DISCOVER SWITZERLAND FROM UP HIGH A special report

Issue: Issue 1, 2014
Hot air balloons, paragliding, extreme cable-cars, spectacular Alpine trains and sweeping Swiss winds. Plus WIN PRIZES in our great competition!

CABLECARS AND FUNICULARS

Head to the mountains anywhere in Switzerland and there are plenty of opportunities to hop on a cable car or funicular to look down at the stunning scenery below. Here are some of the most impressive.

Gelmer cablecar is Europe's steepest cable car, with a 106% gradient. A single open carriage travels up backwards to Lake Gelmer, giving you an amazing panoramic view of the valley below. Within 12 minutes you climb 1412m to the lake, a perfect place to take a hike. The railway was originally built in the 1920s to help the construction of the Lake Gelmer dam. It's been open to the public since 2001. www.grimselwelt.ch

Grindelwald-Männlichen boasts one of the longest cablecar journeys in the world. It starts at 943m in the picturesque village of Grindelwald, and steadily climbs to Männlichen at 2230m. With the Jungfrau and the Eiger towering above, you will feel very small indeed. This journey was rated one of the top 10 cablecars and funiculars by National Geographic magazine. www.maennlichen.ch

 

TAKE THE TRAIN

If you prefer something less adrenalin-inducing, then why not explore Switzerland's heights by rail? The Glacier Express is one of the most spectacular train rides in the world. The journey from St Moritz to Zermatt takes in a UNESCO world heritage landscape of valleys and gorges. It travels through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges at a leisurely pace, perfect to relax and enjoy the sights. Other popular trips include the Bernina Express through the Alps, an unforgettable journey that starts in the glaciers of the mountains, and ends in the swaying palms of Italy. The section between Thusis and Tirano is also a UNESCO world heritage site.  www.rhb.ch

KATE ORSON

 

HOT AIR BALLOONING

While not for the faint-hearted, hot air ballooning is described by those who do it as bringing an incredible feeling of freedom. Since you're being pushed along by the wind, you don't feel like you're moving at all, only noticing the scenery changing beneath you. In an open-air basket, you really are touching the sky.

Hot air ballooning is very much dependent on the weather. The wind must be very gentle and because all the navigation is visual, and the sky must be clear, which is not the case every day in Switzerland. If you've ever noticed that balloons tend to come out around sunset or sunrise, that's when the wind is best for flying.

Another logistical issue is not knowing where you'll land, so every balloon needs a retrieval vehicle to bring it and the occupants back to their starting point. All of this means that unless you have your own balloon and a balloon pilot's license, you may well have to book several months in advance with one of the companies offering hot air balloon rides for individuals.

Balloon baskets come in a range of sizes, some big enough for only the pilot and others able to carry a dozen people, but in general it's an outing for two to four people. It's not usually recommended for children under twelve, who may also not be tall enough to see over the side of the basket.

Switzerland has some famous names in hot air ballooning, especially Auguste Piccard, who broke a number of altitude records in the 1930s, and his grandson Bertrand Piccard who with Brian Jones was the first to circumnavigate the globe non-stop by balloon.

www.ballonchateaudoex.ch   www.ballonreisen.ch

ALLISON TURNER

  

PARAGLIDING

Switzerland's Alpine terrain, combined with its wealth of lakes, offers the perfect launch-pad for the popular sport of paragliding. Much less intense than skydiving – never mind the expensive flights by aeroplane to get you aloft – or as extreme as base-jumping, tandem paragliding offers you a safe way to experience flying.

  

There are many paragliding centres scattered all over the more mountainous areas of the country: Verbier, the Lake of Geneva region, the Valais and the Grisons for example. But one of the most popular areas, combining mountain massifs with a multitude of lakes, is around Interlaken.

A first flight usually lasts up to 20 minutes, is undertaken in tandem with a qualified paragliding instructor, and requires no training or previous experience on the part of the client. Many of the paragliding schools will offer flights in the form of gift vouchers.

