t The Gornergratbahn cog railway, offering fine Matterhorn views
Experience Mittelland, Bernese Oberland and Valais
Peppered with the cultural centres of Basel and Bern, these three regions in the western central section of Switzerland are beloved for their combination of magnificent, diverse landscapes and artistic heritage. The rolling farmland and numerous lakes attracted Celtic tribes to the Mittelland in around 500 BC. Following the Roman conquest in 15 BC, the region became crisscrossed with roads that linked the towns that sprung up across the plateau. By the Middle Ages, these roads brought skilled craftsmen and trade to cities across the Mittelland and Bernese Oberland, such as Bern and Solothurn. At the same time, the people of Valais, in the south, had developed engineering methods to build a new trade route across the St Gotthard Pass. This new route allowed formidable alliances to be forged between centres of power in the north and south, so strengthening the ever-expanding Swiss Confederate.
While much of the region remained agricultural, by the 19th century the more mountainous areas began to develop a thriving tourist industry. Artists and writers, from Felix Mendelssohn to Mark Twain, flocked to hike in the fresh mountain air. Today the pistes around the large international resorts of Verbier, Crans-Montana, Zermatt and Saas-Fee draw tourists year-round.