Europe can be a truly magical place during Christmas - with fresh snow, mulled wine and Christmas markets! What better place to experience Christmas than the home of St.Niklaus himself?! Vruchi’s parents and sister were in Europe in December and we decided to spend the week of Christmas and New Years together in Switzerland so that Vruchi's family could experience a proper white Christmas.
Suggested 12 Days Road Trip Itinerary:
There are loads of whimsical towns, shimmering lakes, picturesque ski slopes (hello Alps!) and hidden gems that you can uncover in Switzerland. But here's our suggested day-by-day itinerary perfect if this is your first time in Switzerland. Pro tip: The beauty of Switzerland is really outside main highways and cities - and having a car with you definitely allows you to explore slightly less-accessible accommodation options. Try not to drive & sleep in a different town every day. By the end, you will be exhausted with all the un-packing and packing each night. Especially in winter.
With the following route, you won't be driving every-day + it will only be a max 1 hour 40 mins drive distance to the next stop (giving you plenty of detour and photo-opportunities to stop along the way) :)
Day 1 - Zurich Airport (Fly out after work, crash at Airport hotel in Zurich)
Day 2 - Mount Titlis / Lucerne - Sleep in Interlaken
Day 3 - Explore Interlaken & Grindlewald - Sleep in Frutigen
Day 4 - Explore Blaussee & Visp - Sleep in Randa
Day 5 - Day trip to Zermatt - Explore Matterhorn - Sleep in Randa
Day 6 - Day trip to Tasch or Zermatt again - Sleep in Randa
Day 7 - Drive to Montreux - Sleep in Roche
Day 8 - Day trip: Skiing in Villars-Sur - Sleep in Roche
Day 9 - Day trip: Skiing in Villars-Sur or Laussane - Sleep in Roche
Day 10 - Drive to Broc (Chocolate making) - Sleep in Bern
Day 11 - Explore Bern or Thermal Bath Spas in Broc - Sleep in Bern
Day 12 - Drive to Zurich, Explore Zurich - Fly out or add another day in Zurich
Pro-tip: Switzerland is an expensive country with only a few ways to save money. If you are driving, stay just outside the main cities to reduce the cost of your accommodations. There are stunning chalets and AirBnB's just outside main towns like Zermatt or Bern that come equipped with all kitchen essentials so you can save on breakfast or dinners too!
Day-by-day breakdown | Things to do, getting around & costs
Day 1 - Arrive in Zurich
We had decided to stay at the airport hotel since we would have arrived really late and would need to hire the car the next day. (If you are following us on Instagram, you'd know that our flights were actually cancelled, so we missed out on our first 2 days of our holiday. Nonetheless, Vruchi's parents followed the route and we met them on Day 3 to start our holiday).
Day 2 - Lucerne, Mount Titlis. Sleep in Interlaken.
Start your day early by hiring the car and heading out to Lucerne for breakfast. For Bollywood lovers, you can also try booking the Panorama Restaurant for lunch on top of Mount Titlis! These hills are alive with the sound of Bollywood with a life-size cut out of SRK & Kajol from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge perched just outside the restaurant. Vruchi would have definitely loved to see this had our flights not been cancelled, and I have a feeling she will be dragging me here again sometime soon! But here's a photo from Google showing you what to expect:
Day 3 - Interlaken & Grindlewald. Sleep in Frutigen.
With us still stuck in London, Vruchi's parents explored Interlaken by themselves and headed up via a funicular to the summit of Harder Kulm - Interlaken's local mountain. They said the summit offered the best views of Interlaken as well as the nearby alps - Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. You can find more info on this here. Pro-tip: Heading up to any summit is an expensive affair with cable car / ski lift prices ranging anywhere north of 50 - 60 CHF pp for a day pass. It isn't economical to go up every single mountain peak, so choose 1 or 2 of the best and most iconic ones.
Day 4 - Explore Blaussee & Visp. Sleep in Randa
After cooking our own breakfast in our quaint little AirBnB in Frutigen, we headed down to Blausee (literally: Blue Lake) - a romantic secluded small lake in the middle of the forest. (A very easy 5 min walk from the car-park). The water is so clear and unbelievably turquoise blue where you can see the trout fishes swimming around. There's also a restaurant at the banks of the lake if you fancy a quick bite.
One of the highlights of this leg of the trip was the section from Blausee to Visp in the Lötschberg Car Train where you drive your car directly on the train! You remain in your car until the train takes you across the region - a quick 10 minute ride to get you to Goppenstein (27 CHF per car, one way) where we resumed our journey down to Visp and eventually Randa. You don't need to buy your tickets in advance, simply purchase them at the toll booth along the way.
Day 5 / 6 - Explore Zermatt & Matterhorn. Sleep in Randa.