A typical such flight launches from Beatenberg, just a 20-minute drive from Interlaken, taking the client on a thrilling ride through the air 800m above the lakes of Thun and Brienz. As an added bonus, they offer photos and/or videos of the flight, taken with special telephoto lenses, as a permanent souvenir of the flight.

CAROLINE THONGER

 

SWEEPING SWISS WINDS

"It's an ill wind that blows no good," as the cliché goes. Some people in Switzerland seem preoccupied with two such winds, the Foehn and the Bise.

The Foehn

The Foehn is a warm, dry wind that starts as moist air over the Mediterranean, but loses its moisture when it reaches the south slopes of the Alps. It then heats up quickly as it blows down the north slopes. The Foehn can raise temperatures by as much as 20C and gets blamed for lots of problems.

Snow can suddenly melt and increase the danger of avalanches. Pilots have to take special care when flying over the Alps during the Foehn and mountain climbers also have to be prepared for extra difficulties. Then there are a whole host of maladies falling under the heading of Föhnkrankheit (Foehn illness). People frequently complain of headaches or migraines, circulatory problems, difficulty sleeping, agitation, fatigue, depression and even psychosis. Studies show that accidents and suicides also increase when the Foehn blows.

Of course it isn't all bad: the warm wind causes some people to get the euphoric feeling of Föhnrausch (Föhn euphoria). And an unseasonably warm spell brought on by the Foehn can be a welcome respite from an otherwise wet and chilly autumn.

The Bise

The Bise is a cold, dry wind from the northeast that blows through the middle of Switzerland. The Geneva area gets the brunt as the wind is channeled through the passage between the Jura Mountains and the Alps. In summer the Bise is responsible for dry and sunny weather, but in winter it can bring bone-chilling temperatures and ice storms like the one in February 2012 that turned the banks of Lake Geneva into an ice sculpture.

QUERIDA LONG

 

A BAR WITH ALTITUDE

Situated on the top floor of Geneva airport, the Altitude Bar and Restaurant is not only a good place to relax while waiting for a flight, but its location means it's perfectly placed for a business meeting.

It's possible to fly in from dozens of European destinations, hold a day meeting in one of the Altitude's seven function rooms, then fly home the same day – all without the cost of an overnight stay. The flight screens in the Altitude keep passengers informed of the status of their flight, and the floor-to-ceiling windows across the entire bar and meeting rooms enable travellers to keep an eye out for their own plane on the tarmac outside.

The Altitude has also become a popular place for locals to meet for a drink or a meal. When this editor visited the bar early one Friday evening, a meeting was winding down in one of the conference rooms and the lounge bar was humming with customers. Meanwhile, families with children were chatting over drinks while looking onto the view of the Jura mountains beyond the airport.

The restaurant itself boasts Michelin-starred chefs at the helm. Business lunch menus start at CHF 49 for a main course and dessert. In the evening, parking is offered free (based on a minimum consumption of CHF 50). www.altitude-geneva.ch

CATHERINE NELSON POLLARD

Author: HELLO SWITZERLAND EDITORIAL TEAM

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Comments
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31 Comments
  • 3/3/14 2:28 PM

    The greatest adventure in the Bernese Oberland has to be hiking up the Chuenisbärgli in Adelboden (or catching the last lift up if you're not down with the sport thing) and having a drink while watching the sunset in the Swiss Alps. After sunset, enjoy one of the best fondues around befor descending down under the nightsky toward a beautifully illuminated Adelboden.

  • 2/28/14 2:26 PM

    My 15 year old daughter and I are walking across Switzerland from Chancy to Piz Chavaletsch this year on weekends and during the school breaks to raise money for vulnerable children in South Africa. This will be the first time we will be walking through these mountains and are really looking forward to it!

  • 2/28/14 1:50 PM

    One of the best things to do is the "klettersteig" to the top of the mountain called Gantrisch! You have to go to the Gurnigel Restaurant. There you can rent the equipment to climbe up this imressive wall of the mountain. You should inform you about the equipment you need to bring (or rent) and about the skills you need to have to clibe up! There are a few more klettersteige in the Berner Oberland. They are scaled on the level 1 to 6. L1 means a nice hike and for L6 you need to be an experienced climber to go there on your own. It's allways possible to go ther with a guid! Inform you about a klettersteig near by you! They will pump some adrenalin through your veins!

