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Visit to Switzerland: The Fairytale Land

At the end of my trip, I concluded that Switzerland turned out to be everything that I had expected. On my way to the airport, I resolve to re-visit this land of silk-smooth chocolate and cheese as there is yet lot more to explore.

Think of mountain grandeur, lakes, chocolates, cheese, and watches; Switzerland comes to mind’s eyes. When traveling in one of the smallest land-locked nations in Europe, one can indulge into a Cultural fiesta (German-French and Italian) within a few days while commuting on the picture postcard Swiss Railway, which otherwise you will need to travel the whole of continent Europe and spend three times more of your holiday time and money.  

Zurich is my point of entry into Switzerland and soon after landing, I picked up from the Swiss Travel System desk, my four-day Swiss (flexi) Pass, which allow freedom of travel on trains, ships and buses with limitation and free entry to most of the museums across Switzerland.

After a few days in Zurich, I take aboard the Swiss train bound towards the French part of the canton of Valais, one of the 26 cantons in the South-West of Switzerland. I got off the train at Sion – the capital of Valais; the glorious mid-summer vibe instantly energised my senses. Vast stretches of vineyards, lined with orchards of more than 10 varieties of apricots rolled down the lush valley slopes. Along with apricots, other fruits such as apples, strawberries and cherries were found in abundance. The first day whizzed by as I try fresh fruits right off the trees.

Walliserhof Alpine Therme & Spa.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, I set off for an adventurous trip to Mont Fort, the highest point in the Verbier-Nendaz holiday and skiing resort, and accessible only by cable car. It holds a special significance for off-piste skiers (skiers who ski on unmarked rugged slopes) since the winter and early spring season allows them to ski between the mountain and the Glacier de Tortin. As we made our way to the cable car terminal, we walk past and admired local art at the Sculptor Park. The park showcases contemporary art combined with nature.

The return journey is almost as exciting as the ride up. The Col du Grand Saint Bernard or The Great St Bernard Pass, the third highest road pass in Swizerland, offers an incredible view of the Lake in the bowl like valley by  the border check post between Switzerland and Italy, from the vantage point. This landmark also plays an interesting role in this country’s history. Not only was its ninth century monastery converted into a hospice circa 1050 AD by Saint Bernard of Menthon but is also synonymous with a special breed of dogs. They are aptly called the Dogs of St. Bernard and are renowned world over as mountain rescue dogs. The Barry foundation has been established just to ensure the survival of this breed, which was originally raised to guard the hospice.

Upon returning to Verbier, I got a transfer to Champex Lac, a picturesque lake village fringed by pine forests. Within the vicinity of the lake, there is the Swiss heritage Alpine Botanical Garden located at a height of 1,500 metres. The gardens not only exhibit an impressive collection of the local flora but also those from neighbouring countries and continents. With more than 3,000 species of plants, including Edelweiss, the national flower of Switzerland and different breed of roses.

Nestled above the Rhone valley, the country of the Beisses – Nendaz offers the perfect getaway for visitors to wander along lush trails and go cycling along a backdrop of water rivulets.

Along with natural beauty, Nendaz is dotted with magnificent architecture. The next day, we take a walking tour of the Old Village and pay a visit to the Saint Michel Chapel. The monument was constructed in 1499 and later renovated in the Baroque style during the 18th century.
Next on the list was Zermatt resort – the home of the Matterhorn peak at the height of 4,478 metres: the symbol of the region and of Switzerland. One of the highlight of Zermatt is the no car zone except green energy buggies, which facilitate to pick and drop visitors.

I was also fortunate enough to attend the annual Gornergrat Alphorn Festival which not only highlights the Swiss folk music culture featuring more than 500 alp horn players on a stage set by nature. This unique amphi-theater  is surrounded by more than 20 four thousand metres high Pennine peaks, including the highest Monte Rossa range and the iconic Matterhorn peak. More than 5,000 visitors bear witness to the world’s longest playable alphorn measuring a whopping 47 metres which guaranteed an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The next morning, I move on to Leukerbad. Nestled above Leuk, Leaukerbad is the largest wellness resort in the Alps at an altitude of 1,402 metres. With an imposing flow of 3.9 million liters a day, Leukerbad has, by far the most voluminous reserves of thermal water in continent Europe. The thermal water has many healing properties beneficial for people with arthritis and in general stiffness of the joints. The minerals in the spring can help muscle relaxation and can even counteract constipation.

Here, I settle down for a few days at one of the oldest and lovely wellness Hotel Regina Terme. Self catered accommodation included spacious room, a kitchenette and a large balcony to enjoy the view of the valley and the massive wall like mountain in the distance. Given with a choice of 30 thermal pools, I planned a comprehensive wellness package at the Regina Terme spa, Leukerbad Therme, Volksheilbad and Walliser Alpentherme & Spa – the latter is Europe’s largest and most luxurious high altitude alpine wellness, beauty and thermal spa.

Back at my hotel, the owners invited me over coffee, and before retiring into the night, I reminisce this far-fetched journey in the Valais region and the cherishing moments that I have spent here among wonderful people.

At the end of my trip, I concluded that Switzerland turned out to be everything that I had expected. On my way to the airport, I resolve to re-visit this land of silk-smooth chocolate and cheese as there is yet lot more to explore.

Photo caption: Above Zermatt, Valais.

Maria Saif is a travel writer.