Switzerland

Swiss Alps In Summer

An 8-day, single-centre, small group birdwatching & butterflies tour to Switzerland

Switzerland Birding Tours with Limosa Holidays: Now in its 17th year, our immensely scenic summer birding tour to Switzerland focuses on the glorious Valais region. It's a trip that boasts everything, from Lammergeier, Nutcracker and Alpine Accentor through to a journey by Swiss mountain railway to Zermatt and the Gornergrat at 3100m - for lunch with the Alpine Choughs, Snowfinches and (if it is clear!) spectacular views to the iconic Matterhorn. As well as great birding, many butterflies are seen on this remarkable Switzerland birdwatching tour – with up to 100 different species possible in the best years!

Tour Dates & Prices

Sun 13th June 2021

Sun 20th June 2021

  • Booking Closed

Sun 20th June 2021

Sun 27th June 2021

  • Booking Closed

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1995* inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £195*Land Only: £1875*Group Size: 10Leaders:  Brian Small & to be announced
Join the Wait List

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader(s)
  • Return flights - London Heathrow to Geneva, nonstop with British Airways
  • 7 nights accommodation in Switzerland, at a quaint hotel in the picturesque Val d’Hérens
  • All main meals - with breakfasts at our hotel, and evening meals at good local restaurants
  • Minibus transport
  • Mountain railway excursion to the Gornergrat
  • Cable car ride up to Grande Dixence
  • All excursions, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips (hotel staff, restaurants, etc) and taxes
  • Map & Limosa checklist of birds, butterflies & mammals for the tour

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1995* inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £195*Land Only: £1875*Group Size: 10Leaders:  Brian Small & David Walsh
Join the Wait List

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader(s)
  • Return flights - London Heathrow to Geneva, nonstop with British Airways
  • 7 nights accommodation in Switzerland, at a quaint hotel in the picturesque Val d’Hérens
  • All main meals - with breakfasts at our hotel, and evening meals at good local restaurants
  • Minibus transport
  • Mountain railway excursion to the Gornergrat
  • Cable car ride up to Grande Dixence
  • All excursions, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips (hotel staff, restaurants, etc) and taxes
  • Map & Limosa checklist of birds, butterflies & mammals for the tour

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Highlights

  • Summer 'birds & butterflies' tour to the beautiful Valais region of Switzerland
  • Superb alpine birding amidst an idyllic ‘chocolate-box’ landscape
  • Specialities include Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Nutcracker, Alpine Accentor, Snowfinch
  • Up to 100 species of butterfly possible - from Peak White and Alpine Blue to Swiss Brassy Ringlet
  • Swiss mountain railway journey up to 3100m - on a clear day, spectacular views to the Matterhorn!
  • See the Gornerglescher - and share your picnic with Alpine Choughs and Alpine Marmots!
  • Ride to the immense Grande Dixence dam by cable car, and stroll back down again
  • Sublime alpine scenery and upland meadows ablaze with wildflowers
  • Expertly led by Limosa guides Brian Small and David Walsh

Outline Itinerary

  • Fly London Heathrow-Geneva. We head east along the Rhône valley to our hotel for the week in the pretty Val d’Hérens. Night Evolène

  • We spend the week exploring the beautiful Swiss Alps for birds and butterflies - ranging from the glorious Val d’Herens itself, east to Zermatt and the Gornergrat. Six further nights Evolène

  • We return to Geneva, fly London

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
mountain green-veined white switzerland 220618.jpg
A Mountain Green-veined White feeds on a White Cranesbill at Arolla © Brian Small

Switzerland is rightly famous for its stupendous upland scenery and crisp mountain air. The southern Valais region that borders with Italy is one of the most beautiful of all - and a prime location for alpine birding. Crested Tits and Western Bonelli's Warblers frequent the forests, boldly spotted Nutcrackers conceal themselves amongst the Arolla Pines and the trills of richly coloured, ‘rosy-red’ Lesser Redpolls rise above flower-filled alpine meadows.