  • 2/27/14 7:26 PM

    One of the best adventures in the Bernese Oberland: Take the Postauto from Reichenbach to Griesalp. The street from Tschingel to Griesalp is just breathtaking, it is one of the steepest streets for Postautos... From the Griesalp you can do different lovely walks and hikes.

  • 2/27/14 4:56 PM

    Switzerland is hella awesome. Although I prefer enchiladas and dishes with bone marrow swiss chees is hella good!

  • 2/27/14 9:36 AM

    the most beautiful day in Berner Oberland was a hiking tour on Niesen last august. My biggest love ever asked me wheter I wanted to marry him. I was thrilled & we got married exactly 1 year ago (27.02.13), on our common birthday... so today we celebrate 2 birthdays & wedding anniversary,... We are so happy together & would love to win the "wellnes-price" to have another romantic day in wonderful Berner Oberland!

  • 2/25/14 6:12 PM

    In the summer...it's a great hike up to the incredible trift suspension bridge....definitely not for those afraid of heights! Then spend the night in the windegghütte and listen to the owner play his alphorn as the sun sets.

  • 2/25/14 2:02 PM

    In winter, having a cheese fondue at the restaurant on the Chuenisbaergli (above Adelboden) is amazing. The fondue is great and the view is stunning.

  • 2/24/14 7:38 PM

    In winter, spending one night in the igloo hotel in Gstaad is a amazing experience.
    A beautiful sunset, a clear night full of stars and a breathtaking sunrise.
    You can deserve your night by climbing to the hotel in snow rackets!
    Definitely one of my best winter experience in Switzerland.

  • 2/22/14 11:00 AM

    In winter I enjoy going to Grindelwald First for snowboarding, great area with magnificent view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Scuba diving in Switzerland may not sound that appealing but the big lakes of the Bernese Oberland are good fun: Usually pretty good visibility and beautiful steep faces to dive along... In summer I also recommand to visit the Glacier Gorge in Grindelwald

  • 2/18/14 8:19 AM

    I really love to to go to Kandersteg klettersteig. It is a perfect mix of adventure and nice scenery. But all other places I already visited are nice. From green Gantrisch over majestic Stockhorn to famous Jungfrau - I have to say ,,I love Bernese Oberland at all,,

  • 2/17/14 9:17 PM

    I love this article for all the great ideas it gives newcomers to Switzerland about getting out there and making the most out of our new home. And talking about exploring this beautiful country, one of my favourite hikes so far was just a few weeks ago when my husband, baby and I, took the bls from Bern to Zweisimmen, then the Panorama train to Schonried. We had a bliss fondue there and then hiked the hour and a half along a winter trail to Gstaad. The view of the Alps was outstanding!!

  • 2/17/14 1:33 PM

    Hiking in and around Mürren
    In a warm autumn day my family and I went hiking in Mürren. we parked our car at the parking of the Talstation Schilthornbahn and took the cable-car up to Mürren.
    The first part of the hiking tour was crossing the cute, little town Mürren. We were impressed how nicely this town represents Switzerland. You could find many typical small wooden houses with nice drawing at the facade. This was a the perfect way to start the hiking. From Mürren we walked towards Winteregg. There you do cross some woods and we were able to find some mushrooms on the way.
    When we reached the open fields of Winteregg, we sat down in the grass and were impressed about the beautiful mountain view. Right in front of us were EIGER, MÖNCH & JUNGFRAU! While sitting down and having a picnic we couldnt believe this was true. The mountains were massive and seemed to be so close. After relaxing for about half an hour we kept walking towards Grütschalp. We passed some fields and walked trough woods mostly on a small path. The nature was incredible nice - we were happy and amazed.
    The second part of the hiking tour is a bit tougher, since it is quite steep to go from Grütschalp down to Lauterbrunnen. You do cross a small river several times. Our legs did get a bit tired and we were happy when we arrived in Lauterbrunnen. The town Lauterbrunnen gives you another chance to shop some souvenirs. You could also eat a Fondue in one of the restaurants.
    Last part of the hiking tour: from Lauterbrunnen we walked back to Schilthorn Talstation where our car was parked. This route is all flat and more relaxing, which helps if your legs are sore already. During this hiking period you do pass some camping stations.
    This hiking tour was such a great experience and we enjoyed our time in the region of Mürren. I have never had such an amazing view of Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau. The hiking tour took about six hours. I highly recommend it.

