British actress Julie Andrews hit the nail on the head when she dubbed Gstaad, Switzerland as “the last paradise in a crazy world.” It’s been said that we should often reflect on the journey just as much as the destination, and travel to Gstaad was no exception to that mantra. The two-and-a-half-hour train ride through the rolling hills of Switzerland offered views and vistas as grand as the alpine village itself. Disembarkation and arrival into Gstaad however, remained the ultimate highlight of the journey.
Given the fact that the main promenade of the town is just steps from its sole train station, one could easily walk from the station to the center of the city and be instantly transported into Nibbana of mountainous bliss. While predominantly a winter destination, its location is ideal for all seasons and any traveler looking to embark upon a well-being vacation. I chose to go in the fall, which was highlighted by pleasant weather, ample hiking opportunities and the opportunity to view the Gstaad Züglete—the annual procession of cows that come down from their mountain homes for the winter.
Standing alongside the promenade, during this festival, the ringing of bells can be heard from miles away off in the distance. Cows adorned in floral arrangements and multi-sized bells process proudly down the streets and even stop for the occasional pose for passersby. Witnessing this bovine waltz while dining on Swiss wine and cheese is a real combination of both culinary and cultural delight and embodies the true spirit of this mountain village.
While on the topic of food, no trip to Switzerland is complete without dining upon the wines above and cheeses. For a genuinely Swiss experience, reserve a booth at Fondueland Gstaad. This open-air eatery allows guests to enjoy delicious Swiss fondue while surrounded by the natural landscape of mountains and Swiss chalets. Not only are the views to-die-for, but the fact that your meal is eaten in a giant fondue pot only goes to highlight the experience. Guests are provided with a fondue backpack, equipped with everything required for Swiss-style, self-preparation of the fondue and, seeing that BYOB is not only allowed but encouraged, a trip to any nearby bottle shop is the perfect opportunity to purchase a bottle of local Swiss wine to pair with the meal.
In addition to the actual town itself, the surrounding area offers an abundance of activities to take advantage of as well. Being a traveler who incorporates fitness into each destination, I took part in a guided tour along the beautiful Lake Lauenen. Referred to as, “the epitome of a perfect mountain idyll,” this small yet mighty lake did not disappoint as its picturesque views from all angles provided photographic bliss as the surrounding mountains and clouds reflected off its surface as if they were one in the same. Another highlight of the surrounding area is a venture up to the top of Glacier 3000. Not only does it award a chance to walk across the world’s first and only suspension bridge to connect two mountain peaks, but for the adventurous kid-at-heart, you can also take a ride on the world’s highest alpine rollercoaster situated atop this ridge.
To round out an autumn stay in this panoramic paradise, the Menuhin Festival provides first-rate musical performances nightly throughout the summer and fall seasons. For those looking to truly “soak up” the adventure, Le Grand Bellevue spa is one of the most extensive resorts in the region and is a haven for world-class wellness which provides the perfect beginning, or end, to any trip to Gstaad while assigning a unique, laidback extravagance for the luxury traveler.