A Country for All Seasons

The best time to visit Switzerland? Any time.

Rail travel in Switzerland is justifiably famous.

Photo: iStock

Switzerland calls to mind soaring, snow-capped peaks—and skiers flock here in winter to schuss through its plentiful fresh powder—but that doesn’t mean it’s a destination just during cold-weather months. Indeed, Switzerland offers travelers unique sights, tastes and experiences year-round.

Take, for example, the rugged landscape of the mountainous Valais region in the country’s southwestern corner. It’s home to the Matterhorn and Europe’s longest ski slope, and in the winter, it’s a snowy wonderland of skiing, dog-sledding and ice skating. But it’s equally magical in warmer weather, when it’s a paradise for climbers, hikers and casual strollers, who get to see its alpine meadows explode in red, yellow, pink and blue wildflowers that attract rare butterflies.

Switzerland’s many lakes are year-round draws, too. Lake Geneva is the most famous of Switzerland’s lakes and the largest lake in the Alps; set out into the lake on a paddle steamer to see the vineyards stretching up the steep hillsides along its banks, plus picturesque villages and castles. Lakeside Chillon Castle appears to float on the water’s surface; it’s the most visited historic building in Switzerland, and it’s known for its dungeons, the inspiration for Lord Byron’s “The Prisoner of Chillon.” Stop in at Lausanne, also on the lake, to explore its historic old town and 12th-century cathedral.

Each May, small groups of farmers and cheesemakers in Gruyère lead their cows high into the mountains for the summer months. The cows’ foraging helps maintain the Alpine landscape.

Photo: iStock

Many enchanting old towns, each with their own personalities, beckon throughout the country. In Gruyères, known for chocolate and cheese (don’t miss a cheesemaking tour here), shop-lined cobblestone streets and a 13th-century castle create a medieval atmosphere. Basel, meanwhile, is known for art, thanks to its dozens of museums. It also boasts an elaborate 500-year-old red sandstone town hall and a Gothic cathedral on a hill that offers a spectacular view of the city and the Rhine river.

Skiing in Zermatt

Photo: iStock

Train travel here is justifiably famous. Some of the best rail journeys in the world travel through Switzerland. The most stunning of its scenic trips might be a ride on the Glacier Express, which, despite its name, travels slowly over hundreds of bridges, through tunnels and into and around valleys, glaciers, dense forests and waterfalls while crossing some of the country’s most remote terrain.

The train departs from the resort town of Zermatt, which sits in the shadow of the Matterhorn, and ends 170 breathtaking miles away in St. Moritz, a legendary town nestled among mountains that overlook a sapphire-blue lake. Winter sports here are world-renowned (the town has hosted two winter Olympics), and in summer, opportunities for hiking, biking and water sports abound. You can even ski on the nearby glaciers during the summer. In any season, you’ll end the day by easing into the town’s mineral hot springs, which have been soothing travelers for hundreds of years.

Learn more about all the things you can do when you visit Switzerland.

The experts at AAA Travel can help you decide the best time to visit Switzerland. Call 877-396-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor.

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Janice Yip-Hudson, AAA Travel Counselor, Daly City, Calif.

Today, people's lives are so busy. We're thinking three days ahead just to get through our to-do lists. I love helping my clients plan vacations where they have nothing to do but relax; where time stands still, and you're just on vacation.

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