From The Straits Times    |

Photo: Andermatt

More than just the land of cheese, chocolates and fine watches, depending on where you’re headed, Switzerland serves as a gateway to other popular European destinations. Its immediate neighbours, Germany, France, Austria and Italy, are just a train ride or road trip away.

Of course, it is also home to breathtaking landscapes worthy of a Van Gogh painting. Switzerland’s snow-capped mountains and expansive vistas are, without a doubt, extremely popular with winter sports enthusiasts. Come summer – which falls from June to August – there are lush green alpine trails to explore, a major yodelling festival to check out, and even an all-women mountaineering event. These are just a few of the highlights.

A scenic transit

A view to behold from the Andermatt Swiss Alps Golf Course. Photo: Andermatt

If Switzerland’s not on your bucket list yet, it should be, simply because it’s located in the heart of central Europe. A train ride from Zurich to Milan takes about three hours and 20 minutes, with pit stops that you can plan along the way. Check out Lucerne, a mostly German-speaking city with a population of about 220,000. Known for its medieval architecture and a history that dates back to the 6th century, Lucerne is also an economics, transport, culture and media hub.

You’ll also want to make time for Andermatt, a mountain village that is about 1.5 hours from Zurich, and lies at an elevation of 1,437m above sea level. We recommend staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel Reussen, a contemporary resort hotel inspired by a traditional Swiss chalet. Nearby attractions include the adjoining SkiArena Andermatt-Sedrun, Gemsstock mountain, and the 18-hole Andermatt Swiss Alps Golf Course.

Have a Michelin spread at Chedi Andermatt’s acclaimed Japanese restaurant, at over 3,000m above sea level. Photo: The Chedi Andermatt

The Chedi Andermatt, a five-star luxury Swiss chalet designed by renowned Belgian architect-designer Jean-Michel Gathy, is a sleek, blonde wood structure with Zen-inspired accents.

Elevating the luxe factor is a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant lauded for its modern kaiseki-kappo menu and a sake selection that’s said to be the most extensive one in Switzerland, a 16-foot-tall wine-and-cheese cellar stocked with over 40 regional Swiss cheeses, as well as a private collection of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild wines. There’s also an 18-hole golf course available if you’d like to tee-off instead.

The hills are alive… with Jodlerfest

One uniquely Alpine activity is yodelling – once used as a form of communication by herders and the rural communities of the Alpine villages of central Switzerland, it has now become a widely celebrated cultural performance.

To witness this traditional form of vocal gymnastics in of all its falsetto glory, the annual Jodlerfest is a must for all visitors to Andermatt. Its 64th edition, held from 17 to 19 June this year, will see participants from all over Switzerland pit their vocal prowess against each other as competing individuals, duets or groups.

Peak empowerment at the 100% Women Peak Challenge

The 100% Women initiative aims to increase the visibility of women in mountain sports. Photo: Switzerland Tourism

Launched in 2021, the 100 % Women initiative, organised by Switzerland Tourism together with the several other partners, is an event that encourages female mountaineers from all over the world to scale all 48 of the country’s 4,000m peaks, from Breithorn (4,164m) to Dufourspitze (4,634m). This year, on 16 and 17 June, 80 women from 25 countries will climb the Allalinhorn, a mountain in the Pennine Alps with an elevation of 4,027m – the largest women’s rope team so far.

80 women from 25 countries will climb the Allalinhorn mountain this year. Photo: Switzerland Tourism

Participants are selected from an international pool of ambassadors and applicants – those from Southeast Asia include Cindy Sirinya Bishop, UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, Christine Amour-Levar, founder of Women on a Mission and HER Planet Earth, and Rosalia Gitau, who is CEO of financial management platform Bixie, a Philippines-based tech start-up.