The Matterhorn, Switzerland

The Matterhorn in Switzerland is one of the world’s most recognizable mountains.  To view the summit, you must travel to the town of Zermatt.  After reaching Zermatt, a separate ticket needs to be purchased for the red train (in the photo below you can see the train behind me) that will take you to a higher summit where you can enjoy unobstructed views of the mountain.  Remember to stay hydrated at high altitudes!  Zermatt is easily accessible by train from Interlaken (about a 2 hour train ride) or Geneva (about 4 hours each way).  Zermatt itself is really touristy and not charming but viewing the Matterhorn is well worth the journey.

Saya Matterhorn

WHEN TO VISIT Switzerland:

The best months are the summer months for clear weather.  However, these are also the busiest months for tourism.  You can save a good chunk of money and avoid the bulk of the crowds by visiting slightly off season in May or September.

WHAT TO WEAR IN Switzerland:

Zermatt is at an elevation of 5,276 feet, and the viewing point of the Matterhorn is even higher.  Remember to bring layers as the temperature may change quickly.

HOW TO GET TO Zermatt:

The town of Zermatt does not allow cars, so the best way to arrive here is by train.  The Swiss rail system connects Zermatt to Interlaken and Zermatt to Bern in just over 2 hours by rail.  Hotel prices in Bern tend to be slightly cheaper than those in Interlaken.

Switzerland’s Wine Country

Most people don’t realize that Switzerland has beautiful vineyards.  Travelers can take a mild to moderately challenging hike passing (or stumbling, depending on how often you stop for a tasting) through several vineyards located on the shores of Lake Geneva.  The entire Lavaux wine region is a UNESCO world heritage site and stretches 30 kilometers from Lausanne to Montreux.  One of the most scenic hiking trails starts in the small town of Cully (about a 20 minute train ride from Lausanne).  Take the train to the town of Cully and begin your hike here.   Between here and the town of Rivaz (about 5 km from Cully) you will have great views of immaculate terraced vineyards, Lake Geneva, and the French Alps.  If you have more time in this region, stay overnight in Montreux or Lausanne and catch a music festival in the summer (Paléo Festival de Nyon, Montreux Jazz Festival).

Headed to Rivaz

Swiss Vineyard

Vineyards Sign

 

Iceland’s Best Waterfall

A two hour drive from Reykjavik along Iceland’s southern coast will take you to Skogafoss-one of country’s most famous waterfalls, and, in my opinion, it’s best.  Because the coastline has receded seaward in this area, the highlands meet the lowlands, allowing visitors to walk right up to the falls.  It is also easily accessible, as there is car park a short walk from the base of the falls.   The waterfall’s enormous drop creates a consistent spray, so it is very common to see a single or double rainbow on a sunny day.

Me, Skogafoss, and a double rainbow
Me, Skogafoss, and a double rainbow

Skogafoss was also the backdrop for scenes in the movie Thor: The Dark World.

Skogafoss

BEST TIME TO VISIT Iceland:

Plan a visit in late June, July or August when the weather is the warmest and the days are the longest.  Summer travel, while more expensive, allows you to make the most of your time there.  During the longest days in the summer, travelers will have nearly 24 hours of daylight.  If you want to get the best deals on hotels in Iceland, you may choose to travel in May or September.

skogafoss double rainbow

WHAT TO WEAR IN Iceland:

In the summer months you will need to wear layers.  The temperature can vary between the high 60s during the day to the mid 40’s at night.  Bring waterproof boots, so you can walk right up to the falls.  Off season travelers will need winter clothing to keep warm while sightseeing.

HOW TO GET TO Skogafoss:

The easiest way to arrive at Skogafoss is by car.  It is under a two hour drive from the capital city and can be easily done as a day trip.  The cheapest way would be to hitchhike or take the bus.  Strætó provides bus service in Reykjavik and to other parts of Iceland.  Bus route 51 travels from Reykjavik (the bus stop in the capital city is called “Mjodd”) to Vik as well as Jökulsárlón.

WHAT NOT TO MISS IN ICELAND:

In addition to Skogafoss, Jökulsárlón is one of Iceland’s most famous sites.  It is 2.5 hours from Skogafoss.  Between, Skogafoss and the glacial lagoon lies the seaside village of Vik.  Stop here to enjoy the black sand beaches.  Closer to the capital city, is the famous Golden Circle route which covers geysirs, the Thingvellir National Park, and Gulfoss (another waterfall).