There are few better European summer touring destinations that Switzerland. A landlocked European country that’s famous for its mountains, clocks, cheese, banks, Heidi and almost having Steve McQueen as a motorcycle tourist, it’s a regular haunt for many British bikers who flock to its gloriously smooth tarmac roads when the temperature rises and the winter snow thaws.
With over 60% of the country’s landmass taken up by the spectacular Alps and a culture that welcomes bikers, touring in Switzerland is the perfect adventure. But, if you’re planning a trip to this motorcycling mecca, what are the must-dos when you’re in the area?
To help you plan your next trip, we’ve put together ten things you need to see when you’re riding in Switzerland.
1. Spectacular campsites
Wild Camping is illegal in Switzerland so if you’re planning to spend nights under canvas while touring in Switzerland, you’ll have to make do with official campsites or practise the art of stealth camping – not that we’d recommend you do anything of the sort.
The official campsites tend to have beautiful views of the surrounding mountains though, so it’s worth packing a tent for at least one night under the stars.
The Verzasca Dam in the southern Canton of Ticino is the location for the opening action sequence in the James Bond movie Golden Eye, where the hero is seen jumping of the 220m-high dam walls into the narrow valley below.
It’s a spectacular sight in itself, but if you’re feeling particularly brave intrepid travellers can follow in Bond’s slipstream by throwing themselves off the world’s second-highest bungy jump down the face of the concrete wall (the highest bungy jump is in South Africa).
3. The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn is the most spectacular mountain in the world and probably the most identifiable, therefore, touring in Switzerland wouldn’t be complete without visiting it.
Triangular in shape, it was the inspiration for the Toblerone and can be viewed in all its pyramidal glory from the village of Zermatt in the Canton of Valais.
4. The Aletsch glacier
The Aletsch glacier is the largest ice mass in Europe and a stunning sight to see in the flesh.
Originating in the Bernese Oberland region the glacier has lost 200m of depth and two miles in length since the 1860s but still measures in at an impressive 14 miles long and covers an area of 45sq miles – large enough to cause its own wind – and the ice is estimated to be over half a mile deep at its thickest. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. The Eiger
The Eiger has one of the most fearsome reputations in the annuls of mountaineering history. The infamous North Face, or Nordwand has been nicknamed the ‘death wall’ having claimed the lives of 60 climbers.
Riding into the town of Grindelwald the sight of the 3000m-high wall is one of the most spectacular mountain vistas imaginable – an impressive sight to see when touring in Switzerland.
Photos don’t do the mountain’s steep and imposing face North Face justice, this is something you need to see for yourself.
6. The roads
The central Swiss Alps contains one of the most famous and enjoyable continuous sequences of motorcycle roads in the world, just head to the mountains and you’re bound to find a spectacular wiggling ribbon of tarmac.
A particular highlight is the triangular route which connects the Furka, Grimsel and Susten passes is truly magnificent for its scenic value and ridability. If you enjoy 360s, look no further.
The Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Canton of Bern is said to be the most beautiful in all of the Alps. While that’s a subjective view what can’t be denied is its status as the deepest when compared to the height of the mountains on either side.
But what really sets it apart are the huge, vertical limestone walls and numerous waterfalls that cascade down them. So precipitous are these monster cliff faces that the valley is the most popular BASE jumping site in Europe.
8. The Jungfraujoch
The Jungfraujoch is Europe’s highest railway station situated at 3,471m on a glaciated ridge between the Monch and Jungfrau mountains.
The train ride up to the station includes a 7.3km-long cog railway tunnel cutting through the Eiger (that imposing mountain that we mentioned earlier) with two stops inside the mountain where passengers can disembark and check out the viewing windows in the middle of the infamous north face – as featured in the Clint Eastwood film The Eiger Sanction.
The Parc Nasiunal Svizzer is the only national park in the country. It’s located in the far east of the country, butting up to the Italian border in the Canton of Graubunden.
The roads leading to the park, and those within the park are superb motorcycling territory including the Fluelapass and Ofenpass. And just across the border in Italy there’s the famous Stelvio Pass which, at 2757m, is the second highest paved mountain pass in the Alps.
10. The Engadin Valley
The Engadin Valley in the Canton of Graubunden is an absolute must-ride if only to see how the other half lives in St Moritz. The valley runs roughly north-to-south for 100kms from the Austrian border to the Italian border in the south.
Spectacular scenery throughout and the final run down to Italy is one of the top biking roads, as voted by the ABR office, so make sure to add it to your touring in Switzerland bucket list.