Before starting to read about this topic, it is important for me to remind that much of the content on this website is based on my own experiences and background. Prior to living in Switzerland, I grew up in the Netherlands and lived for 10 years in Sweden. Having experienced weather in these two countries, the sheer amount and intensity of thunderstorms in Switzerland blew me away.
We live in Luzern, in Central Switzerland. Located by a lake and with mountains directly south of the city, Luzern is breathtakingly beautiful. The city has the reputation of having to deal with a lot of fog and moody weather in the winter months. Having moved here only in March 2022, we haven’t noticed any moody weather yet. On the contrary, Luzern so far has served us blue skies, hot sunny days and – occasionaly – violent thunderstorms.
I joke to colleagues and friends that four months of Switzerland has given me more lightning strikes and thunderstorms than 10 years in Sweden. Summers in Switzerland are known for their unpredictable but violent thunderstorms. This is especially true during periods where it is relatively hot for Swiss standards, like this year 2022. Hot air that cools down quickly can often create violent storms unexpectedly and very fast.
How do you deal with thunderstorms when all you want to do is to explore Switzerland? Here are some tips to ensure that thunderstorms don’t ruin your holiday.
Mountain trips and thunderstorms
Mountainous areas are especially susceptible to thunderstorms in Switzerland. As mountain areas often provide little to no shelter, it is essential to be prepared.
When you are planning on doing a mountain hike, ensure that you check the weather forecast before making the trip out. If thunderstorms are predicted, look up if the hiking trail has any shelter in case of bad luck striking.
If you end up getting caught in a thunderstorm during a hike, make sure to avoid sheltering under trees and follow these tips from MeteoSwiss.
When you are visiting one of the popular Swiss mountain tops, you’ll see that many of them have summit restaurants or buildings. Sheltering in these is completely safe, as often they’ll be equipped with anti-lightning systems.
Operators of cable cars and funiculars have access to advanced weather reports and know how to deal with bad weather. In case of an upcoming storm, they will often simply discontinue cable car operations until the storm has passed and running the gondolas is safe again.
Thunderstorms on the water
Being on the water during a thunderstorm can be just as dangerous. If you are swimming when a thunderstorm arrives, get out of the water as soon as possible. It is also important that you seek shelter once on land.
If you are out on a boat during a day with a chance of thunderstorms, make sure you are prepared. Have an app that informs you of potential upcoming storms, and keep an eye on the weather around you. Many Swiss lakes have a system of little lighthouses that start blinking when a storm is incoming. This is a sign for everyone on the lake to return to the short as soon as possible.
Time activities right with thunderstorms in Switzerlands
While nothing is as unpredictable as the weather, summer storms often occur later in the afternoon. Keep this in mind when making plans that involve activities on the water or in the mountains. By being an early bird and getting up to the summit during the morning, you reduce the risk of getting stuck in the storm.
Weather forecast apps to have for your tips
When traveling to Switzerland, I recommend downloading the weather apps of SRF or MeteoSwiss. Both have easy-to-understand weather forecasts for every Swiss city. If your app store does not have these apps available, you can also visit the SRF website or MeteoSwiss website for weather forecasts. Both of these websites will also issue warnings in case of risk of bad weather. This could be thunderstorms, but also excessive rain, snow, or hot temperatures. The apps simply allow you to prepare better for every situation!