A Swiss Alps Adventure: Accessible Travel Tips

Four parts of the Swiss Alps exist within Switzerland: Schweizer Alpen (German), Alpes suisses (French), Alpi svizzere (Italian) and Alps svizras (Romansh).

When I visited Switzerland in 2011 we drove there from the UK.  It’s an expensive country so we only stayed a week, although I can’t wait to return. I love alpine views, blue lakes and fresh air. The pristine Alpine scenery didn’t disappoint; the greenest grass I’ve ever seen, pretty pitched roof Swiss chalets and cows with bells jingle jangle on the grassy slopes.

Accessibility in Switzerland

Here are a few Swiss wheelchair accessibility tips I found while searching online. Zurich is relatively small and flat and has plenty of drop curbs. There are some cobblestones in the old part of town though. Bern’s old town also has cobblestones but smooth pavements as well. On Lake Geneva, Vevey has a long lakeside promenade. There were some disgruntled reports on accessibility in Geneva (lack of drop curbs and access to restaurants) but not having been there yet I can’t say for sure. Public restrooms with wheelchair access can usually be found in train stations, cable car stations, museums, hotels & some restaurants.

Swiss Food
Switzerland is very expensive so we didn’t get to eat in restaurants. I don’t think there would be too many problems for dining out, but I can’t say from first-hand experience. We took some food with us from the UK like noodles and pasta and bought fresh bread and vegetables in the shops and supermarkets. We usually cook breakfast and dinner on the campsites and take a packed lunch during the day. The one thing I remember from Switzerland is ready made Potato Rosti in a packet that you can fry up for a quick and easy meal.

Jung Frau & Interlaken
Much of the Jungfrau is accessible to wheelchair users via mountain trains and cable cars. There are special passes available that cover all of the possible exciting journeys to the peaks. The good news is that wheelchair users and their carers get 50% off.

Across the road from Lake Thunersee is Camping Alpenblick, Seestrasse 130 at Neuhaus. This campground has a new washroom building with a wheelchair accessible heated toilet and shower. This was a lovely campsite with level walkways but had a bit of traffic noise as it is next to the road. It was 16 euros per night plus tax (2adults+tent+car) with an ACSI camping card.

Luckily just across the road is a fabulous nature wheelchair walk not to be missed and a lakeside park where we barbecued our dinner whilst soaking up the fantastic Thunersee Lake views.

Lauterbrunnen is a quaint alpine village with decorative wooden chalets and farmhouses. We visited for the afternoon and enjoyed a picturesque wheelchair walk just out of the village. We also drove up to Grindelwald but decided not to leave the car. It’s quite a busy tourist village and it seemed like too much hassle at the time.

At Stechelberg we stayed at Camping Rutti, a very peaceful campsite with only basic facilities. Snow- capped mountain views from the tent though. And good location for the cable car station for trips to Murren. It was 16 euros per night plus tax (2adults+tent+car) with ACSI card.

We went on the cable car from Stechelberg to Murren. Murren is a picturesque mountain resort that does not allow cars on the streets, so it’s safe to wheel along the road. It was a wonderful day out and it felt great to be on higher ground. The main street is fairly level but if you want a longer walk there is a smooth path that climbs up behind the village. There are some slopes, in which some wheelchair users may need assistance.

Wheelchair travel resource for the area of InterlakenGeneral tourist info 

Lake Lucerne
I chose Weggis because of the path from Weggis to Vitznau. This smooth surfaced and level path is a worthwhile wheelchair stroll around the side of Lake Lucerne. It’s also near the road too so there is sometimes some traffic noise. Although quite a bit of Weggis is on a slope, the promenade is level and lovely. The views of the lake are magical. Weggis has its own micro climate and is warmer due to the shelter of the hillside and the south facing location.

We camped on a farm where there was no disabled facilities but pleasant rustic surroundings.

Where to Find Wheelchair Walks
While planning my next trip to Switzerland, I started with my wheelchair walk research and discovered skate routes.  Browsing cycling and skating websites gives me an idea of where I might find the scenic smooth paths that will give me the freedom to explore the countryside.

Future Trip to Lake Biel, near Berne
St Peters Island is on the list for my next trip. Apparently it’s a car-free peninsula in the middle of Lake Biel with a restaurant at the end. The website indicates which activities are suitable for the disabled. There are also various cruises on Lake Biel which are advertised as accessible too. Various countryside paths are the reason that I’m attracted to this area. Moorland path and Vine path are mentioned as accessible on the website. Plus the cycling routes Around Lake Biel and the Vegetable path may show promise too. I’m looking forward to some wheelchair bike rides on hopefully smooth and accessible routes.

French Alpine Wheelchair Adventure
On the French side of the Alps in Chamonix I went to the top of Aiguille du Midi in the wheelchair accessible cable cars. I also visited the receding Glacier via the Montenvers Mer du Glace train which involves some steep ramp action with the help of 3 platform assistants. I stayed in my wheelchair once on board in the designated space. There is no restroom on the train, but there are accessible facilities in the station and the journey is about 30 minutes.

There are some excellent greenway paths alongside turquoise blue alpine lakes in Rhone Alps. The greenways (voies vertes in French) are a network of car- free paths most of which are suitable for wheelchair strolls. Lake Annecy has accessible lakeside beaches and a 40k car-free path with gorgeous scenery. Lake Bourget has a romantic tree lined promenade at Aix les Bains, plus a new greenway alongside the Lake.

Winter Wheelchair Snowsports
As a camping traveller, my visits to the Alps have been in late spring and early autumn. For those whose who want winter wheelchair action, the Ski 2 Freedom website has details of accessible resorts and disabled ski equipment.

Conclusion
Despite the geography, the mountains are more accessible than I expected. It seems that in this more challenging terrain, an extra effort is made to accommodate wheelchair users. Between boat rides, cable cars, mountain trains, promenades, greenways and cycle paths there are many ways for wheelchair users to enjoy the Alps. The stunning scenery will keep me coming back for more.

Marina writes about her wheelchair travels at Wheel Travel Blog.


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