Monthly Archive: October 2015

Europe’s Most Beautiful Villages

Colmar on the Lauch River, France

Oia, Santorini – Greece

Oia, Santorin i- Greece

Oia, Santorini – Wikipedia

If you have ever thought about island hopping southern Greece, or taking a Mediterranean cruise, chances are likely that you have seen pictures of Oia and its famous blue domed church, clinging to the edge of the gigantic volcanic caldera that is the island of Santorini.

Oia offers arguably the most picturesque example of the white-washed cubic architectural style found across a number of Greek islands. Known as Cycladic, the architectural style derives its name from the Greek island group the Cyclades of which Santorini is a part.

Santorini was once a center of the Minoan culture, and the natural disaster that befell the island during their dominance of the Mediterranean, is believed by some to be the source of Plato’s legend about the civilization of Atlantis. The eruption is also credited as one of the major reasons for the disappearance of the Minoan, and changing the coarse of Greek and World history.

Plane rides from Athens to Santorini are about 45 minutes, while a ferry ride can take between 5-8 hours.

Santorini – Official Website
Google Maps – Find
Flickr – Photo Gallery

 

Manarola (Cinque Terre) – Italy

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Manarola, Italy – Wikipedia

Manarola is part of a grouping of five scenic coastal villages known as the Cinque Terre (The Five Lands). The Cinque Terre was designated a national park due to the unique character of these villages, and the rugged landscape upon which they are built. Manarola is known for its brightly colored buildings, perched above a rocky boat harbor. Manarola shares a similar look to Vernazza, a sister city that can sometimes be confused as the same place. Both towns are equally beautiful, and the best time to photograph them is after sunset, as blue hour sets in.

The most convenient way to visit all 5 villages is by train from La Spezia. Unlimited day passes are available and the journey between each village is only a few minutes.  Other methods to reach the area include a ferry from nearby coastal towns, as well as a hiking trail that connects the villages. If you are touring Italy by car, its recommended that you park at La Spezia and take the train. Reaching any of these villages by car is a difficult proposition.

Cinque Terre – Official Website
Google Maps: Find
Flickr: Photo Gallery

Bibury, England

Arlington Row, Bibury - England

Arlington Row, Bibury – Wikipedia

Bibury is a village in the Cotswolds region of Britain, known for its beautiful 17th century stone cottages. The gold color of the cottages is derived from the region’s Jurassic limestone, that was quarried as a building material, and creates a unique grassland region that is rare in the UK.  The most famous grouping of cottages, known as Arlington Row, were originally part of a monastic wool store, that was later converted into residences for wool weavers who supplied cloth to the nearby Arlington Mill.

Other notable sites in the village, include Bibury Court, the town’s largest building, constructed in 1633, and a marshy area near Arlington Row, that once served as the area for drying wool. This spot known as Rack Isle, has since been designated as a national waterfowl reserve.

The Cotswolds region is world-renowned for its natural beauty, and many picturesque villages and towns, offering many a photo opportunity beyond Bibury itself.

Google Maps: Find

Hohenschwangau, Germany

Hohenschwangau is a small village in the Bavarian Alps, that serves as a nice base for exploring one of Germany’s most beautiful locations.  While Munich served as the capital of the Kings of Bavaria, it was the scenic beauty of the Schwangau that drew the attention of this noble family, particularly Maximilian II, and his son Ludwig II (also known as the Swan King), both of whom built summer residences in the area. Maximilian built the castle Hohenschwangau, from which the village draws its name, while Ludwig II built the world famous fairy-tale castle Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein), which served as an inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Neuschwanstein was so elaborate and costly that it drew protests from local residents, and it is speculated that it also contributed to Ludwig’s dethroning and suspicious death at the age of 40.

Both castles can be seen from multiple vantage points, including from hiking trails above the valley, and Mary’s Bridge (Marienbrucke) across the Pollat River which was built for Maximilian’s wife Marie Friederike Franziska Hedwig, the daughter of the Prince of Prussia.

While in the area, its worth visiting the nearby church of St. Coloman, the Medieval town of Fussen, and the last castle built by Ludwig II, Linderhof Palace, built to the south of Schwangau near the Ettal Monastery and the Austrian border.

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria – Flickr/John Mason

Hallstatt is a village in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. Centered in the Dachstein mountains, next to the Hallstatter See, Hallstatt is known for its scenic natural beauty and its distinction as the country’s oldest village.  Archaeological evidence suggests that people have inhabited the area since 5,500 B.C., much of that time taking advantage of the area’s rich underground salt deposits. The town offers some of the earliest evidence for the Celtic culture, and lends its name to a group of Early Iron Age people that inhabited much of Europe between 800-450 B.C.