  • 2/17/14 1:02 PM

    Even though very expensive the trip up the Jungfrau Joch is very beautiful! Great scenery and definitely worth the money when the weather is good.

  • 2/17/14 12:13 PM

    I think my biggest Bernese adventure was moving here from Scotland in 2006. Now everyday is an adventure. Whether It be hiking in Grindelwald, swimming in the lakes (including oeschinensee brrrr) or learning a new word in "Bärndütsch".

  • 2/17/14 11:43 AM

    One of my favourites is the Niesen railway. One day I'd like to attempt to climb all the steps but I think I need to get fit first!

  • 2/16/14 11:20 PM

    While I am too chicken to take off paragliding, I do know of another way of seeing the Bernese Oberland form a bird's eye perspective: The Brienzer Rothorn!

    The excursion by steam cog rail from Brienz to the top is a true adventure. The huffing and puffing of the engine is so charming, the scenery from the top is simply breathtaking, and you might even spot a capricorn or two (like we did!)... I find this mountain the best place to see the Bernese Oberland from up high!

  • 2/13/14 10:45 AM

    My favourite adventure in the Bernese Oberland was taking the First Flyer zip wire with my husband in Grindelwald. I have a fear of heights and I was talking myself into challenging myself all the way up to the top of First in the gondola. When we finally arrived there, I spent 10 minutes saying 'yes, I'll do it..... No I won't' until finally I took the plunge and we made our way up to the platform. I had my bike helmet with me as we were planning to trotti-bike later, and much to the amusement of my husband and the official at the zip wire, I put it on! Once I finally set off though, it was fantastic! As long as I stayed looking ahead of me (and not down), I had an amazing view of the scenery and the adrenaline rush was so good, I would've gone back up and done it again! It was definitely a first for me on First! :o)

  • 2/13/14 6:35 AM

    One of our first adventures here was a packimpex event (brunch cruise from Thun to Interlaken), would be lovely to have one last, special one as it is our last year here. We've thoroughly enjoyed our time in Switzerland exploring this gorgeous country! We always take our guests to Thun, with a view of the lake & Niesen. Had we explored the country before moving here, we would have chosen to live near Lake Thun. We've also been to Lauterbrunnen (Trummelbach Falls) several times with friends & guests. It's like a slice of heaven in the summer heat! A weekend in Adelboden is refreshing. We got lost one day driving around in/to Grindelwald and it turned out to be one of our most memorable days so far: picnic by a waterfall, one-lane curvy tunnel, GPS telling us to board the ferry (gondola to go up the mntn.), & running in to an Alpabzug. Going through the Lötschberg Tunnel in our car & a hot air balloon ride are still on our bucket list of things to do here, as would any of these great prizes. We will forever fondly remember the Bernese Oberlands as our playground during our time here.

  • 2/12/14 5:58 PM

    Switzerland is an outdoor lovers' paradise! I love hiking the B.O. so much that I'll be trekking the Via Alpina this summer for about 120km. Cannot wait!
    Skarnii: the Swiss Alps vs Paris? Not even a close match! Alps will make your sister a believer.

