From chocolate ads to yodelers to lung-busting climbing expeditions, the Swiss Alps have seen all sorts. As they unfold from the Bernese Oberland in the north to the craggy tops of the Zermatt valley in the south, they offer up some seriously eye-watering landscapes. But it’s not just the sights. The whole region is a fusion of culture and heritage. In the west, touches of Savoie cooking and French language exist in the stone-built ski towns. In the east, there are German and Italian influences to be felt under the spires of the Piz Bernina.
Within their boundaries are many of the best places to visit in Switzerland. There’s simply no arguing with that, what with the likes of the paradisiacal Jungfrau and the mighty Eiger towering overhead. You can spend days trekking on pine-fringed trails. It’s possible to dive into glistening alpine lakes for wild swimming under glaciers. You can don the skis and whiz down world-class slopes.
This guide to 10 breathtaking Swiss Alps hops from summit to summit. It can help you plan an amazing trip to this amazing corner of Europe. Along the way, it offers up sheer-cut walls of rock that beckon the world’s hardiest climbers, there are pastoral valleys blessed with waterfalls and dairy farms, and craggy peaks that are sure to take the breath away (literally!).
1. The Matterhorn – the piece de resistance of the Swiss Alps
If there was ever an Alpine mountain that needed no introduction, surely this one’s it. Arguably as famous as Mont Blanc and shapelier than any of its brethren Swiss Alps, it clambers skywards on the Italian border. At its base is the sleek and glitzy ski resort of Zermatt. That can only be reached on a Swiss Alps train, and many of its cozy chalet hotels come with jaw-dropping views of the legendary summit.
That summit, is, of course, the Matterhorn. Twisted and contorted like a crooked finger, it bursts into the skies to a height of 4,478 meters. One side is a chiseled and sheer-cut face of gneiss rock. The other is a bent ridge that forms a pyramid-like shape. The result is one of the most iconic Swiss Alps of all.
A veritable adventure playground hugs the Matterhorn. You can climb the mountain – it’s estimated around 150 people per day do that in the summer months. The most accessible route is up is via the Hörnli Hut, and then onto assisted sections to the peak. Alternatively, be sure to come in winter for some of the finest Swiss Alps skiing. The terrain here is seriously extensive, with hundreds of kilometers of piste extending from Switzerland, into Italy, and across beautiful plateaus beneath the silhouette of the Matterhorn.
2. The Eiger – the bad boy of the Swiss mountains
The Eiger hulks like a sleeping giant above the Valais, the Bernese Oberland, and the Shangri-La of Lauterbrunnen. It’s been striking fear and adrenaline into mountaineers ever since it was first eyed up by climbers in the early 20th century. The reason? That 1,800-meter-high North Face, which is considered one of the most technical and dangerous ascents in the world!
Yep, climbers have made their name (and lost everything) trying to conquer that mighty wall of stone. It’s laden with traverses, rope sections, pitches, and all sorts, meaning its only ever for the most experienced and well-equipped of adventurers. A better alternative might be to stick to the refuges that pepper the valley below. There, you can sip frothy Swiss beers and munch on fondue as you watch the weather rolling across the highlands overhead.
The stretched-out village of Grindelwald is the main base for the Swiss Alps skiing in the region. It’s hailed as one of the most gorgeous little corners of the mountains. As you whiz from medieval hamlet to medieval hamlet, you can gaze up at the Wetterhorn and the Eiger alike.
3. Monte Rosa – the second highest mountain in the Alps
Straddling the border between the Italian Piedmont and the glaciated fields of the Pennine Alps, mighty Monte Rosa is forever blanketed in snow and ice. It’s the highest summit in all of Switzerland, with a series of peaks and subpeaks that finally top out with the Dufourspitze. That’s a jutting buttress of stone that buts out from the Grenzgletscher to an air-thinning 4,634 meters above sea level!
For the Swiss Alps skiing, the altitude is a gift. Top stations in these parts sit at over 3,500 meters in some places. That means there’s snow coverage even during the height of the summer. So, you could find yourself shooting down a mountainside in 30-degree heat! Trekking is also a popular pastime. The famous route around the summit is the Tour of Monte Rosa, which links Italy and Switzerland via ancient trading routes and passes.
Set in an amphitheater of 4,000-meter peaks in the midst of the Bernese Alps, Jungfrau is up there with the most iconic Swiss mountains of all. At its top, a gravity-defying cable car station offers sweeping panoramas of the country’s center. From there, you can gaze out to the rolling green meadows of the Mittelland, across the Swiss Plateau. You can wander at the great Aletsch Glacier, squiggling down from the Moosfluh with boulders and icebergs in tow.
The famous Swiss Alps train, the narrow-gauge Jungfraubahn cog railway, can whisk you into the heart of the mountain. It terminates just below the Jungfraujoch col at over 3,400 meters up. That makes it one of the highest-altitude rides in Europe.
A little to the east of the Jungfrau is the idyllic Lauterbrunnen Valley. That’s one for Swiss mountain bucket lists, folks. Come summer, it’s all cowbell-ringing meadows, crashing waterfalls, and quaint towns filled with rustic barns and chalets.
5. Piz Bernina
The Piz Bernina is a Swiss mountain that reigns superlative. The highest summit in the Eastern Alps? Check. The highest in the Rhaetian Alps? Check. The pinnacle of the Bernina Range itself? You bet!
