Here we go! Another road trip! This time it was Switzerland. So, the list of things to be taken includes warm clothes. Check. Jacket. Check. Sunglasses. Check. Gloves. Check. Switzerland Tourism is offering a Grand Tour that covers about 1600 kilometres of country road driving with a meld of train rides. The Grand Tour covers various towns and cities, passing through the real Switzerland. This does not include minimal motorway drives and an absolute paradise for those who want to live the Swiss-kind of lifestyle.
We embarked on a journey to Switzerland from Geneva, the most famous city for automotive world— with the famous Geneva Motor Show. Geneva got its name from the Lake Geneva, which is the largest lake in the entire Western Europe. This is a buzzing town and we had been there on the 31st of July, a day before the Swiss National Day. Jet d’Eau is one of the places worth a visit. It is very touristy and that day everyone was preparing for the festival. Hence, there were multiple lake-side stores that were set-up.
Next day, we rented a VW Golf Convertible and an Audi Q3 (the facelift one that we had reviewed recently). The Golf was 1.4-litre turbo petrol with a six-speed DSG box and the Q3 was a 2.0-litre diesel quattro with the same India specifications. We headed towards Vevey, which is a small town on the banks of Lake Geneva. So, the drive was on a road running parallel to the lake. We picked up our cars from the Geneva airport, which is outside the city and then we headed on our route cutting across a motorway.
For those who aren’t familiar with driving in Switzerland, I will recommend to drive slower. There are some important things that have to be remembered. If there is a solid white line, this indicates you cannot cross it, you can overtake on a broken line. In cities, the speed limit is 50km/hr, in some crowded zones it is 30km/hr, outer areas of the town have 60km/hr, while the country roads follow 80km/hr. For the motorways its 100km/hr or 120km/hr depending on the road. But you will be notified with speed limits at different places.
The date of our journey being the 1st of August, the roads were empty and most of the restaurants were shut as it was Swiss National Day. We got lunch at about 5 o’clock in the evening as we stopped in Morges. If you opt for the road-trip, our first recommendation will be to stop by and take a stroll on the road running parallel to Lake Geneva. The view is breath taking and very scenic. You should try and leave from Geneva at about and before 10 o’clock in the morning so you could reach Morges on time. There will be several occasions were you could stop in the by-lanes and sit by the river. Do not end leaving late as you will miss out some good views. Stay in Geneva for a day, this should be enough to see the city and some of its well-known areas.
From Morges we headed to Vevey, on the second leg for the day. This country road too runs by the lake. If you decide to take the motorway, you will reach faster, but you shall miss out on the view. So, reach Morges between 1-2pm and ensure to leave before 3:30pm from the town. Visiting Switzerland in summer means you get daylight from 6:30am to 9:00pm. Switzerland does get very hot in the summer, so it is highly recommended to carry sunscreen (even if you are used to the heat), shorts or three-fourths –if you think 30degC+ is hot. To drive in Switzerland is easy, all that has to be done is follow the rules. Do not cross the white lines, do not over speed and park only where it has been mentioned.
We reached Vevey— a small town that is located near Lake Geneva. Vevey has a lot of good options to stay in. Ideally pick one that is the closest to the railway station. Visit the lake-side, try out some lip-smacking food there. There is a fork in the water, there are chairs on the rock for individuals to sit and then there is also a Charlie Chaplin statue as well. On the other side of the lake is France and the civilisation can be seen from Switzerland too.
From Vevey one could head to “Rochers-de-Naye”, which would be by train to Montreux and then take a Golden Pass to head in the other train. The Rochers-de-Naye is a mountaintop, where one can see the entire Lake Geneva, which is parabolic or C-shaped. For those who aren’t keen to lake, can head to Castle Chillon as another option. It is advisable to head in Vevey for a day as one can even explore the vineyards. Majority of the homes have their own vineyards and make their own wines. Switzerland has some good wines, but isn’t well known globally as none are left for exports. They have their own set of grapes and you shall find some unique ones too. Please DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE.
Lavaux is one location; I will recommend trying out different wines. Take the road called “Route de la Corniche” as it is very scenic. On the way to Lavaux, you will encounter several restaurants by the lake-side. Auberge de la Crochettaz is one of them, and is the only one to severe Swiss and Indian food on the same table. This is equavalent to sitting a high-class restaurant facing Marine Drive and the sea. The chef is from Mumbai and is well versed with Indian and Swiss cuisines.
From Montreux the road heads to Gstaad. Now, Switzerland is divided into four parts, one is French, the others being German, Italian and Romanian. Gstaad “pronounced as Staad” is in the German region and this is where most of the Bollywood movies are made. This is the YashRaj movie shooting territory. The Gstaad railway station is where the famous DDLJ scene was shot. When heading towards Gstaad, you will notice that the topography will be changing and even the design of the houses. It will be more German-like and the French-style houses might be a rare.