  • 2/12/14 1:49 PM

    I have lived in London and worked on Baker street before I came to Switzerland. One of my favourite hikes was discovering the 'Holmes path' at Reichenbach falls which wasn't advertised, at the site. I discovered a small sign and took the trail was fantastically steep. A plaque at the end announced this was where Conan Doyle had plotted that his legendary detective meet his end. It was a heart-stopping moment for a Holmes fan like me.
    I have always wanted to try paragliding over Interlaken (Rigi-kulm is another favourite hike which I take periodically with my 2-year old). My sister is visiting me from the States, she is a real adventurer, having tried bungee-jumping and skydiving. I am an absolute chicken when it comes to such extreme sport at heights. She says she isn't very interested in the mountains of Switzerland and wants to take the train to Paris. I want to convince her to experience one of the most beautiful spots in the world. If I planned a paragliding tandem trip for the both of us, I am sure my globe-trotting sibling will be swept off her feet!

  • 2/11/14 12:36 PM

    I think this will HAVE to be the year for me to try paragliding for the first time. What a thrill! Although I would also absolutely love an excuse to visit the Bernese Oberland for a beautiful meal and a wellness weekend... so many wonderful prizes here!

  • 2/11/14 11:10 AM

    Our family LOVES the Bernese Oberland! Car-free spots that really feel like an intimate Swiss chalet getaway. It's a tough call which is more fun - Wengen or Grindelwald. Or all of the towns. We even love boating on the lakes in interlaced and dining at the Hotel Giessbach. Would love a new adventure there!

  • 2/6/14 6:41 PM

    I would love to win a Bernese Oberland adventure. By far, my favourite trip so far has been hiking in the area. After reading all of these articles, though, I realise it's time to go back and try something new!

  • 2/6/14 6:31 PM

    I would be very happy to win one of these Bernese Oberland adventures! My husband and I will be 40 this year, and would be nice to celebrate our special birthdays together in a very beautiful place and experience a special flight. We have already been talking about to try once the paragliding and the hot air balloon! We have already visited Grindelwald and saw the ice sculptures - one of our best memories!

  • 2/6/14 5:57 PM

    If you really want an experience go for Skydiving in Interlaken. I gave my son for his 17th B-day a voucher. He went to skydive Interlaken and came home with a DVD and pic! How much adrenaline do you need?

  • 2/6/14 11:54 AM

    Since living in Swtizerland, my favourite time in the Bernese Oberland was a fantastic skiing weekend in Adelboden. Great snow, great weather and a fantastic range of pistes. Really enjoyed coming out of the FIS World Cup giant slalom hut and doing the same piste I'd seen two weeks previously on the TV. I wasn't as fast as the pros though!

  • 2/4/14 4:34 PM

    I recently experienced a wonderful hike down from the Niederhorn in good company. As we were about 1h away from the summit station, it began to snow and the sun hid behind the clouds. We both love snow so it wasn’t a drama for us at all! Until we reached the bottom station, the weather changed from sun to snow and back again every 10 minutes however this didn’t stop us from having an awesome time =)

    No matter what the weather conditions are, you can always have a great day in the Swiss mountains - it just depends on how you deal with the situation and who’s with you…

  • 2/3/14 2:20 PM

    I also, as Stéphan mentions here, was lucky enough to get a tandem paragliding present for my B-day a few years ago. As I consider myself an adrenaline lover (or rather a freak, maybe? :-) I absolutelly loved this experience. We were a bit unlucky with the wind which played against us but the second try just worked out perfectly fine after all! Anyway I plan to do it again here in Switzerland as I recon the views would be beyond comparison with my previous attempt. Also a hot air baloon flight is definitely on my list of „must do activities“ anytime in the future. As I read here that the best time in the day for flying is sunrise or sunset, I may hardly imagine anything more fascinating, exquisite and breath-taking than passing the mountains where the sharp and fast changing sky colours invigorate the feeling of being in the paradise right at that moment…

  • 1/31/14 2:18 PM

    Thanks to my colleagues, I did my first tandem paragliding flight over Verbier last summer which was a real thrill. The scenery, the mixed emotions ... it's awesome! This will remain an unforgettable birthday present.

  • 1/30/14 9:30 PM

    great prizes ;-)

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