Despite its modest size and landlocked location, Switzerland attracts many travelers to book a vacation in Switzerland to experience dramatic Alpine landscapes, clean cities, and lush nature.
During your Switzerland vacation, embrace the sustainable measures that the country has taken both in tourism and beyond. Sustainable tourism is defined by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”
Let’s dive into a bit more about tourism in Switzerland and how you can make your vacation in Switzerland as sustainable as possible.
Fast Facts About Tourism in Switzerland
The multi-lingual country offers a diverse terrain for travelers to discover during their Switzerland vacation no matter the season. Historically, mountains attracted adventure seekers, and mountaineering expeditions began in the early 19th-century which kicked off the tourism industry. Naturally, hiking, cycling, and skiing are very common activities for travelers. You can browse Switzerland’s official website to discover some of the most popular sites in Switzerland.
The most visited attractions are the Rhine Falls (the most powerful waterfall in Europe), the Berne Bear Exhibit (a bear enclosure in the capital city of Berne), and Zoo Basel (a non-profit zoo in Basel).
Vast lakes—many of them surrounded by dramatic Alpine peaks—include Lake Constance, Lake Geneva, Lake Thun, and the Lake of Lucerne and make for a relaxing summer vacation in Switzerland. On the other hand, winter travelers opt to go to popular ski resorts such as St. Moritz and Zermatt. In addition to serene lakes and the Alps, travelers also enjoy world-famous cheese and chocolate in both cities and small mountain towns on their Switzerland vacation.
When you visit Switzerland, be prepared to be surrounded by different languages—in fact, German, French, Italian, and Romansh are all official languages—and in major cities Zurich and Bern, German is mostly spoken. This form of German, although not officially a language, is referred to as “Swiss German” and has some variations in phonology, vocabulary, and grammar from the standardized German language.
All About Sustainable Tourism Efforts In Switzerland
In 2020, Switzerland ranked third globally on the Environmental Performance Index, and as part of that title, the country has quite a few sustainable initiatives in regards to tourism.
One sustainable effort you can absolutely enjoy on your Switzerland vacation—not only for eco-friendliness but also convenience—is the country’s robust public transportation. The Swiss transportation system has over 5000 kilometers of rail, 1,000 kilometers of mountain railroads, 13000 kilometers of bus routes, and over 23000 public transportation stations. For a country of just about 41 square kilometers, public transportation can get you pretty far; it has the densest rail system in Europe. Train travel is well-liked by both locals and travelers.
Those going to visit Switzerland can roam through 13 protected natural and cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as 18 natural national and regional parks, in which species such as the golden eagle, alpine ibex, and alpine marmots can be spotted. Regarding natural spaces, according to the Swiss Government-established federal forestry law, forests have to make up at least thirty percent of the country’s land.
Switzerland aims to consolidate sustainability labels into its national initiative, “Swisstainable”. The certification assigned a label of Swisstainable 1, 2, or 3 (3 being the highest) to nearly 300 tourism-related organizations, including hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and even specific events—this is a great website to check out while you plan your sustainable Switzerland vacation. Their mission is based around the core concepts of
- Enjoy nature up close and at first hand
- Experience the local culture in an authentic way
- Consume regional products
- Stay for longer and delve deeper
The label looks at other certifications and implemented sustainability measures and then assigns the organization a level, so look for Level 3 for the most sustainable options.
Responsible Adventures for Your Vacation in Switzerland
As a conscientious traveler, you can find plenty of adventures to do when you visit Switzerland. We’ve got just a few ideas for you, but there are tons more, too.
First off, one sustainable sight-seeing adventure is a tour on Solar Boat Greta, a 100% solar and electric powered boat that offers a quiet ride along Lake Geneva. You won’t experience any noises, smells, or vibrations from the vessel. The circuit in Lake Geneva is about 35 minutes and takes off from Grue de Paquis at the southern end of the lake. You’ll see the beautiful architecture that surrounds Lake Geneva, the magnificent fountain le Jet d’Eau, as you float on the clear water.
If you are a hiker or cycler, be sure to check out SwitzerlandMobility when planning your vacation in Switzerland. It is the national platform for cycling and hiking routes, made in conjunction with the Swiss government, and is supported by Switzerland’s Tourism department. It consolidates the non-motor traffic network onto a free platform that you can access online or an app. It also gives you suggested routes using public transportation to get to a given trail. You can go snowshoeing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, all without leaving a trace and using your own two feet. Using this resource, you can discover the hiking trail network that includes 65000 kilometers—definitely download the app beforehand.
A Switzerland vacation can also include city adventures as well. Zurich Tourism holds a level 3 for the national Swisstainable label, and you can explore climate-neutral urban adventures here. There’s a wide range of experiences, including a guided e-bike or e-scooter tour of the city or a guided walking tour focusing on architecture.
With all the online resources that this small European country has, you can be well-prepared to plan a sustainable itinerary prior to your vacation in Switzerland. Switzerland has something to offer, whether you’re looking for an urban gastronomy experience or an adventurous mountaineering trek.
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