It's that time of year for a travel advisor when all the finishing touches are being applied to our clients summer plans. Itineraries are double checked for airline schedules, transfers are confirmed, every aspect is revisited with a fine toothcomb. For this summer, United Kingdom and Italy are vying for most popular destination, closely followed by France, Portugal, Greece, Spain and a country I want to highlight this week.
It's a land of captivating beauty, nestled in the heart of Europe. Its breathtaking landscapes encompass snow-capped mountains, shimmering lakes, and lush green valleys. Renowned for its precision and quality, Switzerland boasts world-famous watches, exquisite chocolates, and exceptional cheese. Aside from the beautiful cities of Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne and Lugano to name just a few, the Swiss Alps offer endless possibilities for adventure, from skiing and hiking to picturesque alpine villages. The country's efficient public transportation system ensures seamless exploration. And to top it all, Switzerland's medieval towns, stunning castles, and enchanting festivals captivate visitors, making it a must-visit destination for all.
Here is this weeks Swiss Top 5
Top 5 - Switzerland
1. Castello del Sole - Ascona (above and below)
Discover an Alpine oasis at Castello del Sole, nestled within a 35-acre estate on the edge of Lake Maggiore. Located just 85 miles from Zurich, this historic, 78-room hotel – originally a Franciscan monastery built in 1532 – boasts a private beach, beautiful garden, and a bird sanctuary that inspires serenity. Go hiking, play tennis, or tour the rice fields before a risotto-making lesson with the chef. Plus, indulge in vino-aqua spa therapy using ingredients from the on-site vineyards.
2. Glacier Express (above and below)
The perfect way to combine Zermatt and St Moritz with perhaps pre and post nights in Zurich and Geneva. Along the way, the train will cross over 291 bridges, go through 91 tunnels, wind through the Swiss Alps, and traverse the glorious countryside. The route takes you through the three cantons of Valais, Uri and Graubünden, and offers breathtaking and varied panoramic views. Eight hours of sheer pleasure for your eyes and your palate, too. Ask your Virtuoso travel advisor (that's us) to book you a coveted Excellence Class spot on the photogenic eastward journey for window seats, butler service, and a seven-course, wine-paired meal.
3. Badrutt's Palace Hotel, St Moritz (above and below)
Badrutt's Palace Hotel is the quintessential Saint-Moritz experience. Graceful ambience is matched by the breathtaking, pristine alpine scenery that surrounds this fairy-tale hideaway. Celebrities and royalty have adored this hotel since 1896, and today's guests are still in for a pleasant surprise. Enjoy the exciting nightlife of the King's Social House by Jason Atherton, the extravagant cuisine of La Coupole-Matsuhisa by Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa (both open in winter) or the cozy dining experience at Chesa Veglia. Indulge in lavish treatments at Palace Wellness, or enjoy the two beloved golf courses nearby.
4. Dine in the Mountain Huts of Zermatt
Centered around the iconic Matterhorn, Zermatt’s charming, cobblestoned town (above) – bisected by the ice-blue Matter Vispa River – is filled with designer shops, bakeries, chocolatiers, and dozens of restaurants and bars. But the highlight of a visit may well be dining at restaurants tucked into tiny midmountain hamlets, where classic Swiss fare is enjoyed in the type of wood-paneled, pelt-strewn interiors that have launched a thousand "Cabin Goals" Pinterest boards.
Just one example Chez Vrony, recahed by hopping off the Zermatt-Sunnegga funicular in the hamlet of Findeln, then skiing or snowshoeing (or hiking in the summer) down to a centuries-old farmhouse, situated at an altitude of 6,889 feet. Dine on the expansive sundeck (the restaurant provides blankets) or inside, where a fantastical mix of sheepskin-layered chairs, cowbells, groovy chandeliers, and modern artwork sprawls across three floors. The fare is traditional and local: The Julen family, who own Chez Vrony (below), grazes its own herd of cattle in the surrounding pastures during the summer months. Menu highlights include mountain-goat-cheese ravioli with caramelized pears, Rösti (Swiss hash browns) with thick slabs of sausage, savory tarts with truffles and bacon, and charcuterie platters featuring house-cured speck and bresaola.
5. Graubunden (above and below)
For close-to-home holidays, the Swiss often set their sights on Graubunden, the country’s easternmost canton. The summers in Graubunden are sublime. With 150 valleys, more than 1,000 mountains, and 1,038 lakes, Graubunden is the stuff of alpine fantasies. Home to Saint Moritz and Davos, Switzerland’s largest – and least populated – region sprawls across the eastern end of the country and borders Italy, Liechtenstein, and Austria, which makes it an easy add-on to country-hopping European vacations. (Lake Como, for example, is a two-hour drive away, while Milan is three hours by car.)
There are an amazing 8 Virtuoso hotels in the region and a series of trains, cable cars, and gondolas that reach impossibly high altitudes with dramatic vistas. Switzerland’s famously efficient bus and train systems make arriving from neighboring cantons simple, while also letting travelers get deeper into Graubunden by venturing beyond Davos and Saint Moritz. Farm-to-table cuisine and forest-bathing pursuits, are just a couple of reasons why summers in Graubunden shine.
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