By Shereen Shabnam
Switzerland has become my favourite winter destination with a lot to offer. From magical high terrain, palm-lined lakeshores to sparkling glaciers, medieval villages to buzzing cities and an incredible number of tourist attractions that stand unrivalled worldwide.
To encourage more Middle East holiday makers to discover the winter magic in the snowy landscape of Switzerland, Switzerland Tourism has collaterals in Arabic and English language designed for the GCC market and features numerous winter hotels and four famous winter destinations in Switzerland, Lake Lucerne Region, Interlaken, Gstaad and Lake Geneva Region, all offering plenty of winter options.
Fresh air goes along with thrilling winter activities and top ranked wellness and health offers. After a cold day outside nothing tops a traditional Swiss cheese dish such as Raclette next to a warm and cosy fireplace. The Swiss winter promises an unforgettable break and Switzerland’s beauty and variety makes it easy for locals and visitors to fall in love over and over again with this enchanting country.
Whether you enjoy winter sports or simply prefer to relax, Switzerland has wonderful experiences one remembers fondly for a long time to come. With fantastic routes, breathtaking vistas, exciting experiences await the traveler on the Glacier-Express from St. Moritz to Zermatt. I still remember the journey as though it was yesterday. My favourite place in Zermatt is the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof from where I normally discover the attractions of the alps.
The world of the Swiss Alps is a world of wild beauty. Mountain peaks soar more than 4,000 meters into the sky. Awe-inspiring glaciers and gigantic rock-formations abound. The diversity of the country is the essence of Switzerland and makes it a unique destination. Still, it is best known for its financial institutions, fine cheeses and chocolate, watch-making industry and for its scenery. Even Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon has left his famous footprint in the snow of Switzerland.
For those venturing to Switzerland this winter, popular markets sell great local food including Swiss chocolates, Swiss cheese and other dairy products, meats products including sausages, pies and various kinds of confectionery.
This season, ski holidays in Switzerland offer winter sports among some of the most breathtaking scenery that can be found at any resort across the world. In fact, Switzerland is one of the world’s leading ski nations, famous as it is for its largely mountainous terrain.
For winter, traditional winter sport as skiing has evolved thanks to the use of new technology. One popular development is carving, which makes use of new materials and a radical new design – short skis, narrow at the waist and wide at both ends to enable skiers to imitate the tight turns made by snowboarders.
Then there is heliskiing or heliboarding, where visitors are flown to inaccessible high mountain regions from where they can ski down glaciers. Although skiing is regarded as the prime winter sport, tobogganing and skating have an even longer history in Switzerland.
Far away from all the noise and stress, visitors can have an unforgettable time eating fondue in the unique, artistic setting of the igloos on the Engstligenalp, the widest alpine plateau of the western Swiss Alps. Or one can walk along prepared footpaths to spend an enjoyable day in one of Arosa’s mountain restaurants.
In Arosa, more than 60 km of footpaths are prepared and maintained in winter. The paths take you to the next village in the Schanfigg valley or into Arosa’s skiing area. Similarly, the well-marked easy walk in Braunwald offers a very special walking experience in a winter wonderland. Surrounded by the high mountains of the Glarner Alps, winter walkers cannot fail to be impressed. Walking along the prepared path is a really good way to enjoy the snowy landscape.
If you decide to venture into central Switzerland, amid wildly romantic scenery, in a beautiful location with breathtaking views of the mountains, lies the Engelberg igloo village. Inside the igloos, you can admire the artworks created by genuine Inuit (Eskimo) artists. The Engelberg igloo village can be reached quickly and easily from Lucerne, Zurich, Basel and Bern.
There is also nothing more relaxing than setting off early in the morning to explore the winter wonderland on your snow-shoes, enjoying a delicious fondue in the evening and then racing back down to the village on a sledge.
The remote mountain village of Isenfluh is the ideal starting point for anyone seeking rest and relaxation. One can explore the fairytale Saustal valley on snow-shoes and then be rewarded with an excellent cheese fondue in the quaint Sulwaldstubli. The finishing touch is the night-time sledge run down from Sulwald to Isenfluh.
If you are looking for something different, spend an evening night skiing on the Alp Stätz, going on a top-speed night sledging run from the Scharmoin middle station or skiing down from the Rothorn by the light of the full moon.
Winter in Switzerland is not just skiing. It’s about riding on a horse sleigh, tobogganing, ice-skating or just the change of scenery and feeling in the snow. But of course, if you can ski, experts will find all sorts of slopes and challenges. Beginners will learn fast as all swiss winter destinations offer group and private lessons for new skiers.
While in Switzerland, experience the new Titlis Xpress 8-seater gondolas which transport you faster, further and more comfortable to station Stand where you board the word’s first revolving cable car, the TitlisRotair that rotates its way up towards the snow-covered summit of Titlis.
If you are in Gstaad, Fondue Caquelon on the Wispile is a must. My favourite attraction is Fondueland Gstaad, an outsize caquelon pot on the Wispile, is now ready for its first winter season. Like its twin on Schlittmoos near Schönried, it is big enough for up to eight people to enjoy open-air fondue fun.
Visit Interlaken too as it is a central starting point for many attractions and excursion destinations that will award you wonderful winter memories with its different ice rinks, winding ice runs, market stands and Iglu-Restaurant.
If you head to Lausanne, Hotel Royal Savoy has been a legend since 1909 and is a modern and inspirational meeting place. This legendary 5* hotel has gone through a complete renovation. The surface has been doubled with 196 rooms, 37 suites and junior-suites for guests to enjoy.
Switzerland’s spectacular beauty of the Swiss Alps is breathtaking. You can look forward to beautifully prepared slopes, cross-country ski trails, winter walking paths and toboggan runs with dramatic 4,000-metre peaks for a backdrop. In the evening, enjoy a tasty fondue or relax by the open fire in your cozy hotel.
The legendary views of the Matterhorn in Zermatt are unforgettable. Zermatt is situated far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life at an altitude of 1,600 metres above sea level. The historic village oozes with charm and the high street is lined with luxury shopping and world-class restaurants.
For ski enthusiasts, there is no better place than Zermatt to flirt with adventure and enjoy the sport with untouched stunning terrain and a helicopter to give you a lift there. Zermatt is the Alps’ largest heli-skiing destination and offers the best snow with the stunning beauty of the Alps. Zermatt is a private playground for guests who truly want to get away and indulge in a memorable holiday.
Not to be missed also are the awe inspiring views of the Eiger and other peaks in the Jungfrau region from Wengen, Murren and Grindelwald that have been thrilling visitors for centuries and will no doubt continue to do so for generations to come.