Addicted to Switzerland: Summer Adventures in the Alps
Words by Sara Darling
If you’re searching for your next thrill, and can never get too much excitement, the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland should propel itself on to your radar for your next adventure break. If it’s good enough for a Bond movie, it’s good enough for me!
And even though I had no intention of jumping out of a helicopter or skiing into an abyss, it was a great excuse to visit the stunning setting of Piz Gloria, where the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed.
Interestingly, the Bond production team actually helped finance the completion of the unique revolving restaurant which is still in use, and makes a splendid spot for a sundowner.
Fly to Zurich and take undeniably the world’s most efficient trains to Interlaken. The route will take in Switzerland’s pretty scenery, passing through sunny valleys, natural waterfalls, glacial mountains and snow capped peaks.
Change trains at Interlaken, the area’s biggest (and busiest city) and head over to the miniature town of Murren- car free with friendly locals and a few hotels, this is the perfect place to start your summer adventure on a rousing hike.
If you are seeking something more to get your heart pumping, head on over to the Harry Potter-sounding Grindelwald.
This is the perfect base for all sorts of hair-raising summer activities. Buying a pre-paid ticket at base level cable car (CHF 99) allows participation in any four exhilarating pursuits.
Biking is a hugely popular sport in the mountains, and the Summer Gemel bike is the latest craze. Based on a toboggan, with three wheels and a brake, the Gemel can get up some speed- but once you have the hang of using your body weight to manoeuvre it, the 6 km journey downhill will fly by! For further thrills, Mountain Carts and Trotti bike scooters are also available.
Or if flying is more your thing, Mount First is the dream for zipliners. The First Flyer allows you to soak up the scenery and feel the air on your cheeks as you glide over jagged edges of glaciers. Firmly strapped into a parachute seat and attached to 800 metres of steel cable, you are almost paragliding, but not quite!
Not for the faint hearted, as the vertical drop takes you from the very top of First, to the next cable car station at Schreckfeld at speeds of nearly 90 kph. But the birds eye view of the tree tops, 50 metres above the ground make this an unmissable experience and fun way to get down!
If this has whet your appetite, you will love the the mountain’s newest zipwire, the First Glider, which is built to resemble a giant eagle.
Four thrillseekers at a time are strapped into harnesses beneath the “wings” on a platform 2,166-metres above ground level. Helmets on and legs fastened in, expect to scream as you fly face down, (in reverse) the 800 metres to Schreckfeld and back!
For those with stamina, or enough adrenaline to voluntarily step off a platform, attached to a harness, 90 metres above ground level, with rapid water speeding through the overhanging canyon walls below, the Canyon Swing at Glacier Gorge in Grindelwald is the challenge for you!
Even with a motivational guide, your jelly legs have the final say as you tiptoe towards the edge of the platform. Whether you look down or not, you will be battling with a clash of wills, but the step (or requested shove) that catapults you into the abyss, and consequent freefall, means the ultimate adrenaline rush.
The experience is actually over in minutes, but the memory will last a lifetime and will be filmed for you to show the grandkids. Booking via Outdoor Interlaken necessary.
After all that exhilaration, there is plenty to do to stabilise your heart rate! Chill out in many of the delightful restaurants or bars in the chocolate box pretty Grindelwald town, or plan another action packed day from the comfort of a pool or spa (Hotel Belvedere has a great one).
You can’t afford to miss out on the tranquil Lake Bachalp, in Bachalpsee. Set in the midst of the First Mountains, it offers an otherworldly view of the impressive peaks of the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn mountains. Known as the pearl of mountain lakes, this is a great spot to appreciate the simple things, and on a clear day, you can spend hours mesmerised by the reflection of the surrounding Bernese Alps.
If this sounds too tame, go on the Thrill Walk at the Schilthorn. A mixture of steel and glass walkways, including an 8-metre-long steel tunnel which you’ll have to crawl through, should get your heart-rate back up, but make sure to check what time the last cable car is to get you home!
Reaching the top of Jungfraujoch is on many people’s bucket list, however you don’t have to be a mountain climber to get there! Accessible by Europe’s highest train station, this super popular tourist spot is well worth the 2 hour journey from Grindelwald.
With just one change of train, you ascend the 3454 metres, with seven of the nine kilometres transporting you through a tunnel between the Eiger and Mönch mountains, the history is as interesting as the scenery.
Expect a dramatic change in temperature, so bring a coat and sensible shoes so you can fully enjoy the ice palace and The Sphinx Observatory at the very top. Here you can see iconic peaks including the Eiger North Face, and if you don’t get vertigo, soak up the purest alpine air!
Whether you want to test your nerves on a high-altitude cliff walk, pose for a picture on the edge of a vertiginous viewing platform, or jump into a canyon, there is so much to get your adrenaline pumping in the Jungfrau Region.
Equally, there is an abundance of great Swiss cheese, chocolate and wine that you can reward yourself with afterwards! Whatever floats your boat, Switzerland is addictive!
Each time you visit, there is something new to tempt you…come in winter to enjoy the guaranteed snow activities, but come in summer for so much more!
Switzerlandtravelcentre.co.uk has details of The Swiss Transfer Ticket which covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and destination. (Prices are £116 in second class and £188 in first class), and also The Swiss Travel Pass which offers unlimited travel on consecutive days throughout the rail, bus and boat Swiss Travel System network.
This pass also covers scenic routes and local trams and buses in around 90 towns and cities, and also includes the Swiss Museum Pass, allowing you free entrance to 500 museums and exhibitions. (Prices from £197 in second class).
Swiss International Air Lines operates up to 180 weekly flights to Switzerland from London Heathrow, London City, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh (seasonal during summer) and Dublin.
*Image credits – Sara Darling