Scenic landscapes in fifty shades of green, punctuated with pretty little villages and plenty of contented cows—Switzerland conjures up such an idyllic picture. Over multiple trips, I have had the chance to experience it all, from vibrant cities and charming towns to alpine glaciers and glittering lakes. Even Bollywood celebrities make no secret of their Swiss love affair: Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan are known to holiday often in Gstaad.
Actor Anushka Sharma and cricketer Virat Kohli were also in Gstaad to bring in the New Year a few years ago. They were joined by actor Varun Dhawan and Natasha Dalal.
While Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas took a skiing trip to Switzerland soon after their wedding.
Now that Switzerland is open for fully vaccinated Indian travellers (without RT-PCR tests or quarantine requirements), it’s time to start planning your winter holiday — whether it’s a wellness break or a skiing adventure, we’ve got you covered.
1. St Moritz
St Moritz in the Upper Engadin was the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism and offers 350 km of ski pistes, including the Corviglia, Switzerland’s steepest start slope. You can also try cross-country skiing, winter hiking, and even tobogganing — the 4.2 km toboggan run at Muottas Muragl is especially exciting and picturesque. Since that was a bit too adventurous for me, I opted for an invigorating lakeside yoga session by Lej da Staz. St Moritz is also known for its healing mineral springs and has several spa hotels you can relax at — I loved the alpine spa experience at Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski.
Where to stay: Located next to Lake St Moritz, the historic Badrutt’s Palace Hotel is a celeb-favourite with a two Michelin-starred restaurant and a stunning wellness spa.
Known as a curative resort town since Roman times, Baden has always been a big draw for spa enthusiasts. Its 18 sulphurous thermal springs bubble at a salubrious 47°C and have the highest concentration of minerals in Switzerland. Explore its spa quarter where you will find a range of public thermal baths as well as private baths in numerous hotels. A new publicly accessible thermal bath complex designed by well-known architect Mario Botta is all set to become a hot favourite with the spa crowd.
Where to stay: Limmathof Baden Hotel’s Novum Spa offers private spa suites as well as a thermal water pool with massage pumps and a whirlpool lounger.
Skiing and snowboarding fans from all over the world come to Davos for its sheer variety of winter sports — 300 km of ski slopes, 100 km of cross-country ski tracks, over 150 km snowshoe and winter hiking trails, two artificial ice rinks with ice hockey, ice skating, and much more. The Davos Klosters winter guest programme is worth checking out as it offers several highly discounted and exclusive activities led by local guides such as snow shoe tours, night-time winter hikes, igloo building, and more.
Where to stay: A traditional Alpine hotel, Precise Tale Seehof Davos comes with its own artificial ice rink and the Parsenn funicular railway next door from where you can easily reach several ski regions nearby.
I still remember my first glimpse of the Matterhorn as the Glacier Express chugged towards the picture postcard-perfect town of Zermatt. Its ski region offers 360 km of pistes in three varied ski areas—the Sunnegga-Rothorn, Gornergrat-Stockhorn, and Schwarzsee-Matterhorn—forming a glacier paradise. The last one is home to Europe’s longest piste, running all the way from Klein Matterhorn down to Zermatt accompanied by incomparable views. I would also recommend hopping on the Gornergrat Bahn (Europe’s highest open-air cogwheel railway) that takes you to the summit of Gornergrat for the best views of Matterhorn.
Where to stay: Located in the heart of Zermatt, a boutique hotel, Mont Cervin Palace, has been offering a warm Alpine welcome since 1852 and boasts of a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Nestled between the picturesque lakes Thun and Brienz, Interlaken is surrounded by the mighty trinity of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. For a stunning bird’s-eye view, I suggest taking a train up to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station. Also, try paragliding in the Bernese Oberland — it is one of my most memorable Swiss experiences. After an active day, just relax in a sauna with a view of the snow-capped mountains in one of the many wellness resorts in the area. Alternatively, rent a wood-heated hotpot on Lake Brienz quayside (open between December and March) for a toasty bath — you can even have cheese fondue delivered right to your hotpot!
Where to stay: Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa has a 5,500-square-metre spa with a large indoor swimming pool, outdoor brine baths, whirlpools, and a sauna complex.
6. Bad Ragaz
Bad Ragaz, in the St. Gallen Rhine Valley in eastern Switzerland, is a spa town dating back to the Middle Ages, when pilgrims journeying to the nearby Abbey of Pfäfers, would bathe in the thermal waters of the town. At a warm 37°C, the healing waters bubble up from inside a mountain in the Tamina Gorge and are piped down into Ragaz where you can soak in them at one of the many luxury hotels in town. The publicly accessible wellness complex of Tamina Therme is also a good place to spend a relaxing spa day.
Where to stay: The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz has multiple thermal baths ranging from the 19th-century historic Helena Bath to the new Family Spa that will delight adults and children alike.