From Geneva, we follow the valley of the mighty Rhône river eastwards to reach our base in the picturesque Val d’Hérens, which is both a Parc Regional and a Biosphere Reserve. With no changes of hotel to worry about during our stay, we shall be free to devote ourselves to some of the most spectacular birding and landscapes in all Switzerland: from the glaciers at the head of the lovely Val d’Hérens itself, east to the famous Gornergrat with its majestic views of the Matterhorn. From mid June through July, the weather in the Swiss Alps is typically warm with plenty of sunshine - and our aim will certainly be to make the most of this!

The woods and mountains around about our hotel are the perfect place to start. Red-backed Shrike, Fieldfare and Serin are to be found in the gardens and meadows around town, and Dippers bob beside the mountain streams as we listen for the buzzing chatter of both Black and Common Redstarts, which nest in the town.

On one day, we will travel to Zermatt and take the mountain railway up to the Gornergrat. If visibility is good, we shall enjoy uninterrupted views across the glaciers towards the iconic chiselled peak of the Matterhorn - one of the most spectacular views in the world. Here, at an elevation of around 3100m (9800ft), we’ll watch for Snowfinch and Alpine Accentor, while playful Alpine Choughs may even feed from our hands!

Even if visibility on the high tops let us down, then we will find birding along the floor of the Rhône Valley is equally rewarding. Bee-eaters now breed here and Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Great Reed and Marsh Warblers, Nightingale and Golden Oriole all await our discovery.

We'll also pay a visit to the stupendous Grande Dixence dam. Travelling up via a short cable car ride, we’ll descend again on foot and can expect stupendous views plus chances of some great plants and birds along the way. Golden Eagle, Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, and Water Pipits in pastel blue summer plumage are possible, while plants can include Snowdon Lily, a variety of primroses and a good chance of Edelweiss.

Birdwatching in the Swiss Alps is full of surprises... Our June 2019 group enjoyed brilliant views of Ptarmigan, Snowfinch and Alpine Accentor (from the same spot at the Gornergrat) and other ‘purple patches’ included Wryneck, Rock Thrush and Black Woodpecker all within half an hour at Leuk, ‘scope views of Nutcrackers in the pines at Arolla and, to finish, a fabulous pair of Lammergeiers soaring high above the Derborence valley.

As well great birding, the excitement of seeing so many butterflies on the wing - from Mazarine, Adonis and Amanda’s Blues, through Mountain Dappled White and Clouded Apollo to Niobe and Alpine Marsh Fritillaries - all add to the ingredients for a wonderful wildlife holiday.  

With relaxed, easy-paced walks and plenty of invigorating Swiss mountain air, this tour offers an unbeatable introduction to alpine birds and butterflies. It's a trip designed and led for us by Limosa’s Brian Small, returning now for his 14th and 15th tours to the region. Co-leader David Walsh shares Brian's passion for birds and butterflies and has led this tour with him before.

Limosa has been operating tours to Switzerland since 2002 and our holidays in 2021 will be our 17th and 18th visits to the Swiss Alps in summer.

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With a penchant for Larch and Arolla Pine, the boldly-spotted Nutcracker can be quite common in Switzerland's alpine forests - including those at Arolla itself! © tour participant Gordon Small, wildlifeimagesgs.com

Day 1
FLY GENEVA, TRANSFER TO VAL D’HERENS
Our birdwatching tours to Switzerland begin with a morning flight from London Heathrow to Geneva. We drive east along the Rhône valley to Sion, then swing south into the chocolate-box landscape of the glorious Val d’Hérens. Along the way, we should see our first Black Kites beside the banks of Lake Geneva. A stop at a lake has produced Little Bittern in the past.

In the late afternoon we arrive at our quaint but comfortable and characterful little hotel at Evolène, in the beautiful Val d’Hérens, which will be our base throughout the week. Night Evolène

Days 2 - 7
THE VAL D’HERENS, RHONE VALLEY & THE GORNERGRAT

Waking to the crisp mountain air, Crested Tits in the hotel garden and the ‘gravel-gargling’ song of Black Redstarts from the rooftops, our daily plans will depend a little on the local weather - which, incidentally, is usually at its best in Switzerland during June and July.

Much of our time will be spent exploring the woods and mountains of the Val d’Hérens itself (which is both a Parc Regional and a Biosphere Reserve), with its heady mix of stunning scenery, alpine scents and sounds, and alluring montane birds. The very rare Lammergeier is once again to be looked for in the skies over this fabulous region - our last 7 groups have all been lucky!

