Meet the Swiss towns living in the shadows for months on end

Meet the Swiss towns living in the shadows for months on end

When the nights start getting longer and the weather gets chilly, many people reach for the Vitamin D supplements to temper the winter blues or resign themselves to the fact that it’ll likely be dark when they start work and dark when they clock off. However, imagine living in Oberterzen in Canton St. Gallen, where the town falls into shadow for two and a half months.

No direct sunlight in Oberterzen from November to January

On November 21, locals in Oberterzen bid a fond farewell to direct sunlight for the next two and a half months. The sun will only shine on the village in the mountains again on January 31, 2024. Oberterzen is not alone in facing months of no sunrays, with Vicsoprano, Canton Graubünden suffering the same fate. Bosco Gurin in Ticino also suffers the same problem, spending 83 days in the shade. 

Alongside entire towns plunged into darkness, parts of major cities and towns can also be shaded for long periods. Examples include parts of Gils near Brig (Valais, 78 days of shade), Hergiswil near Lake Lucerne (Nidwalden, 81 days) and Emmetten, where locals are unable to get a tan for 106 days between October 30 and February 13.

Residents of these towns will not be exposed to direct sunlight at home for months. In some cases, this can lead to what is known as seasonal affective disorder and / or a deficiency in Vitamin D - which can lead to fatigue, weight gain and can even lead people to be more susceptible to other illnesses.

Why are so many Swiss towns shrouded for months on end?

So why are these towns affected by the lack of light? The problem lies in the geography of Switzerland and the Swiss Alps. During the winter months, the sun is often not high enough in the sky to get past major peaks during the day. This, combined with narrow valleys facing east to west, means that many communities face months of shade.

For those interested, the shadowiest place in Switzerland is a sunken piece of ground near the town of Nesslau, Canton St. Gallen. Aptly named the Schattenloch (shadow hole), the permanent shade begins in the area on October 17 and doesn’t abate until February 26 - a whopping 132 days! However, it needs to be noted that no one lives in the shadow hole.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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