When researching things to do in the Swiss Alps mountain regions, several areas are usually mentioned; the Berner Oberland, Wallis, Graubünden and Ticino. These regions, or Kantons, are where most of the mountain action is. Like all Swiss language related matters, confusion may result due to which of the four national languages is being used. These same regions may also be called the Valais, Grisons, and Tessin. Thankfully, our home region stays the same, the Berner Oberland.
The Swiss Alps Mountain Regions and Kantons
Each of the Swiss mountain regions has a distinct look, feel, language, and culture. This list is meant to be an overview of the most popular areas, highlighting what each region is known for. Of course there are other mountain areas in Switzerland, but here we’ll stick to the big boys. Apologies to Glarus, Vaud, Uri, Jura and Appenzell.
Berner Oberland / Jungfrau Region
Central Switzerland, Swiss German speaking. The most quintessentially Swiss region of the Alps. Home to the Eiger, the Jungfraujoch, Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen Valley. The Berner Oberland are the high mountains of Kanton Bern around the Jungfrau Region and Eiger. The region is picture post card green, incredibly so, with wild flower covered hillsides reaching up to high mountain walls that quickly turn to steep rock and glaciers. Bern Tourism. Jungfrau Region.
- Endless hiking and running trails
- Hut to hut hiking, running and ski tours
- Alpine climbing; notably the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau
- Interlaken with the alpine lakes Brienzersee and Thunersee
- Cycling the Grosse Scheidegg and passes of the central Alps; Susten and Grimsel
- Interlaken Paragliding paradise
Wallis / Valais
Southwest Switzerland, both Swiss German and French speaking. The Wallis is home to the big mountains, the monsters of the Alps, and the dramatic landscapes that makes the Alps famous. It is surely the mountain playground, with typically the best (smoothest) trails for running and mountain biking. This is where the bulk of the Alps 4000 meter peaks are and home to the Matterhorn. The Wallis is neighbor to Chamonix sharing the same alpine ingredients for all kinds of alpine climbing, ski touring or hiking fun. Wallis Tourism.
- Big mountains, glaciers, terrain with drier & warmer weather than the Berner Oberland
- Hut to hut hiking, running, ski touring and alpine trips
- The Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, etc…
- Home to the Haute Route ski tour
- Mountain biking mecca
Graubünden / Grisons / Grischun
Southeast Switzerland, Romansh, Swiss German and Italian speaking. Here the mountains are a bit smaller but no less dramatic. In fact they have something more, a magical feeling that perhaps the local language, Romansh, has something to do with as it is a beautiful old mountain language. The Graubünden is home to the easternmost 4000 meter peak, the Piz Bernina and the stunning Engadin, a massive, high valley starting at 1800 meters and containing a number of alpine lakes around glitzy St. Moritz. The Graubünden is the place to explore a bit more wild and remote mountains, either in the National Park, or around the Piz Bernina. It is also the place to be in October, when all the many larch trees turn gold and the light works its magic. For rock climbers, the Val Bregaglia is home to alpine granite climbing including the famous Piz Badile. Graubünden Tourism.
- Mountain culture and architecture in towns like Guarda, Bergün, Bondo, and so many more…
- Climbing in the Val Bregaglia, Sciora, Piz Badile, and Albigna
- Piz Bernina and Piz Palu alpine climbing
- Extensive mountain biking networks in Davos and St. Moritz
- Fall colors
- Endless hiking and running trails in a bit more friendly terrain compared to the rest of the Alps
- Ski touring mecca
- Cycling on the Passo Stelvio, Umbrail, Albula, Maloja and Fluela and many, many more
Ticino / Tessin
Southern Switzerland, Italian speaking. The Ticinese mountains have much less alpine terrain, making them a bit friendlier to look at, but still with the massive relief common to the Alps. Additionally, with less severe terrain, the mountain culture has crept higher into the Alps, providing for a historical component to the region in that ancient dwellings are found throughout the mountains. Here, small, un-wardened, cute and cozy huts are the standard, unlike the massive, bustling huts typical of the Wallis and Berner Oberland. Two valleys get a lot of the attention, the Valle Verzasca and Valle Maggia with their stunning rivers and outstanding hiking trails. Ticino Tourism.
- Extensive hut to hut hiking systems
- Warmer, drier, more stable weather than the rest of the Alps
- Super friendly locals and great food!
- Granite climbing crags
- Valle Verzasca and the famous river running through it
- Warm lakes around Locarno and Lugano complete with palm trees and their own climate
- Big ski touring terrain in Val Bedretto
- Cycling on the famous cobbled side of the Gotthard Pass (Passo Tremola)