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Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East

How to Plan an Active Vacation to Switzerland
By:Kimberley Riccio

There is only one way to enjoy the gorgeous scenery of Switzerland and that is to get outdoors. Switzerland has much to offer the active traveler. Whether it is hiking and skiing, boating, cycling, sailing, or mountaineering, Switzerland provides sports for all ages, fitness and skill levels.

Camp in one of Switzerland's well-established campgrounds found all over the country. Backcountry camping is forbidden and results in steep fines. Visit one of the multitudes of tourist offices found in every town's train station for camping maps showing locations, contact details and facilities of the campgrounds. Book ahead for your camping sites. Camping sites cost about SFR 6 per person and SFR 9 per tent, plus a fee for the car. Backpack through Switzerland and the cost for camping is SFR 26. Rent your camping equipment or caravans through eCamp International Camping Directory. Reserve your caravans early in the planning process, as the high season of the Swiss summer is May to September.

Cycle on Switzerland's extensive network of routes. Rent your bike at the local train station for approximately SFR 25 a day or SFR 100 for a week. Obtain maps and brochures from the Swiss Touring Club or the Train Station rental office. Return your rented bike to the same station or to another station. Cycle year round to discover the many seasons and wonders that Switzerland has to offer. Be in good physical condition for cycling in Switzerland, as you can find that many Alpine areas routes will have 12 or 14 percent gradients.

Hike one of the 31,000 miles of well-marked trails throughout Switzerland. Follow the yellow signs for easy trails found in valleys, by lakes and between towns. Follow the red signs for high altitude trekking. Take a gondola or train to the challenging Fur Geubtes trails. These trails are marked with white and blue signs and are rugged and have steep sections. The Fur Geubtes trails require mountaineering equipment. Obtain your free hiking maps from the local tourists' offices. Alternatively, order topographic maps from Kummerly Frey for about $10. Rent hiking boots and walking sticks from local sports centers found throughout Switzerland. Hike June through September when the snows and glaciers melt to provide a colorful summer hiking season. Be in good physical condition for hiking the higher alpine trails where your skill level needs to be equal to that of an experience mountain hiker.

Ski at one of the 200 ski resorts throughout the country. Visit a tourist office for maps showing the best slopes and ski trails as well as the grade and difficulty ratings. Ski St. Moritz or Gstadd; Switzerland's skiing Mecca's. Rent skiing equipment from any resorts Swiss Rent-a-Ski program, providing with skiing equipment for downhill as well as cross-country on a weekly basis. Prices vary from season to season. Learn to ski from the Swiss Ski School located at the many of the resorts. Ski from early December through mid-April. Ski during the summer on the glaciers in Zermatt, Saas Fee and Les Diablerets.

Climb the mountain trails in the Alps. Climb the famous Matterhorn Mountain, located near the town of Zermatt. Rent mountaineering equipment from a local outfitter in Zermatt or through one of the three Swiss mountaineering schools. Reserve a high mountain cabin for about $26 per night from the Swiss Alpine Club. Learn to climb mountains from the International School of Mountaineering, one of Switzerland's top mountaineering schools. Their programs start at $273 per person/per day. Plan your mountain climbing vacation for late May through September. Be in excellent health and have an excellent understanding of climbing for your vacation.

Hiking trail and kayaking river in the Interlaken region

Kayak or sail on the lakes and rivers of Switzerland during the summer months of May through September. Rent kayaking and sailing equipment from the kiosks on the shores of Lake Geneva, Constance, Thun, Neuchatel, Zurick, and Maggiore. Rent boats at the resorts and hotels on the smaller lakes scattered throughout the country for about $25 to $50 per day. Learn to sail or kayak at the sporting centers located at many of the resorts or in hotels.

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