There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with Switzerland, but its winter wonders have stayed hidden from all but the most intrepid Indian traveller thus far. Make the most of a winter vacay in India’s Favourite Destination with our pick of the best there is to do once the snow comes a-calling
By Kanika Gupta
To get hot ’n’ steamy
Champagne bubbles linger on your tongue while you lounge submerged in a piping hot bath… there’s nothing better on a cold, winter’s day. If you agree, then Leukerbad, Europe’s largest alpine thermal spa complex, is the place for you. Set against a dramatic background of rocky crags overlooking a lush valley, 3.9 million litres of water rich in calcium sulphate at a steamy 51° C gurgle into 30 pools, just waiting for you to sink in. Buy a day pass to Leukerbad Therme (00-41-27-472-2020; leukerbad-therme.ch; day pass from Rs 1,875/ person), the largest public complex, which boasts 10 pools across three levels – a leisure pool with water jets, a natural stone grotto steam bath, a mushroom waterfall, a treading pool, which stimulates circulation in your heart, and even a couple of water slides that will have you squealing in joy. Next, sign up for the Roman-Irish bath at Walliser Alpentherme, a two-hour ritual in which you pass (completely starkers, mind) through 11 stations of steam, sauna and thermal pools at different temperatures, followed by a soap-brush massage (00-41-27-472-1010; alpentherme.ch; from Rs 1,800/ day pass, from Rs 3,500/ person for Roman-Irish Bath). A weekend spent here will have you so relaxed you won’t even remember how to spell ‘stress’.
It’s three hours from Zürich Airport to Leuk Bahnhof by train, with a change at Visp, followed by a half-hour ride on bus 471 (from Rs 6,450 return).
Where To Stay
Splurge on the spa treatments and save on your stay by choosing modest yet airy apartments like Residence Les Naturelles (00-41-27-472-2929; residence-naturelles.ch, firstname.lastname@example.org; Gribelierstrasse 37; studio apartment from Rs 4,800).
2. MOUNT UELTIBERG
For god’s view of Zürich
Standing sentinel over Zürich is Mt Uetliberg, the northernmost peak of the Albis Mountains and a popular getaway from the city. It is, at its peak, 2,850ft above sea level, and offers spectacular panoramas over a snow-dusted Zürich, the icy Zürich Lake, the surrounding countryside, and, weather permitting, even the distant white-capped Alps. Locals are particularly fond of flocking to the top in November, as the peak rises over the fog that often settles over the city. At the top, lounge at the picnic tables and warm up with some smoky bratwurst sausage from one of the food stalls. If you aren’t too tired and still have a sense of adventure left, rent a sled (families with kids should use the gentler slope at Ringlikon), or sign up for the DinnerKrimi ‘Murder Mystery dinners’ (Rs 11,575), which provide food for the body and the mind.
Take the S10 train from Zürich HB station to Uetliberg (sbb.ch; return tickets from Rs 1,080/ person, free travel with the ZürichCARD).
Where To Stay
If you choose to stay overnight, there’s no better option than Hotel Uto Kulm, well-known for hosting proposals and weddings, with a range of nine Romance Suites to boot (00-41-44-457-6666; utokulm.ch, email@example.com; from Rs 15,000).