7 Natural Wonders of Switzerland
While Switzerland may be famous for producing the world’s best cheese, watches, pocket knives, and chocolate, perhaps the largest attraction to the European nation of Switzerland is its awe-inspiring natural beauty. In no particular order of importance, the following is a compiled list of the top Seven Natural Wonders that stand out as the best of the best in Switzerland.
As part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn UNESCO World Heritage Site, Oeschinensee is a horseshoe-shaped tiny lake situated in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland. While the lake may be small at just over 1 square kilometer, it has been perfectly formed by Mother Nature and ideally positioned above Kandersteg at an elevation of 1,578 meters. The shimmering turquoise waters of Oeschinensee also enable a mirror reflection of the peaks along its coast, towering more than 3,000 meters into the clouds. From Kandersteg, visitors can take the trek up to the lake by a gondola lift to catch some picture perfect views from every angle.
2. Rhine Falls
Formed by the last ice age more than 14,000 years ago, the Rhine Falls are located on the Upper Rhine between Neuhausen am Rheinfall and Laufen-Uhwiesen. Not only are the falls the largest in Switzerland, they are also the largest plain waterfall on the European continent at 150 meters wide and 23 meters high. In the summer peak season, Rhine Falls pushes more than 700,000 liters of water over the edge each second! Visitors are welcome to stand on a platform feeling the spray of the roaring water or join a boating voyage to the island in the heart of the falls to feel the ultimate power of Rhine Falls.
3. Aletsch Glacier
In the eastern Bernese Alps in the Swiss canton of Valais lies the world-famous Aletsch glacier, a spectacular remnant of the last Ice Age that slowly carved out the Alps. With a length of 23 kilometers and a width of more than 120 square kilometers, the Great Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacier in the Alps and all of Europe. In fact, scientists have declared that this single glacier is comprised of 27 billion tons of frozen ice. The only way to catch an up-close view of the Aletsch Glacier is by cable car, overlooking the popular Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn.
Straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy, the Matterhorn stands proudly as the tallest mountain in the Alps at 4,478 meters. With its unique pyramidal shape, the mountain has four faces that face the four main compass points. Since the faces are so steep, visitors can notice the glaciers that have formed at the base of each peak, including the Zmutt Glacier on the west side. Not only does the Matterhorn stand out for its tremendous size, it is completely isolated from other neighboring mountains and appears majestic with its signature crooked peak. The glorious Matterhorn can be visited from the Swiss side in Zermatt or the Italian side in Breuil-Cervinia.
5. Lauterbrunnen Valley
Nestled between enormous rock faces and towering mountain peaks, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is considered the best impressive glacial valley in the Alps. While it is barely one kilometer wide, it is over 3 kilometers deep with its distinctive U-shaped cliffs and wide flat valley bottom. Lauterbrunnen Valley is home to 72 thundering waterfalls, including the popular Staubbach Falls, which is the highest free-falling waterfall in Europe plunging to almost 300 meters from an overhanging mountain. Visitors staying in the charming mountain inns within Lauterbrunnen can take in the peaceful, secluded valleys and the colorful alpine meadows in the largest nature conservation area in all of Switzerland.
Perhaps the notorious mountain in Europe, Eiger undoubtedly overshadows its taller neighbors of Monch and Jungfrau for its impressively severe North Face. As the ultimate challenge for the greatest mountain climbers from all over the world, the Eiger is more technical than the Matterhorn and considered the best Oberland ridge to climb. While many of the most advanced climbers have tried to reach the 3,970 meter summit, only a handful have reached the goal and many have lost their lives. As a result, the North Face has become known as the Mordwand, or Death Wall.
7. Lake Lucerne
Although Switzerland is home to more than 1,500 lakes within its borders, Lake Lucerne offers some of the most picturesque views of the surrounding Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus. Locally referred to as Vierwaldstättersee, it is an extremely popular destination for both native Swiss and tourists who want to explore the complex bends and arms of the lake by boat or paddle-steamer. From the water, visitors can take in the breathtaking background of jagged peaks and a three-dimensional vista of the steep cliffs dipping down into the sparkling blue waters. It is believed that the sublime beauty of the moonlight shining over the magical Lake Lucerne is what inspired the name of Beethoven’s most famous piece, “Moonlight Sonata.”
Written by: James Stafford