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Review: Leukerbad, Switzerland

There are three main reasons for visiting this achingly scenic ski resort in the Swiss Valais region: the thermal springs which the town claims are the biggest in the Alps, an eight-hour Via Ferrata which is the scariest I’ve ever seen, and access to some quite amazing ski touring.


This is a small resort with just 55km of pistes, 15 lifts (nine tow lifts, one chair lift and nine bubbles) and a drop of almost 1,300 metres from its highest point of 2,610m, which makes for some nicely challenging skiing. The terrain is best suited to intermediate and advanced skiers, with 55% of the pistes being black runs, 40% red and just 5% blues. For really advanced skiers, there is some outstanding off-piste ski touring on the plateau on the classic mountains of Wildstrubel, the Balmhorn or the Rinderhorn – we took the gondola up to the palatial Gemmi Lodge 2350, which has amazing views and is not only an entry point for the Via Ferrata but the access to some stellar ski touring. For beginners, the Snow Park Sportarena in Erli is a children’s winter playground situated in the village, which has five beginners’ lifts. There are also 18km of cross-country ski trails, mostly down in the town but also up on the Daubensee, plus 41km of toboggan trails and 50km of hiking trails. A ski pass costs 62 Swiss Frances for the day (37 for children), 86 for two days and 231 for six days.

The Baths

There are several thermal springs in the town, but the biggest and most popular are the public baths which are rather large and are right in the centre of town. In fact it was these which kickstarted Leukerbad as a tourist destination, mainly for the good folk of Geneva and Lausanne, which are a couple of hours away. The baths reach a maximum of 42 degrees, but there’s tons to do at the springs: there are inside and outside swimming pools, flumes, and any number of water treatments. The cost from 30 Swiss Francs for three hours.

 Credit: Keine Angaben

Getting there

It’s less that 2hr 30min by direct train from Geneva Airport to Leuk, the nearest station to Leukerbad, and from outside the station there’s a bus which takes twenty minutes to take you to the town.

Accommodation, Food and Nightlife

We stayed in the four-star Hotel Le Bristol in the centre of town. With its own thermal spa, including indoor and outdoor pools, plus a great bar and decent restaurant, it was a good base for our travels. As ever in Switzerland, there is no shortage of good places to eat out: we ate at the excellent Restaurant Tradition 1411, but other restaurants that were recommended to us included the Birchen, Bodmenstubli and Rinderhutte Panoramarestaurant. As for drinking, locals recommended the Chinchillabar, which feels very much like a British pub, and Tom’s Tavern, which is an excellent and very popular sports bar run by a crazy Scottish woman from Glasgow. We found that the extremely picturesque town is quiet during the week but is full to breaking at the weekend, when the hordes descend from the cities.

BEST THING: Our amazing 75-year-old guide Dolf, who ‘dropped the A because the only other people called Adolf had surnames like Hitler and Eichman’. A former head teacher and champion skier, he was a joy.

WORST THING: The bus wasn’t running when we were there, so we had a 30 minute trudge from the town centre to the lift station – but for most of the season a courtesy bus runs frequently.

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