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How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland is a perfect place to go hiking with its thousands of marked trails. However, hundreds of people get into accidents while trekking every year, and some die. Here is what you need to know to be safe.

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps
(Photo by Colton Miller on Unsplash)

The Swiss mountains are one of the country’s most notable and most visited sites. There are activities to enjoy during all seasons and hiking the Swiss Alps is something that people of all ages enjoy in the winter or summer months.

However, mountain rescuers are called every year to help people in emergencies. Last year, there were 1,525 cases of hikers in distress – a number higher than in any other type of sport. In 2021, there were only 500 emergency calls from skiers and 342 made by mountain bikers.

READ ALSO: Why getting rescued in the Swiss Alps could cost you thousands

Bruno Hasler, who is responsible for mountain emergency statistics at the Swiss Alpine Club SAC, says that many people overestimate themselves and that is dangerous. “The hikers need to be better informed. The authorities must inform people as well as possible about the dangers of mountain hiking”, he told public broadcaster SRF.

What are the main recommendations when hiking?

The first recommendation is to make a realistic self-assessment. Mountain hiking is an endurance sport and people planning on doing a trek should avoid time pressure and choose their trails and times well.

In that sense, it is essential to make careful route planning and evaluate the length, altitude, difficulty and current conditions (including weather forecast) of the trek. Thunderstorms, snow, wind and cold significantly increase the risk of accidents.

Don’t forget to plan alternative routes and keep emergency rescue numbers on hand (REGA 1414 and the european emergency number 112).

READ ALSO : Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

Take practical equipment for your hiking conditions and the proper footwear too. In a backpack, take as little as possible but as much as necessary, aiming to keep it light but full of valuable things such as sun protection, a first aid kit, rescue blanket, water and a mobile phone.

The most common cause of accidents is falling because of slipping or tripping, so be sure to walk on marked paths (reducing the risk of getting lost) and keep a sure foot and safe pace.

Don’t forget to take regular breaks not only for eating and drinking (necessary to maintain performance and concentration) but also to enjoy the landscape.

Be responsible for the children in the group, treks that require long-lasting concentration are not suitable for children and in passages with risk of falling, and one adult can only look after one child, according to the Swiss Alpine Club. Small groups are the best for hiking because they ensure mutual assistance and flexibility at the same time.

Rega on a rescue mission in the Swiss Alps. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The PACE checklist

The so-called PACE checklist helps hikers keep track of the most important things. PACE means plan, assess, consider, and evaluate, Swiss Alpine Club SAC says.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Plan your route and duration and give yourself extra time and alternatives. Inform someone else about your trip. Assess if the hike is suitable for you, and do not undertake challenging trips yourself. Consider if you have what you need for the walk, like sturdy hiking shoes, protection against harsh weather and food and water supplies.

Finally, evaluate while hiking. See if you are too tired, keep eating, drinking and resting regularly and pay attention to the time you need and any changes in the weather. Do not leave the marked trail and turn back in time if necessary.

What to do in case of an accident?

If there are accidents during your hike, you should first provide life-saving help to anyone seriously injured and then call emergency services. Do not leave the wounded alone and do not put yourself at risk.

Mark the accident area clearly and give signals. The international emergency call sign consists of giving a sign (such as a flashing light or waving a cloth) six times a minute and then repeating it after one minute.

READ ALSO: Rega: What you need to know about Switzerland’s air rescue service

For helicopters, holding both your arms up (making a V shape) signals that you need help, while keeping one arm up and another down (forming a diagonal line with your arms) means you do not need help.

If you see animals, keep your distance and do not disturb them. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

What do I do if I see animals on my hike?

It’s common to find animals while hiking in the Swiss alps, especially cows in the pastures. A cow will protect their calves, so keep your distance. Do not touch the animals, and keep dogs on a leash.

Slowly and carefully move around at a distance and continue your trek.

You may occasionally find herds that dogs protect. It’s possible to inform yourself online in advance to find out where these herds are and avoid them. Still, remember that packs and their guardian dogs should be disturbed as little as possible. So stay calm and keep your distance – avoid any brisk movements.

If you are hiking with your dog, put it on a leash and slowly and calmly detour around the livestock.

If a guard dog barks and runs in your direction, try to stay calm and give the dog time to assess the situation. Stay far from the herd, don’t run or make sudden movements. You can use a stick to keep the dog at a distance by stretching them out, but don’t raise it or wave it around.

Once the dogs have accepted your presence and stopped barking, continue at a slow pace on your way.

Don’t forget: the Swiss rescue number is 1414 or you can also reach them using the European emergency number 112.

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5 spectacular Swiss tourist sites hit by overcrowding

Here are five Swiss tourist sites you will need to plan your visit carefully to avoid the crowds.

