A road trip in Switzerland is one of the most amazing drives you will ever do in your lifetime. Weaving through the Swiss Alps, winding along the southern lakes, or cutting directly through countless mountain tunnels makes Switzerland one of the best places to go on a road trip in the world. The country itself is small in area, (it is smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined at 41,285 km²) but with so many mountains it takes a while to get from place to place allowing you the time to truly take in the beauty of this magnificent country.
Switzerland is a dream destination for many people around the world and this three-week itinerary allows for the perfect amount of time to see the exceptional landscape, enjoy unparalleled adventures, and explore its chic and sophisticated cities all while having enough time to relax and indulge in a swiss spa and savor its splendid cuisine. This Switzerland road trip itinerary lets you see the best of the country in three weeks.
Switzerland Road Trip – Three Week Itinerary
3 Week Switzerland Road Trip Break Down
You may have noticed a portion of Switzerland missing on this map. We have previously been to Lucerne, Bern, Montreux, and Geneva on another road trip, and while they were also amazing places to visit in Switzerland, it is too much to fit into this road trip. One suggestion we have is to spend only two days in Basel and Zurich to be able to add a day each in Bern and Lucerne. However, this Switzerland road trip itinerary lets you see a lot of the country while giving you time to relax and immerse in the atmosphere. For an alternative Itinerary in Switzerland, check out our The Ultimate One-Week Switzerland Itinerary
We have visited Switzerland three times in our lives but it wasn’t until our latest Switzerland trip that we truly laid out the ultimate road trip itinerary showcasing mountains, cities, and the Mediterranean feel of southern Switzerland. If you follow this Swiss itinerary, you will experience the very best of Switzerland creating memories that will last a lifetime.
We have taken the train through Switzerland as well, and if you don’t want to drive, you can easily get to all of these destinations in Switzerland by train. Switzerland has an efficient and easy-to-navigate train system and if you purchase a Swiss Travel Pass, you can see all our road trip stops in Switzerland by train as well. Visit MySwitzerland.com for more travel planning for Switzerland.
Week 1 – Swiss Cities
The first week of our Switzerland road trip takes us to two of Switzerland’s most exciting cities. Exploring Cities is a great way to start a trip to Europe. You can ease into the adventures as you work off jet lag and enjoy all the comforts and amenities of the big city before going off the beaten path. We flew into Zurich and had three glorious days in Switzerland’s largest city.
Day 1 – Arrive Zurich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and deserves 3 days to truly explore everything it has to offer. Upon arrival at Zurich International Airport, we followed the signs saying “Mietwagen” (Rental Car) where we picked up our car rental at Europcar. We also picked up a travelers WiFi at the service counter located on the same level. (Internet service is a must when driving to follow Google Maps, but a paper map is never a bad idea to have on hand) Read our full Zurich itinerary here
Where to Stay in Zurich – Hotel Florhof Zurich
Following our GPS to Old Town, we checked into the Hotel Florhof Zurich. They have parking on site which is perfect for anyone on a Switzerland road trip. We didn’t need our car in Zurich though because we were within walking distance of everything and with the Zurich Card, we could easily scoot around the city and surrounding area with ease. (The car is great for morning sunrises around the city)
This hotel is located in a beautiful 18th-century patrician mansion. While the building may be historic, the rooms are updated and contemporary. We loved our stay here. See the Hotel Florhof website for details.
Afternoon: Walking tour of Old Town
After settling in, we immediately met our guide for a walking tour of the Old Town. We highly recommend doing this when traveling to Europe from North America. It keeps you from having a “jet lag nap” so you can sleep better at night plus an introductory walking tour lets you get your bearings for where your hotel is located in conjunction with the popular attractions.
Top attractions in Zurich’s Old Town include – Rechberg Gardens (located directly beside Hotel Florhof), Grossmünster – the most iconic building in Zurich, Münsterbrücke, The Limmat River, views from Lindenhof and St. Peter’s church and more. Read more about Zurich at The Best Things to do in Zurich, Switzerland
Evening in Zurich West
We didn’t relax after our walking tour, instead, we made our way to the hottest part of town, Zurich West. Zurich West is an urban area filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, and art installations. It’s easy to get to at approximately 6 stops on the tram that can be boarded by using your Zurich Card.
While in Zurich West, you must stop at Frau Gerolds Garten (Mrs. Gerold’s Garden). This outdoor event space is one of the top things to do in the area. You can order food and drinks to enjoy in the outdoor patio setting. There are many things to keep you busy in Zurich West from hitting the waves at Urban Surf (located right next door to Frau Gerold’s Garten) to searching for art at Escher-Wyss-Platz, Maag Hall, or Puls 5 to check out the latest exhibits. Don’t miss seeing Anne Sophie in front of 25hours Hotel Zurich-West.
