Rick Steves' Best of Switzerland in 12 Days Tour, Day by Day
This past summer our favorite photographer, Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli, tagged along on our Best of Switzerland tour. Here's what they all experienced together — and you can, too, in 2018!
Days 1 & 2: Welcome to Luxurious Luzern
We'll meet at 5 p.m. at our hotel in Luzern (Lucerne) for a "Welcome to Switzerland" meeting. Then we'll take a meandering evening walk through Switzerland's most charming lakeside town, and get acquainted with one another over dinner together.
We'll begin the next morning with a walking tour of Luzern, learning how a backwater fishing village grew to become a bustling center of trade in medieval times, and one of Europe's must-see destinations on the "Grand Tour" a century ago. Our guided walk will take us through the city's restored medieval core and over its famously colorful pedestrian bridges, all the way to its sprawling Swiss Transport Museum, where we'll enjoy a tour. This afternoon you'll be free to visit the evocative Bourbaki Panorama, and/or the nearby Glacier Garden and Lion's Monument.
Day 3: Enchanting Engelberg
Our morning drive takes us from Swiss lakes to Swiss Army, tracing the tale of William Tell and the birthplace of Switzerland. At the once-secret Swiss army bunker at Fortress Fürigen, we'll see part of the massive defense system designed to keep Switzerland strong and neutral. Afterward, a short drive into the countryside brings us to the charming Alpine village of Engelberg, our picturesque home for the next two days. We'll settle into our lodge, then head out for an orientation walk with free time to wander back before dinner together.
Day 4: Peaks of Engelberg
Nestled between two mountain peaks, Engelberg is the perfect place for an Alpine adventure. We'll begin our day riding Engelberg's unique rotating gondola all the way up to the snowy 10,000-foot summit of Mount Titlis for breathtaking panoramic views (weather permitting). This afternoon we'll gather to visit the town's Benedictine monastery, with its own cheese-making operation. The rest of the day is all yours to explore the vast network of Swiss hiking trails, find a cozy mountain hut offering beautiful views, or enjoy a tasty fondue dinner.
Days 5 & 6: Italian Switzerland and Lake Lugano
Today we'll trade our mountains and meadows for palm trees and a taste of Ticino, the Italian side of Switzerland. On our way, we'll stop in the fortified town of Bellinzona to practice our best Swiss passeggiata, then continue through the majestic Verzasca valley, where we'll explore some of your guide's favorite out-of-the way sights. This afternoon's destination is the dolce vita lakeside city of Lugano. Your guide will take you on an orientation walk before sitting down to dinner together.
The next morning, it's time to take a vacation from your vacation, on the sunny side of the Alps! The day is yours to stroll along Lugano's shops and harbor, ride the funicular up to the top of 3,000-foot San Salavatore for great lake views, or hop aboard a ferry and cruise to nearby Swiss and Italian villages in search of idyllic open-air restaurants and a little…ciao!
Day 7: Matterhorn and the Heart of the Alps
This morning we'll leave the beaches behind and drive to the heart of Switzerland's Berner Oberland. Along the way we'll visit the quaint mountain village of Zermatt, framed by Switzerland's iconic Matterhorn. We'll have free time to explore the village and enjoy the views of one of the most recognizable mountains on the planet — if the weather cooperates. Then it's on to the Berner Oberland. We'll end our afternoon with a thrilling gondola ride from the Lauterbrunnen Valley floor up to the clifftop village of Mürren, where we'll settle in to our hotel before enjoying dinner together.
Day 8: Hiking in the Berner Oberland
Don't sleep in this morning — the day is all yours to experience some of Switzerland's best hiking. Join your guide for an optional gondola ride up to the 10,000-foot Schilthorn for breakfast with a view of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau peaks. Later, explore more of the magnificent mountains on one of many walking trails, then find your way back to Mürren. Whatever adventure you choose, you won't be far from the three essential ingredients of the area: cows, cheese, and chocolate.
Day 9: Gruyères and Lausanne
This morning we'll take a scenic drive to Lake Geneva, tracing a route so spectacular it's been given the name "Golden Pass." We'll pause on our way to the storybook town of Gruyères to see if a cheese by any other name would taste as sweet. After lunch, we'll continue to pretty and progressive Lausanne, where we'll visit the inspiring Olympic Museum and test our French during dinner together.
Day 10: Lake Geneva and the Château de Chillon
It's market day in Lausanne! Enjoy browsing and packing a picnic lunch for our afternoon boat cruise on Lake Geneva. A few miles downshore we'll dock at Château de Chillon, where we'll have a guided tour of this delightfully medieval castle on the water. On our way back we'll take time to peek into the Lavaux vineyards for a wine tasting before returning to Lausanne.
Days 11 & 12: To Bern via Ancient Rome
We'll begin our day with a time-travel visit to the village of Avenches. Two thousand years ago, as ancient Aventicum, this was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. A short drive catapults us a thousand years ahead to Bern, the country's present-day capital and our final stop. After a guided tour of the city center, we'll sit down with a local for a cultural Q&A session on all things Swiss. Tonight, we'll gather for a farewell dinner together, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends.
The next morning we'll enjoy breakfast together and say our final goodbyes before we head for home…or you're welcome to stick around for a few more days to explore more of Europe on your own. Tschüssli!
Learn more about Rick Steves' Best of Switzerland in 12 Days tour.
(Itinerary specifics subject to change.)