Travel in Switzerland among Castles and Lakes

We travel through Switzerland across a route through Swiss cities and mountains. It was like Route 66 but was a little less adventurous, and less long. But it was more beautiful for the scenic landscapes that we cross and for the places we encounter. We take a seven-day slow journey touring on secondary roads and sometimes on Swiss trains. The itinerary included the nostalgic Tremola on Gotthard Pass. The ancient passage of the Gotthard Pass got built in early 1900. It reaches over 2100 meters above sea level between bends, curves, and climbs. We chose the best hotels on the route and the best food and wine opportunities.

We run through roads that reach 44 locations, 22 lakes, 11 heritage sites and 5 alpine passes. The tour takes place clockwise. It does not have a real starting point or arrival point. It depends on the location from which you decide to start the circular itinerary. To begin the tour, you can start from the three main border towns of Basel, Geneva or Chiasso.

The cyclists can consider it a sort of Paris-Roubaix of the Swiss Alps. There is also the road that leads to the Furka Pass. It connects the Canton Uri to the Valais, touching the Rhône Glacier. Another fascinating route is the cantonal road that goes from Thusis to Spluga. This passes through the Viamala in the canton of Graubünden. It has magnificent and threatening gorges drawn by the Rhine.

Those who prefer public transport can travel by train. Passengers can leave anywhere along the itinerary throughout the year. The stages do not exactly coincide with the car-driven tour. The first stage connects Zurich to St. Gallen. The second is from St. Gallen to Lucerne on board the Voralpen-Express. The third is from Lucerne to Montreux aboard a panoramic train. The fourth leg connects Montreux to Zermatt. The fifth from Zermatt to St. Moritz on board the famous Glacier Express. Finally from St. Moritz to Lugano on the Bernina Express. From Lugano to Lucerne (on the Guglielmo Tell Express expressway. It is a route that combines train and boat and from Lucerne to Zurich.



First stage

Lugano combines the Mediterranean character with the impeccable Swiss precision. It is a cosmopolitan reality and at the same time as a measure of man. Its features are its gardens, its large villas overlooking the lake and its churches. Those who visit the city of Lugano cannot give up on at least one of the two mountains that surround the Gulf of the city. Monte San Salvatore or Mount Brè.

Going north, you reach Locarno, one of the sun-kissed resorts of Switzerland. It is the hottest city thanks to the mitigating effect of Lake Maggiore. Southern vegetation, characterized by palms or lemons, gives it a special exotic charm. The pulsating heart of the city is the Piazza Grande, famous for the film festival held every year. The narrow lanes of the old town converge all towards the square. At the edge of the historic center stands the fortification of the Visconteo Castle. Dating back to the 12th century, about a fifth is still preserved in its original state.

A walk is compulsory on the famous Ascona lakeside, a village near the center of Locarno. Above the two towns, Orselina in the mountains of the hinterland. There is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso, whose foundation has a Marian appearance. It is the main tourist attraction of Locarno, with a fantastic view over the city, the lake, and the mountains. Another point to visit near Locarno is the Cimetta. At an altitude of 1,400 mtrs, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Maggiore and Valais Alpine summits.

Bellinzona has impressive fortified castles from the Middle Ages. Here you can stroll in a medieval setting made of alleys once crossed by horse soldiers and ladies. Bellinzona boasts boutiques and shops, gourmet and coffee shops. They are a real invitation to stroll and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. The cultural and architectural environment is very close to nearby Lombardy. On Saturday, Piazza Nosetto hosts a large weekly market.

From Bellinzona, the tour continues northwest. The car travels to the Gotthard Pass. The last stretch stretches along the legendary Tremola. After the Pass, Realp starts to rise to face Furka, with a road lying on the Rhône Glacier.

Continuing southwest, you reach Zermatt by passing to Gletsch and Goms. The wide valley dotted with typical villages with wooden houses and white churches. It got excavated by the Rhone glacier in the glacial age. Today it is a destination in summer for hiking and in winter for cross-country skiing. It is necessary to park your car at Taesch to continue by train (about 10 minutes). So you come to the foot of one of the most fascinating and recognizable mountains of the world. The Matterhorn. An exciting excursion in the Zermatt Valley is a visit to Grächen.



