Switzerland offers a vast landscape of mountains, lakes, rivers, farmlands, glaciers, valleys, waterfalls, and historic culture.
Mount Mø¤nnlichen Retreat © www.passengerdiaries.com
With four official languages (German/French/Italian & Romansh), Switzerland is one of the most multilingual countries in Europe. The Swiss have always maintained and nurtured their local customs and because of this, it is a country with an enormous wealth of cultural activity and living tradition.
Switzerland offers something for everyone. From winter sports to summer hiking, cycling and adventure sports such as paragliding and river rafting. Switzerland is also famous for its food, from chocolate to cheese, to top quality beef, dried for 15 weeks in the fresh alpine air, and world famous meringues and whipped cream in the Gruyere region.
But above all, Switzerland offers a vast landscape of mountains, lakes, rivers, farmlands, glaciers and valleys. It is a country of nature and exquisite scenery; a photographer’s paradise.
Magnificient Horizons © www.passengerdiaries.com
Where is it?
Switzerland is a small country situated in the heart of Europe, bordering Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy and France.
The best ways to get there and get around
Switzerland’s central location in Europe makes it easy to reach. Zø¼rich and Geneva are the main international airports and connect to major airports around the globe.
You can get pretty much anywhere in Switzerland using the public transport system. The Swiss have their public transport system down to a science. All major European rail hubs are linked to Switzerland which makes for seamless connections. The trains are on time down to the second and you can get across the whole country with just one ticket that works for multiple kinds of transport, including the postbuses which take you to the most spectacular and remote regions in the Alps and boats which offer another pleasant and relaxing way to discover Switzerland.
Renting a car is another option; it’s an easy and enjoyable way to get around. Road signs are very clear and Alpine passes are easy to drive with many lookouts where you can stop, enjoy and photograph the magnificent scenery.
Lucerne and Surrounds © www.passengerdiaries.com
When to visit?
Switzerland has 4 seasons. Colourful wildflowers bloom in springtime (March-May) and in summer (June-August), Alpine blossoms make their appearance, soaking up the warmth of the sun. Switzerland is famous for its autumn hues (September-November) when the landscape is coloured in red and yellow which makes for amazing photography. During winter (December-February) white snow dresses the branches of trees, roof tops and slopes, turning landscapes into magic places.
When to visit? Take your pick; every season has something to offer. If you like hiking in the Alpine regions, we recommend August and September. It’s not too cold higher up at that time of year, the colours are just starting to turn, and it’s pleasant to walk and travel.
Lucerne and River Reuss © www.passengerdiaries.com
What gear to take?
Depending on the altitude and season, temperatures vary greatly. Check weather conditions before you pack on www.myswitzerland.com. For hiking in summer, T-shirts are fine at the base of the mountain, but upon reaching the snowy peak at about 3000m, you will need warmer clothing. The weather can also change very quickly in the mountains. One minute sunny, stormy the next, so be prepared; always carry rain proof gear and an extra jumper when hiking and photographing in the mountains. Layer your clothing so you can adjust as required. Sturdy walking shoes are a must, and you will need a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.
If you plan to hike, a well-made and well-fitting camera backpack is important. Make sure it’s rain-proof, just in case the weather turns. Wide-angle lenses are great to capture scenery, but make sure you include a longer lens with a reach of at least 200mm if you want to photograph wildlife. If you’re patient and lucky, you can spot eagles and ibex in their natural environment while out hiking.
Best advice is to keep it simple. My Canon 24-105mm f/4 L series lens and Canon 70-200mm f/4 get me a long way.
A tripod is essential for longer exposures when photographing rivers, lakes, waterfalls and the spectacular night skies. ND filters can also be handy in certain locations.
We recommend taking a small laptop plus an external hard drive for back-up. Even though it adds weight to your luggage, you will appreciate being able to review, tag, share and catalogue your images on the go.
Matterhorn and Riffelsee © www.passengerdiaries.com
Popular places to visit
The Matterhorn and Switzerland are inseparably linked; the pyramid-shaped colossus of a mountain, which is very difficult to climb, is said to be the most-photographed mountain in the world. The first ascent of the Matterhorn was in the year 1865, which cost the lives of four out of seven alpinists, and changed the region (which had been isolated until then) forever. The Matterhorn became world-famous, and ambitious mountaineers aspired to climb it. Even today the ascent of the Matterhorn is very challenging and can only be achieved by expert mountaineers with excellent equipment and a competent guide.
Zermatt offers a wide range of hikes of various difficulty degrees and there is always another perfect picture around the corner.
Chateau Chillon Montreux © Passion for Pictures
Chillon Castle is located on a rock on the banks of Lake Geneva near Montreux. The water castle is the most visited historic building in Switzerland. For nearly four centuries Chillon was the residence and profitable toll station of the Counts of Savoy. Walk along the promenade from Montreux to the Castle and you’ll find plenty of photographic opportunities and vistas on the way.
What began in 1978 with 16 characteristic Swiss buildings is now the Ballenberg Open Air Museum, an extensive 66-hectare exhibition of more than 100 residential and agricultural buildings from all over Switzerland. The historic buildings and their kitchens, chambers and living rooms illustrate rural life in Switzerland. Expect plenty of photographic opportunities, including landscape, architecture, close-ups of ancient tools and opportunity to practise your photo skills in challenging light conditions in the old farmhouses.
Trø¼mmelbach Falls © www.passengerdiaries.com
Lesser known places to visit
Trø¼mmelbach Falls features thundering and roaring interior access to the mountain, with plenty of photo opportunities of amazing rock structures and the gurgling, foaming and churning water. They are Europe’s largest subterranean waterfalls and are located in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, often called “the valley of 72 waterfalls”.
Trø¼mmelbach Falls © www.passengerdiaries.com
The Trø¼mmelbach Falls are the world’s only glacier waterfalls that are accessible underground by lift, galleries, tunnels, paths and platforms. They alone carry the glaciers’ meltwater from the Jungfrau down to the valley at up to 20,000 litres of water per second! The water carries with it more than 20,000 tons of boulders and scree per year and causes the entire mountain to shudder and thunder.
Verzasca Valley © www.passengerdiaries.com
Of all the wonderfully beautiful valleys of the Ticino, the Verzasca Valley is probably the most fascinating. The magical jade green waters of the Verzasca River flow peacefully over smooth polished rocks, passing under the picturesque double arches of the Ponte dei Salti in Lavertezzo. Follow the river down the valley and you will find wonderful worn rock shapes and natural Jacuzzis. Don’t resist it – jump in! Cool down between your photo sessions and be invigorated.
Article by Barbara Muhlethaler
Often found with camera in hand, Melbourne-based Barbara Muhlethaler is founder of Passion for Pictures.
Barbara and experienced Swiss-resident pro photographer Luis F. Medina Salazar run photo tours to Switzerland, giving hands-on expert photographic advice in Switzerland’s most scenic and interesting photo locations including Mount Pilatus, Ballenberg, Berne, and the iconic, snow-capped Matterhorn peak at Zermatt. Find out more about Barbara’s Swiss photo tours here: http://www.passionforpictures.com.au/photo-tours/
Berne © Passion for Pictures
Mount Pilatus © www.passengerdiaries.com