Affordable, Can’t-Miss Resources for Backpacking in Switzerland

Affordable, Can’t-Miss Resources for Backpacking in Switzerland

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Ditch the suitcases this fall. If you want to see the Swiss Alps, Lake Geneva, Eiger or the Matterhorn, why put off your trip to Switzerland any longer? With its endless hiking trails, mountainous ranges and breathtaking sights, this country is a backpacker’s heaven.

Even if you don’t exactly have much money stowed away for your next vacation, you’d be surprised at how affordable it can be to eat, stay and live in Switzerland for a few days or weeks. These resources for backpackers includes inexpensive hostels, food that won’t cost too much, the best trails in the country, and plenty of travel blogs for you to brush up on before you go.

Hostels

Hostel Winterthur Depot 195, Winterthur

With nearby destinations like an airport and a railway station, Hostel Winthur Depot 195 is ideal for those who plan on zipping all over Switzerland. The city of Winterthur is just northeast of Zurich and makes for a nice point of entry to the country. Hostel Winterthur Depot 195’s(www.depot195.ch/en/) rooms include a self-catering kitchen, access to the roof terrace, laundry services, a bar, breakfast (it’s not free) and even bicycle rentals.

The Mountain Hostel High in the Alps, Jungfrau Region

When you visit the Mountain Hostel’s website – www.mountainhostel.com, you’re greeted by its theme song, which features plenty of cows mooing. If that doesn’t charm you, then its vicinity to the Via Ferrata, a climbing trail, certainly will. There are ropes along the length of the mountain, so even if you’re a total beginner you can still have a fun experience. If hiking is your hobby, you can easily reach the Grauseeli-Schiltalp-Spielbodenalp or the Sprutz-Spielbodenalp-Rotstockhutte trails for a quick stroll, or if you have more time the Gimmelwald-Oberhornsee Lake. Also, have fun pronouncing any of those destinations when you ask locals for directions.

Balmer’s Hostel, Interlaken

This one is famous among backpackers. If you’re eager to soak in some wild nightlife, make sure to book a night’s stay at Balmer’s Hostel – www.balmers.com. You can rest in a bedded dorm, tent, hammock or a guest house, depending on how many people are in your traveling party. Each night, there are events and DJs for the nightlife lovers. Foodies will adore the breakfast area, camping bar, world coffee station, beer garden and onsite restaurant. The activities offered differ depending on the season, but you can try rafting in the summer, a glacier landing by plane in the winter, walking tours in the spring and paragliding in the fall.

The Matterhorn Hostel, Zermatt

The Matterhorn Hostel (www.matterhornhostel.com/en/index/) caters to budget travelers who have come to Switzerland for biking, the famous ski slopes and great hiking trails, all a short walk away. You can opt for private rooms or a dormitory bed, but all spaces come with a guest computer with wireless Internet and an international pay phone. If you can spring for it, Sparky’s Bar & Restaurant is onsite and is fairly affordable.

Backpackers Villa Interlaken

Welcoming all comers, Backpackers Villa Interlaken – www.villa.ch calls itself the best place “for adventure cracks and world travelers, for easy going families and for paragliders.” There are deals for single-night stays, or you can spend a bit more for a room overlooking the mountains of Jungfrau. Nearby activities include canyon jumping, ice climbing in the winter, sky diving and hang gliding. The villa caters to families, as well: There is a ping-pong table, and board games are available in the rooms.

switzerland hostel

Cheap Eats

La Buvette des Bains, Geneva

Geneva isn’t exactly known for its inexpensive restaurants, but there are a few good options. La Buvette des Bains – www.buvettedesbains.ch has been around since the 1930s, and it offers tables overlooking pristine Lake Geneva. Enjoy breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner here. The fare is pretty light, so you can take a dip in the lake after your meal.

The Hamburger Foundation, Geneva

Hamburger Foundation(www.thehamburgerfoundation.ch) serves up American-style bacon cheeseburgers, regular cheeseburgers and hamburgers, all cooked medium rare. The foundation’s storefront can be found on rue Philippe-Plantamour, and lines there can reach out the door. Fortunately, there are also food trucks that make the rounds, which is especially nice on a cold day.

Chez Xu, Lausanne

Chinese food addicts don’t have to give up their favorite diet staples when backpacking through Switzerland. Chez Xu is known as “cheap, cheerful Chinese whose low prices belie the quantity and quality,” according to TimeOut Switzerland. The food here is hot, especially the spicy beef and lemon chicken. You might have leftovers for a day or two, as the plates are quite spacious and often overfilled with food.

Chez Ma Cousine, Geneva and Lausanne

Chez Ma Cousine(www.chezmacousine.ch/site/fr/) features the famous cuisine of nearby France. Although the exterior and interior of this restaurant looks fancy, you’ll do a double-take when you see that most menu items are less than 20 CHF. Don’t miss the spit-roasted chicken, which is absolutely delicious and sure to fill you up for the afternoon or evening.

