Switzerland’s soaring mountains are a sight to behold and an experience of a lifetime. Here are 10 ways to fullfill your Swiss Alps bucket list.
1-Ski touring to a mountain cabin
A mountain cabin open in the depths of winter is a rare find, and this one is an oasis in a sea of four thousand meter mountains.
Coming across the 3000m high cabin as I approach the end of the exhilarating, physical ski touring day is a real delight.
From this height, the tallest alpine peaks spread out around me for miles and miles, making me literally feel on top of the world. And to top it all off, this secret gem is only visited by locals in the know, so I know I have truly escaped the tourist crowds.
2-An evening out in Zermatt with friends
Forget the front door, the best way to make an entrance to dinner is in a glass lift through the mountains. And that’s just how to reach my favourite atmospheric former hunting lodge.
The walls here are lined with hunting trophies and the menu doubles up as a traveller’s journal for visitors, which adds a good dose of history and charm to the slick design.
You can choose from small, regular or family-sized meals: I like to taste a couple of small ones, but it’s also perfect for a group of friends, however large their appetites.
3-Snowshoe or ski touring to a monastery on the Swiss/Italian border
There’s something special about crossing gate-free international borders on the top of a snowy mountain. Having said that, on this enchanting trip I need my passport just in case I do bump into officials on ski patrol.
The remote St Bernard mountain pass sits between Switzerland and Italy, and on it lies a monastery built hundreds of years ago. This mountain pass was an important trading post on what was the only road between northern and southern Europe for centuries.
Monks have guarded the pass since the 10th century. The monks live in a hospice at the top, where in winter, the only way to leave is by ski or snowshoe.
The hospice is also famous for the dog breed, St Bernard, bred by the monks for protection and as rescue dogs.
I love the greeting I get from the monks when I reach the entrance, as they offer me a special tea and a tour of the church and the monastery.
4-Dine with Napoleon
Close to the monastery sits one of my favourite restaurants in the Alps region. Entering its cosy chalet-style interior feels more like joining friends for lunch than dining in a restaurant.
The host, a lively Napoleon look-a-like, always welcomes me warmly, saving his best table for my group and proposing his latest speciality and favourite wine.
No matter what time we come down from the border he’s ready to receive us, as he understands the weather and how it can be changeable in this area.
It’s a family-run restaurant with over 100 years of history. The recipes that have been passed down through the family are mouth-watering.
My favourite dishes are the Vallee d’Aosta jambon spiced with mountain herbs, and Lard d’Arnad, which is conserved using an ancient method dating back to 1763 AD.
During its three-month seasoning time it develops a melt-in-the-mouth texture. Just delicious. The meal always ends with a selection of unforgettable local cheeses: a weakness of mine which I can never resist.
5-A night of Alpine history
Owned by the nephew of Abele Blanc, who has summited every 8000-metre peak in the world, my favourite Italian bolthole has a Junior Suite filled with mountain climbing equipment such as ice axes, and photographs from treacherous days at altitude.
Telling many fascinating tales, this room exudes jaw-dropping history and action.
An aperitif is a must, especially when the owner is around to tell his mountain stories, surrounded by traditional alpine stone and timber architecture.
6-A Tuscan experience in the Alps
For a taste of Tuscany in the Alps, I head to a charming spa hotel with mountain views and all the gastronomic flair you’d expect from a Tuscan property.
The home made cakes and pastries which they serve at breakfast and tea blow me away every time, and it’s vineyard setting and old-world feel are absolutely charming.
Waking up in a fairytale four poster bed to mountain views and complete peace and quiet is my idea of a well-deserved moment of rest.
7-A frozen adventure: ice climbing in Italy
For the ultimate day of adrenalin, I grab my ice axes, wrap up in cold gear and head out to the Italian Alps for an exhilarating lesson climbing remote ice faces.
First I hike the icy wilderness for 30 minutes with my guide before reaching a stunning frozen waterfall: my challenge for the day.
Only accessible to those who know the area well, this rare sight is a gushing flow of glacial water in the summer, and a scenic yet testing climbing surface when it gets cold. A real highlight of my winter.
8-An evening in a tree house
For an enchanting romantic getaway I like to delve into the snow-covered forest and escape the world for the night.
The most indulgent way is to transfer via helicopter to a secluded tree house and take a dip in the Swedish hot tub that has been heated up from the fire below during the day.
With a waiter on hand serving aperitifs while we soothe aching muscles in the bubbling water, the irresistible scent of a hearty meal wafts up from the kitchen.
Our delicious dinner comes next before the staff leave us and we follow a candle-lit trail illuminating the way to the private tree house bedroom, via a wooden walkway.
9-My favourite hike in the Swiss Alps
This hike is probably the most scenic hike in the whole Valais region and my favourite summer path. It starts along a bisse, an ancient waterway carved out of the mountain, giving a feel for the history of the area.
Built in the 15th century to bring water across the mountain for irrigation, the paths that run along the bisses now offer magical hiking routes.
Soon we reach a waterfall which runs wild and fast in the summer months. I love the feel of the light spray on my face as I climb past on the edge of a charming low forest of birch and pine.
At the top of the waterfall is a spectacular plateau and pasture covered in wildflowers, shadowed by the dramatic peaks above.
Next, we continue along a ridge accompanied by the eagles inhabiting this little patch of paradise.
Soon I find a mountain refuge which has been a haven for Alpine travellers for centuries, and for me, it serves as the perfect lunch stop.
This rustic and remote cabin sits on a natural balcony with yet more life-affirming views. Perched here at 3000 meters I quietly sit and watch the light play amongst the twenty 4000 meter high mountains stretched out ahead, which include the Bishorn, the Weisshorn, Obergablehorn, Dent blanche, Pigned’Arolla and the mighty Mont Blanc.
When I eventually tear myself away, the descent home is short, through cow pastures and grassy trails.
10-Unwinding in the Roman baths
After a long winter season when my muscles have been used to their limit, I always spend a day or two unwinding in the hot waters, whirlpools, saunas and Turkish baths which you can find in a particular village deep the Italian Alps.
Frequented since Roman times, I can see why their therapeutic waters are still popular.
Afterwards, I head out for an aperitif in a local bar, where the furnishings are a testimony to five centuries of architecture and beauty.
The 18th-century coats of arms carved during the French revolution proudly sits above the 15th-century fireplace: just one of the many historic reminders of this charming cobblestoned village.
Danielle Stynes is a ski and snowboard instructor and an Alpine expert specialising in organising tailor-made mountain adventures. Her company, Swisskisafari designs unique itineraries in the Swiss Alps.