Natural History Museum of Vienna – History of Hallstatt
Google Maps – Find
Flickr – Photo Gallery

Reine, Norway

Reine (Moskenesøya) Lofoten Island -Norway

Reine, Norway – Petr Smerkl/Wikipedia

Reine is a remote fishing village that lies above the Arctic Circle on the island of Moskenesøya (part of the Lofoten archipelago), more than 800 miles north of Oslo. The village is known for its dramatic landscape of prominent mountain peaks (mountain Olstind in particular) rising from open ocean and sheltered bays. If wilderness and solitude remain in Norway, this is one place you will find both.

Reine has been a center of commercial activity since 1743. It is connected to the mainland via European Highway 10, and can also be reached via ferry from the town of Bodø.

While the village is a great place to visit any time of year, winter offers a special treat. As the midnight sun gives way to long winter nights, the wondrous northern lights (Aurora Borealis) are a frequent visitors. And if you happen to be in town on a calm night, you just might witness magic, as a perfect reflection of the Aurora appears in the waters that surround you. Make sure you didn’t forget your camera, and a steady tripod.

 

Santa Magdalena, Italy

Dolomite Mountains, Italy

Dolomite Mountains – Giuseppe Milo/Flickr

If there is a scenic vista that captures the essence of what awaits visitors to Italy’s Dolomite region, its the tiny village of Santa Magdalena and its community church, set against the jagged Odle Mountain peaks, and the emerald green pastures that fill the Val di Funes (Villnöss Valley). But if its Santa Maddalena that draws you to the Dolomites, its everything else there is to see that will keep you coming back. The Dolomite range, made largely of a ancient reef system, dominates the northeastern corner of Italy. It offers a veritable playground to photographers, hikers, climbers and adventure seekers. You have the natural beauty of the mountains and valleys juxtaposed against human communities and cultures that have existed for centuries. And while riding the train, or taking a car will allow you quick access to various towns, to really experience these mountains, requires taking things a step further and ultimately hiking under your own power. This may require dedicating an entire vacation to this place, but its well worth it, particularly if scenic beauty drives you.

Official Website – The Dolomites
Google Maps – Find

Gimmelwald, Switzerland

Gimmelwald - Swiss Alps

Gimmelwald, Switzerland / Wikipedia

Gimmelwald is a small village nestled high in the Swiss Alps, perched above the deep and sharply sloped glacial valley of Lauterbrunnen. Adding to this dramatic natural landscape are the peaks Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau that rise opposite Gimmelwald on the other side of the Lauterbrunnen. Gimmelwald is one of the few car-free villages remaining in the Alps, so the best way to get there is by gondola from the valley floor, or by train from the nearby village of Murren.

For the best views, its recommended that Gimmelwald be visited later in the day, after the morning sun has had a chance to pass far enough west to eliminate any obscuring of the mountain peaks.

Gimmelwald – Official Website
Google Maps – Find

Colmar, France

Colmar on the Lauch River, France

Colmar, France – L’amande

One of the medieval towns one might see on a Rhine River cruise, Colmar is renowned for its well-preserved town center and the picturesque Lauch River that flows through it.  Founded in the 9th century, the town was considered an Imperial Free City under the Holy Roman Empire, which meant to a large extent it managed its own affairs. Since that time, Colmar has seen many rulers come and go, including multiple transitions between the French and Germans, as well as a relatively brief occupation by the Swedish army. For the most part, the city has weathered its tumultuous history, to become a prosperous center of tourism, wine production, and the headquarters of several European multi-national corporations. In fact, it considers itself the capital of Alsatian wine (capitale des vins d’Alsace), and is one of the stops on the Route des Vins d’Alsace (Alsace Wine Route), a 170 km route that connects over 60 wine producing communities in the Alsace.

Alsace Wine Route – Official Website
Colmar – Official Website
Google Map – Find

Adare, Ireland

Thatched Cottage, Adare, Ireland

Thatched Cottage, Adare / Wikipedia

Adare has been called one of Ireland’s prettiest village, and is designated as a Heritage Town by the Irish government. It was originally created to serve the estate of the Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl. It is famous for its traditional thatched roof house which are becoming increasingly rare in modern Ireland.  Besides Dunraven Manor, Adare is also known for its three former Catholic Monasteries (the Trinitarian, Franciscan, and Augustinian Abbeys) and the ruins of Desmond Castle.

