Dear readers, you don’t need to travel far to see the world. It’s all right here in Switzerland!
Inspired by this and this round-up of exotic Swiss destinations, I asked my international group of authors: “Where does Switzerland not look like Switzerland?”
Boy, did they share good some good ideas! From India to Hawaii, they have spotted glimpses of their home countries in Switzerland. A small idea turned into an epic post with locations from around the world that you can visit in a day. No need to change currencies or bring a passport, either!
Here are some exotic and unique spots in Switzerland which make you feel as if you’ve traveled abroad:
1. The Maldives at Lake Neuchâtel
(Photograph courtesy of Holger)
Estavayer-le-Lac is located on the eastern shores of Lake Neuchâtel. It is a veritable paradise for those into water sports. Be it SUPing, surfing or water skiing, it’s all there.
Those who miss laid back beach vibes will love Estavayer-le-Lac: there are a number of sandy beaches with everything you would expect in the Maldives – and more! Have you ever tried a water ski lift? Rent a wakeboard or water skies at Alphavoile or Alphasurf, and off you go!
2. Tropical vibes at Brissago Islands in Ticino
More exotic vibes can be found at Switzerland’s lowest altitude, the Brissago Islands. Thanks to the warm climate, some 1700 plant species thrive on the islands. From cacti to bamboo and palm trees, you will surely feel those tropical vibes on Lake Maggiore!
3. The authentic Thai Pavilion in Lausanne
In which other park in Switzerland can you see 100’000 gold leaves all at once? The Pavillon thaï of Lausanne is truly a site to be seen. The building is a gift from King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand who lived in Lausanne from 1933 to 1951.
There are at least two other Buddhist temples in Switzerland. Gretzenbach near Olten is home to Switzerland’s largest Buddhist temple, Wat Srinagarindravararam. And there is Wat Buddhavihara in Échallens, Vaud. Both are important centers for the local Thai, Khmer, Lao and Swiss Buddhist communities.
4. A Japanese zen garden in Geneva
At the Geneva Botanical Garden, there is a section with a torii gate at the entrance. Behind, you will find a zen rock garden symbolizing the ocean and islands. Depending on the season, you can enjoy the flora that is so typical for Japan: cherry blossoms in the spring and maple foilage in the autumn.
5. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” at the Zen Garden in Aigle
Who knew there’s a zen garden in Aigle? Apart from manicured plant and flower gardens, Le Jardin Zen has a sound path with beautiful Asian drums and bells. From Burma to Korea and Shanghai, here is an excursion to Asia that satisfy all your senses.
(Photograph copyright Le Jardin Zen)
To complete your trip, why not book a night at the Crazy Lounge BnB with its Asian rooms? Choose among eclectic rooms named “Maharajah” or “Shanghai Dreams”, or move into the Imperial Yurt with its own jacuzzi…
6. An escape to the vastness of Mongolia
Google “pictures of Mongolia” or “Glen Coe in Scotland” and it will return vast landscapes of sloping yellow mountains. Sure, our Mamiko did not run into any horses when she looked out over the Albula Pass in Switzerland. But the sheer grandeur reminded us of somewhere in the world…
To one-up your Mongolian experience in Switzerland, stay in a traditional yurt tent on Alp Flix. Heated with a wood-burning stove and lacking electricity, this could be just the right escape for the city dwellers among you.
(Photograph copyright agrotour.ch)
7. The Creux du Van is the Grand Canyon of Switzerland
The Jura mountain range bordering France has been shaped by millions of years of erosion. One of the must-see spectacles is the Creux du Van, an amphitheater of massive proportions. Standing atop the 160-meter drop quite literally feels awesome. And the experience reminded me of looking over the Grand Canyon from the south rim.
In terms of sheer size, the Creux du Van is by no means comparable to the Grand Canyon. But for a viewpoint as accessible, impressive and inexpensive free as this, the Creux du Van must be on your Swiss world map.