Dinner – Restaurant Markthalle
One thing you cannot miss when exploring Zurich West is the Zurich Viadukt Arches. The Viadukt Arches are an architectural highlight of the city as shops and restaurants are built into the high arches dating back to 1894. You can walk along the top of the 550-meter long viaduct, grab some food or go shopping in one of the establishments located within the 36 viaduct arches. We ate outside at Restaurant Markthalle and it was wonderful to have a parkside view. Read more Amazing Zurich – Discover the Best of Switzerland’s Largest City
Day 2 – Lake Zurich and Chocolate
Day 2 in Zurich takes you out to see the scenic views of the beautiful city. Make you’re way down to Bürkliplatz Pier for a cruise on Lake Zurich. This cruise is included in your Zurich Pass and takes you to Wollishofen.
Morning in Zurich: Cruise and lakeside stroll
Wollishofen is an artists’ community that was a former industrial area. Today it has many festivals and event spaces and there are plenty of places to eat as well. A highlight of the area is the Cassiopeia Boardwalk which is a beautiful pedestrian walkway that spans out along the water Lake Zurich. While you are walking along the lakeshore, make sure to stop at Mönchhof Am See for lunch in their beer garden.
Afternoon: Lindt Home of Chocolate
One of the top things to do in Zurich is to Visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate. A tour of this facility is a must because you can indulge in chocolate tasting.
The state-of-the-art building houses a testing plant where chocolatiers develop new recipes and techniques letting you peek into the art of chocolate making. There are several experiences to choose from, but simply going on the chocolate tour is awesome as you learn about the history of chocolate before getting to taste liquid chocolate from, an array of chocolate fountains, to chunks of chocolate to test your taste buds and then finally end in a room with vats of Lindor chocolates ready for you to eat!
Evening: Bahnhofstrasse and Paradeplatz
When you are done with chocolate, make your way back downtown to Bahnhofstrasse for some window shopping and dinner. This area of Zurich is filled with boutique shopping and high-end name brands. Then walk to Paradeplatz for dinner and drinks as you soak up the evening atmosphere of Zurich. We ate dinner at Restaurant Zeughauskeller and it had excellent service and was a good place to sample Swiss food!
Day 3 – Mountains and Water
It is your final day in Zurich, so make the most of it as you revel in the outdoors. Starting with sunrise at Lindenhof and a hearty breakfast, make your way to one of the top summer attractions in Zurich, a public pool followed by an afternoon hiking in the hills above Zurich.
Morning – SUP at Seebad Enge Swimming Area
Seebad Enge is a public swimming area on Lake Zurich with sun decks, swimming lanes, a restaurant, and a sauna. Rent a couple of paddleboards to explore Lake Zurich but don’t spend too long on the lake. The best part of SUP here is being able to explore Schanzengraben Canal. Check for prices and opening hours here.
Lunch: Swiss Fondue
Before your afternoon excursion, enjoy lunch at Swiss Cuchi in Old Town where you will have the best Swiss Fondue you’ve ever tasted. We also had the best service in all of Zurich here. The Staff was so friendly and accommodating. We didn’t even ask for this photograph, they simply offered with a huge smile! After you have indulged in cheese, a hike is in order to burn off some of those calories.
Hop on the tram and make your way to Uetliberg, Zurich’s very own mountain. This mountain stands 869 meters (2850 feet) above sea level overlooking Zurich. Taking the train up is part of the fun, but once you get to the top you can go hiking and don’t miss going to the top of the tower to overlook the city, mountains, Lake Zurich, and the Limmat Valley.
After making your way back to the city, enjoy the sunset by the lake to take in the beautiful views of the church steeples of Old Town and the beauty of the Swiss Alps in the distance. Our top pick for sunset in Zurich is in front of Sechseläutenplatz on the water for a romantic evening. But for photographs, we recommend the bridge looking at Fraumünster or looking back from Quaibrücke, the last bridge between Zurich Old Town and Lake Zurich is fantastic too! (you can see that picture at the start of this post directly under the heading Week 1 – Swiss Cities)
Day 4 – Transfer to Basel
It’s time to say goodbye to Zurich and hello to our favourite city in Switzerland, Basel! This beautiful historic city is another must-stop on any Switzerland itinerary and three days is just enough time to see it all. Located just a little over an hour from Zurich, you don’t need to rush to make it to Basel by noon. Check out 20 Reasons to Fall in Love with Basel, Switzerland
Morning: Transfer to Basel and Check in at ART HOUSE Basel Hotel
We checked into ART HOUSE Hotel Basel after parking our car in the nearby garage. ART HOUSE Basel is a design hotel located on the busy pedestrian street, Steinenvorstadt, and is a fantastic place to make a base when staying in Basel. The contemporary rooms are spacious and elegant. See their website for availability and pricing.
