St. Gotthard Pass – Follow Route 2 between Andermatt and Biasca for some of the most dazzling views in Switzerland, including the “Devil’s Bridge” (the name used to denote two bridges, one historic and now closed to traffic and one modern and still in use) that spans the Schöllenen Gorge. The road stretches about 40 miles over the pass, and takes about an hour and a half to complete at a leisurely pace.


(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

The Bernina Pass – The most popular way to admire the scenery along the Bernina Pass is by taking the Bernina Express, one of the most scenic rail routes in the world. The train is currently suspended, so the best option now is taking on the route by car from mid-spring through mid-fall, when the road is open to traffic. The pass connects St. Moritz to Val Poschiavo in the southern, Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, passing crystalline lakes and soaring peaks along the two-hour journey.

The Simplon Pass – Perhaps the easiest drive to take on by yourself, Route 9 from the Italian town of Domodossola into Switzerland is closed from December to May, but during the summer months offers breathtaking views of the snow-covered slopes on the Swiss side and lush forested valley on the Italian side. Highlights include the soaring Ganter Bridge, the longest spanning bridge in Switzerland, and the 19th-century Simplon Hospice, run by the Augustine canons of St. Bernard. It takes just an hour to cross the path without any stops, though you’ll want to take it slow to admire the scenery.

A Day on the Trails

Many of Switzerland’s high-altitude trails must be reached by train or gondola, but there are a number of equally spectacular hiking routes that you can drive or walk to without having to crowd into an enclosed space. Swiss trails are generally well-marked an easy to follow, but you may want to consider hiring a professional alpine guide for the day to insights into the area’s flora and fauna, as well as the added peace of mind of not having to bother with a map.

Drive or Walk to These Trailheads

Jungfrau – Two of the most important high-altitude towns in the Jungfrau region above Interlaken are Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald, both of which can be reached by car. Park here and take one of the many area trails that head further up the peak or skirt the north face of Eiger. Nearby hiking destinations include* First*, the Eiger Trail, and the Jungfraujoch.

View from Murren

(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Höhenweg Höhbalmen – Head directly out of Zermatt to climb the trail through flowering meadows and larch forests, taking in the 360° panorama over Switzerland’s highest peaks from the Höhbalmen plateau above the treeline. As you descend back down to the city, be sure to admire views of the Matterhorn to the right and the Zmutt glacier below.

Zermatt, Switzerland

(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Bern – The delightful city of Bern is surrounded by some of the most picturesque hills in Switzerland, crisscrossed by biking trails. Rent an e-bike or road bike and set off along the Herzroute (Heart Route) or the the UNESCO Tour through the Canton of Bern. Foodies can opt for the Tour d’Emmental through the scenic valley where Switzerland’s iconic cheese is produced.

Cruise the Lakes

Switzerland is known both for its majestic peaks and its placid lakes, may of which can be explored by private day cruise. Set sail for a day on the water, stopping to stroll through the pretty towns that line the shore or to admire the postcard-perfect scenery. Some private boat tours will even prepare a picnic lunch to enjoy on board, so you can make a day of it.

Swiss Lakes to Explore by Boat

Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore – The Italian-tinged Canton of Ticino is home to two scenic lakes, both of which are ideal for a day trip. Cruises around Lake Lugano typically set off from the city of Lugano and take in highlights like the villages of Gandria and Morcote and the peak of Mt. Generoso. Lake Maggiore sails depart from Locarno and skirt the Brissago Islands on the Swiss side of the lake.


(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Lake Geneva – One of the largest lakes in Europe, Lake Geneva is also considered one of the most scenic, surrounded by mountain peaks and offering views of Grand Combin and Mont Blanc. Set sail from Geneva or Lausanne to take in the castles and villages that ring its northern shores and the beautiful wine country of Lavaux.

Videiras de LAVAUX

(Photo via Flickr by Felipe Silva)

Lake Thun – Set in the high Berner Oberland region of Bern, this glacial lake is famous for its crystalline water that acts as a mirror to the peaks that line its shores. A popular day trip from Bern, there are a number of day or evening cruises that take in its pretty lakesside villages and countryside.

Lake Zürich – Take a break from the bustle of the capital city by setting sail across its namesake lake, framed by the lbis, Zimmerberg, and Pfannenstiel hills, as well as the historic towns of Rapperswil and Au. The lake’s northern shoreline between Zollikon and Feldmeilen is known for its dazzling private villas, and there are a number of quiet beaches where you can drop anchor for a swim.

Lake Lucerne – Straddling four Swiss cantons, Lake Lucerne is truly spectacular, with sweeping views of snowy peaks and a number of historic villages set along its shoreline. You can also opt to walk the Swiss Path that loops around one arm of the lake to take in the vistas by land.


(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Travel Specialists

Maria Landers

Brian Dore