We had a great opportunity to combine a business trip to Zurich with a visit to a friend who lives there. He turned out to be an excellent tour guide, leaving us with many cherished memories.
Know before you go
- Switzerland is part of the Schengen area, but not part of the EU. South African nationals require a Schengen visa to enter.
- The local currency is the Swiss Frank (CHF), Euros are accepted but you might not get the most favourable rate.
- Nearest commercial airport is Zurich International.
- Summer season is from June – August. Winter season is from December – February
- Weather: From July to August the daytime temperature range is 18 to 28°C and from January to February the range is -2 to 7°C. In spring and autumn, the daytime temperature range is 8 to 15 °C.
We traveled from Germany and decided to take the train rather than fly to Zurich. Although the journey takes longer by train, it can be significantly cheaper and you are rewarded with breathtaking views of mountains, lakes and charming small towns. Some of the most scenic railroads are in and around the Alps.
We arrived in Zurich late afternoon and the next morning we took a day trip by car to the Brienzersee (Lake Brienz). We took the ferry boat to get on the other side of Lake Zurich and it was followed by an unforgettable drive into the mountains. The mountains are dotted with small ski resorts and every town is postcard picture perfect. We even got some snow on one of the mountains although it was early spring.
The Brienzersee is surrounded by picturesque little towns and we stopped at one of them for refreshments before driving further to Interlaken, one of the bigger towns situated between Brienzersee and Thunersee. It’s a typical tourist town and we strolled through the small streets admiring the charming old buildings. The air was crispy from the snow on the mountains but filled with the sound of nature.
We had a quick lunch and then continued on our journey to the St Beatus Caves, on the banks of the Thunersee. These are by far the most beautiful caves I ever explored. There are waterfalls inside the cave and even the journey up the mountain is spectacular. Looking up you can see waterfalls coming down the mountain and looking down you have unspoilt views of the lake. The guided tour into the caves takes about an hour. The path you walk on is well designed and we could walk upright the whole time. You are unfortunately not allowed to take photos inside the cave.
The next day we took a train trip to Luzern where we boarded a boat to Mount Pilatus in Alpnachstad. The boat ride itself was such a treat with beautiful views of Lake Zurich and the surrounding mountains. Arriving in Alpnachstad, we bought our tickets for the trip up Mt Pilatus with the cogwheel (Zahnbahn) railway that allows you to enjoy breathtaking views of the lake, mountain and town below. The mountain is 2132m high and the railway is the world’s steepest with a 48% climb. At the top there are many viewpoints where you have picturesque views of the countryside and towns below. There are also some curio shops and restaurants. It was a bit chilly at the top and it can be very windy as well, so dress warm. We took the cable-way down, it is a very steep incline down and if you are scared of heights its best to stand in the middle of the car. You take the cable-way to a summit and from there you take the aerial Gondolas to get the bottom.
Our trip to Switzerland was way too short and I would love to go back and explore more of its beauty.
You are welcome to view my photos of our trip here
The awesome stuff
Pristine and breathtaking scenery
Enchanting old buildings
The best chocolates in the world
Reliable public transport
The less awesome stuff
The weather, it is mostly chilly and often rains.
The prices, everything is expensive. We paid around R50 for a beer, R46 for a coffee. Eating at a restaurant is around R230 for a main course per person. You can get Pizza for around R160
There is so much to see and do in Switzerland, all year round. It’s worth a visit, even for a weekend. A very nice way to see the country is by rail. Consider n trip on the Glacies express or the Chocolate train.
Try to get a city card that offers unlimited travel within the city and entrance to most museums.
Buy snacks and light lunches at a grocery store before setting out on day trips.
Always take warm, rain and wind proof clothing with you.