Serins gabble away like speeded-up Corn Buntings, and Dippers and Grey Wagtails haunt the river at Evolène. This lovely valley is also home to feisty Firecrests and Fieldfares, Crag Martin, Rock Bunting and Red-backed Shrikes hunting for bees; Golden Eagles sweep the skies and as we scan for them above the slopes, we’ll watch for parties of nimble Alpine Chamois, too.

Taking a walk above the tree-line to the high alpine meadows and the Tsijiore Nouve glacier, Water Pipits sing and we may be lucky to hear the ‘creaking door’ call of perfectly-camouflaged Rock Ptarmigan. The timid and rarely seen Rock Partridge also occurs here; though we should indeed be very fortunate to find one, we live in hope and have been treated to fantastic views on two or three of our tours... come to think of it, we're about overdue for another one now!

Arolla is best known as a climbing centre. With few visitors in early summer, for the birdwatcher dappled Nutcrackers screech from the tops of pines that are the haunt of Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Firecrest, and Crested and ‘Alpine’ Willow Tits. In summer, we have occasionally found Griffon Vulture and Citril Finch here too, along with the superb Rock Thrush. The upper slopes are the haunt of Alpine Chamois and the heftier Alpine Ibex. And with a splendid array of alpine butterflies to look for - including such delights as Cranberry, Alpine, Mazarine and Amanda’s Blues, Alpine Heath, Alpine Grayling, Almond-eyed and Swiss Brassy Ringlets, Alpine Marsh and Shepherd’s Fritillaries, Mountain Clouded Yellow and Alpine Grizzled Skipper - this is a place destined to linger long in the memory.

On one of our days, after a circuitous drive east to Zermatt, we plan to take the mountain railway high up to the Gornergrat. Set at around 3100m (10,170ft), if visibility is good, stunning views across the glacier towards the Matterhorn will tempt our eyes away from the schools of playful Alpine Choughs, which jostle for visitors’ left-over food - and were close enough to stroke last time! Endearing Snowfinches sometimes breed in the observatory, but the less demonstrative Alpine Accentors are much more easily overlooked as they shuffle quietly about. Two special butterflies to watch out for at this altitude are the Peak White and Sooty Ringlet.

Up a side valley from the Val d’Hérens we will visit the immense Grande Dixence dam, taking the cable car up to the top and walking slowly back down. If the dam's vital statistics are impressive - 285m (935 feet) high and 200m (656 feet) wide at the base - so too is the birding! We often see Golden Eagles cruising over the slopes, with Lammergeier, Alpine Accentor and singing Water Pipit possible, too.

Nowadays, this site also offers our best chance of Wallcreeper, although sadly this species can no longer be guaranteed (due to climate change they are now breeding earlier than before and moving up to higher elevations). Switzerland's national flower, the Edelweiss, may be in bloom amongst many interesting plants on the slopes and we are also likely to encounter ‘alpine’ Ring Ouzels, here of the ‘frosted’ central European race alpestris.

Promising a whole new suite of birds, our visit to the floor of the Rhône Valley will be equally rewarding. Here, at a special site of towering cliffs, remarkably, we might even find the ‘Mediterranean’ Blue Rock Thrush, along with Melodious Warbler in the bushes below. At a small area of reed-fringed lakes, the songs of Nightingales, Blackcaps and Garden Warblers greet us, before we seek out Wryneck and listen for the tell-tale voices of other valley dwellers such as Quail, Whinchat and Golden Oriole. Marsh and Great Reed Warblers also nest here.

Overhead we could see Peregrine or perhaps a dashing Hobby. Common and Honey Buzzards are quick to take advantage of thermals as the day begins to warm and small parties of 'sub-' Alpine Swifts cruise the valleysides. Best of all though is the colony of colourful Bee-eaters that now nest in the bank in front of a hide!

