I’m going to zero-in on the Swiss Bernese Oberland region, but in truth the entire nation of Switzerland warrants close attention for those looking for an active travel experience. I'm also just discussing the summer activities for travelers in this area, as winter requires an article to itself -- snow sports in the Alps can't be glossed over!
The city of Interlaken is the best known city in the Bernese Oberland, and some of Europe’s best hiking trails criss-cross this region. Mountain biking is a popular sport and high-quality bikes can be rented, but be prepared for climbs on the bike because very little of Switzerland is flat! Whether on foot or two wheels, visitors can easily find their way with the frequent trail markers and direction signs. Take note that mountain huts and chalets dot the Swiss landscape; travelers can sample local mountain cheeses or breads along their routes, just keep an eye out for signs at the farms as one travels past.
If biking and hiking aren’t wild enough for you, pay a visit to Outdoor Interlaken and organize a whitewater rafting trip or a canyoneering expedition. Canyoneering is where one rappels, jumps, swims, and slides their way down a canyon – all under the watchful supervision of an experienced guide while on the water. The canyon tours from Interlaken are in some of the most wonderful mountain settings one can imagine: crystal clear water with snowy mountain tops high above.
If land-based pursuits aren’t your thing, try paragliding with the spectacular views of the Alps. Or sailing or kayaking on one of the two glorious glacier-fed legs (Interlaken is literally “between lakes” with Lake Thun and Lake Brienz on either side).
For the certifiably crazy among us, the town of Lauterbrunnen is a global mecca for the sport of base jumping. Jumpers take a cable car, train, or hike to the top of the dramatic cliff edge high over the town. And then they jump off the cliff. They wear special suits that let them glide at high speeds, carefully controlling their descent, until they lose too much altitude and have to pop their parachute before crashing to the ground. Certifiably crazy. No insurance company will cover you for this activity, and statistically this is as dangerous a sport as it sounds. People crash and die each year here, but the sport still continues.
For just a taste of this base jumping madness, one can walk up the valley south of Lauterbrunnen and, on a clear day, occasionally a basejumper can be seen (or heard!) soaring off the cliff face above. They land in the green field to the East of the walking path. One can also just hang out at the coffee shop in Lauterbrunnen, Airtime Action, and see the sort of fringe characters this sport attracts. Don’t ask for any lessons, no reputable guide service exists for this activity, but do enjoy their excellent carrot cake and cappuccino!
Interlaken, Switzerland is considered the adventure capital of Europe for good reason. Devote a week (or more!) and get to know this region -- adventurous travelers will be rewarded!