Take the grand tour of Switzerland
Take the grand tour of Switzerland
We may not be able to visit Switzerland just yet, but there’s nothing stopping you from planning the trip of a lifetime, exploring Switzerland’s most beautiful locations at your own pace on the ultimate road trip.
Not many road trips can claim to take you through four language regions, more than five Alpine passes, to 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and along 22 lakes … but the Grand Tour of Switzerland can. Launched in 2015, the spectacular 1,600km route is not only astoundingly beautiful, it also showcases the variety, diversity and uniqueness of the Swiss landscape and culture. From merlot tasting in Mendrisiotto, to thermal baths in Ovronnaz to seeing the sunrise on the Matterhorn, the Grand Tour of Switzerland offers some of the most memorable experiences in the world. If you’re craving space, fresh mountain air, crystal-clear water, unmatched gourmet and cultural experiences as well as breathtaking views after lockdown, then there’s nowhere like Switzerland.
Known for their efficiency and ingenuity, the Swiss have ensured that the Grand Tour of Switzerland is well organised and convenient, as well as Insta-worthy. The route is signposted clockwise with more than 650 official signposts and can be travelled by car, motorcycle, camper and – thanks to charging stations along the entire route – also by e-car. Each stage of the Grand Tour of Switzerland even has its own Spotify playlist, ensuring you’ve always got the perfect road-trip tunes for each leg of your trip.
Ensuring all senses are tantalised on the journey, the Grand Tour Snack- Boxes are offered at various locations, as well as numerous culinary experiences along the way.
The Grand Tour Snack-Box gives you the opportunity to taste the culinary diversity of Switzerland with a variety of specialty dishes waiting for you in every part of the country. Buy the Snack-Box for CHF 25 (approximately $40) from any of the 51 official sales outlets on the Grand Tour and top it up with regional specialities for two people for CHF 20 (about $30) as you go. The Snack-Box will satisfy those hunger pangs and you can repeatedly top it up wherever you go with local treats from places such as the famous Nyon-based Alexandre chocolatier or the Confiserie Roggwiller in St Gallen.
There are countless culinary adventures to be had on the Grand Tour of Switzerland. The gourmet panorama trail at Les Paccots is not to be missed, where two mountain restaurants and two Alpine huts serve local dishes against a backdrop of stunning views. Or take a gourmet hike in Corvatsch past glacier lakes, alpine meadows, idyllic valleys and romantic gorges, dining at three regional restaurants along the way. For turophiles (cheeselovers), the Alpine Cheese Trail is hard to beat, linking seven dairies on a hiking route through Engelberg’s diverse countryside, with plenty of tastings as you go.
With 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, two biospheres and 22 lakes, you are spoilt for choice for must-see-and- explore locations on the Grand Tour of Switzerland. From marvelling at the architectural works of Le Corbusier to sailing across Lake Zurich, there’s no shortage of things to do.
Furka Pass, which links Andermatt and Valais, is the highest point on the Grand Tour of Switzerland, reaching 2,429m above sea level. In summer, a ride on the Furka steam engine is an unforgettable experience, offering a panoramic view of the Saint-Gotthard Massif and the Urseren Valley.
Lake Maggiore extends from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland far into the Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy. On the northern (Swiss) side of Lake Maggiore are some beautiful holiday resorts that can be visited on your Grand Tour. Ascona is chic and romantic, Locarno is full of southern charm and hosts many cultural events such as the famous Locarno Festival, and Brissago is a quaint town with narrow, ancient alleyways on the Italian border.
If it’s unique and historical natural beauty you crave, few places illustrate the history of the Alps as impressively as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tectonic Arena Sardona, a large area of unique formations created when the continents of Africa and Europe collided. The oldest rocks of the region are more than 300 million years old and you can experience the history of the Earth first hand with a visit to Sardona. From leisurely day trips to challenging multi-day hikes, a visit to the World Heritage Sardona is definitely something for the bucket list.
Thanks to its well-preserved medieval townscape, the Old Town of Bern was added to UNESCO’s listing of world heritage sites in 1983 and is a must-see destination on your Grand Tour of Switzerland. Within the site is one of the longest weather- sheltered shopping promenades in Europe, as well as fabulous boutiques, bars and cabaret stages.
It’s not only the Old Town that draws people to the Swiss capital, Bern is home to some of Europe’s best contemporary culture including the Zentrum Paul Klee, Einstein House and the Swiss Alpine Museum. Set in the heart of Switzerland, with easy access to the International Airport, Bern is the gateway to the Alps and a great place to begin your tour of a lifetime.
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
While Switzerland has many famous destinations on the Grand Tour route, the little-known gems are often just as spectacular. Far away from crowds, untouched landscapes and ancient towns await adventure seekers, nature lovers and travellers looking for unique experiences. Head to Charmey for La Berra par la Valsainte, a peaceful hike starting at La Valsainte monastery in the Gruyère region of Fribourg, through fields and forests of the Javro Valley, away from the throng of tourists. Or the Hörnli Trail in Arosa is a must for all flow-trail enthusiasts; set against a wild mountainous landscape the trail features more than 100 exciting bends. Culture vultures will love the easy e-bike castle tour, passing numerous historical buildings dating back to the 19th century.
Explore Switzerland in your own time. It’s time to share the love.