(Photograph copyright kuhnmi/Wikimedia Commons)
8. The Rocky Mountains at Grisons
Switzerland’s largest canton has several valleys that resemble the Rocky Mountains of North America. For one, there is Val Mora, a power spot bordering the Swiss National Park.
(Photograph copyright TESSVM)
Another scenic valley is Val da Camp with its larch trees, streams and emerald blue lakes. The best way to enjoy the wilderness is by doing a round trip hike on a weekday when there are less people. Between June and October, take the PostBus from Pontresina to Sfazù. From there, an idyllic five-hour hike will allow you to soak in that Rocky Mountain feeling – no need to bring a passport, either.
9. The Horseshoe Bend of the River Rhine
In Page, Arizona, one of the highlights is Horseshoe Bend where the Colorado River meanders through a deep canyon. Move 9205 km east and you will end up in the Ruinaulta in Grisons.
(Photograph copyright Visions of Domino/Wikimedia Commons)
Ruinaulta is an impressive canyon created by the River Rhine. It is located between Illanz and Reichenau in the canton Grisons. (You may have passed through it by train without noticing the river’s bend.) For a bird’s eye perspective, use the car park at Trin Mulin, which is about 4 km from the viewpoint.
10. Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro in Bad Ragaz
Believe it or not, but you can visit Rio de Janeiro’s iconic landmark without crossing the Atlantic. On the cliffs above Bad Ragaz, there is a replica of Cristo Redentor! While the original is 38 meters, the Swiss version stands 11 meters tall. Access of the statue is by way of Schloss Wartenstein, a highly recommendable restaurant.
11. Views from the Duomo of Florence in Solothurn
Look up a picture of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore on Google and you will notice a resemblance with Solothurn’s cathedral. While the town by the River Aare is nothing like the capital of Tuscany, the views from atop the tower of the St. Ursus Cathedral in Solothurn are!
12. Добро пожаловать в Россию
Welcome to Russia! The Russian Orthodox Church of Geneva sits high above the city in the quiet Les Tranchées neighborhood. Its golden onion domes can be seen from far away and make this a piece of architecture worth visiting.
Constructed more than 150 years ago in the Byzantine Moscovite style, the church still serves as a place of worship for Geneva’s Russian Orthodox community. In Vevey, there is a second Russian Orthodox Church for your excursion to Россия.
13. Colombian jungle feelings at Val Bavona in Ticino
Could the Lost City possibly be located in the remote Val Bavona? The views into the lush valley from the top of the Foroglio waterfall conjured up imaginations of what the Andes mountains might be like… Or could this be Mutatazi Falls in Zimbabwe?
14. New Zealand is at Lake Klöntal
Our Melanie has lived in New Zealand extensively and she swears: Lake Klöntal is the Milford Sound of Switzerland! (Just Google it to see why.)
15. India’s Dharamshala is high above Vevey
The residence of the 14th Dalai Lama, Dharamshala, is a hillside city in India bordering the Himalayas. With an elevation of 1500 meters above sea, Dharamshala towers its fraternal twin in Switzerland. Rabten Choeling is a Tibetan center above Lake Geneva, sitting on Mont-Pèlerin at 820 meters above sea.
The center is home to an authentic Tibetan Buddhist monastery, as well as an international school. It is open to the curious among us who want to learn more about Buddhism, have a meal at the monastery or spend some peaceful time. Our Rajan brought it up because this site reminds him of Dharamshala in India.
(Photograph copyright Rabten Foundation)
16. Hawaii’s Stairway to Heaven at Lake Lucerne
While the original Haʻikū Stairs in Oahu are currently closed for hikers, our Rex suggests its twin hike on Mt. Pilatus as a suitable remedy. Our advice: try to stay overnight and get up in time for the sunrise above Lake Lucerne. You will truly understand why Heaven is on Mt. Pilatus…