After grabbing a quick lunch at nearby Restaurant Kunsthalle, we did what we normally do when arriving at any new city, take a walking tour.
Afternoon: Old Town Walking Tour
A walking tour of the Old Town is a great way to get acquainted with the city. The Old Town is within walking distance from the ART HOUSE Basel Hotel making it very easy to explore. We spent three hours checking out all the top sights of Grossbasel (the Left Side of the River Bank).
Things to see in Old Town Basel
There are many things to see Old Town Basel and an afternoon isn’t quite enough, but a few of the top sights in the Old Town include, City Hall (Rathaus) by the Market Square (Marktplatz), the Hoosesagg Museum (Pocket Museum), Tinguely Fountain and the hanging gardens of the Museum der Kulturen Basel (Museum of Cultures). For more things to do in Basel check out 24 Fantastic Things to do in Basel, Switzerland
Evening: Weidling Boat Tour
If you still have energy and are looking for something unique to do, book a tour for sunset on a traditional Weidling boat. You can choose from a canopé tour where you sit back and relax while enjoying an evening cocktail, or you can try your hand at spiking and help paddle upriver. Visit the Waidlig Basilea website for more details.
Dinner: If you decided to paddle, you will have definitely built up an appetite and a place we highly recommend is Ufer 7 for dinner. It’s located on the Rhine and has a fantastic atmosphere with even better food.
Day 5 – E-bike Exploration
Your next day in Basel is perfect to explore by e-bike. We love touring on an e-bike because you can cover a lot of ground. Now that you have seen a lot of Old Town, it’s time to see the sights around town. We started our biking tour at the Basel Exhibition Center to view the incredible giant oculus ceiling. We then hopped on our bikes and rode out of town so we could stand at three country corners. The Dreiländereck is where Germany, France, and Switzerland meet.
After enjoying a cycle along the waterfront, we then turned towards Foundation Beyeler to view contemporary art. It is a beautiful setting containing the private collection of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler including Monet, Cézanne, van Gogh and Picasso. This is also a great place to have lunch before riding on to your next stop. Rent your e-bike from Rent a Bike in Central Station.
Afternoon: Cross into Germany
The afternoon takes you across the border by e-bike to explore another museum Vitra Design Museum. This expansive museum is filled with contemporary buildings and art installations. The cycling trail to the Vitra Design Museum from Foundation Beyeler is a trail containing 24 trail markers containing installations by Tobias Rehberger.
Evening: Sunset at Dinner at Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois
After returning your bikes make your way down to the Rhine to watch the sunset from Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (Three Kings). You can either enjoy just a cocktail on the terrace overlooking the Rhine or you can enjoy dinner here as well. If you want a taste of old-world luxury and charm you can also stay here! Make reservations here or book accommodation on their website here.
Day 6 – Musuems and History
For your final day in Basel, it’s time to immerse yourself in a bit of history and culture. Start the day at the Kunstmuseum Basel to peruse the permanent and rotating collections. This museum is one of the most popular museums in Basel and simply walking around it is a work of art unto itself. The architecture and design is gorgeous. Once you have finished up there, head down to the Rhine for a nice lunch at Le Rhin Bleu. This outdoor patio on the Rhine has fantastic views. In the winter it turns into a sauna! See Le Rhin Bleu for reservations.
Afternoon: On the River
After lunch, it’s time to cross the Rhine on the traditional ferry. The reaction ferry is located at four places along the Rhine. This ferry uses the momentum of the current, a cable, and a rudder to cross the river without a motor. It is a must when visiting Basel. Once you’ve crossed the river, it’s time to join the locals and hop in the Rhine for a refreshing afternoon swim. A popular place to jump in is below Museum Tingley at Klein Basel (Right Side of the River Bank).
- For more on travel to Basel read:
Week 2 – Mountains and Nature
Day 7 – Basel to Grindelwald
Morning Street Art Walk
In the morning before heading out of Basel we suggest taking one last tour, a Walking Tour with Artstübli Basel. Spend 90 minutes perusing the contemporary street art found throughout the city. You probably missed most of it during your three days in Basel, so let an expert guide show you some hidden gems. It’s wonderful goodbye to Basel. Visit their website to book a tour.