5 spectacular Swiss tourist sites hit by overcrowding

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden‘s charming landscape, independent culture and welcoming locals have long made the Swiss region a preferred tourist destination, but while this has been beneficial for the canton’s economy – its tourism accounts for 12.8 per cent of its GP – it has also left its marks on residents.

Visitors from all over the globe, including Switzerland, flock to this predominantly Swiss canton laden with Instagram-worthy hotspots. The Alpstein – a hiker’s paradise – and Äscher Wildkirchli restaurant, which opened in 1846, have inspired many a pilgrimage. As one of Switzerland’s oldest mountain inns, the latter also graced the cover of the National Geographic in 2015 and played host to none other than actor Ashton Kutcher and Swiss tennis icon Roger Federer.

But hosting famous faces comes at a cost. In 2018, the tourist rush prompted the then-owners to clear the premises only for the inn to open again the following year under new ownership.

In 2022, a large proportion of the circa 1.8 million people who visited the canton were in the region for a day trip, rather than an overnight stay. Appenzell Innerrhoden’s government has now proposed a new tourism strategy aimed at limiting mass tourism and its negative implications, such as more traffic, waste, people, and complaints.

Instead, the canton wants to encourage more overnight guests by building three to five hotels in the next 15 years.

READ MORE: The parts of Switzerland foreigners don’t move to


Another Swiss tourism success story as a direct result of unprompted social media advertising is Lavertezzo, often referred to as the most beautiful village in Ticino. While select international tourists traverse the valley’s 17th century stone bridge, it is primarily visitors from German-speaking Switzerland and Italy that travel to Lavertezzo en masse – and all thanks to a YouTube video.

The one-minute clip, which is entitled The Maldives from Milan and praises Lavertezzo’s beauty, was posted on Facebook in 2017 and immediately led to a boost in tourism – and traffic chaos – in the region.

If the short (but effective) YouTube clip has inspired you to see Lavertezzo for yourself, it is advisable to do so in the late spring or early summer months, before the scorching heat (and mass tourism) kicks in as the valley is particular popular with visitors looking to take a dip in the crystal-clear river.

Though there is limited parking most visitors only stop by for a quick lunch and photo session before driving up to the Verzasca dam to marvel at bungee jumpers imitating James Bond’s famous GoldenEye scene.


If any tourist spot knows what mass tourism feels like first-hand, it’s likely to be Switzerland’s Rigi, frequently dubbed the Queen of the Mountains.

Set in the heart of central Switzerland, Rigi is easily accessible from every corner in the country. The mountain is located between three lakes, Lucerne, Zug and Lauerz, and offers visitors second-to-none views over the Alps from its highest point at 1,797 metres.

During 2022, some 808,000 visitors chugged up the mountain by train or cable car – a 33 percent increase since 2021. Though the Rigi is heavily visited by tourists from around the world – the number of visitors rose from 553,000 to 912,000 between 2009 and 2018 – organisers are still encouraging more uphill travel in hopes of besting pre-pandemic record-high visitor numbers.

That’s as good an invitation as any.


Walking along Lucerne’s Schwanenplatz you’re bound to see several packed coaches drive up to offload tourists in a matter of minutes. Following a quick briefing, they are off to explore the nearby area along the quay, walk the Chapel Bridge and, most famously, hit the city’s many watch shops – for a day.

Lucerne’s popularity with overseas (short-stay) tourists has led to a boom in Lucerne’s holiday apartments on offer, so much so that in March of this year disgruntled locals voted to limit the length of time an apartment can be rented out for short stays to 90 days per year. Moreover, some hotels have introduced a minimum stay requirement when booking one of their rooms.

In 2022, Lucerne also stopped advertising in long-distance markets where the majority of its tourists fly in from in a move that was not well-received by the hotel industry, Blick reported.

If you pack a healthy dose of patience and are still eager to explore Lucerne, note that the city is well worth a longer stay. From its Bruch quarter, Titlis and the Lion Monument, to the Musegg Wall and its nine towers – Lucerne is packed with interesting sights to keep you busy for a week.


Iseltwald is often referred to as the pearl of Lake Brienz, and rightfully so. The fishing village is located on the left bank of the river and is one of the smallest communities in the canton of Bern – and locals would like to keep it that way.

However, with its crystal-clear lake and breath-taking mountain backdrop, Iseltwald also caught the eye of Netflix whose hit series Crash Landing on You partly takes place in the quaint village.

Since its airing in 2019, the show has attracted thousands of overseas tourists to the quaint Swiss village, prompting the municipality to limit the number of visitors it allows with a new set of measures. These include stricter rules for coaches – such as prior booking and a parking time limit – as well as the introduction of a controversial selfie fee.

READ MORE: Swiss village forced to restrict visitor numbers after Netflix success