Second Stage

Visperterminen, for example, boasts the highest "Heida" vineyard in Europe and Raron. Here is the church that houses the tomb of poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Continue to the right in the valley of the Dala, in the direction of Leukerbad. You can enjoy some rest in the main tourist resort of the Alps. Four million liters of water come daily from the mountain to the various pools at a temperature of 51 ° C.

So it goes on to Lake Geneva but without forgetting a stop between Sierre and Zion, where a gem is set. The underground lake of St Léonar, the largest of its kind in Europe, navigable with boats and a vital energy center. Soon, you can come to Zion surrounded by the two Tourbillon and Valeria hills. This city, the oldest in Switzerland, has a pretty old town crossed by streets with cafes and bistros. But in the Notre Dame de Valère church there is a famous object of the cane organ of the fifteenth century.

We continue through the vineyards. Martigny, immersed in vineyards and fruit trees, is famous for its gastronomic culture. Strawberries, apricots, grapes, and asparagus ripen under the hot sunshine of Valais. Since ancient times this place was also an important commercial crossroads. Also worthy of a visit are the ruins of the Roman baths. The restored amphitheater is capable of accommodating 5,000 spectators. Dog lovers can visit the St. Bernard Museum. Boxes and exterior enclosures allow you to observe the animals and their puppies.



On the north towards Lake Geneva, the Rhone track accompanies the trip from the Furka pass. St Maurice Strait is of strategic importance. The ancient convent dates back to 1500 years ago. Here the masterpieces of sacred goldsmiths get exhibited. Not far from here is a 50 m high waterfall located at 500 m deep in the gut of the mountain. Leave the canton of Valais through the vineyards around Bex, Aigle, and Yvorne. You can reach the Lake Geneva at Villeneuve.

In the road to Lausanne is a stop at the famous and romantic Chillon Castle. From these areas, in the Lavaux area, the vineyards get terraced. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the wine villages in the area.

So you come to Lausanne, home of the International Olympic Committee since 1914. The city has developed on three hills, surrounded by vineyards, and Lake Geneva at its feet. On the French side facing the Savoyard Alps are imposing and impressive. The beautiful old town remains closed to traffic. The alleyways with cafés and boutiques characterize the image of the medieval heart of this city. The historic center gets dominated by the cathedral.

It is one of the most impressive works in the first Gothic style of Switzerland. It is worth visiting the south facing parks and refined palaces that host luxury hotels. There is the Beau-Rivage Palace in Ouchy. Hotel de l'Angleterre once also hosted Lord Byron. Lausanne has so much to offer even to lovers of culture. There is the Olympic Museum and the Pipa Museum. Even the proposals for theater and music are higher than the average. Among other things, let's not forget that Lausanne hosts the famous Béjart Ballet.



Third Stage

After one night in Lausanne, go on to the west. The Jura Vaudois Regional Nature Park has woods, marshes, and rugged karstic rocks. The pasture lands are ideal for excursions. The tour continues in the Joux Valley, the cradle of high-precision clockwork. There is the Sentier Citadel's Space Horloger. You can watch some of the current production of the main manufactures of the valley. The visitor can get immersed in an innovative space.

The tour continues to Vallorbe. Here you can visit an old military bunker made to defend Switzerland in the event of an attack from France. Today a foundation maintains it as one of the military buildings in Switzerland. Also in Vallorbe, the Orbe River created the Feenhöhlen, the Fairy Caves. It is a fascinating cave complex located in the Valais area. There is the underground stream of the river, stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and galleries.

The tour continues to the Yverdon-Les-Bains spa on the banks of Lake Neuchâtel. It has modern spa facilities, completely refurbished a few years ago and a four-star hotel. Thanks to its sources of sulfur and magnesium, Yverdon boasts a long tradition as a spa. It is traditional medicine center, with remains of Roman spas.

The stage ends in the university town of Neuchâtel, after heading northwest of the lake of the same name. The medieval nucleus is together with the castle and the Collegiate Church. The Collegiate of the twelfth century, contribute to making the town particularly fascinating. The Museum in the Palais des Beaux-Arts exhibits four thematic collections. Among other things here is the Jaquet-Droz collection. A visit to the castle is a must-see before leaving.