The concept of cheese fondue has come from Switzerland and there are several Fondue Caquelons, where one can get their own fondues and eat with your family or friends. The Swiss tradition is if anyone drops their bread in the cheese fondue, they buy the entire table a round of wine. One is very close to Gstaad. You have to get your own fondue and vessels to the place, heat it and have it.
The drive from Gstaad to Interlaken is a fast one, as the roads are wider and the speed limit is of about 80-100km/hr at different places. Stay back in Interlaken or head higher to Grindelwald. Interlaken is where all the adventure sports happen and you can buy a good variety of sports gear that you need for adventure trips. Grindelwald is much higher than Interlaken and one can head to Jungfrau, which is the highest peak in Europe. It is also called as “Top of Europe”.
This is again one place where a lot of Bollywood shoots have happened. There is a Ice Palace that has been made of a glacier and at such a high height. It is unbelievable. Apart form the awe-inspiring view, the Ice Palace is one of an experience. The only two ways to reach the top is either by train or by trekking. One will have to take two trains to reach Jungfrau from Grindelwald.
Interlaken has loads of sports activity that one can opt for. Canyoning is one that is recommended to be tried out. “Outdoor Interlaken” is one of the places, where are the action happens. If you end up going there, say Hello to Manu and mention us too. Canyoning is where you learn how to navigate your way through a river. They offer you a pick and drop service too, if you do not wish to drive there. The Canyoning happens in River Saxeton.
The drive from Interlaken to Luzern is very scenic, and those who love driving, the last 15 kilometres because Luzern is a paradise. Narrow and winding roads, no traffic, great twisties and a speed limit of 80km/hr. This is just perfect to tickle your buds. The same can be experienced if you drive from Luzern towards Einsiedeln Tourismus, one of the oldest cathedral in Swizerland.
From Luzern, one can head to Mount Pilatus, which is another mountain that is worth a visit. This isn’t as high as Jungfrau, but is certainly worth a visit for the dragon ride (Cable car ride), which has a panoramic view with glass all-around. The first cable car, takes you to a point where there are several adventure activities. As a speed junkie, our pick was the Toboggan run, which is the longest in the entire Switzerland. The other route is the cogwheel ride. These trains with an angle inclination of 48 degrees. This is the steepest in the world and they run only at 9 kilometres an hour.
In Luzern, one can experience some of the best Swiss chocolates as there are several chocolate boutiques (called as Chocolatiers). The one we visited was Max Chocolatier and they have some stunning varieties of chocolates. We did try out some different varieties of Chocolate, like coconut-mango chocolate being one of them. This was my favourite town/city of all I visited in Switzerland is one place I can recommend you stay for a longer time to explore the town and even shop. One could then head back to Zurich airport, return the car and fly out.
Why a roadtrip?
The route does look scenic when you travel by train, but when you drive on the road, you have the freedom to stop at any of the by lanes and touch the nature. If you are the adventure type then do carry swimming trunks and you could take a dip in any of the lakes.
Cost for renting the most affordable convertible: INR 45,000 (for 10 days)
Cost for renting a luxury SUV: INR 75,000 (for 10 days again)
Cost for fuel: Within 150 CHF (equal to about INR 11,000)
It won’t take too long to get used to driving left-hand drives, if you are used to driving automatics, pick automatic only. Avoid manual unless you are used to driving one.
Things to carry in summer: Sunscreen, winter and rain jackets, shorts, comfortable shoes (sports maybe for the hills and canvas will be convenient for city and driving).
Fellow Travellers: I travelled in a bunch of four people, each from a different genre.
Siddhartha Joshi: He is a traveller and blogs about his journeys, whenever he is not busy design medical equipment. He was at the forefront, when it came to adventure and travel by train. So, you need any guidance on travel by train in Switzerland, you can visit his blog at sid-thewanderer.com.
Deeba Rajpal: A foodie by heart and a very knowledgeable person with regards to food, baking and a lot other aspects. If you need to know, what should you eat and what should be avoided, read her blog on passionateaboutbaking.com
Neha Dixit: Neha is a traveller and hosts the NDTV Good Times show called SwissMade. She adventurous and is very close to the nature. Because of her love for nature, she moved out from the hassling Delhi to a quiet hill station in Uttarakhand. She will be hosting the show and continuing the trip further. Follow her on Twitter as @nehadixit0
Watch out the Season 5 on SwissMade on GoodTimes, starting in a couple of months for the video diaries of our travel journey that we embarked with NDTV Good Times and Switzerland Tourism. We shall update you will the dates.
Kudos to Switzerland Tourism, NDTV Good Times, Cox and Kings and MakeMyTrip.com. Hats off to the production crew of Jalaj, Dheeraj (Instagram handle @dheerajhellan) and Arun Sundaram (Instagram @arunksundaram).