Love travelling in autumn? A new Foliage Map guides visitors along a grand tour of Switzerland’s nature at its most colourful.
Switzerland is world-renowned for its seasonal beauty. Gushing waterfalls in spring; alpine meadows covered with wildflowers during summer, and exhilarating winter sports on snow-covered slopes. But what of autumn, when dense forests, rolling vineyards and a host of chocolate-box towns and villages are a riot of golden foliage?
This land-locked country’s third (and somewhat underrated) season is arguably the prettiest time to be in Switzerland as countless deciduous trees turn yellow, orange, red and burnished bronze from September to November before their delicate leaves tumble to the ground.
With the merest hint of a chill in the air, this is the time when the cows return from their alpine pastures adorned with garlands of fresh flowers, seasonal specialities grace restaurant tables, and wisps of woodsmoke curl from the chimneys of quaint timber chalets.
There’s no better time than autumn to slip on a sweater, lace up your trusty pair of walking boots and go hiking, biking, wildlife-watching and touring by rail or road via some of the most picturesque nature trails, vineyards, lakes and mountain scenery in Europe.
A guide to autumn’s best
With nature calling the shots each year, chasing the autumn leaves can be a hit-and-miss affair, but now you can take a leaf out of Switzerland’s autumnal playbook thanks to the country’s first-ever Foliage Map, which guides visitors along The Grand Tour of Switzerland.
This clever interactive map charts where and when you can expect the forests to be at their most colourful each year as well as a host of useful excursion tips, destination advice and interesting information about the season’s natural blessings.
The most current statistics reveal Switzerland is home to approximately 535 million trees, 66 trees per inhabitant. About one-third of the trees are deciduous and some 1,500 tons of autumn leaves are reported to fall to the ground in Zurich and Bern alone each year.
While yew trees are the oldest in Switzerland, dating back some 1,500 years, larches, birches, maples and beeches are the most common, all renowned for their spectacular autumn colours and charted on the new Foliage Map created by Switzerland Tourism and SRF Meteo, the national bureau of meteorology.
If you don’t have the time to complete the entire route, it can be broken into two four-day excursions from Lucerne to Landquart (via Rapperswil, Schaffhausen and St. Gallen) and Landquart to Lugano (via Davos, St. Moritz and Splugen).
The first sector is all about water as it leads past three iconic lakes – Lucerne, Zurich and Constance – and the mighty Rhine Falls, as well as picture-postcard villages, diverse landscapes and cultural and culinary highlights.
The second winds its way through the breathtaking Graubunden Alps, past rustic restaurants, across high alpine passes and through deep and rugged gorges, culminating in the Mediterranean flair of Lake Lugano.
Another Swiss autumnal highlight is Lake Oeschinen, nestled in the Bernese Oberland near Kandersteg. Fed by four surrounding peaks, this pristine alpine lake is a magnet for hikers and nature lovers drawn to its crystal-clear waters and golden foliage. A gondola train operates from Kandersteg to a location near the lake, followed by a half-hour walk across pastures and through pine forests to the lake.
Switzerland adopts strict health and safety protocols
Switzerland has long been considered a paragon of wellbeing and its legion of tourism operators are taking special measures to protect all citizens and visitors during the global pandemic.
Supported by Switzerland Tourism, the Clean & Safe campaign has implemented advanced health and safety protocols across the country, especially in the accommodation and transport sectors.
The wearing of face masks is currently mandatory across the entire Swiss public transport system. All travellers are asked to adopt required social distancing measures and, where possible, all paid services during a journey should be cashless.
Transport companies are intensifying their deep cleaning, health and safety routines; travellers are requested to avoid peak travel times and buy advance tickets online, and staff are supporting customers to help them choose seats or finding alternative free seats. For further health details, visit MySwitzerland.com.