So... you have arrived with your camera in Switzerland. SD card is empty, lenses are ready, and Instagram calls for a new epic post. But with all those Alps, cows and chocolate around, anyone can be distracted! Luckily, we have some ideas to make your photography bucket list full of fresh ideas.
In terms of photography, Switzerland is a wonderland. Epic vistas, green meadows, snowy peaks. Give a man a camera, and he will be shooting for hours. We know that. That is what we have been doing here for a couple of years. But, there are still some motives, themes or ideas you can add, and they will be even more enjoyable. So... let's start.
Small villages - travel photos for your Instagram
There is always a small village or a town with charming meadows, barns and an old church. Even an average place for Swiss standards is an Instagram dream. But if you want to visit true heaven, head to Lauterbrunnen, Vitznau, Rivaz or Silvaplana. There you can find multiple photography spots for travel shots. Every year a new village is chosen in the competition of the most beautiful village in Switzerland (check the list here).
In June summer comes to the Alps. Not very fast, not with full boom, but you hear it, smell it, see it. And with summer, the first flowers appear. Use them as a foreground or a "dirty frame" for your Instagram posts from Switzerland. July is the best for the higher parts of the mountains, and May will work for most of the valleys (check: when to visit Switzerland).
Epic lakes - the best and most unique views in the World
The Swiss Alps are famous due to glaciers, fancy resorts and green meadows. But just a few travel guides mention lakes. And lakes in Switzerland are the most spectacular in the World. Take the Lake Lucerne (de: Vierwaldstättersee) as an example, just in the middle of Switzerland. In summer you can hike 1000m above the lake and after the walk - swim in it. Hiking trails with spectacular vistas are all around, and many of them are accessible with a cable car (the Rigi Kulm or Klewenalp - 1h drive from Zurich). There are also multiple ridge walks available in the Bernese Oberland with Lake Brienz and Lake Thun views.
The best photo composition is an isolated silhouette standing on a ridge with a lake in the background. I know you have seen that on Instagram, and I am telling you - Switzerland is the destination for such photos.
The top lakes for photography in Switzerland:
Lake Lucerne – Central Switzerland
Oechinensee – the Bernese Oberland
Lake Brienz – the Bernese Oberland
Lake Sils – Engadin
Walensee – Eastern Switzerland
Lake Lugano – Ticino
Stellisee – the view of Matterhron, Zermatt
Lac Léman (or Lake Genève) – in area of Vevey, Chexbres and Montreux
Epic vistas in the Swiss Alps
This is a simple and obvious tip. Just go up enough above a valley and it is done. The most spectacular area for this kind of photo is the Bernese Oberland. Also, it is the most convenient destination with its endless amount of gondolas, cable cars and trains. The more vertical cliffs there are, the better. The Lauterbrunnen valley (picture above) is the gem you don't want to miss. But there are many others around Interlaken, Zermatt, Glarus and in Engadin.
Hiking a ridge - something more extreme for your Instagram profile
The most spectacular ridge walk in Switzerland is Brienzergrat, but believe me, it is not an easy one. Definitely not. But you do not have to be an expert hiker (or an average Swiss) to hike it entirely just to get those spectacular photos. On the contrary, every famous ridge walk in Switzerland has its cable car (yes, simple as that). Brienzergrat is not different. You can just buy a ticket, ride up, take some shots and ride or walk down. Also, the ridge walks have easier and harder parts. And the easier ones are usually near gondola stations, so you can even do a small hike without getting vertigo. Where to look for the best ridge walks for photos? Check Stoos, the Alpstein region (it is full of them) or Pilatus.
The best ridge walks in Switzerland:
Brienzer Rothorn – the Bernese Oberland
Stoos Gratwanderweg – Schwyz, Central Switzerland
Schafler – Alpstein, Eastern Switzerland
Niederhorn Ridge – the Bernese Oberland
Schynige Platte – the Bernese Oberland
Chäserrugg – Sankt Galen, Eastern Switzerland
Aletsch Glacier Panorama Trail - Valais
The general tip for travel photography for Instagram is to have a model visible and isolated from the background. Also, try using a trail as a leading line. And please, do not push your models outside of their comfort zone. It might end up badly.
Cows - the Swiss classic
Cows are a natural, moving element of the Swiss Alps landscape. A little bit cute, very curious and also not very smart. Usually, they are calm and do not care about tourists. Counting on them posing is a waste of time. A cow might move in a few seconds or in 15 minutes. Either you have luck or you don't. But please, bear in mind that a herd with little ones can be very aggressive. If you encounter a calf in the wild, keep a distance and avoid it, even if it is coming to you.
For more adventure about cows, you can try gambling in Cow dung bingo (farmers used to be very bored...) or placing bets during Combat de Reines, cow fights. The second event is trendy in Valais, and fights happen in multiple towns. And these are literally fights between two cows of a Herens breed (a competitive version of a gentle swiss cow).
Some say that in winter, Switzerland is all about skiing. They are wrong. Snowshoeing and winter hikes are also super-popular. And all villages and resorts have trails prepared for winter walks. You can find winter hikes with the most astonishing views in Zermatt and Engadin. And the Bernese Oberland with its Wengen or Grindelwald is also at the top.
Benches with a view
There are around 20'000 benches with a view in Switzerland. All are listed and rated on the website bankgeheimnisse.ch. There is nothing better during a hike than a bench with a vista. And a small picnic on it. These benches are splendid for travel photography. While one is relaxing, the other person can take some shots for Instagram.
Road trip adventures in the Alps
Switzerland opens its alpine passes around June and closes them mid-October. Taking a roadster or a cabriolet for a ride is one of the things you should do during your stay in the Swiss Alps. Primarily, the roads here are very safe and comprehensive (the main passes).
Top alpine passes for driving experience and vistas:
San Bernardino Pass (the Tremola road)
Ice caves inside glaciers
Once you have seen a glacier, the next thing is to go inside one! Why not?! In Switzerland, it is possible in multiple places. The most convenient one is the Rohne Gletscher near Furka Pass - just park your car and go to the glacier cave there. Apart from that one, you can find glacier experiences on the Titlis, Jungfraujoch and Klein Matterhorn. From time to time, local guides organise snowshoeing expeditions to natural glacial caves in Engadin, Arola and Zinal - mainly, it happens around January and February.
Night and stars (or a moon)
The Swiss Alps are splendid for astrophotography. The entire mountain range is dark in an east-west direction, so you can find spots easily for night photography under the stars. The Milky Way season here starts in May, but the best solution is to wait for alpine passes to be open. From there you have fantastic views of the Alps and a large part of the sky visible. Another option, available the entire year, is to stay in a mountain hotel.
If you are new to astrophotography, check Lonely Speck's tutorial for the Milky Way photography.
MTB riding in the Swiss Alps
Exploring the Swiss Alps on electric MTBs is our recent passion. Suddenly the places that were too far for a hike (or too dull) seem closer and more accessible. Switzerland offers two types of bicycle trails: trekking (blue signposts) and mountain bike (yellow signposts). For MTB trails, I highly recommend checking the technical level before you decide to take a ride - hard means very hard for an average non-Swiss mortal.
In every larger resort (Grindelwald, Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Interlaken, Andermatt etc.), you can find multiple bike shops that rent eMTB for a day or longer.
To convince you, I can just say that half of the photo spots from Zermatt can be visited within a single day ride on an electric MTB (though, you need to do a pause to recharge your battery... during dinner, for instance).