Fourth Stage

In Neuchâtel begins a new stage of the tour. You reach the extreme north corner of the same lake to reach Mount Vully. From it you can enjoy a magnificent landscape drawn by the Alpine peaks. The journey continues towards the medieval town of Murten. Even from here the view is unmistakable with the lake and the ancient roofs of the town.

The next destination is the city of Freiburg. The Swiss call the imaginary line as the Röstigraben. It gets derived from the typical potato dish - the Rösti - eaten by the German-speaking population. Freiburg is right on that line. A city wall, at least two kilometers long, served in the past to defend the city. The remains of walls, towers, and a large bastion are still preserved today. The most striking architectural element is the Cathedral of Freiburg. It has its marvelous stained glass windows.

Leaving Freiburg behind, you enter the territory of cheese. Here the Gruyère and the Emmental cheese make it the bosses. Gruyères is the next goal. The town has so far preserved its medieval image. The old townhouse is on a hill overlooking the Sarine. The 13th Century Castle is currently a museum. It illustrates eight centuries of regional architecture, history, and culture. Do not miss a visit to the demonstration dairy opened in 1969. It is in Pringy-Gruyères, at the foot of the castle hill. In this place, you can know everything about the traditional production of Gruyère cheese.

The recipe gets handed down from generation to generation. Farmers give milk twice a day, which is then worked in the forms by the housekeepers. Of course, you can watch the production. The interactive display of the dairy is on sensory impressions. You can hear the sound of bells, the caresses of the cow, the smell of hay and the taste of sweet, seasoned or fresh cheese. The restaurant and the indoor market also offer other regional specialties.

We go on, then, through the Friborg Pre-Alps. On the way from Simmental to Thun Lake, you can visit Gstaad. It is a chalet town, especially renowned for its luxury tourism. Before reaching Berne, we touch Interlaken. This town lies on an alluvial plain between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It gets surmounted by three mighty mountains of the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau. This is the ideal starting point for outdoor activities.

There is a medieval atmosphere of Bern. Its many fountains, brick facades, alleys and historic towers are exemplary. To admire the grandeur of the city, you need to reach the rose garden. It overlooks the Bear's Pit or the 101-meter cathedral platform. The ancient ramparts go down to the shore. Shops, cafés and cafés-theaters of the old town, partly made in barrel-vaulted cellars, make the old town alive. Even though public transport works, it is better to visit the center of Bern on foot. A visit to the house of Albert Einstein is a must with a visit to the Einstein museum.



Fifth Stage

The fifth stage begins in Bern and reaches Zurich. The trail continues for Burgdorf, which is, in fact, the entrance hall of the Emmental. From here the tour winds through hills and valleys, the "Höger u Chräche" as defined by the local. Here, a few kilometers after Burgdorf, you can visit the Emmentaler dairy. You can follow all the production steps of the famous cheese. By following the instructions of an expert, customers can prepare their cheese.

Throughout the Emmental, continue north-east to Hallwyl Castle. The water castle erected on two islets on the northern foothills of the homonymous lake. It has been for 800 years the home of the Hallwyl family, belonging to the small nobility. Its members distinguished themselves on the battlefields, European courts, and financial world. It is the most fascinating of Switzerland.

From there the route changes direction south-east, towards Lucerne, the city of lights. The symbol of the town is the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), made of wood in medieval times. Decorated with paintings it is one of the oldest covered wooden bridges in Europe. Another symbol of the city is the Museggmauer. The walled town with towers preserves its original appearance.

Lucerne is the ideal city for a trip on the Lake of the Four Cantons or on the Pilatus, thanks to the ski lifts. Seerose is a floating platform on the lake. The Waldstätterweg trail allows you to admire the water landscape along the lake. Seerose is born from a holistic architectural concept. The stages will be Lucerne, Stansstad, Brunnen, Alpnachstad, Flüelen, and Vitznau. This imposing steel structure is neither a building nor a ship. The sculpture can accommodate 493 people for the concerts on board.



Going further south-east you will reach Sisikon through the tracks of Guglielmo Tell. To visit is Grütli Meadow, where, in 1291 the first embryo of the Swiss Confederation was born. There is also the chapel of William Tell, a small building on the edge of the lake.