As well as its birds, the warmer Rhône Valley is especially good for butterflies, too. Possibilities include Niobe and High Brown Fritillaries, Blue-spot Hairstreak, Purple Emperor, Rock Grayling and both White and Southern White Admirals. Six further nights Evolène

Day 8
RETURN TO GENEVA, FLY LONDON

Bidding a reluctant farewell both to our friendly hotel and the lovely Val d’Hérens after breakfast, we head back west along the Rhône Valley.

If travel time permits, we will make a short stop at Les Grangettes, where the river flows into the eastern end of Lake Geneva. The Eider breeds only in Northern Europe and is a most surprising bird to find on the lake - but is regular nowadays here in summer! An array of other wetland birds is also possible, with Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes, Red-crested Pochard and Yellow-legged Gull among species we've seen here in the past.

Our birding over, we continue on to Geneva and board our afternoon flight to London, where our summer tours to the Swiss Alps conclude.

alpine chough switzerland Brian Small.jpg
An enterprising Alpine Chough watches the tables closely for unattended food and scraps at the Gornergrat © Brian Small, Limosa

WHAT TO EXPECT
Now in its 17th year, this immensely scenic summer birding tour to Switzerland focuses on the glorious Valais region - and boasts everything from Lammergeier and Golden Eagle to Nutcracker and Alpine Accentor.

As well as great birding, many butterflies are seen on this remarkable Switzerland birdwatching tour – with up to 100 different species possible in the best years!

Excursions include an ascent by cable car to the stupendous Grande Dixence dam and a journey by Swiss mountain railway to Zermatt and the Gornergrat at 3100m (10,170ft) - for lunch with the Alpine Choughs, Snowfinch and (on a clear day) spectacular views to the Matterhorn!

The weather in the Swiss Alps is typically at its best in early summer (June and July), usually warm with plenty of sunshine. In the mountains of course, cloudy conditions with some rainfall are always possible - but we have found it’s often possible to dodge poor weather locally by moving higher up or lower down the valleys.

Temperature also varies according to altitude. In the Rhone Valley in June and early July, it can reach 32C (90F), but up at Evolène is typically a much cooler and fresher 16-20C (61-68F); higher, at Arolla, it is often 8-16C (46-61F).

Good-excellent incidental photo opportunities, including birds, butterflies, alpine flowers and all that glorious mountain scenery.

BIRDS
90-115 species

BUTTERFLIES
More than 70 species are possible, depending upon the weather, of course. Each year is different, but we’ve now recorded the incredible total of more than 120 different species of butterfly on this remarkable holiday - with our trip record to date being an astonishing total of 100 species seen on our June 2017 tour!

ACCOMMODATION
7 nights accommodation in the Swiss Alps, where our hotel for 19 years on this tour has been a small, quaint and very friendly, family-run establishment in the quiet rural town of Evolène – right at the heart of the picturesque Val d’Hérens. Hotels are few and far between in this gorgeous spot and while the rooms at our charming little 2-star hotel are quite modest, that’s all part of the appeal. All rooms have en suite facilities.

MEALS
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with dinner on arrival at Evolène on Day 1 and concluding with lunch on Day 8.

Breakfasts are Continental-style and served at the hotel. Lunches are usually picnics, with the occasional sit-down meal at a local Gasthof. Note that dinners on this tour will be taken at local restaurants, all within a short stroll of our hotel in Evolène.

We provide drinking water during the day, and our tour price also includes restaurant gratuities for meals out.

WALKING
The floor of the Rhône Valley is relatively flat and the going is easy. Elsewhere, our walks are not strenuous, but this is the Alps of course, so expect some uphill stretches - all taken at a gentle pace, with our itinerary being carefully planned to avoid arduous hikes. Swiss alpine trails are well marked and generally in good condition.

For our visit to Grande Dixence, we make the short ascent by cable car and walk back down.

Stout walking shoes or lightweight boots with sturdy corrugated soles for grip are recommended for this holiday.

Maximum elevation on this tour: ca. 3100m (10,170 feet) for a few hours at the Gornergrat.

TRAVEL
We fly London Heathrow-Geneva, nonstop with British Airways.

Ground Transport  By minibus.

Group Arolla Switzerland Brian Small.jpeg
A Limosa group enjoys another glorious picnic lunch - and great weather, too - amidst the spectacular Swiss Alps © Brian Small, Limosa

Tour Gallery

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