Adare is a 20 minute drive from the city of Limerick, and just over 2 hours from Ireland’s capitol of Dublin.

Adare – Official Website
Google Map – Find
Flickr – Photo Gallery

Top Ancient Archaeological Sites in the United States

doll-house-anasazi-ruin-utah-gary-whitton

The following are a list of ancient Native American archaeological sites, many of them of the ancient Anasazi (known more recently as Ancestral Puebloan). I have organized the list by the most visually stunning and well preserved, rather than by their cultural and historical significance. The dominance of the Ancestral Puebloans is as much attributable I believe to the preserving nature of deserts as it is to their characterstic of building monumental buildings. Many of these sites have been protected as state and national parks and are located primarily in the Western United States around the Four Corners region of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. If you only had one opportunity to visit these ancient American sites, a trip that covered this area of the Southwest would be well worth it. And they are within a 4-5 hour drive of three international airports – Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and Phoenix.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde Nationa Park - Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace/Wikipedia

Located in the Southwest corner of Colorado, just outside Cortez, Mesa Verde is without a doubt the largest and best preserved ancient Native American ruins in North America, north of the Mexican border. A major settlement area for the Anasazi Indians (also known as Ancestral Puebloans) between 650 A.D. and 1285 A.D., much of the monumental architecture from the latest period of occupation can be found in a series of desert sandstone canyons with giant south facing alcoves turned into cliff dwellings. Cliff Palace, the largest of the dwellings contained at its height 150 rooms and 23 kivas, and housed an estimated 100 people.

At least 6 other major ruins are located in the park, with dozens of other sites within the canyons as well as the mesa top. These include Balcony, Long, Mug, Oak Tree, Spruce Tree and Square Tower Houses.

Mesa Verde NP: Website
Google Maps: Find
Flickr: Photo Gallery
Book: 
The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient SouthwestDavid Roberts
Radio West: Author discussion of The Lost World of the Old Ones.

Chaco Canyon

Pueblo Bonito Anasazi Ruin - New Mexico

Pueblo Bonito – Wikipedia

Like Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon’s 15 major archaeological sites are a product of the Ancestral Puebloeans. Located south of Mesa Verde in northern New Mexico, it contained the largest buildings in the United States until the 19th century. The largest of these, Pueblo Bonito, covers 3 acres and contains close to 800 rooms. However archaeological, and climatic research suggests that Chaco may have been intended more as a  gathering place for religious ceremonies, than an attempt to build a large permanent settlement. The design and alignment of many of the buildings suggest that solar and lunar cycles played a significant role in their construction. This importance is mirrored in the petroglyphs found in the area, including famously those on Fajada Butte.

Another notable feature of the Chaco Canyon site is the network of roads that radiate from it across the San Juan Basin. The longest of these are the Great North and South Roads. Debate continues about other significant road segments in the area that are shorter and disconnected, that absent weathering over time, may have been connected in the past. Whatever the case, they hint both at the importance of Chaco Canyon, but also the significant effort that was required to bring materials from other area, like timber, to build the canyon’s monumental architecture.

Chaco Canyon NP: Website
Google Maps: Find
Flickr: Photo Gallery
Archeoastronomy of the Chacoan Pueblo (PDF)

Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch

Unlike Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, the Anasazi ruins in the Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch cover a much larger area. The ruins are smaller and more dispersed, but finding them offers an intimate wilderness experience, with the real potential to see ancient relics that few others have. However the experience comes at a prices. Much of Cedar Mesa is a remote desert environment, with much of it accessible only by dirt roads that can change significantly with bad weather, and hiking trails that can prove challenging at times for the inexperienced and unprepared.

Some of the most famous ruins in the area include: Tower House, Fallen Roof, House on Fire, River House, Moon House and Jailhouse.

Grand Gulch: Official Website
Google Maps: Find
Fine Art America : Photo Gallery

Horseshoe Canyon Pictographs

Originally named Barrier Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon

 

was designated as an offshoot of Canyonlands National Park (Utah) in 1971. It was included in the management of the park to help protect what is arguably the best preserved example of ancient Native American rock art. It is also some of the oldest known rock art, with most scientists agreeing the pictographs are at least 700 to 2000 years old. Some believe they are far older. The canyon’s rock art is considered the archetype, and best example of a rock art style known as the Barrier Canyon Style (BCS) seen in different spots across much of the Colorado plateau.

