Our Rail Product Manager, Sally, just got back from a rail-based trip centred in the Vaud Canton in Switzerland. There are not many holidays where you can spend one day on a lakeside beach and the next day be hiking on snow-covered terrain at 3000m! You can experience a very similar amazing itinerary on our “Swiss Chocolate & Cheese” tour. You’ll spend time on the gorgeous Golden Pass trains, take a cable car to Glacier 3000 where you can enjoy fondue with a view, ride the alpine rollercoaster and walk the incredible Peak Walk by Tissot. You can visit the Olympic Museum and an 11th century castle.
This tour can be based on Montreux or in Lausanne and includes rail to and from the UK, 6 nights’ hotel accommodation in Montreux (or can be based in Lausanne if you would like to spend some time at the beach), standard class rail in Switzerland, entry to Chillon Castle, followed by Wine Tasting and planchette vigneronne (platter) at Domaine Croix Duplex in the Lavaux and cruise on Lake Geneva, excursion on the Chocolate Train and visit to Gruyères to sample the eponymous cheese and entrance to Maison Cailler master chocolatiers, excursion to Glacier 3000 via Gstaad, Swiss Half Fare Card for half price additional public transport during your free time in Switzerland - what are you waiting for? Call 0800 038 1664 and our friendly travel specialists will help you make the most of this beautiful region!
“We based ourselves in Lausanne, which has a beautiful beach just a short way from the city centre, and explored the region using the Swiss Travel System’s highly-reliable rail network. Delays are highly unlikely and short connection times are standard. The closest airport is Geneva, just a short rail journey from Geneva airport which has its own railway station. It is also possible to fly into Zurich, 2-3 hours from Lausanne/Montreux via a combination scenic railway journey - we flew from Manchester to Zurich as I decided I would rather spend 3 hours on a Swiss train than on the M1 to get to Heathrow! You can also very easily get to the region all the way by rail - our Swiss Chocolate and Cheese tour (in fact, all our rail/fly-rail tours) can be arranged with flights or rail all the way to your destination. We had Swiss Passes which makes life very easy - you simply download your QR code or print it out and present your passport when the conductor comes through - very simple.”
Day 1: Arrival to Lausanne
The day we arrived was a Sunday, and Switzerland still observes traditional quiet Sundays, so it was time to unpack in our lovely spacious lake-view room at the excellent 4-star Mövenpick hotel, directly facing the lake. The hotel has everything you need - a nearby metro station (Lausanne is on a very steep hill so this is a definite plus point!), an incredible ice-cream bar, delicious buffet breakfast with everything you can think of, fully-equipped fitness centre, super-helpful and friendly team and is right by the bus stop - a few stops takes you to the beautiful Parc Bourget beach; the bus is included in your Lausanne transport card that the hotel give you on check in so it couldn’t be easier to fit a little sunbathing in.
Day 2: Gruyeres & Maison Cailler (cheese and chocolate)
Today was all about the cheese and chocolate! We took a couple of local trains up to Gruyères - important note: it is steep walk from the train/bus station up to the town - and indulged in a lunch consisting primarily of cheese!
We walked up to the castle to admire the views and spend a little time browsing the little shops in the cobbled streets before taking the next direct bus to Broc Fabrique for Maison Cailler, where the indulgence continued! After a fascinating tour, where we learned all about how chocolate made it over to Europe and the Cailler/Nestlé legacy, we enjoyed a chocolate workshop; we got to design and make our own chocolate bars - such fun!
After such a treat day we took a walk along the lakeside, where a paddle-steamer sits with its lights reflecting in the water in the evening and had a digestif on the beautiful Chateau D’Ouchy terrace.
Day 3: Lausanne > Chateau Chillon > Vevey > Montreux
We had a city tour in the morning, our guide pointing out so many places we are definitely going to have to go back - such as the best place to get an outrageously decadent hot chocolate, the best cafes in town to enjoy top-notch traditional Swiss cuisine.
