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Don’t let an aversion to skiing get in the way of a trip to Switzerland in the winter time – this country has as much to offer on the ground as it does on the slopes
Planning a trip to Switzerland but don’t ski? Switzerland might be a haven for winter sports, but it’s also got plenty of soft adventure to offer, too. From those famed Christmas Markets we summer-Christmas-spending Australians can only dream of to toboggan riding that will thrill you as much as it does the kids (admit it), here are seven reasons to visit Switzerland in the winter time – athletic ability not required.
Go to the Christmas Markets
C’mon, we know you’ve always harboured a secret longing for a white Christmas, hasn’t every southern hemisphere dweller? From Zurich (home to Europe’s largest indoor Christmas market), to Basel (where fairy-tale dollars are used as legal tender in the markets), and Montreux (the gateway to Santa Claus’ Swiss abode atop Rochers-de-Naye), these snow-covered markets never fail to impress both young and old. The intoxicating holiday cheer and fairy-tale like setting along with live entertainment, traditional food, art and craft, beverages and of course, snow, create an incredible Christmas experience you won’t forget.
Stay in an Igloo (Yes, Really)
Who says luxury equals five star? For a stay worth its weight in snow, visitors can experience life in an igloo – either by building it themselves or checking in to one that’s already built. The Swiss igloo experience usually comes with a range of activities including cheese fondue and gluhwein nights, snowshoe hiking and even spa time under the stars, so luxury travellers seeking something a little different will be in their element while out in the Swiss elements.
Experience Dog Sledding
Dog sledding is a surprisingly relaxing activity that will see you sliding across the snow with no balancing skills required. Just take in the spectacular alpine scenery and enjoy this quintesentially alpine activity with man’s best friend. In Appenzell (east of Zurich), snow lovers can even earn to handle the team of sled dogs themselves and tour at their preferred pace – new career, perhaps?
Take a Toboggan Ride
For a bit (or a lot) more speed, thrill-seekers can learn to handcraft their very own “Rolls Royce” toboggan before rocketing down the slopes like they would in a go-cart race. One place where toboggans take over in winter is Col de la Croix, which connects Les Diablerets and Villars in the Vaud region. With its snow-covered paths, cyclists and motorists are forced to take a winter break and make way for the real fun to begin.
Attend an Elite Sporting Event
For the well-heeled traveller, skip the slopes and instead mingle with the sporting elite at the Snow Polo, White Turf (horseracing) and Cricket on Ice. Happening every January and February respectively on the frozen lake in the winter resort of St Moritz, these are the events popular among polite society and come with a string of rich, royal and famous personalities. Established in 1985, the Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz is the only high goal polo tournament played on snow; while White Turf has a history dating back to 1907 and Cricket on Ice heads into its 32nd year in 2019.
Take in the Scenery on a Panoramic Rail Journey
Journeying through the unmistakable Swiss scenery by train is an absolute must, and while the lush verdant meadows and fairytale-like villages are some definite highlights, so is the equally captivating snow-capped landscape. The Glacier Express (from Zermatt to St Moritz) and Bernina Express (from Chur to Tirano) and the GoldenPass Line (from Interlaken to Montreux) are three panoramic rail journeys that take their passengers through some of the country’s most spectacular snowscapes. You can read more about travelling Switzerland by train here.
Cosy Into a Traditional Alpine Chalet
No Swiss winter experience is complete without experiencing the comfort, cosiness and surrounds of a traditional Swiss alpine chalet. With a whole host of cosy winter hideaways on offer, these alpine chalets are equal parts romantic and spectacular, so take your better half and settle in for an authentic Swiss winter stay that is utterly unique.