Fall is easily my favorite time of year to travel in Europe. Sure, there’s fewer crowds and the temperatures are slightly cooler. However, the best part about this season is seeing all the trees transform into brilliant shades of orange, yellow and red. From Lake Bled to the Dolomites, the opportunities to go leaf-peeping in Europe are endless. That’s why I’ve put together a list of the best destinations in Europe for Fall colors, including tips to help you plan the perfect Europe trip this autumn season.
When should I visit to see the best colors?
The peak time to see the leaves change color doesn’t happen at the exact same time every year, primarily due to differences in the weather. The change from green to shades of red, yellow and orange happens gradually and not all trees in the same area change color at the same time. Generally, the leaves change in the northern regions of Europe first like Sweden, Norway and Finland since the weather starts to get cooler there before the lower regions of Europe. To allow for these differences, I’ve added specific times for each location indicating when the “peak time” is to see fall colors.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Slovenia is a destination that usually falls below the radar for most people. However, I highly recommend putting it on your fall travel list this year. Last October we visited Slovenia and we were totally blown away by how beautiful the entire country was. Although a bit touristy, we particularly loved Lake Bled because of the fall colors that surrounded the entire lake. The lake even features a tiny island in its center with a castle that looks straight out of a fairytale. You can read more about our fall trip to Slovenia here.
When to visit: Late September to Mid October
Located in the beautiful Salzkammergut region of Austria, Hallstatt is known as one of the most idyllic towns in Europe. I particularly love visiting here in the fall season because of the smaller crowds and gorgeous fall foliage that surrounds the lake and charming lakeside cottages. The entire village is refreshingly car-free and full of plenty of cute shops and cafes that you can check out as you wander through the streets and alleyways. There’s also plenty of festivals this time of year celebrating the harvest season that are worth checking out.
It’s no secret that the Dolomites are one of my favorite places in the world, especially during the fall season. During this time of year, the larches all change color transforming the valleys into brilliant shades of yellow and orange. The shadows also become longer this time of year causing the light to cast a rich golden orange and rosy pink over the Dolomite rock formations. No matter what time of year you visit, the Dolomites are stunning. However, the fall colors combined with the dramatic light make it even more breathtaking and perfect for photography.
Besides the amazing festivals this time of year like Oktoberfest and the Pumpkin Fest, Germany is definitely worth visiting to see the fall colors. Germany is full of fairytale castles but one of my favorites is Burg Eltz in northern Germany. The castle itself is situated in the Moselle valley surrounded by the majestic Elzbach river and lush forests. It was built in 1540 and has become quite popular on Instagram for good reason. It’s worth a visit here any time of year, but when autumn arrives, the surrounding landscape really transforms, and the warm orange and yellow leaves bring the forest to life.
There are plenty of great places to visit during the fall in Switzerland, but Engadin definitely steals the show. Located in the southeast part of Switzerland, Engadin is as rich in culture as it is in nature. During the autumn season, the larches turn a brilliant gold, covering every inch of the valleys in a stunning burst of color. For the best colors, be sure to check out Lake Sils and the nearby valley that is home to Morteratsch glacier.
Fall is the perfect time to visit Lapland before it becomes bathed in complete darkness for the rest of winter. Summer comes to an end with an explosion of colors in the forest, which is referred to as “ruska” by the locals. During this season the beautiful fells of Lapland are painted in beautiful shades of reds, browns, and yellows. Generally, this season only lasts for roughly 2 weeks and is especially popular with photographers. To get the full experience, I highly recommend renting a cabin on one of Finland’s thousands of lakes to witness the incredible reflection of the colorful trees on the water.
When to visit: Late September
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Photo by Jordan Hammond
If you’re looking for a unique place to visit this fall then Plitvice Lakes in Croatia should definitely be on your list. Although it’s a bit further east than you might typically venture, it’s well worth the extra distance to visit these magical lakes. The park itself is located 80 miles from Zagreb, and is made up of 16 lakes connected by a series of waterfalls. During the fall, the lush forests are bathed in all different shades of yellows, reds, and oranges, which offer the perfect contrast against the crystal clear blue lakes. The entrance fee for the park is $8 and it is welcome to visitors year-round.