Early Afternoon Arrive in Grindelwald
It is a two-hour drive from Basel to Grindelwald, so there is no need to rush since you can’t check in too early at the hotel. Although the scenery is so extraordinary here, you may want to get a head start and leave bright and early. We arrived around lunchtime and it gave us more than enough time to really enjoy the best of Grindelwald. Read more: The Complete Guide to Grindelwald-First in Switzerland
Where to Stay in Grindelwald
After checking into our hotel, the Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof, Swiss Alp Resort and Spa we wasted no time getting out to see the best of Grindelwald. Having a car we could drive right up to our next stop on our Switzerland itinerary, but buses also go to the Gorge. Visit their website for rates and availability.
Afternoon: Glacier Canyon Grindelwald
The Glacier Canyon Grindelwald is spectacular. The photos don’t do it justice but in fact, it is an incredible gorge of rushing water with a stone pathway snaking alongside. One cool thing they added in recent years is a trampoline out over the rapids which is an awesome thrill. The 170-meter Spiderweb is an awesome place to look down the gorge and feel the power of the rush and roar from the River Lütschine. Visit their website for more details.
After a couple of hours at Glacier Canyon Grindelwald, it’s time to head back to Hotel Schweizerhof Garden for dinner on the outdoor terrace. This beautiful setting makes for the perfect end to the day and you will want to relax in the spa or the lounge because you are going to need your energy for the next day.
Day 8 – Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
It’s one of the most memorable days on your Switzerland road trip itinerary at Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe. Hotel Schweizerhof Garden is located steps from the Grindelwald train station where you’ll board the train to Grindelwald Terminal. This is where the adventure begins. Once you arrive at Terminal, you’ll hop aboard the Eiger Express which is the most modern tri-cable gondola in the world to take you up to Eiger Glacier station.
Morning: Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
It is at this station that you’ll transfer to Jungfraubahn (The Jungfrau Railway) and hop aboard a cogwheel train to take you up to Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe. At the top, you’ll have incredible views of the Glaciers and snow-capped peaks as well as from Glacier Plateau and Sphinx Terrace.
There is also a marvelous ice palace and sculptures located in a 1000 meter maze of tunnels under the glacier. It’s truly incredible. Here there is an interactive display showcasing the history of Jungfraujoch and what it took to create the cogwheel train up to the top of the mountains. Read more Spectacular Switzerland, a Visit to Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
You can purchase tickets from Grindelwald or Interlaken to Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe in advance at Jungfrau Railways. We highly recommend a Top of Europe Pass to allow flexibility for the weather. Passes start at 3 days for 239 CHF ($260 USD)
Afternoon – Eiger Trail
After a solid few hours at Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe, it’s time to head back down the cogwheel train to Eiger Glacier station where you will begin your scenic hike down the Eiger Trail. This is a beautiful trail that offers spectacular views of Eiger North Wall and surrounding mountains and it is here that you’ll see the pretty Swiss cows that roam the mountains. Just listen for the sounds of their cowbells to find them.
It’s an exhausting day, so make your way back to the hotel (we had the half board package that included dinner each evening) to relax and soak in the hotel spa.
Day 9 – Grindelwald First
After a good night’s sleep, enjoy the incredible buffet breakfast because it is time to check of at Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof for a night. Pack an overnight bag for trekking and sleeping and leave the rest in storage at the hotel. (or in the trunk of your car since you are driving) and make your way to Grindelwald-First Gondola. It’s just a short 10-minute walk.
Morning: Lake Bachalp Hike
The gondola will take you up to the most famous hike in Grindelwald, Lake Bachalp. This hike to Bachalpsee is famous for the reflection views of the mountains in the lake. It is about an hour’s hike to the lake and worth every step.
Once you’ve taken the views, make your way back to Berggasthaus First to check into your hotel room for the night. This is where you’ll be spending the evening after your adventures on First.
Afternoon: Grindelwald Adventures
There are many adventures to be had. While the lifts are open and the day is young, take the long way down the mountain instead of the gondola. The First Adventures let you have thrills as you make your way back down to Grindelwald. Start at the top with the First Flyer and then hop on the First Glider. It’s then time to mountain cart from Schreckfeld to Bort station where you’ll grab a Trotti bike all the way back to Grindelwald. Make sure you time it so you can catch the last gondola back up to spend the night!
Evening: First Cliff Walk and Berggasthaus First
Since you are staying at the top, you can then head out on the First Cliff Walk for sunset before having dinner and relaxing at Berggasthaus First. And let me confirm, Berggasthaus First was the best sleep we had in all of Switzerland!
