Known as the “shoulder season”, the months of the fall are some of the best to visit glorious Switzerland. If you love shimmering lakes, breathtaking mountains, forests, alpine meadows and elegant cities, then this is the destination for you. Pleasant temperatures, endless sunshine, traditional festivals and glorious hiking, here are 7 reasons why shoulder season is the best time to visit Switzerland.
1. THE WEATHER
World renowned as a premiere ski destination, you’d be forgiven for not knowing how warm and sunny the weather in Switzerland is during the rest of the year. And in September, the climate is very pleasant and enjoyable. Temperatures vary by altitude, and you can expect an averaging 67˚F (19˚C), up to 71˚F (21˚C) in the cities, just a few degrees cooler than in the summer.
In the high up towns of the Swiss Alps, expect cooler temperatures, off-set by the abundance of sunshine and clear skies. If you are thinking of when to travel to Switzerland, we highly recommend the fall. Do be prepared for rain showers though and keep a small umbrella with you.
2. THE COLORS OF THE LANDSCAPES
In a land that is legendary for its spectacular landscapes, it comes as no surprise that the changing colors in the fall are simply divine. The forests take on a hue of burnished red and gold and, above the tree line, you can admire an array of bright red blueberry bushes, set amongst long yellow grasses and boulders flecked with colorful lichen.
Often at this time of year the mountain tops are lightly dusted with snow, providing a magnificent backdrop and making this one of the best seasons in Switzerland for vistas and photography. A truly spectacular way to see the landscapes and colors is with an unforgettable train journey on the iconic Glacier Express. Travelling through the Swiss Alps from Zermatt to St Moritz, glass domed coaches enable you to melt into your surroundings and admire the colors whilst enjoying all the trappings of a luxury journey.
Do this on: Country Roads of Switzerland
Also read: 7 Fascinating facts about Switzerland’s world famous Glacier Express
3. THE CONDITIONS FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES ARE GREAT
The perfect destination for lovers of the great outdoors, the shoulder season is one of the best times to visit Switzerland if you love outdoor activities. From paddle boarding to cycling, sailing to hiking, this Alpine nation just can’t get enough of nature.
If you are keen to get out on the water, then Lake Maggiore on the Italian border is stunning at this time of year. With fewer visitors and pleasant temperatures, you can rent a craft and cruise the waters to your heart’s content. The area also has much to offer cyclists of all levels.
A great outdoor activity that is a must for nature lovers, travel with Insight and join a park ranger for a fascinating MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience on the summit of Mount Stanserhorn. Take a journey through the area’s rich flora and fauna and learn all about the conservation efforts in place to preserve this unique and vital ecosystem.
Do this on: Glorious Switzerland
4. THE RETURN OF THE COWS!
With the sounds of cow bells ringing out over the mountains “alpabzug” or “désalpe”, the return of the cows from their alpine pastures, is quite a sight. This centuries old tradition is celebrated across much of Switzerland between mid-September and mid-October, with cattle fairs, wine festivals and cheese festivals.
Happily grazing the alpine meadows in the summer months, fall sees the cows return to lower pastures ready for the snows of winter. Resulting in a long procession of colorful bovines, passing through the streets of the towns and villages that line the way. Farmers dressed in traditional costume lead their herds into the town squares. Here the cows are judged for their beauty, with a wreath of paper flowers tied to the horns of the winner. If you are thinking of when to visit Switzerland, then this is a great reason to come in the shoulder season.
Particularly impressive are the désalpe in Saint-Cergue, where around 700 cows, goats, donkeys and dogs walk with their shepherds through the village center. Also worth a watch is the Grimentz Eringer cow parade, where the distinctive Eringer cows that spend the summer grazing on Alp Moiry descend via Grimentz, a pretty traditional Valaisan village in the Val d’Anniviers.
5. IT'S THE TIME OF GRAPE HARVEST AND WINE FESTIVALS
Like its neighbors in Italy and France, Switzerland produces many fine wines. And the best way to delve among the vines, meet the vintners and discover your favorites is to visit during the Caves Ouvertes in the fall. This is when winemakers open their doors to visitors and offer tastings for a reduced fee.
Quite the traditional occasion, it is common to make the most of it and hop on a bike, hike or take a scenic train ride through wine country to visit as many as you can, staying overnight en route. An educational and fun way to explore the country, one glass at a time!
If you are not familiar with Swiss wines then we recommend the 2018 Heida Barrique from Valais’ St. Jodern Kellerei winery and the 2018 Gentil Premier Cru, from Domaine Les Hutins in Geneva. According to the Decanter World Wine Awards, these are two of the best wines in the country.
6. IT’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SWITZERLAND FOR HIKING
If it is hiking that you are looking for then the shoulder season is the best time to visit Switzerland. In the lower areas, temperatures have cooled down from the summer heat, the sun is still shining and the general absence of too many other travelers makes for a more peaceful experience. At this time of year there’s also less risk of having snow on the ground in higher climes, and the mountain passes are all open. Some peaks never lose snow and are white all year round, but you are unlikely to see fresh snowfall.
For beginners, the Zermatt area is a great place to start. Gentle hikes with views of the mighty Matterhorn all along the way is a magnificent way to see the Swiss Alps. Interlaken is also one of the best regions for hiking of all levels. Those looking for a challenge should try the Morgenberghorn Hike, a scenic trail with an incline of 1300m, taking you to an unforgettable panoramic viewpoint.
Mountain railways usually stay open until mid-October, and if you are heading to higher altitude then make sure you are dressed for much lower temperatures, especially in the evenings and at night. Zermatt, Interlaken, Lucerne and Zurich are all recommended areas for many great hiking options.
7. IT'S LESS CROWDED
After the busy summer, September is the start of the low season, as many visitors return to their homes and work. This means that popular sights and locations are much quieter, and you will have more time and personal space on hiking trails and at outdoor beauty spots. However, Switzerland off season is still up and running as a vibrant destination so although there are fewer people, you won’t ever be short of things to do and see.
If you are inspired to take a magical alpine vacation, consider the shoulder season as one of the best times to visit Switzerland. And, for a limited time, benefit from our September on Sale and save 10% on September 2022 departures.
This article was created created in partnership with Tourism Switzerland.