"I left Switzerland, and all I can think about is getting back there," says Sean. "It’s a postcard, you just can’t beat the Swiss landscape. A sunrise at the Matterhorn is spectacular — there’s a reason it’s the most photographed mountain in the world. And then a sunset on the Schilthorn is incredible, just surrounded by those huge mountains."
We caught up with Sean to chat alpine cows, James Bond mountain huts and how to keep your Swiss adventuring clean, green and epic.
Here are his tips:
There's perhaps no activity with less of a carbon footprint than hiking. And according to Sean, the trails through Switzerland's Alps are competing for the best in the world. Himalaya, who?
"The Swiss love their hiking and they’ve got trails to suit all different levels. But nothing beats starting your hike from the top of one of the gondola rides," he says. "You’re already so high up, my knees were shaking some of the time…but the landscapes are just surreal."
Between Engleberg and Melch-see Frutt, this trail is stupidly perfect. Imagine postcard-worthy views of snow-capped peaks and cerulean skies, then times it by a billion.
Almost 100 metres high and 500 metres long, this doozy of a pedestrian crossing (just outside of the village of Randa) is the longest suspension bridge in the Alps. People with vertigo, beware!
The Swiss have taken their public transport engineering to the next level. Not to mention almost 100% of the routes are electric. So if you want to swap that road trip for a guilt-free rail trip, Switzerland is the place to do it.
"The trains are just spectacular. Some of them are world-heritage listed and so, so beautiful. You can literally jump on anywhere, jump off for photos, catch them to the top of mountains," says Sean. "The gondolas cross glaciers, go tip to tip — they’re peaceful but epic. We could even see ibex from our view out the window."
See the Matterhorn in all its glacial journey from a super high vantage point on the world's slowest, but seriously steezy, express train through the Alps.
The Brunni-Bahnen Engelberg is a climate-neutral cable car that uses solar panels to produce enough electricity to not only function but also churn out Co2-free snow for the pistes. Yew!
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Less of a mountain goat and more of a mermaid? Don’t stress about Switzerland being all kinds of landlocked, it's basically one big moated bastion with over 1500 lakes and a whole bunch of rivers, from the Rhine to the Rhone. Not to mention the nation is so freaking clean that you can swim, quite literally, in the middle of its cities.
"Jumping into those glacial lakes, especially after hiking, is the perfect reset," says Sean. "They’re in spectacular locations, and we’d almost always have the lakes to ourselves. It would be 25 degrees outside but the crystal clear water is freezing, like actual icebergs floating in them. But a dip is exhilarating, refreshing and spectacular all in one."
Once known as the 'Evil Road' this wild gorge has gone through a successful reputation transformation and now is a must-explore spot for canyoners and aqua aficionados.
There are lakes as far as the eye can see here, but it wouldn't be a trip to Switzerland without a dip in a freezing, glacial lake.
The rule for eating in Switzerland? The more regional, the more seasonal, the better (and delicious, FYI). And luckily, fresh produce isn't hard to find. In fact, in 2020 the Swiss took out the gold medal for the highest consumption of organic goodies per capita IN THE WORLD. So, like, the food is good.
"The cows are such an important part of Swiss culture, especially the Alps cows. In the summer they're high up in the mountains and then they're brought down to their barns in the winter," says Sean. "I went out to this small village famous for making special cheese fondue from these alps cows — it was so authentic, and just a really lovely traditional food experience."
High above Lake Uri, this mountain hut has taken the local cuisine and made it extra gourmet. Expect fresh mountain herbs, and lots of them.
Stefan Weissner already has one Michelin star but he's not stopping there. All the ingredients here are locally-sourced and foraged. First up? Snow-smoked soup.
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Mountain huts, eco-friendly hostels, the former retreat of an Austrian Empress. You can't say the Swiss don't deliver when it comes to sweet places for travellers to rest their weary heads.
"There are these incredible mountain huts, one was even a James Bond location, and they're usually balanced on some amazing peak. They're pretty spectacular," says Sean. "Zermatt is also a nice, eco-friendly town. There's no cars there, everyone is walking or catching trains and cable cars, the whole vibe is busy, but beautiful with the Matterhorn looking down on you."
Fresh mountain air, beers on tap, gourmet meals. Waking up in an alpine hut before a day of hiking the Swiss Alps is a bucket-list experience.
Stay in this castle (formerly the playground of an Austrian Empress) and enjoy a completely natural experience, from your bed linen to the homegrown produce in the kitchen garden.
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Legislation passed 125 years ago decreed that nearly a third of Switzerland’s surface area had to be maintained as forests and woodlands. Talk about being ahead of the game.
Words Tayla Gentle
Photos Sean Scott