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      our holidays > Journeys in SlowMotion > Switzerland > Great Swiss Lakes

Great Swiss Lakes

Journey by rail through the heart of Switzerland
Holiday information
Nights: 7
Accommodation: one three-star hotel; two four-star hotels
Meals: 7 breakfasts, 3 dinners
Starting point:

You begin with two nights in Montreux at the Hotel Suisse Majestic, which enjoys views over the glittering waters of Lake Geneva to the French Alps beyond.

Day 1

There’s a wide variety of things to see and do from this lakeside location: take one of the paddle steamers on the lake; enjoy some Swiss wines in the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Lavaux vineyards which line the lakeshore; step back in time with a visit to the Château de Chillon, or follow in Charlie Chaplin’s footsteps with a visit to his former home, now a museum to his life and work.

CHÂTEAU DE CHILLON

As essential as a trip aboard one of the fleet of historic side-wheel paddle steamers which ply Lake Geneva is a visit to the famous lakeside Château de Chillon. Its oldest parts date from before 1150, and its dramatic medieval towers, set against the lake and distant mountains, have inspired countless visitors, including Lord Byron; his poem ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’ put it firmly on the ‘Grand Tour’ map. There is no better way to arrive at Chillon than by boat, on one of the many daily departures from Montreux, before returning on foot along a traffic-free lakeside walkway.

CHARLIE CHAPLIN

The silent film era’s biggest star spent the last 24 years of his life in Corsier-sur-Vevey, close to Montreux on Lake Geneva’s northern shore. His beautiful house and gardens, Manoir de Ban, opened in 2016 as a museum documenting his life and art. Explore the sets of his greatest films in the 'Studio' and discover the extraordinary life behind the star – from childhood poverty to Hollywood, and then exile to Switzerland following political and personal scandal. He returned just once to the US to receive an Honorary Academy Award in 1972, and ended his days in Switzerland in 1977 at the age of 88.

Day 2

Today you board the Golden Pass panoramic train for a scenic journey as it climbs away from the lakeside, passing through chic Gstaad and into the mountains of the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland’s central massif, home to countless peaks such as the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. After reaching Interlaken, it is a short train ride along the northern shore of turquoise Lake Brienz to the village of Meiringen, and the nearby Reichenbach Falls where Conan Doyle set the infamous struggle between his hero Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. Here you stay at the Hotel Victoria for three nights.

Days 3 & 4

You are now right in the heart of the Swiss mountains, with time to explore the sublime Alpine scenery. A short walk from the centre of Meiringen is the 200-metre-deep Aare Gorge, whose narrow twisting length you can follow on easy walkways. Alternatively, take the cable car and gondola to the 2,250-metre-high Alpen Tower restaurant at the top of the Meiringen ski domain, for views and food to take your breath away. To the west, near Lake Brienz, is the outstanding open-air museum of Ballenberg, with an extensive collection of Swiss vernacular architecture set in magnificent parkland and with beautiful gardens surrounding many of the buildings. On the lakeshore beyond is the pretty town of Brienz, the departure point for boats to the Grandhotel Giessbach, with its own funicular and waterfalls – a perfect spot for lunch; or the 1892 steam-driven cog railway to near the summit of the Rothorn.

Switzerland in Miniature

Along the river from Meiringen is Ballenberg, an open-air ‘museum’ which feels like real life via a time machine. The extensive collection of old farms and houses from all corners of the country would be worth a detour even if they weren’t brought to life with traditionally clad volunteers manning the forge, tending pigs, smoking hams and making cheese. The lush naturalistic setting is good, too, but the icing on the cake is the gardening: authentic cottage gardens, farmsteads and plant collections. They say it’s a chance to see Switzerland (at least its traditional architecture) in a day, but in fact it’s simply a very beautiful place in which to unwind.

BRIENZ & THE ROTHORN

Exactly 11 minutes from Meiringen by train (the Swiss are loathe to approximate) is the pretty little town of Brienz. In addition to its lakeshore promenade and cobbled Brunngasse, lined with historic, wooden chalets, it is renowned for woodcarving and the Brienzer Rothorn steam train. Little changed since 1892, these plucky locomotives take roughly an hour to huff and puff their way up the mountainside, pushing bright red carriages through extraordinary scenery to reach the summit. At 2,244 metres, the views are sublime and you can count 693 peaks on a clear day. (Or so they say!)

Day 5

The last leg of your journey takes you over the Brünig Pass to reach Lucerne and the Hotel Wilden Mann, your base for your final two nights.

Day 6

Spend your time exploring the atmospheric, compact city with our self-guided walking tour which follows the historic city walls and crosses the covered bridges for which Lucerne is famous. Or take to the mountains for one last Alpine panorama from either Mount Rigi or Mount Pilatus – both easily accessible from the town, with vintage cog railways to take the strain out of the climb.

LUCERNE & ‘UP THE RIGI’

Nestling on the shores of its sapphire-hued lake, and with wooden bridges – bedecked with red geraniums – spanning the River Reuss, Lucerne blends the beauty of its surroundings and the allure of its historic heart with a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere. For a very special day trip, take the boat across Lake Lucerne, then board Europe’s oldest cog railway to Rigi  
Kulm for breathtaking views. This ‘Rigi Royal Tour’, made famous by Queen Victoria in her sedan chair back in 1868, has stood the test of time spectacularly well.

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Local Map
Ladies of the lakes
Inntravel's Swiss expert Eric Kendall tells us why there's more to Switzerland than its (admittedly impressive) mountains, and shares his top tips for a great day out on the lakes.
Find out more >