Sandwiched between Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein, Switzerland often ranks on the top of sustainable living indexes, with high volumes of recycling, organic produce and incredibly clean air. And the country is on its way to become net-zero by 2050.
Switzerland even has its own philosophy about traveling green – “Swisstainable.” This ethos is all about relaxing in nature, experiencing authentic local culture, eating regional ingredients and staying longer and delving deeper.
Instead of a hectic vacation where you’re trying to visit five cities in a week, commit to one or two of Switzerland’s 26 cantons and discover Alpine life.
Best Times to Travel to Switzerland
While there’s no denying Switzerland’s incredible skiing and snowboarding season, which often runs from November to April, spring and summer are also incredible in the Alpine mountains.
Whether in Geneva, Zurich or Lausanne, you’ll find carpets of flowers, well-marked hiking and comfortable temperatures perfect for city exploring. Visiting in summer also means you’ll be steering clear of overtourism.
How to Get Around
You can’t go wrong traveling by rail in Switzerland. This small country is well connected in every direction with trains from across Europe and between every city and town with over 3,000 kms of tracks. It’s a reliable and cost-effective way to get around, with week and month passes for adults and families.
Switzerland offers some of the most incredible train journeys in the world, like heading up to St. Moritz in the winter on a glass-topped train.
All year-round, visitors can also make use of the country’s huge cable car network across the many mountain peaks. Don’t miss the double decker cable car at Alp Trida Sattel which takes you 2,550 meters above sea level where you can look out over France, Germany and Austria.
Despite being landlocked in the center of Europe, Switzerland is home to 1,500 lakes and 48 mountains over 4,000 meters high. With an abundance of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, trail running, skiing and snowboarding, Switzerland is a haven for adventurous and active visitors. It boasts some of the best trails and runs in Europe (65,000 kilometers of them!)
Switzerland is also home to 19 national parks, which make up over an eighth of all the country’s land, so being outside in nature is a national obsession. But there are other unique activities on offer as well.
You can stroll a treetop path in St. Gallen, take a stand-up paddleboard tour of Zurich, or walk and taste the terraced medieval vineyards at Lavaux. Visit the non-profit Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Arosa where rescued bears are looked after (and you arrive by cable car). Or learn alongside your kids about primeval forests at Switzerland’s first UNESCO biosphere park at Entlebuch, with sensory trails, wildlife spotting and other fun family activities.
In terms of the most sustainable cities, all of Switzerland’s cities are interwoven with interesting green spaces, from parks to forests, to meadows. Stroll the park-backed Ouchy promenade in Lausanne or bike safely around the car-free center of St. Gallen, then top off the afternoon with a lake swim.
Whether you want to stay in an Alpine lodge or a five-star hotel, Switzerland has sustainable options for every type of vacation.
At the edge of the atmospheric Arosa forest, the Valsana Hotel Arosa is a climate neutral option with wood fires and rustic wooden balconies. Switch off completely in a traditional Alpine hut; there are 200 across the mountain slopes.
Responsible travelers will also appreciate CERVO Mountain Resort nestled in the car-free town of Zermatt. Almost 95% of CERVO’s energy is covered by geothermal energy. Additionally, all CERVO’s products, from the kitchen to the rooms, are sourced locally or from sustainable companies.
Switzerland is also home to several famous wellness hotels which mix spas, sauna, stunning grounds and healthy food. The wellness destination of Leukerbad has been attracting people to its healing waters since the Roman era.
What to Eat
Thanks to Switzerland’s enormous variety of landscapes, lakes and rivers, the tiny country packs a punch when it comes to gastronomy, with a huge emphasis on seasonal, local and organic food.
Over 16% of farmland here is organically managed. In the autumn, morels and mushrooms take center stage, while in winter it’s got to be fondue and raclette cheese.
Head to the medieval town of Gruyere to see how the famous cheese is made, tour Basel for the best street food or order the national dish, oozy-melty, potato-based tartiflette.
Author Bio: AAA’s sustainable travel series is written in partnership with Kind Traveler, a women-and-veteran-owned sustainable travel platform empowering travelers to make a positive impact in local communities, and contributing writer, Georgina Wilson-Powell.