Da Carlo, Lausanne

A bit more costly than the other restaurants listed here, Da Carlo(www.da-carlo.com/en) has whipped up delicious pizza to feed Lausanne’s residents for more than 50 years. The establishment boasts an expansive wine list and even has a playroom for kids that’s available every Sunday.

switzerland restaurant

Picturesque Trails

Engstligenalp to Unter dem Birg

Grab your backpack and your hiking boots, and take in the beauty of Engstligenalp via Unter dem Birg. You can either drive to Unter dem Birg or take a cable car, where you’ll then spend an hour and a half hiking about three kilometers to an elevation of nearly 2,000 meters at the highest peak. Along the way, you will pass the village of Adelboden before ascending rocky terrain toward Engstligen Falls.

Bettmerhorn via Marjelensee to Fiescheralp through the Aletsch Glacier

See the wondrous Aletsch Glacier, the Valaisian Alps and Bernese Oberland when you hike through Bettmerhorn via Marjelensee to Fiescheralp. “The route can be divided into 3 sections: along the glacier (1), crossing over to the Upper Rhone valley (2), and the Upper Rhone valley (3),” My Swiss Alp notes. You’ll spend about three hours out on the hiking trails, traveling a total of 9.3 kilometers and seeing plenty of meadows and rocks along the way. If you choose to take in the glacier, you’ll also pass by Lake Majerle, while Upper Rhone Valley is home to Lake Vorder.

Bernese Oberland

Bernese Oberland is home to many amazing sights, including the ancient village Ballenberg, the gorgeous, Lauterbrunnen Valley, the villages of Murren and Wengen in the mountainside, and the iconic Jungfraujoch. “This rugged region concentrates some of the best features of rural Switzerland: awesome mountain panoramas, massive glaciers, crystalline lakes, dramatic gorges and waterfalls, chic ski resorts, dense pine forests, and charming gingerbread chalets,” Fodor’s says.

The Lang Glacier in Lotschen Valley

You may want to bring a few bottles of water and some food when hiking the Lang Glacier in Lotschen Valley because it takes nearly four hours to reach the summit. Start your nine-kilometer trip in the quaint Fafleralp.My Swiss Alps notes,”the hike can be extended by another 1 hour 15 minutes if you continue on to the Anen hut to have lunch or spend the night.” Definitely consider doing that.

The First to Schynige Platte Trail

Only embark on the hike through the Schynige Platte Trail if you have a day or two to spend. During that time, you can see this iconic part of Switzerland, which takes you through the Jungfrau region. “It is advisable to start early in the day, since this is a pretty long hike and you may want to take some time to enjoy the view,” My Swiss Alps writes.

switzerland hiking trails and hills

Murtel to Furtschellas Through the Upper Engadine

My Swiss Alps calls the distance from Murtel to Furtschellas through the Upper Engadine a walk more than a hike, but at a brisk pace it takes nearly three and a half hours to complete the trail; longer if you go slower. You’ll only climb to an elevation of 2,706 meters, but along the way you will you see some pretty lakes, isolated meadows and rocky terrain that will make you feel like you’re in your own universe.

First – Grosse Scheidegg

Beginner hikers and animal lovers alike shouldn’t miss the First – Grosse Scheidegg hiking trail, which takes less than two hours to complete a covers a little more than five kilometers. Start at Grindelwald by rental car or train; you can also get a ride back via bus once you’ve reached Grosse Scheidegg. “The route leads through gently rolling meadows to the pass between Grindelwald and Meiringen; the Grosse Scheidegg,” My Swiss Alps writes. “It offers an almost continuous view of the Jungfrau massif, while overlooking the Grindelwald valley on the right.”

Piz Nair to Beaver Valley

It’s a downward hike from Piz Nair to Beaver Valley, one of the longest trails on this list at nearly six hours. Head to St. Moritz to begin your day, reaching Piz Nair via cable car. That peak is nearly 3,000 meters high, and as you descend you’ll notice what My Swiss Alps calls a “long trail with landscapes varying from untouched high mountain scenery to conifer forests.” There’s plenty to take in during this voyage.

Unter dem Berg to Saas Fee through the Valais

For hiking or for walking, Unter dem Berg to Saas Fee through the Valais takes just a little more than two and a half hours to cross a distance of 8.3 kilometers. However, there’s a lot packed into that short span, including three churches and 16 chapels, My Swiss Alps notes. “At the end of the trail, you will pass by a lake filled with water from melting glaciers in the high mountains. There are plenty of opportunities to break your hike and take a cable car up to a viewing point.”

Lauchernalp to Fafleralp

See another side of the Lotschen Valley by taking the trail from Lauchernalp to Fafleralp. Forests and meadows abound for the nearly three hours you’ll walk through the Upper Rhone Valley. Ride a gondola from the village Wiler to reach Lauchernalp, where you’ll hike for the afternoon. Prepare to see the Lang Glacier as well as the Lotschental Hohenweg before the hike is over.

cow on hill with mountains

Travel Blogs

Swiss Vistas

Swiss Vistas(www.swissvistas.com) is a regularly updated resource for cultural traditions and general countrywide information. This blog also offers information about carnivals and festivals that you can check out during the year, guided tours, the best spots in the country that you must check out, and a helpful hotel-booking guide. Definitely bookmark this blog.

