If rules are made to broken, then let’s break a widely perceived notion that Switzerland, or more specifically the Swiss Alps are only good for Winter holidays, snow and skiing. Taking a family holiday to Switzerland in the Summer months or, in the low season of course has its benefits. No crowds, cheaper flights, more hotel availability but, really you are getting so much more! If you’re looking for a Summer vacation with a little more adrenaline included than sitting by the pool, Switzerland may well be the place for you.
The region that we’d recommend is Villars-Gryon and Les Diablerets, which is nestled amongst the three Swiss mountain resorts nearest to Geneva. We visited the well-known luxury ski resort of Villars-Sur-Ollon – a village in the heart of the western Swiss Vaud Alps, perched on a natural balcony with an altitude of 1,300 meters – which becomes a ‘green’ playground in the summer months. The resort offers sports, relaxation, culture and of course, activities that suit all the family. Breathtaking scenery – views of Lake Geneva to Mont-Blanc for one, surprisingly warm weather and, the chance to really get the family outdoors and get some good old fashioned fresh (mountain) air.
Here’s why families in search of an active holiday should head to Switzerland – in the Summertime:
The Swiss Mountains
Of course. But, let’s look at them a different way. Don’t just think of them as alpine slopes, instead take in their natural, sweeping beauty and the outdoor adventure that awaits. Those fantastic Swiss mountains, rivers, lakes and gorges, when not covered in snow and ice, make for an activity holiday that will really get the family moving. Think mountain climbing, hikes, mountain scooter trails, paragliding and so much more. With more than 500km of marked trails, mountain hiking is a key summer activity.
In Villars-Sur-Ollon: Here you can take a train to Bretaye – straight up to the ski station which is 1800 meters above sea level and from here enjoy a leisurely 90 minute hike to Lac des Chavonnes. Spot the small herds off toffee patch cows and their tinkling cowbells, enjoy the vast views and follow a stunning walking path that leads to a beautiful lake and restaurants.
Places to Eat:
Restaurant du Lac des Chavonnes – The perfect lunch spot located near the lake of the same name. With it’s friendly staff, pretty setting, traditional dishes and Instagram worthy views you can easily while away a few hours here – especially after all that hiking.
Refuge de Solalex – A true Swiss experience located just a few miles from the villages of Gryon and Villars. Don’t miss the famous raclette cooked over the wood fire, the fondues and smoked and cured meats served with fries and salad. A beautiful setting and a cosy atmosphere.
La Gourmandine – located in the centre of Villars, only a short walk from the railway station, offering home-made burgers, fresh take-away salads, delicious, freshly made sandwiches as well as savoury pies, galettes and crepes – the relaxed vibe is ideal for families.
Frience Snack Bar – In the centre of Alpe des Chaux and offering variety of drinks and hot snacks including paninis, sweet treats and waffles in a family-friendly environment.
Don’t forget to try: Le Bitter des Diablerets – a bitter, brown aperitif made from alpine herbs and orange zest originating from French-speaking Switzerland.
Hire a Mountain or Grass Scooter – a specially adapted off-road scooter (basically, a mountain bike without a seat and pedals) with the idea being that you stand up, bend your knees a bit and literally scoot yourself down the rocky, grassy and gravelled mountain. If you don’t like pedalling, then this just may be the thing for you! They are definitely not for the faint hearted or the young (recommend aged is 8 + or over 130m in height). Booking is recommended. For more information visit villars-diablerets
Hit a High Ropes Course – With 4-different courses including a Kids course (from 4yrs) with 10 obstacles, a 6-Zip-wire and Dahu courses with ladders and bridges that lead you high up into the trees and a Vertical course that includes jumps. For more information visit Parc des Diables
Visit an Adventure Playground– Gyron Parc is so much more than just an adventure playground! With everything from a mini train, an electric car track and an 18 hole crazy golf course (the only one of its kind in Switzerland) for young children. For older kids there is a play area with slides, swings and a zip wire amongst other things like the Skydive, a 50 metre long, 15 metre high seated zip wire. For more information visit Gryon Parc
The Weather in Switzerland
What Switzerland (as a landlocked country) may be lacking in seafronts and sandy shores, it makes up for in lakefronts. Home to an estimated 7000 or so lakes, that can be enjoyed as you would the sea, be it a cool dip or for water sports. One thing Switzerland definitely has is good weather (mostly) so swimming is the perfect activity. If you go to high altitude the temperatures of course will plummet, but throughout most of the country there is a nice average of 18 to 29 °C (65° – 82° F) from July to August.
In Villars-Sur-Ollon: Visit the Les Bains de Villars where you’ll find several swimming pools, a wellness area, steam baths, on-site spa and snack bar all overlooking the Vaudois Alps. The fabulous outdoor pool is perfect for families with patio lounge areas, slides, fountain water jets and an inflatables course. Also on site is a year-round outdoor ice rink.
The Free-Access Card for Families
In the summer months, be sure to collect your Free Access Card. This card is available to all guests staying in hotels, chalets or apartments from June until the end of October. The Free Access Card allows you to enjoy free or discounted and unlimited access to mountain transport including cable cars, rack railway and trains, over 35 sports and leisure activities like golf, tennis, mountain bikes, cave tours and swimming pools in the Villars, Gryon and Les Diablerets region. For younger children it includes mini-golf, bouncy castles and a miniature train ride!
Good to Know: If you are not staying in the resort The Free Access Card costs from 12 SF for a day/65 SF for the summer season. It’s free for children under 9 years old.
The Swiss Culture Trip
For those days when you want a break from mountain hiking, the area of Villars, Gryon and Les Diablerets is full of interesting cultural sites, castles and historical ares of beauty. Here’s few not to miss:
Tower of St-Triphon – A medieval tower on St Triphon hill inhabited since the Bronze age.
Salt Mines of Bex – Discover various techniques for mining salt that have been used since 1684 with an interesting tour.
Chaplin’s World – An entertaining museum that showcases the private and artistic life of Charlie Chaplin. In the former house of the actor who lived in the area for 25 years until his death in 1977.
Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) – one of the most beautiful medieval castles in Switzerland – perched on a rocky islet on the edge of Lake Geneva.
Col de La Croix Alpine Pastures– See over 500 years of traditional Alpine cheese making over a wood fire without any use of machinery and using utensils already employed in the middle ages. Visit the farm and sample the Mottier family’s homemade breakfast offerings (booking advised). Great panoramic views over the Alps and Glacier 3000 also.
The 5* Hotels in any weather
We stayed at the Chalet RoyAlp Hôtel & Spa in Villars-Sur-Ollon. As a member of the leading hotels of the world, this 5 -star chalet style lodge hotel enjoys a picturesque view all year round. With 63 rooms/suites and 30 residences (varying from 1-6 rooms), 4-restaurants, a kids-club, renowned spa and pool area – you are guaranteed a family-friendly welcome. Spacious and airy rooms with plenty of storage space ( in the Summer you have no bulky ski wear and boots), large bathrooms with corner baths and walk-in showers and private terrace.
For children, as well as the sensory filled playroom, there is an outdoor playground, games rooms and cinema room. The hotel offers a needs-to-be-seen-to-be-believed full buffet breakfast, high speed WiFi and a cozy and authentic atmosphere with its various Alpine lounges and seating areas inside and outside in the garden. For more information visit Chalet RoyAlp