Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! Are you enjoying the spring? Feeling rejuvenated or stressed? I’ll admit to feeling both emotions and have been craving a relaxing getaway.
Did you catch Roger Federer and Robert De Niro’s humorous new video for the Switzerland Tourism Board? De Niro claims that there’s no drama in Switzerland (the gorgeous shots of Zermatt beg to differ). If you didn’t catch it, here’s the link: https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/experiences/roger-federers-choice-the-best-of-switzerland/ As you know, Roger is Swiss and like numerous celebrities who have been promoting their countries of origin or ancestry (example Sam Heughan for Scotland and Stanley Tucci for Italy), he’s boosting tourism to Americans.
If you’re interested in a future vacation that’s a mental break from the hectic nature of daily life, I recommend Switzerland wholeheartedly! I’ve written about my love for Switzerland in previous newsletters after traveling much of the country a few years ago. It’s full of hidden gems, European culture, bucolic countryside, sparkling lakes, stunning mountains, and drama in a good way!
Switzerland has four official languages, French, German, Italian, and Romanish, and is heavily influenced regionally by the French, Germans, and Italians. Fascinating right? Read on for experiences in Switzerland that can’t be missed courtesy of Virtuoso!
Take a scenic train ride.
One of the best ways to see Switzerland is by train. The Glacier Express unites two celebrated ski destinations – Zermatt and St. Moritz. Taking eight hours, it’s billed as the world’s slowest express train. The Glacier Express travels along 170 miles, crossing more than 290 bridges and going through 91 tunnels. One of the highlights: traversing the Landwasser Viaduct, a six-arched limestone structure. The viaduct’s curve allows passengers to view the train heading into the Landwasser Tunnel.
The Bernina Express takes travelers from glaciers to palm trees. The journey begins in Chur, reportedly Switzerland’s oldest town. The train heads south through majestic mountains and quaint villages to Tirano, Italy. From panoramic cars, view castles, churches, farmland, lakes, and waterfalls. A high point is the Brusio Circular Viaduct. The structure helps the train manage huge elevation differences in a short distance by routing it in a circle.
From Tirano, passengers take the Bernina Express bus through northern Italy to Lugano, in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region. It travels along the scenic shores of Lake Como and Lake Lugano.
Named for the legendary Swiss hero, the William Tell Express combines train and boat travel for one of the most unique Switzerland experiences. Beginning in Locarno or Lugano in Switzerland’s southeast and ending in Flüelen, the train takes passengers through four rapid loop tunnels. Those help the train make the steep 2,100-foot descent within just half an hour. It also runs through a nine-mile-long tunnel, considered an engineering marvel when it opened in 1882.
For those who want to see it all, consider the Grand Tour of Switzerland. The train route covers 1,000 miles, 22 lakes, 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, five Alpine passes, and four language regions.
Experience a quaint village.
Switzerland is a relatively small country, with about eight million people. Only six cities have more than 100,000 people, so most Swiss live in towns or villages. Visiting a picturesque village is one of the unique Switzerland experiences every visitor should have. Wherever you go, you’ll find Instagram-worthy scenery and historic charm.
Tiny Morcote beckons visitors with its historic charm and beautiful setting.
One particularly notable village, a favorite of visitors, is Morcote. You might think you’re visiting a miniature Milan – with good reason. Morcote is in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, only an hour’s drive from Milan. Buildings in Morcote open onto the water, with a backdrop of vineyards and cypress trees. It’s a short drive or boat ride from Lugano to this charming village. The entire town, with fewer than 800 residents, is listed as a Swiss Heritage Site.
It’s worth it to climb the 404 steps to the Church of Santa Maria del Sasso. The 13th-century church was rebuilt in 1462 in a Renaissance style. Then in 1758, it transformed again to suit the Baroque tastes then in fashion. Frescos from the 1500s and 1600s line its walls. Peek into the nearby cemetery. It’s a relative newcomer to the area, built in 1750. Many well-known cultural figures are buried there. Stroll back from the church down narrow pedestrian paths. Reward yourself with a glass of local wine and snack at one of the lake view bistros on the main street.
Hike to a mountain glacier.
The Swiss enjoy exploring the great outdoors since they have an abundance of beauty everywhere they turn. One particularly scenic hike is to the Morteratsch Glacier outside of St. Moritz. It takes less than two hours for the round trip along wide and well-traveled paths. With no steep parts and only a slight elevation gain, it’s an easy 3.3-mile hike. Along the way, you’ll encounter people of all ages and fitness levels.
As you walk, you’ll spy picture-perfect views of trees, streams, mountains, and the glacier ahead. It – combined with a neighboring glacier – stretches over 4.3 miles. You’ll also see posted signs that inform you how far down the glacier extended in previous years. As little as 120 years ago, it ended about 1.2 miles further into the valley.
At the end of the trail, you’ll walk over a small wood bridge and see the rushing water underneath. If you scramble across boulders, you can get up close and personal with ice chunks from the glacier. Reaching the actual tip of the glacier’s tongue is more challenging. But the views you get beforehand make the hike one of the unique Switzerland experiences you should put on your list.
Visit a museum (or two).
Switzerland is a country with abundant museums. There’s one to suit any interest. Just a few of the more interesting options include The Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne (trains, boats, air, space), the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich (Football = Soccer), the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva (watches), the Olympic Museum in Lausanne (Olympic Games), and the Hoosesagg Museum in Basel, possibly the world’s smallest museum – a different display each month set into the window of a centuries-old home.
Switzerland’s largest public art collection is at the Kunstmuseum Basel. It began when the city of Basel purchased a collection of works in 1661. Today its works span from the early 15th century to the present day. There you’ll see artists such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Warhol in more than 100,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Stay at a Virtuoso network hotel or resort
Five-star hotels and incredible Swiss wellness resorts offer my clients valuable Virtuoso perks.
One example is the five-star VICTORIA-JUNGFRAU Grand Hotel & Spa, situated in Interlaken, enjoys a privileged location between two beautiful lakes and at the foot of the eternally snowcapped Jungfrau Mountain. A lovely retreat for a wellness getaway or family vacation.
Check into your spacious and stylish room, complete with 19th-century adornments, then head downstairs to the world-famous, 5,500-square-meter spa Nescens or venture outdoors to explore the stunning landscapes.
Hungry? You’ll dine well at the Ristorante e Pizzeria Sapori the new Italian restaurant, located right on Interlaken’s main boulevard. This is the domain of sapori, or flavors. Fresh spices, fine oils, and choice produce all belong to the Italian art of cooking, which follows one simple principle: preparing the best ingredients in such a way that they retain their character. The La Terrasse restaurant is devoted to the local cuisine with products from the region.
The hotel’s outdoor terrace is a beautiful place to linger over coffee and cakes, finger foods, and more. The elegant Victoria Bar invites guests to stop by at any time of day.
I’m ready to go!
Wishing you and your family continued good health,