A Luxury Travel Blog

A Luxury Travel Blog may not focus exclusively on Switzerland (you can also read up on travel advice when visiting Spain, France, Costa Rica, Thailand, Italy, Canada and more), but the blog has pages and pages of archives of posts that are all about Swiss life. Dr. Paul Johnson has compiled these pieces that let you find the best Zermatt hotels, check out the coolest sights in Lucerne, locate the most exclusive ski resorts and even book a chalet for Christmas.

One Big Yodel

For one American’s take on Switzerland, read through One Big Yodel – www.onebigyodel.com. Chicago native Chantal Panozzo decided to change her life in a big way and moved to Switzerland in 2006. Her blog often compares and contrasts life in Switzerland and America. If you can’t get enough, don’t miss Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wished I’d Known, a book of essays by Panozzo.

In a Faraway Land

Much like A Luxury Travel Blog, In a Faraway Land(Inafarawayland.com) is a travel and photography blog that encompasses other countries besides Switzerland. Marta, who runs the blog, is an expat who works as a writer and photographer whose informative and photograph-rich post “Switzerland on a Budget? Is It Possible?” proves that yes, indeed, it is. If you enjoy general European travel, In a Faraway Land is a blog that you’ll return to again and again.

red mountain switzerland

Things Not to Miss

Travelstart Blog

Of course you want to make the most of your time in Switzerland, so start by checking out some of the Travelstart Blog’s(travelstart.com.eg) favorite parts of the country. Interlaken, Bern and Lake Lucerne are all mentioned as must-sees, and the post includes enticing pictures to guide you.

The Untourist

The Untourist doesn’t want you to stand out like a sore thumb when traveling. If you’re stopping by Ticino during your vacation, writer Andrea Szyper has spotlighted all the fun activities(untours.com) you should look into. Her suggestions include the Dimitri Theaters in Versico, a train ride to Lake Como, hiking the Verzasca Valley, and catching a train to Lugano (then the boat to Gandria).

Rail Europe’s Europe on Track

Rail Europe’s Europe on Track blog(raileurope.com/blog/) is another exemplary resource for your travels. Writer Amiee has some fun stops you should make if Basel is on your itinerary. She notes that the Old-Timer Tram is a good way to appreciate the rich past of the area; you should also definitely see the area’s zoo, which she says is the biggest in the entire country. The post also suggests that you check out a handful of the more than 30 museums in Basel, among them the Basel Paper Museum and Fondation Beyeler.

India Travel Blog through Indian Holiday Pvt. Ltd.

India Travel Blog – blog.indianholiday.com writer Tanya Malik has a pretty comprehensive list of must-visit Switzerland destinations. She loves Chapel Bridge because it “stands unique with its paintings dating back to the 15th century.” Malik also insists that you make Rheinfall a part of your itinerary because it’s the most mammoth waterfall that the country has to offer.

Travel Mamas – Travelmamas.com

Basel is a pretty happening spot. Travel Mamas, a site for anyone traveling with children, has some ideas about what to do in this part of Switzerland. Colleen Lanin, the blog’s creator, writes from the angle of a romantic getaway, suggesting that couples make some time to see Old Town. “You can’t miss the Marktplatz (or Market Place, in German), an open-air square bursting with fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, and more for purchase,” she says. “Also located in the city center is Fasnachts-Brunnen (Tinguely Fountain), a unique fountain designed by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, with 10 iron figures that shovel and spray water year-round.”

swiss chocolate

The Big Outside – Thebigoutside.com

Michael Lanza runs the outdoor adventures blog The Big Outside, where he answers questions about backpacking. One such query came from a woman named Melanie, who wanted to see the Swiss Alps for her birthday. Lanza suggests some great trails, including the Europa Trail, Saint-Luc to Zermatt, and the Walkers (or Swiss) Haute Route.

Westcoast Connection – Westcoastconnection.com

Westcoast Connection encourages teenagers to experience traveling abroad. In one long post, you can read about a few students’ experiences backpacking through Switzerland (plus Italy and France, too). The posts are written like informative letters to friends and family back home in the US. Check these out, then negotiate with yourself whether to include Italy or France in your trip.

MakeMyTrip

MakeMyTrip blogger Rachita Verma has some pretty unique suggestions for spending your time in Switzerland, including dog sledding. “One of the most popular outdoor sports, dog sledding through hilly plateaus is a treat,” she says. After working up your appetite, Verma recommends the Cailler Chocolate Factory.

Go4TravelBlog – Go4travelblog.com

If you’re stopping by Zurich, dig into the site’s post on that great city. It outlines convenient travel options (like the Bahnhofstrasse bus), clubs and bars for nightlife, chocolate factories, and lakes and other bodies of water that are perfect for spending a relaxing afternoon out in the sun.

Adventures All Around – Adventuresallaround.com

Amanda Woods is the founder of Adventures All Around, and her post about Switzerland will get your mouth watering because she went looking for chocolate and cheeses. Her tour included a stop by the Lindt factory outlet and a stop in an Appenzeller cheese factory in Stein.

Images by:
Hermann, edwin.11, Poiseon Bild & Text, Joergelman, Ben039, klausdie, Horwin

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