Day 10 – Sunrise at Balchalpsee and more hikes
It’s bright and early for another shot at seeing Balchalpsee at sunrise. This is the time of day you’ll have it all to yourself as the number of people who can stay at First is limited. Sunrise is the best time to see Balchapsee, so head out before breakfast for a fun hike and gorgeous views.
Morning: Bachalpsee Hike – First – Männlichen
After your sunrise hike and breakfast at Berggasthaus First, you have a few gondolas and trains to get to your next destination. But all these modes of transportation are an adventure unto themselves! Make your way back to Grindelwald Terminal where you’ll catch the gondola to Männlichen Station. You can enjoy a delicious lunch on the patio with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
For more on Switzerland planning check out these posts:
You should make it just in time for lunch at Männlichen where your next hike will begin. This is a lovely place to hang out for a bite to eat. There is a family-friendly playground, restaurant, and viewing platform. It is also the starting point for several hiking trails. We are going to take you on the Männlichen Hike.
Afternoon Männlichen Hike
Hiking Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg is one of the most popular hikes in the region. This is another beautiful hike that is mostly downhill and fun for the whole family. It offers beautiful views of the mountains and valleys and is a nice and easy way to end off your hiking tours in the Grindelwald region.
Evening: Harder Kulm
Once you are finished your hike, get back on the train to Interlaken where you’ll take another cogwheel train to another spectacular lookout Harder Kulm – The Top of Interlaken. Here you can enjoy a raclette or fondue dinner at Panorama Restaurant Harder Kulm. Located 1,322 metres above sea level, Harder Kulm offer views of Lake Brienz, Lake Thun, The Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Wow!
- For more information Grindelwald read:
Day 11 – Leukerbad
It’s time to move on from Grindelwald this morning and after all the hiking and outdoors, Leukerbad is the perfect pit stop to relax in a genuine Swiss Spa. The drive from Grindelwald to Leukerbad is amazing.
Morning: Transfer from Grindelwald to Leukerbad
One of the most memorable moments was driving onto the Lötschberg Car Train that took us right through the mountain. It was the wildest thing we had ever seen. We sat in our cars as the 15-minute ride took us from the midlands to Valais.
Where to Stay in Leukerbad
Our hotel, Hotel Les Sources des Alpes, had its own beautiful spa, so you really can relax in style anywhere. This luxurious hotel is a tranquil retreat where you can rejuvenate and recharge for a day before continuing on with the rest of your Switzerland road trip. We loved our suite so much, mainly because it felt like its own little spa, that we never wanted to leave.
Upon arrival at Leukerbad, we went directly to the spa to relax for the day and soothe our aching muscles. There are several spas in Leukerbad. There are 65 natural springs containing 3.9 million liters of hot water in Leukerbad making it one of the largest and most popular spa resorts in Switzerland. Leukerbad Therme is the biggest and most popular, but there are other spas including the quieter Therme 51°.
After a day of outdoor fun or spa treatments, dinner at restaurant La Malvoisie in Hotel Les Sources des Alpes was one of the most romantic we had in Switzerland. We really loved staying at this hotel.
Day 12 – Leukerbad to Zermatt
Leukerbad was a short stay on our Switzerland road trip, but we made a note to go back. It is incredible and the perfect spot for a honeymoon or romantic getaway. In fact, our friend Carol of Wandering Carol had her honeymoon in Leukerbad. As an avid traveler, it is pretty cool that she chose Leukerbad for her special vacation.
Gemmi and Torrent Cable Cars
It’s not only the spas that draw people to Leukerbad, there are two mountain railways Gemmi and Torrent that take you up to see beautiful views of the four-thousand-meter peaks of the Valais Alps. If you have time, make your way up one of the cable cars for views of the valley and for a morning hike before driving on.
Drive to Matterhorn Terminal Tasch – Zermatt
It’s only an hour and a half drive from Leukerbad to Zermatt Terminal Tasch, but once you arrive at the Terminal, you need to grab your luggage and hop on the train to Zermatt. Zermatt doesn’t allow motorized vehicles, so everyone visiting Zermatt takes the train in.
Where to Stay in Zermatt
Staying at Hotel Aristella, we had a driver pick us up at the train station in Zermatt upon our arrival. There are eclectic cabs and bicycles to get around town. We didn’t spend long at the hotel that is located downtown and instead dropped off our bags to quickly enjoy as much time as possible in this beautiful region.
