Bordered by five countries, Switzerland is a cultural melting pot, inheriting the laid-back, wine-celebrating attitude of the French in the southwest, to the wonderful gastronomy of Italy in the southeast and the German work ethic in the north. Uniting the blend of influences from its neighbours is an unmistakably Swiss mentality.
When it comes to outdoor pursuits, Switzerland is a mecca. Hiking through the verdant mountains in the summer, skiing and snowboarding in Graubünden, Bernese Oberland and other resorts of central Switzerland in the winter, sauntering along lakeside paths dappled with sunshine, getting your heart racing on a white-water rafting experience or discovering the magic of the glittering glaciers; the country flaunts an unparalleled choice of activities for adventurers.
Nestled into the undulating Alpine landscape are quaint timber-built homes and farms which makes walking here like stepping into a scene from Heidi. And it's not just a delight for the eyes. It's no secret that the traditional Swiss mountain food is mouth-wateringly good, with staples including gooey cheese fondue, melted raclette draped over melt-in-the-mouth potatoes and tartiflette, another cheese-based treat for the taste buds.
Before you lace up your walking boots and head to the mountains for good, leave some room in your itinerary for exploration of the urban kind. Reflecting its cultural influences, Switzerland’s cities are like individual members of the same family, sharing certain similarities but each with its own merit.
Set on Lake Geneva, Lausanne, the Olympic Capital, is a good base for adventures in the mountains, and is also picturesque and welcoming in its own right. Geneva, at the south-westernmost tip of the lake is also a popular Switzerland destination, a ‘green’ city which is a hub for business travellers and tourists alike.
Bern is perhaps the most attractive city for visitors, with beautiful medieval architecture, a Gothic cathedral and shopping arcades. Germanic Basel boasts a plethora of museums, an historic old town and refreshing green areas, not to mention the magnetic Rhine river, running like an artery through the city.
Zurich, the capital, has a reputation for being pricey, but with over 50 museums, 100 art galleries and endless shops, it has plenty to offer the inquisitive visitor.
You may return from your holiday in Switzerland needing a week of rest and relaxation, but you can be sure your lungs will be full of fresh air, your body invigorated, and your mind culturally enriched.