Besides Eltz Castle, you definitely don’t want to miss out on seeing another equally famous castle in Germany known as Neuschwanstein Castle. Built in the 19th Century by King Ludwig, this place will surely make you feel like you’re in a real-life fairytale (It did inspire Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom after all). The castle is located in southern Germany, in a very special region called the Bavarian Alps. In the fall, the castle sits on top of a hill surrounded by the dense Bavarian forest covered in a kaleidoscope of oranges, yellows, and browns. Besides the gorgeous fall foliage and views, there’s also significantly less crowds this time of year, making it all the more convincing to visit this time of year!
When to visit: Beginning of October to Mid October
I hope you found this list helpful to plan your very own Fall trip to Europe. If you have any Fall destinations in Europe that you loved and would like to share, let me know in the comments below!
Whether you’re looking to see towering peaks and massive glaciers or emerald blue lakes and charming valleys, the number of possibilities for hiking in Switzerland are endless. In fact, the main reason why I moved here over 3 years ago from the states was not because of the cheese or chocolate, but because the mountains were so accessible and a major part of the lifestyle here in Switzerland. Within just an hour or two by train, you can be hiking in the mountains with hundreds of kilometers of well-maintained trails to explore.
With so many great options, you can’t really go wrong with any hike that you choose. However, based on my own personal experiences, I’ve to put together a list of “the 10 best hikes in Switzerland” to help you plan the perfect hiking trip while visiting including helpful tips and information about the hikes. I’ve tried to cover a wide range of locations ranging from the North to the South and the West to the East to show you some of the most amazing scenery this country has to offer.
What to know before hiking in Switzerland?
Like anywhere in the world, hiking in the mountains can be potentially dangerous since the weather in the mountains can change in an instant. I’ve had days where I’ve started my hike with blue skies and it’s ended in a full-blown snowstorm in the middle of August. So it’s important to always be prepared whenever you’re venturing into the mountains. Make sure you always keep additional warm clothing and supplies if you know you’ll be out on the trail for more than a few hours.
When is the best time to visit?
In Switzerland, hiking season usually begins in June after the snow has melted enough and lasts until late September or sometimes even October depending on the weather. It’s important to keep in mind that this is also peak tourism season in Switzerland so it’s best to plan things like accommodation ahead of time, especially in places like Lucerne, Interlaken, or Zermatt. The fall season is also particularly nice for hiking here since there are usually fewer tourists and the leaves begin to change. However, you should be prepared for all types of weather, especially snow and colder temps during this season.
What to wear hiking?
The best advice I can give when it comes to choosing what hiking clothing to wear is to layer! If you’ve ever spent time in the mountains, you know that the temperatures can fluctuate drastically, which is why it’s always important to be prepared. You should have clothing that will protect you from the elements and help you regulate your body temperature. You can read more about what I wear and take hiking with me, as well as additional hiking tips, in this blog post here.
Just over an hour from Zurich, the Pizol 5 Lake Hike is a great option for hikers that can easily be done in a day. This hike features some of the bluest alpine lakes and spectacular views of the Alps of Eastern Switzerland.
How to get there: Start at the Pizol Gondola in Wangs and take it to the Pizolhütte at the top. From here, the hike begins, climbing for about an hour to the first lake, Wildsee. After that, you can continue on to see the other 4 lakes as the trail ascends and descends before returning to Station Gaffia. For more information read here.
Nestled away in the Bernese Alps, high above the charming town of Kandersteg is the crystal clear waters of Oeschenin Lake. There are miles of trails that loop around the lake and into the mountains, but of course, you can also relax at the waterfront restaurant or rent a boat and paddle around the lake.
My favorite hiking loop you can do here is from Oeschinensee – Oberbärgli – Heuberg, which takes about 3.5 hours without stops. I love this hike because you can wander high above the lake and see it from so many different perspectives while being surrounded by the alps. This hike does have some steep sections and the trail does narrow a bit along the cliffsides, so I would only suggest this hike if you have aren’t afraid of heights.