Afternoon: Matterhorn Museum Zermatlantis and Old Town
When arriving in Zermatt in the afternoon, there isn’t enough time to head up the mountain before the last gondola down, so we made our way downtown to see the Matterhorn Museum Zermatlantis. This museum is a great introduction to the history of Zermatt and climbing the mighty Matterhorn. Read more about Zermatt: Incredible Zermatt, Switzerland – 23 Exciting Things to See and Do
The museum is located in the main square close to the Old Village of Hinterdorf. Make sure to go and see the historic buildings that date back to the 16th century. The best place to view them with the Matterhorn in the background is from Pfarrkirche St. Mauritius which is located next door to the museum.
Dinner at Restaurant Spycher
Dinner was included in our stay at Hotel Aristella in our half-board package and boy were we glad. Restaurant Spycher seems to be one of the hottest restaurants in town being booked out each evening. It is popular for its flaming flambe dishes.
Evening: Zermatt Matterhorn Viewoint
After dinner, we made our way to The Zermatt Matterhorn Viewpoint. Just a 15-minute walk (albeit uphill) from our hotel, this viewpoint has one of the best views of the town with the Matterhorn standing proud overhead. After sunset, it was an early evening because we had yet another amazing day of adventures ahead!
Day 13 – Mountain Bike 4 Lakes Bike tour
I am not exaggerating when I say this was the most beautiful day we had on our entire road trip through Switzerland. After picking up our e-bike mountain bike at Slalom Sport in downtown Zermatt, we hopped aboard the train at Sunnegga Valley Station to take up to Rothorn Valley Station where we started the 4 Lakes Bike Tour from Blauherd Station.
From here we explored four mountain lakes, Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, and Moosjisee. Each lake was spectacular showing one extraordinary view after another. We spent the morning stopping at each lake before stopping for a picnic. We brought along a picnic lunch to enjoy by the water with the Matterhorn standing guard.
Afternoon: Oberer Höhenweg Bike Tour
After lunch, it was time to tackle a proper mountain biking trail and we hopped on the Oberer Höhenweg Bike Tour. This single track takes you through the forest before coming out to a sheer rocky cliff. Don’t worry there is a steel cable for safety and you can get off and push if you think you might fall into the abyss. After the cliff, the trail is really easy for intermediate riders and a ton of fun.
Evening: Explore Zermat and the Vispa River
When you get back to Zermatt, make sure to utilize your bikes to see more of the area. You can cover a lot of ground on e-bikes, so we made our way out to the other side of town to explore along the waterfront of the Vispa River. Just remember, you cannot ride your bikes along the pedestrian street. When you come to the shopping street, you must dismount and walk.
Day 14 – Lake Stellisee and Gornergrat
Today you are going to retrace a bit of your cycling route as you rise early to see Lake Stellisee for sunrise.
Morning Sunrise at Stellisee and Five Lakes Hike
Stellisee is probably the most photographed lake in the Matterhorn region and for good reason. It offers the picture-perfect reflection of the Matterhorn. Going at sunrise gives you the chance to see it without the crowds. Once you finish up here, you can enjoy breakfast (included in your pass) at restaurant Fluhalp.
Hike to Riffelalp
It is then on to hike the five lakes. If you went mountain biking, you will have already seen these lakes, but it is the best way to get to your next stop. So, we suggest hiking as quickly as possible to Riffelalp where you’ll catch the cogwheel train to Gornergrat.
If you thought Stellisee was beautiful wait until you see Gornergrat. As the train climbs higher, the mountains come into view and it seems as if a wall of glaciers are strewn before your eyes. Arriving at the top is a place where you can have lunch and take in views for days. Make sure to go into the Zooom multimedia experience to experience paragliding via virtual reality and the 3D cinema.
But don’t linger too long here, the hike is what is the star attraction. Make your way downhill to any station along the way. It is hands down the most beautiful hike we’ve ever done. As you hike down a view of 29, 4000 meter (13000 feet) peaks including The Matterhorn Switzerland’s highest peak, Dufourspitze at 4,634 meters, and the second-largest glacier, Gorner Glacier surrounds you. It’s impossible to do this hike quickly as other are so many awe-inspiring views.
This is also the hike where you can try to find the famous black nose sheep of Zermatt. It’s not too difficult to find them, they wear GPS collars so you can track them! After marveling at views for days, we made our way back to the hotel for a lovely dinner and early night. All that fresh air sure makes one sleep really well.
Week 3 – Mountains to Mediterranean
Week 3 of our Switzerland road trip changes course and takes us from Zermatt to the Italian region of Switzerland in Ticino. But before we hit the road, there is one more excursion to do in the mountains.
