We know because we’ve been: “Out There” is a series of inspiring travel spotlights from AAA Travel advisors and employees.
Simply everything is unforgettable in Switzerland. The melange of French, German, Italian and Austrian cultures, the legendary Gruyere cheese and raclette, mountains taller than the clouds and charming villages make this European nation – much like its revered cheese fondue – a melting pot of character.
Rachel Jordan, associate marketing specialist for Club Adventures, visited this legendary destination and shared her story with us.
By Rachel Jordan
Do you ever have those surreal moments in life where time seems to freeze, and you just soak up every ounce of your surroundings? After a nearly two-year hiatus on all travel, I found myself in one of those moments, sipping a delicious local Riesling, bobbing my head to “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas, and watching an elaborate air performance of paragliders welcoming people back to Switzerland.
Back in October of 2021, I hopped over the pond to attend Switzerland Travel Mart, an extravagant gathering and celebration of the travel industry showcasing everything that Switzerland has to offer from high-speed adrenaline-pumping activities in Interlaken to watch making and fondue eating in Gruyere.
And while I could easily write a book on my trip, I’m going to cut it down a bit and highlight my top five experiences from both the conference and my post-convention trip to Zermatt.
Jungfraujoch (Top of Europe)
Seeing the Swiss Alps on a sunny day makes you feel like a kid on Christmas. The snow is sparkling, everyone is smiling and taking photos and it’s one of the most breathtaking views in the world. While sipping hot chocolate at the top of Europe (literally) was an amazing experience, it was what followed that made the day truly spectacular. Not only did my travel group get to explore glacial tunnels and try our hand at curling, but I ended up in the VIP gondola on the ride back down the mountain, where we celebrated the gorgeous views with a bottle of champagne.
Five Lakes Hike – Zermatt
Definitely a trek, but worth every step. I love hiking, especially when there is a great view involved, and with panoramic views of the Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn at every turn, you can’t get much better than the Five Lakes Hike. At a mere 45 degrees, the hike was extremely comfortable as we trekked up the terrain for a few views of the Matterhorn’s reflection on glacial lakes.
The hike down offered stunning views of Swiss fall foliage, but the highlight for me was our lunch stop at Chez Vrony, a quaint, yet shockingly full, mountainside restaurant with by far the best view around. The food was traditional and delicious and the rest was much needed for our continued hike back to town.
Switzerland knows how to do luxury. In both Interlaken and Zermatt the accommodations were comfortable and beautiful with amazing views. In Interlaken, I stayed at the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa on the more historic side of the hotel and my room was better than I ever could’ve imagined. Just a short walk from the train station, it’s positioned right on the main road across from where all the paragliders land and offers mouth-watering breakfasts each day. I honestly wished I would never leave.
In Zermatt, I stayed in the Schweizerhof Hotel which has a more modern flair than the Victoria-Jungfrau. After a tasteful renovation, the hotel has a semi-traditional, yet very stylish interior and the exterior features balconies with a classic Swiss facade of dark wood paneling and a plethora of colorful flower boxes. I lucked out yet again and had a corner balcony facing the Matterhorn that offered beautiful sunset scenery. The meals here were also spectacular (my favorite being the Matterhorn-shaped mousse we had for dessert), but the best part was the spa on site. Soaking in a hot tub and visiting a sauna after the Five Lakes Hike was pure bliss.
I have dreamed of seeing the Matterhorn most of my life and catching the first glimpse of the mountain on the Gornergrat cogway railway is something I’ll never forget. The train is charming and relaxing as it makes its way past several smaller stops on the way to the top, offering stunning views at every turn of a corner. However, the views from the top at the Gornergrat station can’t be beat. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic lunch and enjoy your surroundings.
Dinner(s) and a show
There’s a reason that Switzerland Travel Mart only happens once every two years – they pull out all the tricks to win over their visitors (it worked). On the final night of the convention, Switzerland Tourism threw a grand event at the Victoria Jungfrau that I’m sure would rival any royal ball, featuring perfectly crafted hors d’oeuvres, lines of canapés, decorative desserts and a performance by a Swiss pop star to finish off the night!
A trip to Switzerland is a must-do at least once in your life, and I am so thankful to work in an industry that allows me to experience other cultures and parts of the world in order to share these moments.
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