Our Travel Specialist, Jeanette Coppin, was given the chance to tour the area around Lake Lucerne, including a journey on the stunning Bernina Express. Here’s her trip in her own words.
When I was given the opportunity to visit Switzerland, I jumped at it as it is always a country that I have wanted to visit. We flew to Zurich then took a direct train from within the airport to Lucerne – very easy and convenient. We were given a first-class Swiss rail pass for our entire stay, which allowed us to travel in style.
Once in Lucerne, we had a short tour around the picturesque town with a local guide telling us about the medieval history. He also showed us sights like the famous Chapel Bridge with the octagonal water tower, which has been used for many things in the past including a torture chamber.
From Lucerne, we took the train to Alpnachstad before climbing aboard the steepest cogwheel railway in the world and climbing more than 5,300 feet up to Mount Pilatus-Kulm. The journey and views over Lucerne were amazing; the higher up you go you can feel your ears pop as if you are on a plane. We were lucky to stay the night on the mountain at the 3*Superior Hotel Pilatus-Kulm where the rooms were very spacious and decorated to a high standard. Alternatively, you can stay at the 3*Hotel Bellevue.
In the evening, we watched the sunset before sampling some of the local cuisine for dinner. While on Mount Pilatus, you can take one of the many walking trails and, during the summer, you can even stay the night in a tent. If you feel the urge to get up early, you can watch the sunrise – weather permitting of course.
After breakfast the following morning, we took the Dragon Ride cable car and the Panorama Gondolas down the mountain to Kriens, and then continued by bus back to Lucerne where we travelled by steamboat along Lake Lucerne to Flüelen. We passed many lovely towns and villages along with beautiful scenery. Some parts remind you of travelling through the Norwegian Fjords.
Once we arrived in Fluelen, we took the short walk to the Gotthard Panorama Express train for our transfer to Lugano. The carriage was lovely, with panoramic windows that allowed us to see all the wonderful scenery. The train takes you along the historical Gotthard route with its many loop tunnels which allow you to see the church of Wassen three times. The scenery from start to finish is spectacular throughout the whole journey, from travelling down the mountain by cable car to gliding along the lake then sitting in a lovely, comfortable train while taking in the countryside, mountains, small towns and villages along the way.
On arrival in Lugano, we transferred to the 3*Superior Hotel International Au Lac where we spent the night. This is a lovely, historic family-owned hotel, located on the lake in the city centre. It has its own historical museum, garden, swimming pool and terrace. The rooms are individually decorated with classic and elegant styles and some have lake views. Although you are in Lugano, it has a very Italian feel thanks its Lombardy-style buildings, restaurants, parks and flowers.
We had a short stroll through the town before a site inspection of the 4*Hotel Lugano Dante, which is located in the heart of this historical city next to many shops, cafes and restaurants. Some of the rooms have been renovated to a modern style, although we did see some of the more classic rooms, which I preferred. The breakfast room has plenty to offer; you can even make your own hot chocolate from real chocolate. If you stay here, you can tailor-make your hotel requirements from bedding to which colour toilet roll you want – the choice is yours.
We had dinner at the very modern Restaurant Seven, which serves international and Mediterranean food. There are some tables on the terrace that have beautiful views over the lake, a great place to people watch while enjoying the delicious food.
After breakfast the following morning, we had a tour around the Hotel International au Lac where we saw some of the different room types, the swimming pool and terrace, along with the hotel’s museum. There are many items on display from telephones and old accounting equipment to hoovers and irons.
On leaving the hotel, we took the funicular up to the train station and then took the Bernina Express bus to Tirano, passing along Lake Como. We had lunch at the lovely Restaurant Al Portici in Tirano, before taking the Bernina Express train on to Chur. We travelled first class; our carriage had panoramic windows to allow you to enjoy the magnificent views of the many towns, villages, snow covered mountains and blue lakes. What can I say? It was amazing and one of those journeys you just have to take.
In Chur, we stayed the night at the traditional Romantik Hotel Stern, located in the centre of town. The rooms are decorated in traditional Bünder style with pine or pine wood. We had dinner at the hotel, which offers excellent traditional food and great wines. The following morning, we had a city tour of Chur, Switzerland’s oldest town boasting an 800-year-old cathedral. Chur is surrounded by mountains and is one of the warmest cities in Switzerland. It has 300 shops, 130 restaurants and the Old Town is traffic free. After our tour, we travelled by train to Zurich Airport for our return flight home.
Switzerland is one of our most popular destinations at the moment and is sure to be big in 2018 too. If you would like us to tailor-make your holiday to any part of this beautiful country, just call us on 0800 988 3369.