Day 15 – Morning at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Before leaving Zermatt, this is a morning you won’t want to miss. We checked out of the hotel and stored our luggage so we could take our time to enjoy the morning ahead on yet another extraordinary mountain. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is an extraordinary viewpoint where at the top you can witness a panoramic view of 38 four-thousand-meter peaks (13,000 feet) and 14 glaciers. The gondola ride itself is worth the experience as you glide over a beautiful glacier on the way up. Usually, this vantage point is left for helicopter tours, but you pass directly over massive crevasses.
Like Grindelwald, there is an ice palace where you walk through ice tunnels 15 meters below the surface of the glacier. This one has a slide though which is a lot of fun! Don’t miss going to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, you’ll love it!
It is now time to move on from the mountains to drive to southern Switzerland near the Italian border. We grabbed lunch to go at a market at Terminal Tasch to make up time. It’s a full morning at Glacier Paradise, so there was no time to waste to get to Ticino.
Afternoon: Zermatt to Ticino
As you make your way out towards the border of Italy, the drive is an adventure. The winding mountain roads require your full attention but it is difficult because you will want to look at all the beautiful views. One of the most memorable scenic viewpoints was Nufenen Pass. At 2478m, (8130ft) it is Switzerland’s second-highest paved alpine road pass. We snaked our way up as Maseratis and Porches zipped past us like the hairpin turns were nothing! It was worth every twist as at the top we were treated to a gorgeous view of the valley below.
Afternoon: Arrive Ticino and Relax
On the other side, it is as if we entered a different country. Ticino is a lake region and for the next few days, we are visiting the lakeside towns of Lugano, Locarno, and Ascona. The Lake Como(s) of Switzerland! Read more: Things to do in Lugano and the Ticino Region of Switzerland
Where to Stay in Ticino
Making a base at Resort Collina D’Oro overlooking Lake Lugano, we had three luxurious nights in this five-star resort and spa. We ate dinners here (included in our half-board package) and loved every meal we had. With its Italian influence, Ticino really had the best food in Switzerland!
Day 16 – Lavertezzo in the Verzasca Valley
It is in Ticino that you will be thankful for having a car. Today is a big driving day to explore the surrounding areas. One of the first places you must visit in Ticino is the Verzasca Valley. Known for its vibrant turquoise waters, Valle Verasca boasts a river of rushing waters flowing through a series of cliffs, rocks, and historic bridges. It’s a popular swimming and hiking spot.
On your way out (or back) make sure to stop at the Verzasca Dam. This dam was made famous in James Bond’s GoldenEye where Pierce Brosnan leaped from the 220-meter high feat of engineering. It is a sight to see and you too can jump off it if you have the nerve!
After exploring the Verzasca Valley, hop in your car and drive back down the winding road to explore the lakeside town of Ascona. Located on Lake Maggiore, Ascona is a colourful town with vibrant buildings lining the lakeshore. Pedestrian streets in the old town make it perfect for shopping or strolling with an ice cream in hand. If you want to add another country to your bucket list, take a boat ride to cross into Italy for an afternoon.
On your way back you can also visit the town of Locarno. Also located on Lake Maggiore, Locarno has a huge square, Piazza Grande (the largest piazza in Switzerland). It too has colourful buildings of pink pastels and vibrant blues. Make sure to visit the 12th-century castle, Castello Visconteo, and the sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso. Located above Locarno in Orselina, it is famous as being the pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso where in 1480, the Virgin Mary appeared to Brother Bartholomeo da Ivrea from the San Francesco monastery.
Day 17 – Castles and Hikes
After exploring towns for a day, it is time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site – The Bellinzona Castles. Enjoy a coffee in the square of the capital of Ticino, Bellinzona before getting out to explore this charming town. Castle Grande is located near the main square standing proud over the town. If you have a bit of time, you can hike to all the castles. They are connected by trails that weave through vineyards and rolling hills. The return trip by walking is only a couple of hours.
Afternoon: Ritom Funicular
If you are up for more hiking, a great pit stop is to make your way out to Piotta to take the cable car up to Piora. The Ritom Funicular is a steep incline railway that was built in 1921. When you get to the top, there’s an easy hike to the reservoir located 1794 meters where you can take in the views of the valley below before heading on to Capanna Cadagno for a bite to eat.
In the evening, make your way to Lugano for an Aperitivo. Lugano is located on Lake Lugano and has a beautiful waterfront. With two mountains framing the view (Monte San Salvatore and Mount Bre), it will remind you of Rio de Janeiro. Stroll along the 2km Lugano waterfront walk from Paradiso to Parco Ciani with an ice cream in hand, window shop along the pedestrian streets, and explore the Parco Ciani.
