Written in October 2022
Switzerland is like “The Lord of the Rings”: each Canton has its own ring (that is, sovereignty), but then there’s a ring to rule them all (that is, the Federal Government). Although the film was actually shot in New Zealand, it seems that Middle Earth is actually here. Situated in the middle of Europe, it’s full of mountains and beautiful landscapes, with some old towns here and there.In a time when Europe was divided into different sovereign regions, which were regularly engulfed by ambitious Kingdoms trying to extend their territories, three states decided to join forces and establish a peaceful and prosperous land. Throughout the centuries, other states thought that was a good idea and join them. Thus, the three original Waldstätte turned into the Confoederatio Helvetica (the Old Swiss Confederacy), and finally, in 1848, the current Federal State of Switzerland was born. Watch here the evolution of the map of Switzerland over the years .
The Confoederatio Helvetica (CH) had ties with the Holy Roman Empire, therefore, it’s no surprise that German is the official language in most Cantons. However, in the Western Cantons, closer to the border with France, French is the official language. There are also Cantons in which both German and French are the official languages (located between the “French” Cantons and the “German” Cantons). All these “French-speaking” Cantons constitute the unofficial region of Romandy (watch here a video of Romandy landscapes ).. Vaud | Official language: French | Joined Switzerland in 1803
. Geneva | Official language: French | Joined Switzerland in 1815
. Neuchâtel | Official language: French | Joined Switzerland in 1815
. Jura | Official language: French | Joined Switzerland in 1979
. Berne/Bern | Official languages: French and German | Joined Switzerland in 1353
. Fribourg/Freiburg | Official languages: French and German | Joined Switzerland in 1481
. Valais/Wallis | Official languages: French and German | Joined Switzerland in 1815
Regardless of the language you speak (English is spoken everywhere, by the way), this mysterious country is perfect for a family adventure in the wilderness (well, a very civilised and safe wilderness). So, pretend you are part of the Fellowship of the Ring and explore Romandy in all its beauty. Will you find Gandalf?
Summer is hiking time in Switzerland and you have plenty of hiking trails to choose from , ready to receive enthusiastic families and explorers. They are classified according to the number of stages (national, regional, local) and difficulty (easy, medium, difficult). There are many possibilities to get to know the region. Frodo needed about six months to take the ring from the Shire to Mordor. How long will you take to explore this part of Middle Europe?
Here is a possible itinerary that you can follow partly or in as many stages as you want. It is designed for those who have a car, but you can check alternatives on the recommended websites.
Starting up in the north, at the border of France, Germany, and Switzerland, Basel is a medieval city crossed by the Rhine River and a perfect gateway into this country. About 60 km south, you can find an enchanted forest where you can go for a hike: Gorges de Perrefitte . This can be truly the beginning of your adventure. Remember Bree, the town where Frodo and his friends met with other friends? In this case, you can go to Courtelary and visit Camille Bloch’s chocolate factory , taking the guided tour and tasting wonderful chocolates. The factory is located in the heart of the Chasseral Nature Park , which has an amazing view above the clouds at 1607 metres.
In “The Lord of the Rings”, Frodo had to cross the region of Eregion, or Hollin, to get to the Misty Mountains. Here, the Misty Mountains can be the Bernese Alps, or Bernese Oberland, and, instead of going through Moria, you can go through the Lötschberg tunnel to pass to the other side of the Bernese Alps – just take the road south in Spiez. This tunnel is actually a train line, so cars are transported on the train, an one-of-a-kind experience. Once you are on the other side, you can go to the Grande Dixence Dam , where, besides a guided tour to the Dam, you can also enjoy a hiking through the Ibex Trail. Finally, instead of going to the woodland of Lothlórien (yes, it would be nice to see the Elves), you can go along the Leman Lake north shore, stopping at Lausanne and ending your trip in Geneva .
Switzerland is the land of skiing. It was here where the sport was born and the first resorts were open. Alpine skiing, sledging, cross-country skiing, snowshoe trekking… if it is related to snow, you can find an organised activity in this country. Therefore, you can find ski resorts and ski schools everywhere. However, in Romandy, the best place to ski is in the Bernese Alps, or Bernese Oberland, an extensive range of high mountains located in the Cantons of Vaud, Berne/Bern, and Valais/Wallis. Or the Misty Mountains, if you prefer. Unlike the Fellowship of the Ring, when they were caught by an avalanche at the top of the high mountains, you are perfectly safe in all of these ski resorts.
Let’s start our supposed tour in Berne/Bern, the capital of Switzerland, as a reference point. At about 85 km southeast until Spiez and then southwest you find Gstaad , a renowned and luxury winter sports centre, and further 20 km southwest you find Les Diablerets , a ski village at 1200 metres of altitude. Going around the Bernese Alps to the west, you can reach the “4 Valleys” a cluster of ski resorts, a little further south, which are: Bruson, Verbier, La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, and Thyon. Towards northeast, you can find the combined ski resort of Crans and Montana situated at 1500 metres of altitude. Further south, Zermatt is a ski resort famous due to the Matterhorn , the pyramid shaped mountain that inspired the Toblerone chocolates.
Heading north, on the other side of the Bernese Alps, you will find Grindelwald and Wengen , two ski resorts not very far from Lauterbrunnental. Nearby, you can visit the Piz Gloria , situated at 2970 metres of altitude and with the most jaw-dropping view of the high mountains around. This was one of the shooting locations of the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and you can find here many references to it. After eating a James Bond meal, you can go back to Bern, which is 75 km northwest.
Information about Switzerland:
Official name: Swiss Confederation
Official information about entering in Switzerland: https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/fdfa/entry-switzerland-residence/information-entry-switzerland-residence.html
Official Language: German, French, Italian
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF) – ₣
European Union: Not a member
Schengen Country? : Yes
Type of Government: Federal assembly-independent directorial republic with elements of a semi-direct democracy
Foreign embassies in Switzerland: https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/fdfa/representations-and-travel-advice/foreign-representations-in-switzerland.html
Emergency number: 112
Country Code: CH
International Phone Code: +41