A country that was made famous in India by a variety of Bollywood films, and referred to as 'heaven on earth'. I would always associate Switzerland as a country with cozy wooden sloping roof homes covered with snow, a lot of snow. As a child, I always got excited when someone got Swiss chocolates, especially Toblerone. I also had received a small bell from one of my grandmothers, which she said the cows in Switzerland wear around their necks.
A typical home
The country offers wonderful landscapes both during summers and winters, but visiting during mild weathers and seeing the blooms on a clear day will definitely leave you entranced! Tourists usually visit this country in May/June, hence if you want to avoid the crowd, July would be a solution.
To do justice to this picturesque county, you need to invest at least 8 days, and visit 3/4 snow cladded mountain peaks!
Hope the map here helps you understand, the cities I visited.
As you can see, Interlaken is the nucleus, hence we create a base here and take day trips to nearby cities (further explained in the itinerary). We do this to avoid the whole check-in, check-out, waste of time.
This map involves the four peaks, which are the ones I went to ; detailed information about each will follow ahead!
Just to guide you through the schedule:
Zurich - Lucerne - Mt.Titlis - Interlaken - Mt.Jungfrauroch - Zermatt (Mt.Matterhorn) - Bern - Glacier 3000 - Montreux -Lausanne - Geneva.
Some necessary prerequisites:
1. Purchasing the ' Swiss Travel Pass ' online, having it delivered to your home. This entire itinerary depends on it. The country offers the best rail transit available between all the cities mentioned. Plus, with this pass, you don't ever have to purchase any ticket for any public transport. It covers the train, bus, cable car, boat rides across the country. It also provides you free entry in more than 500 museums and galleries.
The cost differs for adults and youth, and number of days. Its either 8 days or 15 days, I got the latter one. Also, with the Swiss Family Pass, transport for children under the age of 16 is free.
This is how the pass looks, carry it all the time!
2. Now that you have the pass, download the app : SBB mobile, it gives you exact rail schedules.
3. You need to book tickets to the peaks online and print them, to avoid the queues especially at Mt.Titlis and Mt.Jungfrauroch.
4. Don't forget to carry shades that has UV protection, because the snow directly reflects intense sun rays. Also, carry shoes with a good grip to walk on ice, as it might get slippery!
5. And of course, booking hotels and carrying a lot of clothing that can be layered, because it can rain or snow or be sunny at anytime!
Day 1 : LUCERNE
We arrived at Zurich airport and walked till the train station (it is connected), to validate the Swiss Travel Pass i.e. to get a stamp of the date of arrival. Along side, I went to the "Swiss Com" store, to get a local sim card and activated it for 10 days. Also got the "Swiss Francs" exchanged. I personally chose not to stay in Zurich, because it's a modern city and my preference was more towards the countryside.
After all the formalities, we immediately took a train to Lucerne and checked into our hotel Ibis Styles by 12 pm. We didn't get the room till 2 pm, so we left our luggage and took a 3 minute walk to the Lions Monument.
A tribute to the Swiss Soldiers who lost their lives during the French Revolution.
Opposite to this, there is Glacier Garden, which is a geological site formed by a glacier and a museum (entry is free with the swiss pass). We freshened up and left for a city stroll by 4 pm. Lucerne has cobble stone streets, squares, old bridges, and a huge lake surrounded by the Alps.
Here, I came across this large retail store called "Coop" which literally has everything. Fun fact, it has more than 2000 stores across the country. I mean, this store was the one common thing, in every city I visited i.e. it literally was everywhere, starting from the train station to the city centre.
Church of St. Leodegar, it is seen from many locations in the city.
After walking through the narrow lanes, we decided to rest by the promenade and guess what I saw for the first time in my life, "swaaaaans!" (this was my actual reaction).
The sight of these noble birds, when they spread their large white angle-like wings was just beautiful.The Kapelbruke is the oldest covered wooden trussed footbridge in Europe, dating to 1333!This is a pharmacy!Church interiors!
In Lucerne, many facades have unique art works on them!
Quirky Graphiti !
Day 2 : Mt. TITLIS, Engelberg
It was a lazy morning after the travel, I went downstairs in the food arena to just check it out and drink something, and I fell in love with the creamiest milk I have ever had till date. On top of that, the best chocolate powder in that steamy cup of milk. After my first encounter with the Swiss Milk as I like to call it, I drank 3 cups of hot chocolate everyday (trust me, you too will).
From Lucerne, the train to Engelberg takes 45 minutes to reach Mt. Titlis, we left at around 10 30 am.
A tip : ALWAYS CHECK THE WEATHER CONDITIONS BEFORE GOING TO SEE A PEAK.
Literally, couldn't see anything.
