Tourist information for south-western Switzerland
Switzerland is one of Europe's most beautiful countries. The mighty
Alpine peaks dominate the whole country, lending a fairy-tale appearance to even
dour cities like Zurich. In the north, away from the mountains, the scenery remains
stunning, with rolling green pastures and chocolate box villages. As well as the
lure of the mountains, Switzerland's cultural diversity lends a distinct character
to its great cities, from French-speaking Geneva to German Bern to Italian Lugano.
The people are famed for their efficiency, their strong sense of independence and
their tradition of neutrality, yet this is combined with a warm welcome for the
many tourists. Although Switzerland is a wonderful winter sports destination, the
lakes, clean air and flower-filled meadows attract visitors throughout the year.
Whether you're looking for the beauties of the mountain lakes, excitement in
the high mountains or lazy walking in the meadows, you'll find it here.
Towns and places of interest in south west Switzerland:
The west and southwest of Switzerland is French-speaking and this French influence
is very evident in the cuisine and culture of the area. The city of Geneva
has its borders with France at the western end of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman
to the French). Best known for housing the headquarters of several major international
organisations such as the Red Cross and United Nations, its major attraction for
the tourist is its lakeside setting. Lake Geneva is the largest lake in Switzerland
and boats set off from Geneva for the towns along its shores - a journey worth taking
for the wonderful views of the Jura mountains to the north and the Alps to the south.
The bustling city of Lausanne on the north shore climbs steeply away from
the lake. The streets of the old town are picturesque in themselves and afford spectacular
views across the lake to the Alps beyond.
Montreux, at the eastern end of Lake Geneva, is the riviera town of the lake,
with palms and magnolias spilling down the steep hillsides to the shoreline. Just
outside the town is the famous Chateau de Chillon, dominating its surroundings
and inspiration to many, including Byron. In July Montreux is home to perhaps the
greatest annual festival of Jazz in the world.
The Jura mountains are surprisingly little visited by the British. This beautiful
and accessible area contains some of the best walking and cross-country skiing in
Europe. Whether exploring the green and wooded heights of the Jura on relatively
easy paths or strolling along the picturesque shores of Lake Neuchatel, you'll
find peace and beauty in plenty. The medieval streets of Fribourg, in the
bi-lingual (French and German) east of the region, cling impressively to the steep
banks of the river Sarine, and from here you can enjoy wonderful walking or skiing
in the surrounding Fribourg mountains. Neuchatel enjoys wide boulevards in
the French style and a superb view of the distant Alps across the placid lake. Outdoor
activities abound, from mountain biking to walking and skiing, whilst almost every
village around Lake Neuchatel has its bathing beach.
Travelling east from Lake Geneva along the Rhone Valley the mountains become
progressively higher and more spectacular. Roads lead to the many ski resorts, such
as Leysin and Les Diablerets. The town of Martigny lies at
the juction to the Grand Saint Bernard Pass, still accessible by road although
now bypassed by a tunnel.The valley floor between Martigny and Sion is flat and
fertile and is one of the main wine-growing regions of Switzerland. Sion
itself is guarded by two impressive castles. The mountains are now truly spectacular
with a multitude of world-class ski resorts; amongst them Verbier, Crans-Montana
and Saas-Fee, with fashionable Zermatt at the foot of the mighty
Matterhorn. At the very end of the valley lies Gletsch, from where
there is a stunning view of the Rhone glacier. Enjoy perhaps the most stunning circular
drive in Europe, taking in the Nuffenenpass, Furkapass and St Gotthard