Clocking up an altitude of a whopping 4,048 meters, this one really is a giant. You can find it spiking the clouds just west of the beautiful Engadin Valley. There, it casts a long shadow over the woods and green pastures of Sondrio, a region of northern Italy. And it gazes northwards to where the ski fields of chic St Moritz are draped over the Swiss Alps.
The Piz Bernina summit climb is a challenging route that’s only open to experienced mountaineers. The main ascent typically begins at the remote Tschierva Hut in Graubünden. From there, it wiggles up scree until it hits the Biancograt. That’s a famous snow-clad ridgeline that has steep drop-offs on both sides and stunning views of the Crast’ Agüzza and Piz Zupò next door.
6. Brienzer Rothorn
The most altitudinous point in the relatively low Emmental Alps comes with the Brienzer Rothorn. It’s a mountain that rarely hits the headlines like other Swiss Alps on this list. However, it’s a real stunner with some top things going for it…
Take the 4.7-mile Brienz Rothorn Railway. That links the quaint town of Brienz at the base of the mountain to a station at Rothorn Kulm. The ride is unique in that it takes place on a vintage steam train. And the route is still the fourth-highest Swiss Alps train currently in operation.
But back to the Brienzer Rothorn itself! Set along a classic ridge with grassy meadows one side and scree slopes the other, this backbone of rock delineates a line between two cantons (provinces). The climb to the top hits a zenith with that long ridgeline section, which wiggles through meadows and over rock bluffs. Down below, you can cool off when the hiking’s finished in gorgeous Lake Brienz. That’s filled with crystal-clear Alpine waters and has kayaking stations and swimming spots.
7. Mount Pilatus
Mount Pilatus hails as one of the best places to visit in Switzerland for its range of various outdoorsy pursuits. The summit itself looms over Lake Lucerne. A great serrated ridge with spikes and dagger-like subpeaks, it finally tops out around 2,100 meters on the Tomlishorn.
You have plenty of choices when it comes to scaling the mountain. For starters, the steepest cogwheel Swiss mountain train operates here. It can whisk you from Alpnachstad on the lakeside up to Pilatus Kulm. There are five stops en route, and the track hits a gradient of almost 49% at some places. Of course, there are hiking paths to boot. There are easy-going treks up paved paths. And there are more serious climbs with assisted sections in need of skilled practitioners. Finally, you could choose the Dragon Ride gondola. It’s got gorgeous views from its cabins and leaves from Fräkmüntegg.
What makes Mount Rigi different from all the other Swiss Alps on this list, you ask? Well, instead of being surrounded by stone and rock and ice, it’s engulfed in water. Yep, no fewer than three individual mountain lakes ring a loop around this summit. To the north is the small but perfectly formed Zugersee. To the south is big Lake Lucerne and its little sounds and inlets. And there’s charming Lake Lauerz, hemmed in by meadows and green pastures.
They call Rigi the Queen of the Mountains for its beautiful location amid the waters. Over the centuries, it’s inspired Romantic painters and writers and poets, from JMW Turner to Mark Twain. It’s also host to the oldest Swiss Alps train, which you can hitch to the summit on the Rigi Bahnen from Vitznau.
Of course, hoofing it on the trails is probably the best way to appreciate the beautiful surroundings. There are oodles of miles of the marked route going to the top. The best places to start a day’s hiking are around Oberarth and Arth.
9. Mount Titlis
The spurs and bluffs of Mount Titlis are pure drama in the midst of the Uri Alps. Nestled right in the geographical heart of Switzerland, this craggy, carved mountain is one to make you gasp. It straddles the cantons of Obwalden and Bern, gazing down onto pastoral little Engelberg and its green farmlands some 2,000 meters below.
Draped around the surrounding slopes is the acclaimed Titlis ski area. It’s got more than 80 kilometers of marked runs, along with good snow coverage over a long season. However, the real draw is surely that rotating cable car. It’s the first of its kind in the world, swiveling 360 degrees as it completes its five-minute journey up to the heights of the Swiss Alps.
They say there’s only one thing that can beat climbing the Matterhorn: Climbing a mountain that offers views of the Matterhorn! Cue Gornergrat. This 3,135-meter-high ridge on the edge of the Swiss Alps skiing mecca of Zermatt has been made famous for its eye-watering panoramas.
The top station is the jewel to aim for. You can either get there on the open-air Gornergrat Bahn or choose to hoof it. The paths crisscross over the edges of the Riffelalp plateau and hit long ridgelines before reaching the top.
When you do conquer the mountain, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning station that floats high above the Pennine Alps. It’s host to the Gornergrat Kulm Hotel. Like something out of a Wes Anderson film, that’s got observatories, designer shopping malls, and two enticing restaurants. But the real highlight? That’s got to be the broadside vision of the Matterhorn in the distance, sat like a wizard’s hat between ice fields and Zermatt.
Who says Switzerland is all about those cheeses and fondue? The stunning Swiss Alps is the real deal here. We carefully curated these best of the best Swiss Alps so that you’ll know exactly where to be the next time when you’re here for a sweet retreat. All you need to do is, pack your bag and travel away! Even if it’s a spontaneous trip, we got you covered. Learn how to score last-minute flights easily with these tips.