How to get there: You can either hike from the town of Kandersteg (this is very steep though) or take the cable car to the top of the mountain. From the cable car, it is only a 30-minute walk to reach the edge of the lake. For more information read here.
Hike Time: 3.5 Hours (depending on route you take)
Seealpsee is one of the most popular lakes in Switzerland and is an easy day trip from Zurich. The lake itself is located in one of my favorite regions known as Alpstein, which is home to one of the densest networks of hiking trails in all of Switzerland. If you’re not a very experienced hiker, then the hike to Seealpsee is a great option for you since it can be reached by simply walking up a service road. Or if walking uphill isn’t for you, then I suggest taking the cable car up to Ebenalp, where you can add on a visit to the Äscher Restaurant as you make your way down to the lake.
The Äscher Restaurant is probably one of the most famous and most photographed places in Switzerland because it’s literally built into the side of a cliff. I highly recommend checking it out and grabbing a bite to eat here, although I suggest going as early as you can since it gets incredibly busy and it can be hard to get a table.
How to get there: There are two ways to reach the lake. The first option is to walk up the service road from Wasserauen. The second option is to take the Ebenalp cable car to the top of the mountain then walk down to the lake, stopping by Ascher hut on the way down. For more hiking information, read here.
Hike Time: 1 hour from Wasserauen or 1.5 hours from Ebenalp
Distance: 2.5km from Wasserauen or 2.6km from Ebenalp
Switzerland is home to many amazing glaciers, but I highly recommend checking out Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in Switzerland. The Aletsch Glacier is located in the southern region of Switzerland, in Wallis, and is a great place to stop off at if you’re on your way to Zermatt.
The size and scale of the glacier is pretty remarkable, running over 23 km (14 mi) all the way to Jungfraujoch and almost 900m (2950 ft) deep. There are a few hikes you can do here, but I recommend the Aletsch Glacier Panorama Trail which runs alongside the lower part of the glacier. The whole trail offers remarkable views of not only the glacier but also the 32 4,000m peaks that flank its entire length.
How to get here: Start in the town of Riederalp and take the Musfluh Cable Car to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, you’ll find the trail which meanders along the side of the glacier for most of the hike until you reach Märjelenseen, where you can either stop for a bite to eat at the hut or continue on to the Fiescheralp cable car station. For more information, read here.
Hike Time: 3.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 510m
Starting Point/End Point: Musfluh Cable Car Station/Fiescheralp Cable Car Station
If you’re staying near the Interlaken area, then it’s definitely worth checking out the nearby town of Grindelwald. From here, there are plenty of great hikes that offer panoramic views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains, which each stand over 4000m high. However, my favorite hike here is from First Gondola to Bachalpsee, which is a perfect trail for novice hikers looking for stunning views.
The trail itself is easily accessible and you can reach the lake in less than an hour’s walk. Once at the lake, you’ll be able to see the sharp jagged peaks of the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn reflecting in the emerald blue waters. There’s plenty of benches here that are perfect for resting on and enjoying a picnic before heading back down. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can also continue another hour onto the Berghotel Faulhorn located at the top of the mountain.
How to get here: Start in the town of Grindelwald and go to the Grindelwald First Cable Car Station. From here, take the cable car to the top, where you can start the hike just by following the signs once you exit the station. For more information, read here.
If you happen to be staying in Zermatt, the 5 lakes hike, also known as the 5 Seenweg Hike, is one of the best and most popular hikes you can do in the area. The hike offers incredible views of snowcapped mountains, emerald blue lakes, green hills, and of course the mighty Matterhorn in the distance. As the name suggests, during this hike you’ll pass by 5 lakes (Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee), 3 of which offer reflections of the Matterhorn. Each of the lakes features their own unique characteristics and landscapes, and you can even stop to swim in a few of them after working up a sweat while hiking. There’s also plenty of places to grab a bite to eat along the way, including the wonderful Chez Vrony hut.
How to get here: Take the cable car from Zermatt Village to the top of the Blauherd Cable Car Station. From here, you can start the hike by following the signs after exiting the station. After passing by the lakes, your final destination will be the Sunnegga Upper Cable Car Station. For more information, read here.
