#JOM! GO: Mountain villages and towns

Zalina Mohd Som shares her experience exploring five Swiss mountain-jump-off-point villages and towns

IT is almost impossible to visit Switzerland without including one of its mountain destinations in the itinerary, with names like Matterhorn Klein, Jungfraujoch and Titlis not needing a hard sales pitch.

With their year-round winter attractions (read: single-digit temperature, snow-capped mountains and glacier tunnels), these mountains are on top of the list of Switzerland's must-visit places.

Thanks to the country's superb network of transportation systems and an attractive travel pass, these mountains become more appealing and attractive as sightseeing destinations.

So appealing that most of the time, the villages or little towns located at the base of the mountains are often overlooked.

While the villages of the more popular mountains are more touristy, the others win over with their charming, quaint settings.

Check out these five personal favourites of mountain-jump-off-point villages and towns.


When we wait for our guide, we are still high on adrenaline and excitement from the Schilthorn mountain tour. There seems to be no expectation on the hour-long walking tour in Murren.

However, the quaint, car-free village doesn't take much time to grow on us. Just five minutes after leaving the meeting point, the adrenaline and excitement from the mountain tour disappears.

The village wins us over with its charming collection of traditional Swiss timber houses, widely referred to as Swiss chalets, that are characterised by wide projecting roofs and facades that are decorated with balconies and ornaments.

Fitting Murren's position as a ski resort village, most facades hang old wooden ski sledges, and the balconies have potted colourful flowers.

Interestingly, the village of Murren was "created" as a place for out-of-towners to ski or take part in other mountain activities. Those on long journeys to or from the mountains use it as a transit point. Murren's history dates back to the 13th century, with it first being mentioned in writing in 1257.

During the day, the village is bustling with tourists, but at night, it takes on a peaceful atmosphere save for some occasional laughter from merrymakers at local pubs.


Take the cable car all the way to the peak of Schilthorn (2,970m) where Piz Gloria, a building housing a revolving restaurant featured in the 1969 James Bond film

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

and a Bond World exhibition and an outdoor observation deck, is located. Or stop at its Birg Station for its thrilling Skyline Walk.


Leukerbad, my second favourite village, is as charming as Murren, but with a more modern and bustling setting.

While there are Swiss chalets lining its narrow, winding streets, the village central square is surrounded by charming low-rise buildings with barn window shutters.

Famed for its natural thermal bath, the square is marked by a long bronze wall fountain with warm thermal water falling off the one-metre-high wall.

Across the fountain is a charming church that stands opposite the grand Walliser Alpentherme, one of the village's thermal bath spas.

Records have it that the mountain spa resort town has 3.9 million litres of 51°C water gushing from its 65 thermal springs every day.

These thermal springs have been drawing tourists to the village for over 500 years, making Leukerbad the largest thermal bathing and wellness resort in Switzerland.

Sitting at 1,411m above sea level, the thermal spa village is located at a mountain valley surrounded by the Gemmi Pass (2,322m) to its north, the Daubenhorn (2,942m) to its east and the Balmhorn (3,698m) in the west.

Just stand at the village square, and you can see these magnificent rugged mountains standing guard around you. The view is simply breathtaking.


Our tour at Leukerbad doesn't take us up the mountain peak, but it compensates with a two-hour Thermal Canyon Walk that begins with a leisure stroll in the village, before continuing further up and into a forested area where Dala River, the source of the thermal springs, is located. Then, the Thermal Canyon Walk starts on a steel walkway suspended about four metres above the river bed, and securely attached to the vertical bank of the gorge.


The first time we reached Lucerne was on the first day of our Switzerland trip. It was a brief train-hopping stopover at Lucerne Train Station before boarding a train to our first destination.

Our view was just within the walls of the train station, but we could already imagine the bustle of the city.

Then, when the day finally comes for us to stay a night in the city, we are as excited about the guided city walking tour as the mountain excursion to Fraekmuntegg.

Like other main European cities, Lucerne has a long history that leaves the city with an old town, complete with squares marked by clock towers, fountains and beautiful mediaeval houses lining the gravelled streets.

While Lucerne mesmerises with its quaint old world charm, the city's iconic landmark — Chapel Bridge — captivates with its history and structure. But what really catches our eyes are the original triangular-panel paintings dating back to the 17th century.