At this point, the itinerary runs north to the town of Brunnen, home to the famous Swiss knife. In the "knife valley", you can not only watch their production but - under the supervision of an artisan - you can build one. An interactive exhibition allows everyone to know the history of the famous knife.

A few kilometers further north you can visit the Patti Museum in the town of Schwyz. The village of Rapperswil is famous for its roses and Mediterranean climate. Here is a passage on the lakefront. Overlooking Lake Zurich, it offers countless opportunities for outdoor activities.

Zurich is the marriage between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Here medieval houses, twisted alleys, and the Renaissance municipalities offer a unique scenario. A guided tour of the historic center is perfect. You can get to know the typical buildings and the people who lived here. The emblem of Zurich is the two bell towers of the Grossmünster, the city cathedral.

According to the legend, it was Charlemagne to build them on the spot. Here the sepulchers of the holy patrons of the Felix and Regula got discovered. Other tourist attractions include the Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church). Here is the largest clock in Europe and the Fraumünster. The Gospel Church has polychrome stained glass windows by Giacometti and Chagall. But in the largest Swiss city, there are also plenty of bars, nightclubs, and cinemas. The streets of the center are also the ideal place for shopping. Also, you cannot start without having tasted the stew with rösti.



Sixth Stage

The third stop goes from Zurich to Appenzell, following the northeastern border. The first resort is on the trail is Schaffhausen, with its spectacular waterfalls. These are the waters of the Rhine that form the ones that are the largest waterfalls in Europe. There is the Untersee-Rhine cruise, from Schaffhausen to Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance. Special cruises are also offered with a final visit to the impressive Rhine Falls. Boat trips can get completed by a bicycle tour or hiking. Boats sail every day from April to October.

Towards the end of this fast stop, the itinerary leads to St. Gallen, the city of books. The symbol of St. Gallus is the baroque cathedral with a library where 170,000 documents. Some of these are handwritten and date back to the year 1000. The library becomes necessary and becomes the hub of the same city. In the Middle Ages St. Gallen has become an important hub for culture and education in Europe.

The day ends in Appenzell, a small country of 7,000 souls, but rich in mountain and peasant traditions.



Seventh Stage

The penultimate stage is from Appenzell to St. Moritz. Continue south along the eastern border from the Principality of Liechtenstein. Here we are in Heidi's land. The itinerary touches the village of Werdenberg. It is the only wooden town of Switzerland with a city character.

The itinerary continues for Vaduz, the small capital of the Principality. Maienfeld inspired Johanna Spyri in the setting of her most famous novel. Here you can relive with a walk the history of Heidi, famous all over the world. Here everything revolves around the well-known Romanesque character. Heidi trail starts at Maienfeld station and then crosses the narrow alleys of the old town. We go towards Rofels to finally get to the village of Heidi (Heididorf). The winery is one of the most important in Graubünden. The area is full of cellars where you can taste fine wines such as Pinot Noir.

Before reaching St. Moritz, the Zernez resort is worth a stop. Here you can access the Lower Engadine National Park. Amidst unspoiled nature, you can dive through more than 80 km of beaten paths.

Located in Upper Engadine at an altitude of 1,856 m, St. Moritz gets kissed by the sun. Here, for the Christmas of 1878, the first electric bulb shined. In 1889 the first golf tournament of the Alps got played. Tourist attractions are the leaning tower, and the ruins of the Church of Saint Maurice. They date to the sixteenth century. The Segantini Museum have made the city famous all over the world.



Eighth Stage

The last stop goes to St. Moritz in Bellinzona. This last stretch is full of postcard landscapes to photograph and enjoy. A stop to admire is the Landwasser railway viaduct due to its architectural majesty. It got built in the early twentieth century. You can cross the viaduct on foot. You can get a special experience contemplating the overcast sight. Or follow a path to admire it from below.

The last stop before Bellinzona is Graubünden. Here you can admire the "mystical" gorge of Viamala. It forms high rocks up to 300 meters and through which the Reno Rear runs. The gorge was the best access to the Alpine passes of Spluga and San Bernardino before the birth of Christ. A detail is in the ancient places of worship, churches, old bridges and castles. Today, it is one of the most charming places to visit.