Unfortunately, when we went, there was a storm and heavy snowfall. We still spent a few hours in the cold and did not stretch it because no one wants to fall sick on a trip!
But while ascending down, the weather got pleasant. Therefore, do check the weather first!
Honestly, my excitement was always elated every time there was a train journey involved.
If you see closely, it's a double rainbow!
The cleanest trains with panoramic picture windows, used to make me feel like I am watching a movie with only serene scenery in it.We got back to Lucerne by 6 30 pm and explored some stores.
I came across this amazing icecream and chocolate store called Bachmann, which had a wall with real flowing, dripping, falling chocolate, another moment where I was awestruck. This day I got to know, many stores shut by 7 pm in this country, so need to plan things accordingly!
That's a CHOCOLATE WALL, you all.
For me the best part about travelling in foreign countries is when you slowly understand, learn to figure out small rules, do's and don'ts and lifestyle of the people, of a country. It makes me feel like I have accomplished something new, which will definitely stay with me for the rest of my life!
Day 3 : INTERLAKEN
On the last day in Lucerne, it was hard for me to say goodbye to the captivating promenade and the swans, so I went for a jog, early in the morning, and honestly, this is the time when you actually see the locals of the city walking their dogs, running, cleaning their boats, fishing. Otherwise, the whole day you only see tourists all over.
Tip : ALWAYS CHECK THE FIRST AND LAST TRAIN TIMING OF THE CITY YOU PLAN ON VISITINF, A DAY BEFORE.
The check-in in Interlaken was at 2pm, and it takes around 2 hours to reach from Lucerne.
At 10 am, we sailed in the Lake Lucerne for 90 minutes ; this boat ride was free with the Swiss Pass. The speed of the boat and the perfect degree coldness in the weather on a clear sky, made this ride mesmerising.
A smooth sail!
You enter the boat from just outside the KKL, Lucerne which is a cultural centre of the city. I didn't get a chance to go inside because there were no events happening at that time but you should always check the city's website, luckily you can catch a show!
A black modern ultrastructure that stands out because of its overhang that reaches 45 meters on the diagonal, with a height of 21 meters, designed by the Pritzker Prize winner Ar. Jean Nouvel.
Interlaken, has always been considered a dream getaway nestled in the heart of Switzerland and favoured by the adventure seekers for hiking, skiing as the town is surrounded by mountains like Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
We chose a quaint hotel called Crystal located at a 2 minute walk from the station, which was going to be our home for the next 6 days. It is a small town where everything was at a walkable distance.
At 3 pm, we walked till the base of Harder-Klum, which is the topmost viewing point of Interlaken. From there it is a 10 minute Funicular ride up the mountain, overlooking the towns of Interlaken and Unterseen.
Breathtaking view!A photo point, always has a queue!
We caught the last funicular ride back down and enjoyed some street snacks.
Day 4 : Mt. JUNGFRAUROCH
We started this day at 8 am, while going, we took a train from Interlaken to Jungfrauroch via Lauterbrunnen and while coming back via Grindelwald town. This way you get to explore both towns.
As you board a yellow coloured train amidst white snow and it takes stops at certain points where you can step out and click photos; as it goes high up the mountain you can see the altitude for yourself on a screen, the heart starts beating faster.
Surreal views at the first photo stop!
At the entrance I was greeted with a crowd of Indian and Chinese tourists, but looking outside at the views you tend to forget about that chaotic situation.
Mt. Jungfrauroch, offers an observation deck, a bridge, activities like ice palace, snow park and a restaurant with a view for lunch.
This is the top of EUROPE, and you get to see it so closely from the deck!
Just so you know, I am controlling myself so I don't share more images, you're welcome. By 4 30 pm, we got down and walked around the Grindelwald town, one of the most scenic and secluded towns of Switzerland.
We got back to Interlaken, right on time for dinner!
Day 5 : ZERMATT
The duration from Interlaken to Zermatt takes 2.5 hours, hence we started this day at 8 30am! Zermatt is a car-free town, with many resorts and Matterhorn peak peeking through many areas.
The best part about visiting this peak was literally there were only 4 families and a few professional skiers! Hence the viewing point, café, observatory were empty and peaceful, so we ended up spending a lot of time up there!
The panoramic vista !
If I had known, you could do paragliding here, I definitely would have preferred this one over the one I booked above Interlaken!
Did you know, the exact same Matterhorn Peak is the logo of my favourite chocolate Toblerone!
Clearly, I had to prove this fact to myself!
Later we just explored the town on foot. As usual, we got back to Interlaken by 8 pm.
Day 6 : BERN
After visiting 3 peaks, we needed a break from the snow and wanted to soak in the European sun! So we decided to go to the capital city! Interlaken to Bern, takes exactly an hour to reach, we started the day at around 9 am.
