Southern Switzerland: Zermatt, Lugano, Locarno, Saas-Fee & Beyond
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Verbier, Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Lugano, Locarno, Ascona - these are some of the attractions here. This region contains the two southernmost cantons of Valais and Ticino. Though connected, both are vastly different in terms of geography, language and culture. Valais is home to some of Switzerland's best ski resorts, including the village of Zermatt, and the mighty Matterhorn - perhaps the most frequently photographed mountain in the world outside of Mt. Everest. Located on the western side of the region, Valais is literally one long valley that sits snugly in between the Bernese and Valais mountain ranges. You can drive through easily via Highway 9, which will take you from one edge of the canton to the other, or you can take a train from almost anywhere in Switzerland. One of the best drives ever is to go south from Visp on Highway 9 to the village of Tasch, park your car and then take the rack railway up to the auto-free village of Zermatt. The scenery is spectacular and the roads are just plain fun if you enjoy a bit of challenging driving. The sister canton of Ticino at the eastern side of the southern region features palm trees, fruit groves and beautiful lakes. Here, Italian is the most popular language, and the atmosphere is laid-back and much more relaxed than in any other Swiss canton. Ticino is a mountainous area with attractive Alpine foothills, lakeside walking paths, and majestic peaks. Merlot is a very popular local wine, and the landscape and hills are dotted with tiny houses that are more reminiscent of neighboring Italy than of traditional Swiss chalets. It is here that you can travel through the St. Gotthard Pass or walk along the Strada Alta hiking trail. The author is a long-time resident of Switzerland and she details all of the best places to stay and eat, the castles, the walks, boat trips, skiing, shopping, museums, the foods, the best ways to get around - all you need to know.