While some of the paintings that sit in the interior of the bridge's roof were destroyed together with a large part of the centuries-old bridge in a 1993 bridge fire, others are still intact.

It is highly recommended to stop and scrutinise each painting as you take a slow walk along the wooden bridge that spans across Reuss River.

Built in 1360, Chapel Bridge is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, and also the world's oldest surviving truss bridge.


Although we don't get to go all the way up to Pilatus (2,128m) — a mountain massif that overlooks Lucerne — its mountain station at Fraekmuntegg is enough to get us thrilled. Though half the altitude of the rest, it is home to Switzerland's longest summer toboggan run and the largest rope park in Central Switzerland.


The touristy Zermatt village — from Schwarzsee cable car station mid-way to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Europe's highest mountain station — looks like glittering sequins floating at the foot of the mountains.

Zermatt seems to be bigger and busier than the other "mountain" villages we've been to so far.

It has wide and long roads that sprawl out of its centre like a labyrinth, with low-rise buildings in both modern and traditional designs lining the roads.

Adding more buzz is the fast-flowing glacier river, Matter Vispa, and its tributaries that traverse the village from the glaciers at the feet of the highest peaks on the east and west sides.

However, the star of Zermatt is the clear view of the imposing Matterhorn Klien — the same peak that has been adorning the packaging of the world-famous Toblerone chocolate.

Like the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, the Matterhorn is a symbol of the village.

Another attraction that deserves a visit is the Matterhorn Museum, unmistakably the most modern building located in the heart of the village.

Housed in an all glass dome-like structure, the museum tells the history of the village from when it was a small village of mountain farmers to a world-famous alpine resort.


Hop on the cable car to the highest cable car station in Europe that sits at 3,883m above sea level, where Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is located. Like other mountain-top destinations, the peak has a 360° viewing platform from which, on a clear day, you can see 38 4,000m peaks, including the iconic Matterhorn Klein and 14 glaciers. There is also a glacier palace, a cinema lounge, a restaurant and ski slopes.


Sitting on the shore of Lake Geneva at the foot of the Alps, Montreux has a different vibe from the earlier stopovers.

The town is big and bustling, but at the same time, it's peaceful and quiet, and in fact, at certain times of the day and specific spots along the waterfront, Montreux is beautifully romantic.

It is no surprise that the town has been the preferred choice for artists, writers and travellers looking for tranquillity, beauty and inspiration since the 19th century.

Records have it that legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life on the hills of Vevey. The late Freddie Mercury, lead singer of rock band Queen, immortalised Lake Geneva on the cover of the group's last album, Made In Heaven.

In return, the shore of Lake Geneva in Montreux pays tribute to these legends with bronze statues of the stars in their iconic poses.

Though situated about a 45-minute ferry ride from each other, these bronze statues are landmarks that make a visit to Montreux complete.

Another must-visit lakeside attraction is Chillon Castle, a water castle that is said to be the real-life inspiration for Prince Eric's shoreside castle in the 1989 Disney animated feature,

The Little Mermaid.


Montreux is the only stopover that doesn't take us up to a mountain. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't have any, especially with the Alps as its backdrop. The highest point of the region is the Rochers-de-Naye mountain range which is only 55 minutes by train from the town. A trip up to the mountain is said to be one of the main attractions of Montreux, both in summer and winter.

One ticket for all

IT'S no hiding that Switzerland is one of the world's most expensive destinations. Almost every aspect of a holiday in the land-locked country, from lodging to dining and transport, could cost an arm and a leg.

But thanks to Swiss Travel Pass, foreign tourists can heave a sigh of relief. Designed with foreign tourists in mind, the all-in-one ticket has unlimited access and use of the Swiss public transport system, from trains to buses and water transports in more than 90 cities and towns.

Not only that, ticket holders will also get free admission to more than 500 museums throughout the country.

There are three free mountain excursions too — Rigi, Stanserhorn and Stoos. Other mountain excursions are offered at discounts of up to 50 per cent.

There are also discounts offered for other services.

Complete your dream trip to Switzerland with a comfortable stay, and don't forget to use Promo Code.

Enjoy a night stay at affordable rates with Agoda Discount Code.

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