At Randa, we stayed at the Matterhorn Ski & Golf hotel. It was a lovely little hotel, with stunning views of the mountains and very conveniently located near Tasch railway station. A train from Tasch is the easiest way to Zermatt (since Zermatt is a car-free town). Train cost: 17 CHF per person, return. A word of warning for future travelers to this hotel, the owner is quite an eccentric and quirky fellow and it can be difficult to get straight answers but other than that, the accommodation ticked all the boxes that it needed to.
From Zermatt to get to Matterhorn:
Matterhorn - mystical, majestic, the mountain of mountains - is probably most famous for being the Toblerone mountain! Standing tall at the border of Switzerland & Italy, it is an absolute must-see and fantastic experience to head up the alps for an unobstructed view.
Pro tip: There are a few different cable car options but we recommend heading up to Gornergrat - a complete paradise for hikers, skiers and day-trippers. As expected, extremely expensive for the cable car up - approx 76 - 90 CHF pp return, but if you wait until the 12:24pm train, you get the happy hour rates (~ about 58 CHF pp).
There are a few different stations along the way to Gornergrat and your ticket covers all of them. We recommended heading up all the way to Gornergrat, and on your way back getting off at Rotenboden - highly recommended for more serious photographers that would like a less crowded view of the majestic peak or if you fancy a winter hike! There's a 30 min walking trail from Rotenboden station to a lake to get gorgeous mirror views however the lake is completely frozen in winter. Continuing the walk, it takes ~45 mins to walk through the alps to the next station below. Pro tip: Try going around 3:30 - 4:00pm to watch the sky turn orange as the sun sets over the alps. Important: The walk is quite strenuous so make sure you have appropriate snow boots, have a decent fitness level and are rugged up warm if you are doing this in winter.
Day 7 / 8 / 9 - Drive to Montreux. Ski in Villars. Explore Lausanne. Sleep in Roche.
In Roche, we stayed in an Airbnb just a few minutes walk to Roche train station. The train & bus option came in quite handy as Vruchi's parents took the opportunity, when we went skiing, to explore Montreux & Lausanne (an option for non-skiers).
The most common thing people associate with Switzerland during this time of year is skiing however to be perfectly honest, we did not enjoy it at all and preferred skiing in Greece instead. We attempted skiing and snow-boarding in Villars-Sur-Ollon ski resort. Ski and snowboard rental is very expensive (approx 200 CHF pp per day) + the ski lift pass (approx 50 pp per day). Vruchi and I are both beginners at skiing/snowboarding respectively and we felt that Switzerland is not geared to beginners, unless you are willing to shell out 75 CHF for one hour beginner lessons. However, the view from the ski resort (and the drive to Villars) is unbelievable with the Swiss alps standing tall watching you as you stumble and fall down the slope.
Day 10/11/12 - Chocolate making & Thermal baths. Sleep in Bern.
After skiing, Switzerland is probably next best known for its fantastic chocolate. What better way to indulge in this delicious delicacy than getting your hands dirty (with chocolate) and learning to make your own chocolate?! The workshop finished with us making our own Chocolate cows and a delightful tour of the history of Swiss chocolate. We surprised Vruchi's dad with this fantastic workshop for his 60th birthday at Maison Cailler - highly recommended! (Cost: 45 CHF pp)
Gruyère Thermal Baths in Broc (Cost: 26 CHF for a 3 hour pass)
Wow! Just wow! This was probably the highlight of the entire trip for us. We did this at the very end of our trip - a fantastic way to wind down and enjoy some pampering! For those that have not heard of this before, this is an outdoor thermal spa (heated to 32-35ºC), against the backdrop of the breathtaking alpine landscape. There's a few different saunas, Turkish hammam massage options and a couple of indoor pools ranging in water temperatures - with one at 2ºC! (if you’re brave enough - brrrr). I tried a quick dip in that one and barely lasted 10 seconds!!!
Day 12 - Head to Zurich, Explore Zurich, Head back home.
Overall, this trip for us was about spending quality time with the family and we surely got to do that over the 10-12 days. Hot (swiss) chocolate and cheese fondues against a backdrop of the impressive Swiss Alps - provided for a perfect setting to spend quality time with our family. However, if it weren't for our slow paced family trip, perhaps 12 days is just a bit too much for Switzerland alone and in hind sight we could have split it between Switzerland and one of its neighboring countries. In fact, if you want a white Christmas with beautiful landscapes without the price tag, we'd recommend Slovenia instead! Read about that here.
Switzerland definitely is a country everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime - but perhaps that one time is just about enough ;)
Been to Switzerland or planning a trip there soon? Leave us a comment below or on our Instagram to share your tips and experiences!