The main pictograph panel in the canyon, known as the Great Gallery is 200 feet long and 15 feet high, with over 20 life-sized anthropomorphic images. The tallest is over 7 feet high. Other notable panels in the canyon, include Horseshoe, Alcove, and High Gallery.  All are found along the same hiking trail, and relatively easy to find.

The access point for Horseshoe Canyon is opposite the entrance to Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, and requires a well maintained 2-wheel drive vehicle with reasonable clearance for the 30+ mile drive to the canyon’s edge. Once at the trailhead the hike is 7 miles round trip with the hardest part being the hike out. Keep this in mind, especially during the hot summer months.

National Park Service – Horseshoe Canyon
Google Maps – Find
Fine Art America: Photo Gallery
Article: The Archaelogy of Horseshoe Canyon (National Park Service) (PDF)

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle Camp Verde Arizona

Montezuma Castle – Wikipedia

Montezuma Castle is a well-preserved cliff dwelling of the Ancestral Puebloeans located near Camp Verde, Arizona. The dwellings were constructed and used by the Sinagua, a tribe closely related to the Hohokam. Montezuma is believed to have been constructed after 1100 A.D. following the resettlement of the Verde Valley by the Sinagua. The structure contains 20 different rooms and may have housed as many as 50 people. The last known occupation of the site was around 1425 A.D. And like the Anasazi its believed that drought, and possibly warfare forced the Sinagua to migrate to other locations.

While the ruin is named after the Aztec King Montezuma, there are no known direct links to the Aztec’s themselves, although possible trading links have been suggested by some historians.

National Park Service – Montezuma Castle
Google Maps – Find
Flickr: Photo Gallery

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is a National Park wholly owned by and located within the Navajo Reservation. It is named after a particular canyon within the park but consists of three – de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. The canyon system is considered one the longest continuously inhabited locations in North America , mostly recently by the Navajo and Anasazi. Within the canyon are a number of visible Anasazi ruins, including White House, Antelope House and Sliding House. Of these three, park visitors can visit White House in the company of a Navajo guide.  In addition, over 2500 archaeological sites have been identified in the area, including dozens of Anasazi village sites.

Located in the Northeast corner of Arizona, it makes a good stop on a tour of other nearby archaeological sites, including Mesa Verde, Cedar Mesa and Chaco Canyon.

National Park Service – Canyon De Chelly

Google Maps – Find
Flickr: Photo Gallery

Wupatki

Wupatki Pueblo Ruins - Arizona

Wupatki Pueblo Ruins – Matt Kieffer

Wupatki National Monument is located in North Central Arizona near the town of Flagstaff. The park encloses archaeological sites from at least 3 distinct cultures, including the Cohonina, Kayenta Anasazi, and Sinagua. Wupatki Pueblo the ruin after which the monument is named is the oldest in the park and contained over 100 rooms. It also includes a ball court, a structure similar to those found in Mesoamerica, and suggestive of a link to tribes further south.

National Park Service – Wupatki National Monument

Google Maps – Find
Flickr: Photo Gallery

Serpent Mound

The Great Serpent Mound is a 1,348-foot long, three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound located in Adams County Ohio. Managed as a park by the Ohio Historical society, the mound is believed to have been constructed by the Fort Ancient culture around 1070 A.D. The name of the culture is derived from the Fort Ancient archaeological site, located with Washington Township, Ohio. The Fort Ancient peoples are believed to have lived along the Ohio river from West Virginia to Kentucky between 1000-1750 A.D.

Ohio History Center – Serpent Mound
Google Maps – Find

Blythe Intaglios

The Blythe Intaglios (Geoglyphs) are a grouping of large figures, similar to the Nazca Lines of South America, near Blythe California. The largest figure is over 171 feet long. Similar figures albeit of a smaller nature can be found throughout the desert of Southeastern California. The glyphs were created by scraping away the top layer of soil which is darker color than the soil beneath. The Blythe figures are believed to range in age from 900 BCE to 1200 CE, based on radiocarbon dating. The tribe of people responsible for their creation has yet to be identified. Their meaning is more than likely spiritual in nature.

Bureau of Land Management – Blythe Intaglios
Google Maps – Find

James Jacob’s: Photo Gallery

 

Further Reading Suggestions:

Switzerland’s Most Beautiful Vistas

Stellarium and Kulmhotel, Gornergrat

Of all the countries I have visited, Switzerland leads the pack, in the amount of natural beauty it manages to pack into such a small geographic area. And the Swiss with their trains, gondolas and tunnels carved into mountainsides make it so easy to explore. But even with this added benefit, a lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to find all the beautiful vistas this country has to offer.

