Re-defining the beach

Coordinates: 46°57′N 7°27′E

When I think of a beach, fast images come to mind of expansive resorts where to enjoy the sun, bathe and play in the waves. Beaches like those in Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Paradise in Mykonos, Greece; and Flamenco in Culebra, Puerto Rico, just to name a few. But according to several consulted dictionaries, the word beach comes from the Latin plagĭa and means: Bank of the sea or of a big river, formed of sandbanks in an almost flat surface. This is the beach definition the Swiss seem to live by!

Wakeboarding in the Zürich Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Wakeboarding in the Zürich Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

The Caribbean Sea in Switzerland

Although this country has no coasts nor direct access to the sea, when the Summer arrives and the sun warms up (and tans, believe me, just as in the Tropics), the Swiss enjoy their water bodies to the maximum. Now that I live among them, but after having grown up in a Caribbean island, I am re-defining my concept of what it is to spend a day at the beach.

It is very common to enjoy a sunny day on the grass. Photo: Silvia Caballer

It is very common to enjoy a sunny day on the grass. Photo: Silvia Caballer

For its lack of open sea, there are rivers and lakes 

Having no access to the sea does not mean a lack of water. Moreover, Switzerland can presume to be one of the countries in Europe with most access to this resource, since many of the most important currents of the continent are born at the top of the Swiss Alps. Swimming in a river, where there is a current, is a different experience to swimming in a lake. What is the same is that whoever desires to go for a swim, just takes off his or her clothes and jumps in! Part of the enjoyment, comes from the certainty over the quality of the water due to a suitable handling of this resource. The waters are so clean, that in some areas, it is possible to drink this liquid: direct from the lake!

Swimming in a small stone beach at the Maggia River, in the Italian part of Switzerland. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Swimming in a small stone beach at the Maggia River, in the Italian part of Switzerland. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Let’s meet at the Badi

With springboard, platform where to sunbathe and rest, sand with little pails and shovels included, the Badi are spaces next to the water where, for a nominal cost, you enjoy facilities like restaurant, bathrooms, chair and umbrella rentals and all the previously mentioned. From May until September, when the temperatures are warmer, a Badi is the perfect meeting place.  

Badi in the town of Thalwil in the Zürich Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Badi in the town of Thalwil in the Zürich Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Aquatic sports

In addition to simply jumping for a swim, the Swiss practice a great variety of aquatic sports. I have seen them making use of the current of a river to enjoy water rafting and even to practice surfing.  Mounted on their surfboards and against the current, they tie a rope to a nearby bridge, practice their balance and to ride "on the waves".

Kayaking in the Zürich Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Kayaking in the Zürich Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Sailing in the lake

One of the preferred places by experienced surfers and sailors is the Uri Lake, where in addition to water, they find mountains and wind. I mention experienced because it is necessary to be able to handle the force of the wind in an area of the lake with walls of mountains side to side, without a shore where to go in or out. Just this Summer I was invited to sail there, and between the "changes sides" and "lower your head" instructions, I felt a combination of adrenaline and respect towards the experts who practice sports here.

While inflatable SUPs are now fashionable for their easy storage, many cities rent spaces across lakes and rivers. Photo: Bruny Nieves

While inflatable SUPs are now fashionable for their easy storage, many cities rent spaces across lakes and rivers. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Diving in Winter

According to some Swiss friends, diving enthusiasts, the depths in Switzerland are not as impressive as those they have seen in countries with access to the open sea. But it is still an activity that many Swiss enjoy even in Winter, when temperatures in the surface and in the bottom of the water are similar, which improves visibility. 

Sailing ships on a Saturday with plenty of sun and wind, sailing towards the Uri Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Sailing ships on a Saturday with plenty of sun and wind, sailing towards the Uri Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Beach Volleyball in Switzerland

Although I still surprises me to see a beach volleyball court in my son’s school and a seasonal one at the main train station, the truth is they have a good history with this sport. At present, a woman’s team occupies the 15th place in the world classification, while in 2004 the masculine one obtained an Olympic bronze medal.  For me it is enjoyable to see that the sport seems to have no age, since the accessibility of courts allows anyone to practice it.

A team of women practice beach volleyball in the town of Rüschlikon in the Zürich Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

A team of women practice beach volleyball in the town of Rüschlikon in the Zürich Lake. Photo: Bruny Nieves

You can already see that Switzerland, besides a place where to discover beautiful Alpine sceneries and taste delicious cheeses and chocolates, is synonymous of water. Let Switzerland surprise you and when you visit, do not forget to schedule a day in any of these beaches.

The beautiful outdoor pool Drei Linden in the city of St. Gallen. Photo: Bruny Nieves

The beautiful outdoor pool Drei Linden in the city of St. Gallen. Photo: Bruny Nieves


Conscious Travel Practices:

. Choose to practice sports with low environmental impact.

2. Leave the garbage in the properly identified spaces.

3. Make good use of the water resources.

4. Support regional commerce.