Visiting Mount Rigi is a great option if you’re staying in Lucerne or want to take a short day trip from Zurich (40mins.). Once at the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Lake Lucerne and north towards Zurich. There are plenty of hikes you can do here, depending on how long you wish to make it. You can either take the cog-railway from Vitznau or Arth Goldau to Rigi Kulm at the top or get off at any stop along the way. Once at the top you can admire the view and then walk down to Rigi First, where you can join the Rigi Panoramic Trail. The whole trail itself is 7.5km and takes over 2 hours to complete, but there are shorter versions as well. This hike is a great option if you have kids or if you’re looking for an easy and accessible hike since the trail is wide and well-groomed. I also recommend combining this trip with a ferry ride from Luzern, which is a great way to see the lake on your way to or from Rigi.
How to get here: Take the cog-railway from either Vitznau or Arth Goldau all the way to the top at the Rigi Kulm station. From here hike down to the Rigi First station where the trail joins up with the Rigi Panoramic Trail. Follow the trail all the way to the Rigi Scheideg station, where you can take the cog-railway down. For more information, read here.
Arguably one of the most beautiful alpine ridges, the Hardergrat trail is the perfect trail for hikers looking to challenge themselves. Along the way, you can witness incredible views of Lake Brienz below you and the towering Bernese Alps in the distance. The trail is steep and is not recommended for those with fear of heights or for those who are inexperienced, as it runs directly along the ridgeline with drops on both sides for 18km of the 27km long trail. Maybe that’s why they call it one of the most dangerous hikes in Switzerland.
Hiking Tip: If you choose to do this hike, I highly suggest taking hiking poles with you, having proper footwear, and to not attempt this trail if conditions are wet or muddy on the trail. You should also start the hike early enough to allow for enough time to reach Brienzer Rothorn before the last cable car goes down.
How to get here: Take the funicular to Harder Kulm from the valley all the way to the top where the trail begins. Follow the trail for 27km along the ridgeline until you reach Brienzer Rothorn. You can also do this trail the opposite way, starting at Brienzer Rothorn and ending at Harder Kulm.
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, then how does walking on a suspension bridge that is 170m long and 100m high surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and a glacier sound?
The Trift Bridge, located in the Bernese Oberland, is one of the longest and highest suspension bridges in the Alps. The hike takes you through grassy meadows and alongside glacial rivers and waterfalls until you eventually reach the suspension bridge. Here you can cross the turquoise blue glacier lake fed by the glacier tongue at its end. Witnessing this place in person is a bold reminder of just how fast our glaciers are melting due to global warming. Only just a few years ago, the Trift Hut further down the trail could be reached on foot via the glacier tongue. Since it has receded so much, the suspension bridge was built to maintain access for hikers.
How to get here: Take the Triftbahn from Nessental (Bus Stop) which will take you from the Gamden Valley to the Trift Valley. This cable car can only hold 8 people and runs every 12 minutes. So be sure to book your ticket ahead of time online here to reserve a spot because it can get very busy, especially on weekends. You’ll also be asked to reserve a time that you would like to return on the cable car so make sure to allow for ample time to enjoy the scenery and for getting back down. For additional information, you can read here.
Located in the Valais region of Switzerland, the Lac de Moiry circuit loops around the stunning turquoise waters of the lake at a height of 2500m. Once at the far end of the lake, you’ll cross the river La Gourga, which feeds the reservoir below. You’ll also pass another lake, Lac de Châteaupré, before having the chance to scale the massive glacial moraine. This is great hiking option if you’re visiting the nearby Zermatt region and offers plenty of spectacular mountain views throughout the hike.
How to get there: Start at the bus stop/car park at the crest of the dam, near the restaurant. This hike can be done in either direction since the starting point and ending point is the same. For more information, read here.
Hike Time: 4:45m
Elevation Gain: 567m
Starting Point/End Point: Moiry Dam
Now it’s time to book your trip to Switzerland!
I hope you can find my Swiss hiking list and hiking tips of use when you plan your very own trip to Switzerland. If you’ve ever been hiking in Switzerland and have any tips or fun hikes you’ve done that you’d like to share, let me know in the comments below!