Day 18 – Ticino to St. Moritz
Another awesome day of driving awaits on your Switzerland road trip. The drive to St. Moritz from Lugano is 2 1/2 hours on the map, but it can take much longer with traffic. The one-lane winding road can get backed up with transport trucks blocking the way. But it is worth it because it is gorgeous. Read more: Stunning St. Moritz – Summer fun in Switzerland
We took the north route to drive across Lulier Pass, one of Switzerland’s most scenic roads. We also had the chance to stop to see the famous Landwasser Viaduct. This incredible railway bridge consists of six 65m high arches spanning across the valley. It is one of the most photographed spots in Switzerland. If you time it right, you’ll be able to see the train going across. One of the most popular ways to get to St. Moritz is from Zermatt on the Glacier Express a direct train connecting the two mountain resorts.
Afternoon: Arrive St. Moritz
After arriving in St. Moritz, we checked into the ritzy Hotel Kulm to relax for the evening. This hotel is so beautiful and filled with every amenity, it’s difficult to pull yourself away from the property. We took a stroll around the hotel exploring its rich 160-year history. Read more about it here.
Evening: Kulm Country Club
After an afternoon experiencing its luxurious spa, outdoor infinity pool and hot tubs take a stroll over to the Kulm Country Club for dinner followed by a nightcap in the hotel bar before retiring to your elegant suite. The room’s complimentary bar offers beer that you can enjoy as you overlook twinkling lights dancing on Lake St. Moritz.
Day 19 – Alpine Hike and Swiss Cheese
A day in St. Moritz in winter is all about skiing and snowboarding, but our visit to St. Moritz took us there on a summer road trip and it was extraordinary.
Morning: Muottas Muragl to Segantini Hütte Hike
One of the premier things to do is to hike from Muottas Muragl to Segantini Hütte and onward to Alp Languard. This beautiful hike takes you to an elevation of 2731 meters above sea level for incredible views of snowcapped mountains and glaciers.
Lunch: Alps-chaukäserei Morteratsch
The hike takes only a few hours leaving you time to enjoy lunch at the Alpschaukäserei Pontresina. This outdoor dining venue is a popular spot for locals and tours. Here they make cheese by traditional means and you must order the cheese board and a fondue. It is truly the Swiss thing to do!
Afternoon: Drive to Bad Ragaz
It is just a short stay in St. Moritz but we found one and a half days enough for a summertime road trip. It’s now time to start making your way back toward Zurich. (naturally with a stop in between.) The afternoon is a good time to make your way to Bad Ragaz to bask in one of the most luxurious and largest spas in Switzerland.
Where to Stay in Bad Ragaz
Tonight you will enjoy a Michelin Star dinner at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz followed by drinks in the lounge before heading to bed in your luxurious suite. Enjoy the sleep because it’s an early morning hike ahead. (have you noticed we love hiking in Switzerland?) Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is a luxurious 5-star hotel with two Swiss spas attached. You must make sure to enjoy them after your hike.
Day 20 – Bad Ragaz and 5 Lakes Hike
Today is a mix of a workout and relaxation so get ready to enjoy! After a delicious breakfast at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, pick up your boxed lunch to take with you on one of Switzerland’s best hikes.
Morning 5 Lakes Hike
The Pizol 5 Lake Hike is one of the most popular hikes in all of Switzerland. The hike takes you to 5 mountain lakes that are crystal clear and ripe for photographing mountains reflecting in the waters. Unfortunately, we had a very rainy and overcast day and didn’t see the mountain vistas that were promised, so alas, we ended our hike without the views, but had the consolation of going back to a 5-star resort!
Afternoon: Tamina Therma and Grand Resort Spas
The afternoon was spent enjoying the water circuit of the thermal baths to the hot saunas. We quickly forgot our wet and soggy hike and basked in the luxury of heat and water.
When staying at the Grand Hotel Bad Ragaz, you also have access to the Tamina Therme which is also one of the most traditional and best known in Switzerland. No photographs are allowed inside the spas, but we had early morning access and special permission to photograph the hotel’s spa before it opened.
Day 21 – Depart Zurich
We have now come to the final day of our three-week road trip in Switzerland. It’s an easy 90-minute drive back to Zurich from Bad Ragaz, so depending on your flight, you can either enjoy the spa some more in the morning or make your way back early to fly back home.
Doing a Switzerland road trip was one of the most memorable travel experiences we’ve ever had. We’ve traveled through Switzerland by train before and it is fast and efficient but having the freedom to stop when we want at scenic lookouts and take detours to explore hidden gems is what really makes our travels through Switzerland special. If you plan a trip to Switzerland, choose to spend at least a little time in the car to see the country from a different perspective.
For a more comprehensive breakdown of each stop on this Switzerland Road Trip Read these articles: