What comes to your mind when you think about Switzerland? Snow capped mountains, greenery, cows, swiss milk chocolates, and yes, that so very popular, efficient & often touted as the world’s best ‘train network’. But we like to do things differently and have always believed that roadtrips are the best way to explore a new country…… So we ditched the trains and explored Switzerland by road. In June, we made this amazing 9 days roadtrip in eastern and central Switzerland and northern Italy. May to September is the perfect time for roadtrip in the Alps cause the various mountain passes open during that time.
Booking: We booked through AVIS car rental in Switzerland, the booking process was hassle free. We had booked Audi A3 but were lucky to get BMW 118d M SPORT 2017 edition. Twisty beautiful swiss roads are best experienced in a rear wheeled drive, it was a pristine machine with just 600km in the odometer. You do not require an IDP to drive in Switzerland. But it is always better to have IDP if you plan to cross borders. Also ensure your rental has ehighway vignette or you could end up paying high fines.
Day 1: Zurich – Rhine falls – Gais (Appenzel) (160km)
After spending 2 days in Zurich, we picked up the car from the airport and we headed towards Schaffhausen on the Swiss – German border where the magnificent Rhine falls lie. The pictures don’t do justice to the beauty of this place. It’s also accessible from Zurich by train. Perfect for a day trip from zurich city. You can see the falls from 2 sides(Schlossli & Newhausen) and even from top of the tallest rock in the middle of the falls. We parked our car in Schlossli parking lot and went down to the falls by taking an elevator. We went to the other side & on the top of the rock by a boat. There’s a lovely restaurant and cafe facing the falls on Newhausen side. We had our lunch in that café admiring the gradeur of the falls. On our way back, we went to the other side(Newhausen) of the falls by road as well…..and the views from a cliff were breathtaking. It was a quiet non-touristy area….. Evening picnic on that ciff was fun with amazing views.
From Rhine falls, we drove to the relatively less popular Appenzel area, we stayed at Vogelnest in Gais village. It is a quiet little village in the swiss countryside. Check out the details about our stay here
Day 2: Gais – Lichenstein – Zouz (St. Moritz) (200km)
We had a wonderful stay in the Vogelnest. I think Switzerland is best experienced in the beautiful countryside.
After having breakfast in the middle of medows in Gais, we went to the Berghaus Ascher. It’s a 170 year old guesthouse on a cliff, now converted into a restaurant. It was a good morning hike to the restaurant and was totally worth it. We had the best ROSTI (swiss potato pancake) at Berghause Ascher. Read more about it here.
From Berghaus ascher, we headed to Lichenstein via Appenzel town. This town in north eastern Switzerland is known for rural customs and traditions. The most iconic part of this town is the wooden houses with colourful facades.
Lichenstein: The fourth smallest country in Europe, we visited the VADUZ castle here. We could not spend much time in Lichenstein as we had to cover long distance ahead.
Headed to Zouz, small village near St. Moritz from Lichtenstein, the stretch from Davos to Fluela pass is the best road in the country. We just loved this drive. The route was very scenic with breathtaking views of Alps.
Day 3 : Diavolezza & St. Moritz
After the 2 days of long drive, we had planned for a well deserved pampering. But a vacation can’t be complete without a touch of an adventure. So we went to Diavolezza peak where, there is Europe’s highest Jacuzzi at 3000m above sea level surrounded by snow. It was a lifetime experience. You can read more about it here. PS. Don’t miss the fondue at Diavolezza restaurant.
After the Jacuzzi, we went to St. Moritz, which is a popular resort town in Switzerland commonly visited by celebrities. It’s a beautiful town surrounding a lake. Since it was Sunday, everything was closed. We spent some time strolling around the lake and then headed to Zuoz. We came across some beautiful villages on the way. I personally loved this part of Switzerland the most. After reaching Zuoz, tried to find some place for dinner, but since it was Sunday supermarkets and most of the restaurants were closed. Luckily we had some breads n pasta with us. And our biggest saviour was the soup and coffee vending machine near our air bnb. Staying in villages near st. Moritz is a good option if you don’t wanna spend lot of money on accommodation. St. Moritz is very expensive.
Day 4 : Zouz to Bormio via the Stelvio pass (75km)
From Zouz in Switzerland we headed towards the Italian side of the Alps. We reached BORMIO after driving through Umbrail pass and the (world’s best driving road) Stelvio pass. Stelvio pass is spaghetti of tarmac with 48 hairpin bends. So finally we ticked it off our bucket list. You can read more about these passes here .
The day’s drive ended at Hotel Bagni vecchi in Bormio. This hotel is famous for its old roman natural hot water springs. It was a perfect break from all the driving…….totally rejuvenating!
Day 5 : Bormio to Lake Como (187 km)
There is a stark contrast when you drive in Italy from Switzerland, you notice the roads are more crowded, more cops, all these means the drive is less enjoyable…..from Bormio, we headed towards Lake Como. We had booked Hotel Paradiso sul lago uphill on the Como side of the lake. The drive through the narrow bylanes was tough but the view from the hotel was amazing and made the drive worth the effort.
We spent the evening at Como which was downhill.
Day 6: Como to Vercana (65 km)
It was a scenic drive along the cliff overlooking lake Como……. we stopped at Bellagio and spent a day. In the evening from Bellagio, we took a car ferry to Cadenabbia on the opposite side of the lake. And then headed to Vercana which was few minutes away from Caddenabbia. We stayed at Bed and breakfast by Mellisa which was on a cliff with amazing views. Check out our Lake Como experience here.
Day 7: Vercana to Lake Brienz (227 km)
Started early in the morning and again we spent some time at the Lake Como including water limousine ride with visit to the villa del Balbianello. Then headed towards Lake Brienz.
It was a long drive to Lake Brienz via the scenic Gotthard pass, Furka pass, Grimsel pass. You can read more about these passes here.
The real beauty of Switzerland lies in its unspoilt countryside, valleys and the Alps.
We reached our camping area at lake Brienz quite late. So we had dinner and slept.
Day 8 : Schilthorn & carfree villages of Murren and Gimmelwald
Lake Brienz camping area was very beautiful and clean except for the bedbugs encounter. We never ever imagined we could experience bedbugs in Switzerland. But the whole Switzerland experience was so good, that we could ignore those bugs.
We went to Schilthorn early morning where a scene from bond movie was shot. There’s a revolving restaurant and a thrill walk. While coming down from Schilthorn, we explored the beautiful carfree villages, Murren and Gimmelwald….Details of Schilthorn, Murren and Gimmelwald here.
Evening I went for the chocolate making workshop at Funky Chocolate Club in Interlaken. How can you not learn making chocolate in the land of milk!!!! It was a fun evening well spent.
Interlaken otherwise is very touristy place where all you see is Indian tourists and Indian restaurants.
Day 9 : Lake Brienz to Bern city : 67 km
This was the last day of our roadtrip. Jungfrau (highest peak of Europe) was on our agenda before dropping our car at Bern. But before Jungfrau, we picked up the chocolates made by me at the workshop from Interlaken. Then visited Trummelbach falls, a series of ten glacier waterfalls inside the mountain. Water flowing in the mountain with such great force was something really unique. You have to experience it. Pictures don’t do justice. Then we spent some time at the beautiful Lauterbrunnen valley and headed to Jungfrau. Going to Jungfrau was the most expensive thing in Switzerland. We were skeptical about visiting this very very touristy place. But we were pleasantly surprised by snowfall. After all these days of visiting snow clad peaks and driving through high mountain passes, I really wanted to experience snowfall. But since it was summer, chances of snowfall were rare & at Jungfrau my wish was fulfilled. Train journey to Jungfrau was scenic.
After Jungfrau, we headed to Bern. The route along the lake was awesome. We dropped our car at Bern airport and then explored Bern and Lucerne for next 3 days.
PS. Swiss half fare card was very useful for us. So if you are planning a trip to Switzerland, check out the various passes and buy one which suits you the best. Phone network and data cards are very good on the peaks as well.
One more post on Switzerland will be coming soon where I would be writing about the cities Zurich, Bern and Lucerne.