Nothing beats being outside in the fresh air, and what better a place than the heart of the Swiss Alps. Switzerland is known for having some of the cleanest air in the world. Apparently, you can even buy some Swiss air in a can.
Switzerland is a country in the heart of central Europe surrounded by beautiful lakes, pretty villages, towns and the high peaks of the Alps, including the Matterhorn.
I love camping and being outdoors. It’s the simple things like being under the stars in the evening while having a drink and chatting with friends and being so close to nature with the peace and tranquility it brings.
My friends and I were looking to do something spontaneous and a little different than the usual mini break, so we booked a campsite in Switzerland for a 5 day break. We booked a ferry to France on Friday and by Sunday our cars were loaded with tents, camping gear and sat navs ready for our adventure.
Upon arriving in Calais we embarked on our 9-hour drive into Switzerland. As we headed southeast into the French alps the rain came down so heavily we could hardly see where we were going, it really tested our driving skills, none of us had driven outside the uk before, never mind mountain roads. The signs were not looking good for camping either. But as we came over the border into Switzerland the rain just seemed to stop and clear, leaving us with a stunning backdrop in the heart of the Alps.
Arriving at our campsite, The Camping Bois Du Couvent, just before lunchtime, we checked in, shattered from all the driving but the excitement and views around us soon made us forget about feeling tired.
We paid just under 8 CHF (Swiss Franc) or €7.5 each for the night. This is a basic pitch with no electricity, although electricity can be purchased for an extra 4 CHF. This was perfect for us, all we needed was somewhere to get our heads down at night. The campsite had all the usual facilities you would expect like running hot and cold water, showers, electricity and a little shop selling fresh bread every morning and other basic essentials.
We pitched our tents up and went out for a walk to check out the local village and find something to eat. There wasn’t a great deal to do in this area but admire the stunning views. We booked the campsite without really doing much research about the area so if you’re looking for something a bit more lively maybe check out Jungfrau Holiday Park, This has a pool, outdoor activities and is family-friendly. Excellent for summer or winter it all depends on what you have come to Switzerland for. The Jungfrau holiday park is also in a great location to access the picturesque towns of Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken.
Staying close to the campsite seemed like the best way to spend our first day so we could get used to our surroundings and meet some of the fellow campers and recover a little from the long drive. So we brought some beers, kicked back and sat around the tent chatting about life and making some plans for the week. Before we knew it, it was late so we decided to get some well-needed sleep.
When I woke up the next morning and looked outside the tent I was greeted with the beautiful sight of the sun coming over over the misty mountains. I made myself a coffee using the camping stove and sat there with my thoughts, realising how much I love life. I always seem to be the first of the group to wake up so it was incredibly peaceful.
On our first full day here we decided to check out the picturesque village of Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is a small but extremely beautiful village in the central part of the country. Although small it does become very busy with tourists, and once you get here you can see why it draws the crowd. The village was a 2-hour drive from the campsite. One of the reasons this village attracts so many people is the fact it has more than 70 waterfalls with breathtaking views. There is a gift shop here but not a great deal else in terms of shops or restaurants. We packed our own lunch as we planned to spend the day walking.
This place is absolutely breathtaking if you haven’t already been here then put it on your list. My brother is a keen amateur photographer and he could have spent weeks here taking pictures.
The only problem with spending the day walking is I had drawn the short straw and had to drive back to camp. We arrived back after dark so after a quick shower it was time for bed.
The town of Interlaken was our next stop. It’s a town situated between lakes Thun and Brienz. It’s also a town known for being the adventure capital of Switzerland due to the adrenaline activities on offer here, such as canoeing, river rafting, and skydiving, so if you are an adrenaline junkie be sure to visit this town. It’s not the biggest town and you can probably cover it on foot in an hour or so.
There is plenty to do here like walks and boat tours so even if you’re not an adrenaline junkie you will find plenty to do here, day or night.
I recommend taking the cable car up to Harder Kulm for spectacular views over the town of Interlaken and lake Thun and lake Brienz. It’s the best view of Interlaken and with an altitude of 1,322m above sea level.
I am a lover of the city break, but this wasn’t planned to be a city break, but I did manage to convince everyone while we are here we need to visit Geneva. Although we were all tired from all the walking the previous two days we again looked forward to checking out the city. The city of Geneva lies just south of Lake Geneva and is surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains. It’s also a global banking hub. The city has a very slick feel to it, with a ton of luxury hotels and boutiques, and a chocolate lovers dream with its chocolatiers.
The world’s tallest water fountain The Jet d’Eau is Geneva’s most famous monument.
The journey from our base into Geneva was just under 2 hours but the scenery and landscape along the way were stunning.
We made the wrong decision of driving into the city center and The confusion of driving on the other side of the road, and the busy traffic left me feeling a little stressed. If you are not confident in driving on the continent I would always advise public transport in and around the busy towns and cities, it just takes away all the hassle of the one way streets, street signs and parking.
If you stay in a hotel in the city you will be given a Geneva transport card that will give you free public transport in the city, saving you some money.
Most of the day we spent walking around the city. You can take the walking tour but we decided to make our own way around. We had a walk around the old town which is very beautiful, it’s about 25 meters higher up than the lake. There are many picturesque little cafes and restaurants around here as well as museums and galleries. St Peter’s cathedral also stands tall in the old town, its Geneva’s main church and over 850 years old.
There are more than 30 museums in Geneva but unfortunately due to our limited time, we didn’t have time to visit any.
Geneva is a great city to visit, It can be used as a great base for your trip to, if you are looking to go skiing, or whether it may be hiking, biking, getting out on the lakes, there is something here for you.
I would love to have had more time here, but I will be returning one day with my family for sure.
One of the fellow campers had mentioned to us about the Lotschberg car train. This is a train that allows you to drive your car on and chill out in your car while the train takes you through the mountain. This sounded like a great way to experience something different, it’s not every day you get to ride through the Alps. It’s a surprisingly comfortable ride that takes about 15 minutes.
Taking this train is the quickest way to get from the Swiss midlands to the Valais region which is home to the famous Matterhorn, one of the alps most recognized peaks. So if you plan to visit the Matterhorn and you’re staying up in the central areas, be sure to take this train down.
The train runs every 30 minutes and 365 days a year.
The trains travel from Kandersteg in Canton Bern to Goppenstein in Canton Valais.
Just make sure if you’re coming back the same day give yourself plenty of time to get back to the station. The last train runs at 23.50, and we nearly missed it, meaning we would have spent the night in the car.
Once we came out on the other side we decided to drive to Bern, the capital of Switzerland.
Unlike many of Europe’s other capital city’s Bern tends to be a little less spoken of when talking about city breaks.
But according to an article in the Independent, Bern is one of the best cities in the world to live in.
We were a bit disappointed we didn’t do our research before we came, and we only had a few hours so we were unable to see many of the sites and really experience the city.
Unfortunately, it was time to pack up and go home. Our few days have gone so quick but we had done a lot during our few days here. Our drive back to Calais wasn’t quite as exciting as our journey here, but we were chatting about planning our next road trip.
This was the first time I had driven on the continent, so I have made a list that may help you if it’s your first time driving in Europe.
– Make sure your car insurance covers you for foreign travel
-Keep change in the car for the Tolls
-Drive on the right
-Reflective jackets ( 1 per passenger must be kept in the car)
-You must have a warning triangle
-First aid kit is compulsory in some European countries
There is a full checklist of items you will need here