The Matterhorn Region

The area around Zermatt is a landscape photographer’s dream. Tucked away in the upper reaches of the Matter Valley (Mattertal), Zermatt is the gateway to an alpine wilderness of rugged beauty. Like much of southern Switzerland, the region’s history is dominated by glacial activity, and a number of large glaciers remain here today. Then there is the Matterhorn, which dominates the horizon for miles around.

Here are a few suggestions to start your adventurers in this region.

Stellisee – This small mountain lake lies above the Matteral to the east of Zermatt, and can be reached via a 20-minute hike from the Blauherd Summit Gondola station.

Riffelsee – This is a small mountain lake west of Zermatt near the base of the Matterhorn. It is accessible via the Gornergrat Bahn cog railway. After you get off at the Rotenboden station it is a 10 minute walk.

Lago Goillet – This lake offers another beautiful vantage point of the Matterhorn from the Italian side. Its a bit of a journey from the Swiss side, via the Trockener Steg Mountain Station. The alternative is to come up from Breuil-Cervinia, Italy.

Kulmhotel Gornergrat / Gornergrat Rail Station – Both locations offer a beautiful view of the Gornergrat Glacier valley and the landscape around the Matterhorn above the Matteral. For those interested in extending their adventure further, I recommend investigating the trek across Gornergrat Glacier to the Monte Rosa haute.

Schwyz-Lucerne Region

Its between Schwyz and Lucerne that several mountain ranges and glacially carved lakes converge to create one of the most beautiful natural landscapes I have ever witnessed.  And its from the high peaks that dot the landscape that the views go from great to spectacular.

Grosser Mythen - Schwyz - Switzerland

Grosser Mythen – MM/Flickr

Hwy 8 Scenic Viewpoint

My first introduction to the Schwyz-Lucerne area was during a return trip to Switzerland from Germany and Austria via Hwy 8, which makes its way into the Schwyz canton from the north. There are several pullouts along this section of highway, with the last one (see above) before you drop into the village being the most breathtaking. It also gives you a sense of the amazing photographic potential of this area, especially given the inclination of the Swiss as I have come to know them, for making it relatively easy to visit many high points in the Swiss Alps.

Grosser Mythen

Grosser Mythen is a prominent mountain peak just to the north of Schwyz. From the village a hiking trail rises to Holzegg Pass, passing along the way, the monastery of St. Josef. From Holzegg the trail ascends steeply to the top of the mountain, which offers both a trekking haute, where overnight accommodations can be made, and an amazing panoramic view of the Swiss Alps, Schwyz, and the lakes of Lauerzersee and Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee).

Flickr: Photo Gallery 

Fronalpstock and Lake Lucerne

Fronalpstock – Roel Hemkes/Flickr

Stoos Ridge (Klingenstock to Fronalpstock)

Stoos Ridge bridges two prominent peaks south of Schwyz (Klingenstock and Fronalpstock) and offers breathtaking views of Lake Lucerne, and the surrounding glacial valleys. Reaching the ridge requires a series of trips via cable car and chair lift, starting in the valley below the car-free village of Stoos. Once in Stoos, chair lifts are available to both peaks, with many hikers starting at Klingenstock and hiking in a northwest arch toward Fronalpstock. The complete journey is approximately 5km unless one chooses to forgo the chair lifts and hike the complete loop.

And for those famished after their hike, Fronalpstock offers a restaurant, the highest one in Schwyz Canton.

Flickr: Photo Gallery 

Rigi Massif

Mount Pilatus

Mt. Pilatus - Lucerne - Switzerland

Mt. Pilatus – Paul Stocker/Flickr

Of the mountain views I discuss here, Mt. Pilatus, is much closer to Lucerne than Schwyz. Like the others, it offers a different view of the same intertwined lake and mountain system common to the area. It is also the most famous, probably because of how accessible it is. During much of the year, visitors can reach the top of the mountain via the village of Alpnachstad and the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, which has been in operation since 1889. Alternatively, gondolas and cable cars operate year-around from Kriens. And if you so desire there are trails to hike up to the top under your own power.

Both Kreins and Alpnachstad can be accessed by car and the Swiss Rail system.