I believe, that Bern, is one of the most underrated European capitals! River Aare, loops around the city in a horse shoe bend, and swimming in it is a daily activity for locals.
The Parliament!The perfectly preserved old town of Bern, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Walking there I felt like I have travelled back in time!Right in the heart, is the famous Zytglogge Clock Tower. It has a complex mechanism and has been working since 1527! We skipped going inside the clock, but that surely would be interesting.
A few minutes from there, we visited the Einstein House.
Lastly, we visited the 'Zentrum Paul Klee', a museum dedicated to the works of artist Paul Klee ( free entry with the Swiss Pass).
Designed by Pritzker Prize awardee, Ar. Renzo Piano it's appearance of wavy metal roof is inspired by the hilly landscape of Bern. speechless.Original art work of Picasso!
Day 7 : LAUSANNE
As you must have noticed, the last few days have been pretty active, hence day seven is a breather to relax!
So, that morning, I ticked off a thing of my bucket list : PARAGLIDING!
It was one hell of a rush!
Later at 10 30 am, we left to explore Lausanne, which took us a two hours on a scenic train journey.
The Old City of Lausanne, has typical old houses and a gothic cathedral and narrow lanes.We visited the Palacio de Rumine, where we enjoyed an exhibition!
Finally, we went to the famous 'Olympic Museum'. The museum is state of the art, and explains you the story of Olympics, from ancient Greece till present day. Lausanne has been the home of the International Olympic Committee.
Actually, this city is 40 minutes away from Geneva, so you can reduce one night stay in Interlaken and stay an extra day in Geneva to visit this!
Day 8 : GLACIER 3000 and MONTREAUX
A new peak, and a new city! We had to start this day very early, as we had rested the day before.
Was it even a trip, if you missed something, ended up reaching somewhere else and got surprised by something way better ? So yeah, this happened.
While going to Glacier 3000, we took the wrong train and ended up going to Zweisimmen. It was a quaint town with literally 10 tourists. We had some time to kill, before catching the next train to our desired destination, so we walked around this hidden town!
Train Station, Zweisimmen.
And little did I know, the new train I boarded, was the famous 'Golden Pass Train'.
It was vintage from the inside i.e. it had complete wooden interiors, intricately carved wooden chairs, wooden benches in the café compartment, old bulbs. Another jaw dropping moment for me!
I legit never wanted this journey to end, but of course, reality kicks in.
Anyway, finally we reached the Glacier, and this time it was just snow around me and hardly any people. No viewing points, or decks just pure snow and games.
If only I had known, I would have booked a skiing session here or at Zermatt! So don't forget, if you are into adventure, do not miss skiing.
A Sledge Ride, with Huskies! FYI : No animal torture, these dogs are 2-4 years old and love to run and play in the snow, their owner who rides with us, says this.
Sadly this was the last peak!
A common activity most peaks offer is, a one mountain peak to its neighbouring peak metal bridge, which is thrilling! My hands froze when I shot a video here.
From here, Montreux was only an hour and a half away, plus closer to Interlaken!
A Pathway.Internal Courtyards, Chateu de Chillon
We walked by the lake, went to Chateu de Chillon and explored this modern city, which did not have many tourists hence we got to see the daily life of locals, starting from school children to professionals. This was a fascinating thing for me personally because, in most the small towns I went, I only saw tourists and locals who owned shops ; the peaks were again full of tourists! Hence seeing the bustle in this city, actually was interesting!
Day 9 : GENEVA
We left early from Interlaken and reached Geneva in 3.5 hours. Left our luggage at Hotel Churchil, and started our only day in the city!
Geneva is a medieval city, known for the formation of International Red Cross after WWII and the headquarters of United Nations. Do not forget to prebook a tour when at home, if you wish to see the UN from inside, I wish I had known that earlier!
St. Pierre Cathedral A vibrant interior of Church!Reformation WallLaduree, Geneva.
We started by going to St. Pierre Cathedral built in the 12th century, went to see the UN, strolled in the garden of the Reformation wall and admired the Jet in the evening while munching macarons from Laduree.
Day 10 : We left Switzerland, and took the TGV train, from Geneva to Paris!Here, I conclude my first Europe trip to the most beautiful country.
In my opinion, this country is the best choice to visit with family or older people of the family, because it is the safest and almost everything is wheelchair accessible. Plus the countryside is peaceful and post-card picture worthy!
If you have time constraints, I think you can skip : Mt.Titlis, Lausanne and Montreux. If you want to explore the cabins and resorts in snow, Zermatt or St. Moritz are great.
I agree, this was a really big blog, but I hope my words have done enough justice to express all the experiences this country offered me!
All photos, except the maps, owned by the author.