We climbed the many steps to the top of the cathedral for a fabulous view out over the rooftops and admired the intensely bright-coloured stained glass of the windows. Then, a quick visit to the museum of fine art - in which you could easily spend half a day - and then hopped on another local train to Chateau Chillon.
The castle sits directly at the lakeside; a turquoise watery backdrop to one side and a steep incline to the other. The exterior of this magnificent building is beautiful enough, but the interior is exquisite. A free number-coded leaflet is provided for you to make your own way round and navigate this gorgeous building and learn about its fascinating history, intricate décor and well-known occupants.
A short detour up the Vevey funicular and back on the way back to Montreux where we enjoyed some liquid refreshment lakeside before dinner back in Lausanne.
Day 4: GoldenPass line/Gstaad
For someone who loves trains (that’s me!), today was an absolute joy! In the morning we travelled on the NEW GoldenPass Express - a brand-new train that can alter its own gauge meaning it can travel all the way between Montreux and Interlaken without passengers having to make a change of trains because of the narrow gauge section between Montreux and Zweisimmen - an incredible piece of engineering. We enjoyed the new Prestige Class, which at a very reasonable supplement gives you large and comfortable seats that can rotate to face the direction of travel (or each other!) and breakfast can be served to you in your seat as you watch the scenery go by through the vast windows.
As the train glides through the steep verdant hills, glimpses of the lake peep through the foliage. Travelling from the French-speaking Vaud Canton into German-speaking Bern Canton, the slopes become peppered with the familiar Swiss chalets made from the local red pine, the colour of the wood proclaiming the chalet’s age, which can be centuries.
Once in glitzy Gstaad, we browsed the high-end boutiques and made our way to a local dairy to collect a fondue backpack. Back onto the GoldenPass line in a Panoramic carriage this time, we went a couple of stops and took a cable car up to Horneggli where we had a two-hour long hike and cooked our fondue at the top of the mountain - a unique way to enjoy fondue with a view!
We made our way back down to Gstaad and boarded the GoldenPass Belle Époque carriages back to Montreux. This was the highlight of the day for me - I have wanted to travel on this train for a very long time and I was not disappointed. The vintage carriages are nothing short of gorgeous, they have such a charm to them. The seats are incredibly comfortable and the scenery is stunning, enhanced by the timeless elegance of the interior of the train.
We returned the way we came this morning, but at this later time of the day the light falls differently - illuminating epic rock formations in stark contrast against myriad shades of green. The feel of the ride is also different; the classic carriages moving more rhythmically than this morning’s smooth ride on the Express. A magical day for me!
Day 5: to the beach
A long, lazy day spent on the beach just a short (included) bus ride from our hotel.
Day 6: Glacier 3000
Today we took another easy train and bus combo up to Col du Pillon to head up to Glacier 3000. The bus is timed to directly coincide with the cable car up the mountain so it’s super easy to get up and down on arrival and departure. We spent the whole day up there - there is so much to see and do. We had another lunch with a view in the mountain top restaurant.
We set out on the Glacier Walk from the cable car and hiked in the snow to Restaurant Refuge l'Espace on the edge of the glacier by Quille du Diable to look at uninterrupted views out over glaciers and peaks (including Mont Blanc) and enjoy a hot chocolate, before a thrilling ride on the alpine coaster and another scenic journey back to Lausanne along the edge of Lake Geneva. We spent the evening sipping cocktails on a rooftop terrace in one of Lausanne’s trendy bars in the Flon district before hopping back on the metro to our hotel.
Day 7: Another quiet day at the beach!
Day 8: Back to the UK.
This morning we went to the excellent Olympic Museum close by our hotel, a short walk from the metro station at Ouchy. The museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of the Games, including emotive footage of sporting moments many of us will remember vividly, and iconic signed kits from many more such as Torvill & Dean’s 1984 Bolero, and one of Sir Chris Hoy’s cycling suits. Gold, silver and bronze medals from previous eras on impressive display and a treasure trove of a gift shop!! We then reluctantly made our way back to Zurich airport for our flight home.