Flickr: Photo Gallery
Official Website: http://www.pilatus.ch/en/

Aletsch Glacier

Aletsch Glacier in Valais, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier – Wikipedia

As the largest glacier in the Alps, the Aletsch (Aletschgletscher) by default is a must see for landscape photographers, especially those who enjoy a wild landscape of rock and ice.   The most popular viewpoints are from the Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn, which can be accessed via cable cars. The Eggishorn viewpoint is the one most familiar to the author and can be reached starting in the village of Fiesch, where the Swiss Rail system has a station. Other access points include gondolas from the village of Morel and the Betten train station. These carry you to the top of the same ridge that overlooks the glacier.

If you want a glimpse of rural life in Valais, be sure to stroll through one of the three villages (Belalp, Riederalp and Bettmeralp) that lie between Eggishorn and Bettmerhorn.

On a clear day one can see the Matterhorn on the southern horizon.

Lauterbrunnen Valley

If time is the photographers overriding consideration when visiting Switzerland, the place I would probably recommend first is the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and its surrounding mountains, hillsides, and villages. Only a few hours from the Zurich airport, Lauterbrunnen is the epitome of the u-shaped glaciated valley. And centuries removed from the melting of the glacier that formed it, the valley and hills above have filled in with the beautiful colors of life.

The starting point for most is the ride into the valley, either by car or train, and this alone is worth the visit. But once you have stopped in the village of Lauterbrunnen, and admired the wonders of this valley from below, don’t forget to jump on a train or gondola and see it from above. Whether its the villages of Gimmelwald, Murren, or Wengen that cling to the slopes above the valley, all offer commanding vistas of this natural wonder of the Swiss Alps. But if you have enough time, another level of beautiful vistas awaits. There is the rotating restaurant on the peak of Schilthorn, made famous by the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as well as the highest rail station in Europe at Jungfraujoch. From the train station at Kleine Scheidegg perched above the village of Grindelwald in the valley east Lauterbrunnen,  the railway winds makes it way up to a col between the mountain peaks of Jungfrau and the Mönch. On the journey the train passes through a tunnel carved through the Eiger and Monch, and offers an open air stop at Eigergletscher (Eiger Glacier).

Murren-Gimmelwald Via Ferrata (The valley at its most spectacular, but not for the faint of heart).

Kandersteg Valley

The Kandersteg, the valley immediately to the west of Lauterbrunnen, and south of Interlaken offers its own variety of alpine splendor, with the crown jewel being the glacially fed    or Lake Oeschinen. Its this glacier melt that gives the lake its distinctive turquoise color, and when the winds are calm and the lake turns to glass, the view becomes magical. The lake is a popular summer retreat accessible by gondola and hiking trail from the village Kandersteg. The best views of the lake are from the hiking trail that rises along its northern edge. For the adventurous, the trail rises high into the Bernese Alps to Blümlisalphütte (an alpine lodge), where those with prior reservations can spend the night.

Bluemlisalp Hut – http://www.bluemlisalphuette.com/
Oeschinen – http://www.oeschinensee.ch/en/

Trift Gorge 

The Trift Gorge carved out mostly from runoff by the upstream Trift Glacier (Triftgletscher) is located in the Urner Alps near Gadmen. Centered in the Grimselwelt region of the Bern Canton, the hike in offers a spectacular  view of the Triftsee, a lake that formed in 2002 as a result of global warming and the shrinking glacier. Before the glacier receded, hikers would cross the glacier to various mountain huts in the surrounding mountains, but the melting made that impossible to do. This led to the construction of a foot bridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Swiss Alps, in 2004. The bridge crossing and the view it offers is the reward for those willing to make the journey up the canyon.

Hikers have the choice of starting their hike in Gadmen, or taking a cable car part way. For those with extensive alpine experience, the trail continues onto the Trifthuette, where advanced reservations can be made. More family friendly accomodations are available at the Windegghutte, which is accessible via a side trail prior to reaching the Triftsee Bridge.

Windegghütte – http://www.windegghuette.ch/
Trifthuette http://www.trifthuette.ch/

Unteraar Glacier

Lauteraarhutte above Unteraargletscher

Lauteraarhutte / Wikipedia

The Unteraar Glacier located in the Grimselwelt region is by far the most remote area covered here, and is reminiscent of the experience you might expect in similar glacially covered landscapes like Alaska. Roads are few, and gondolas non-existent. Getting in requires a long hike, at least 8 hours round-trip. Unterraar offers a rugged, primal beauty, that forgoes the forested mountainsides and pastureland of other Swiss alpine valleys. But the reward at the end, near the Lauteraarhütte, is well worth the trip.

 

Further Reading Suggestions: