Leukerbad is perhaps the exact opposite of where we live–the heart of the Alps looks nothing like the shores of Brittany! The topography of the land is amazing. Neither Anthony nor I grew up with the mountains; he briefly discovered them on a school field trip, I explored them as a student. The sheer height and majesty of the Alps has to be seen to be believed. If you travel to experience new things, the Swiss Alps was a discovery for us. It was also a wedding present from a friend that we had been meaning to use for several years. As presents go, a trip to Leukerbad has to be one of the most amazing things we’ve ever received! Leukerbad is located 1,402 m above sea level in the Valais/Wallis, one of Switzerland’s 26 cantons. Depending on where you are in the canton, the main language is either French or German. Leukerbad is located in the German-speaking part of the canton. Don’t worry if you don’t speak (Swiss) German–French and English are widely spoken and, for the rest, hand gesutures do wonders.
We took the train from Geneva to Leuk in the valley below and then the bus to Leukerbad itself. The trip takes a little over 3 hours. For those not used to driving in the mountains, the bus is an experience in and of itself. The roads are steep, narrow and winding. I don’t even want to think about what it must be like to drive to Leukerbad in the winter with snow and ice. Our bus driver should have been a race car driver. I’m sure he was doing the speed limit and driving safely, however, to me it felt like we were flying up the road. I kept looking out the window and down the ravines that bordered the road. I think everyone on the bus knew we were tourists–my face looked more than a little gray! Anthony and Laura had no such issues! They just seemed to be in awe of the surroundings!
Leukerbad is open to tourists year round. Winter brings skiers, snowboarders and the like to the town while spring and summer bring bikers, climbers and hikers ready for an adventure. The town is ideal for families. There are playgrounds, nice flat sidewalks for strollers and children seem to be genuinely welcomed in the cafés and restaurants. There is also a small mini-bus which runs around town if you need/want a break from walking. That said, my favorite part of Leukerbad were the thermal baths! There are 30 thermals pools in the town offering tourists and locals alike the chance to relax in the hot spring water. With water temperatures reaching up to 50°C, you can soak in the pools year-round. The two biggest baths are the Burgerbad and the Lindner Alpentherme. The Linder Alpentherme is more elegant and aimed at older travelers or, more simply, the child-free. We chose the Burgerbad.
The Burger baths are perfect for bathers of all ages and proudly proclaim that they are family-friendly. Children under 8 are admitted for free and babies are welcome. Special family rates are available for those coming with older children. There is even a special children’s pool/wading pool for the small set complete with water toys and a tiny sliding board! There are 10 different pools available–different water temperatures, indoor/outdoor pools, water jets, bubbles, each pool has its little perks! The Burgerbad is currently being renovated. Various parts of the complex will be closed through mid-July. Despite this fact, I would still recommend the town baths for families. You, and more importantly your children, will be much more welcome here than in any of the other baths in town. (If you have to keep telling your kids not to make noise and to calm down, you won’t enjoy yourself at the other baths no matter how nice they look.)
When you’re done soaking away your worries, hiking trails are available. You can enjoy walking around the town or, for anyone in search of amazing views, take the Gemmi cable-car up to the Gemmi Pass (2,270 metres). From here depending on the age and abilities of your children, you have a variety of possibilities. For easier hikes, you can walk around the lake at the top, picnic and watch the sheep graze. Older children and adults can tackle basic hiking trails ranging from 2.5 to 4 hours. More difficult and longer trails (and climbing possibilities) are available for experienced hikers or with mountain guides. I’ve done some of the easier and medium rated trails in the past. Good hiking shoes are a must. We were unable to go this year as the cable-car, like the baths, is also being worked on until the end of the month.
With small children, there is enough to do in the village between the easy walks and the baths. The nearby villages of Inden and Albinen also make for nice destinations (both are approximately 6 km from Leukerbad) and offer their own hiking/walking possibilities. For families with older children, it is worth making sure the cable car will be open during your stay. The Gemmi Pass is amazing and you should try not to miss it. Even with the work and closures, Leukerbad was amazing! For those of us who don’t live in the mountains, experiencing them is worth the trip! The thermal baths are just the icing on the cake–and we all know that I have a sweet-tooth!