Alpine Splendor: Switzerland and Austria

Alpine Splendor: Switzerland and Austria

The Alps serve as the stunning backdrop for this Swiss and Austrian exploration. As your small group discovers villages and European cities, rides the famed Glacier Express, cruises on glassine lakes, and ascends snowcapped summits, the region enchants one and all.  Explore cosmopolitan Munich with an optional four day/three night post-tour extension.

Trip Itinerary:

July 16 Depart U.S. for Zurich Switzerland

July 17 Arrive Zurich/Lucerne

We arrive in Zurich and transfer by coach to Lucerne. After checking in at our hotel, we meet for a briefing about the journey ahead, followed by dinner at a local restaurant. D

July 18 Lucerne/Mt. Pilatus

This morning we encounter historic and alluring Lucerne, surrounded by mountains and sitting on its namesake lake. We visit the medieval Old Town; and cross treasured Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), the oldest covered bridge in Europe. There’s time for lunch on our own before we ride the world’s steepest cogwheel train to the summit of nearby Mt. Pilatus for stunning views across the surrounding countryside. After descending by cable car and gondola, we return to Lucerne. B

July 19 Lake Lucerne/Zermatt

Today’s scenic overload begins with a ferry ride on Lake Lucerne, where we pass numerous villages as well as Rütli meadow, legendary “birthplace of Switzerland.” Disembarking at Flüelen, we coach to Andermatt to board the celebrated Glacier Express train, renowned for its panoramic views as it sweeps through striking valleys, past mountain hamlets, and follows the course of the fabled Rhône. Our adventure on this famed route ends in Zermatt, gateway to the Swiss Alps in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Tonight, we enjoy a Swiss fondue dinner together at a local restaurant. B,D

July 20 Zermatt/Gornergrat

Sitting in a low-slung notch, Zermatt is surrounded on all sides by towering slopes. We get a unique view of the spectacular scenery this morning as we ride the Gornergratbahn, the highest open-air railway in Europe, to the summit of the Gornergrat. Atop this rocky ridge, a dramatic tapestry unfolds all around us: 29 Alpine peaks, each over 13,000 feet, including the majestic Matterhorn standing alone at nearly 15,000 feet. After admiring the jaw-dropping scenery, we begin our descent by train to Zermatt, where the remainder of the day is free to explore this very walkable village as we wish. B

July 21 Zermatt/Stresa, Italy/Lugano

We travel by coach today through more superb Swiss scenery, and cross into northern Italy via the legendary Simplon Pass through the Alps where, from 1801 to 1805, Napoleon constructed a road in order to expand his empire. Late morning, we arrive in Stresa, Italy, along the shores of lovely Lake Maggiore, where we have time to explore and enjoy lunch on our own. Then a scenic drive through the famed Italian lake district returns us to Switzerland and our hotel in lakeside Lugano. B,D

July 22 Lugano/Bellinzona/Ascona

Today’s tour of Ticino, Switzerland’s southernmost canton, begins in medieval Bellinzona, with its three feudal castles, all UNESCO sites. Here we visit Castelgrande, the iconic central castle where we explore the ramparts and expansive grounds, then enjoy regional fare as we lunch alfresco at a local grotto restaurant built around mountain caves. Then we coach to the artists’ colony of Ascona on the shores of Lake Maggiore before we return to Lugano. B,L

July 23 Lake Lugano

After a free morning to explore Lugano independently, we board a motorboat for a private half-day cruise around Lake Lugano. We put ashore at Morcote, a town barely a mile square whose cobbled streets, terraced gardens, and Mediterranean charm led Swiss citizens in 2016 to name it the nation’s loveliest village. After lunch together and time to explore, we continue on our cruise with a stop in Gandria, whose stucco façades seem to cling precariously to the side of Monte Brè. B,L

July 24 Lugano/Maienfeld/Vaduz, Liechtenstein/Seefeld, Austria

We’re bound for Austria today by way of the tiny sovereign nation of Liechtenstein. Late morning we arrive in the border town of Maienfeld, Switzerland, setting for the beloved novel Heidi. Here we enjoy a tour and tasting at Schloss Salenegg, Europe’s oldest winery (c. 1068 CE). Continuing north, we cross into the Principality of Liechtenstein, the fourth-smallest European country. We stop for lunch on our own in the capital of Vaduz then continue on to the mountain village of Seefeld, Austria, and our hotel, where we dine tonight. B,D

July 25 Seefeld/Innsbruck

This morning we coach to nearby Innsbruck, host of the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. A walking tour highlights the postcard-worthy sights, including the many pedestrian squares surrounded by pastel-colored façades. Then we take a cable car to a lookout in the Nordkette, the “mountain at the heart of Innsbruck,” where we enjoy panoramic views of the city and the surrounding Alps. We have time on our own in Innsbruck before returning to Seefeld. B,D

July 26 Seefeld/Tyrol/Salzburg

Today we travel through Tyrol, a crossroads of Western Europe, en route to Salzburg. We stop to visit the Museum of Tyrolean Farms, an interactive outdoor exhibit featuring dozens of preserved farmhouses dating from the 15th century onwards. Then we continue on to Salzburg, Austria’s riverside jewel and city of Mozart and The Sound of Music. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure; tonight we dine together at our hotel. B,D

July 27 Salzburg

Our walking tour this morning features the geometrically styled Mirabell Gardens, dating to the 17th century; the Baroque Old Town, now a UNESCO site; and visits to Salzburg Cathedral and medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress, one of Europe’s largest and best-preserved castles. Then the remainder of the day is at leisure for independent exploration and dinner on our own. B

July 28 Salzburg/Eagle’s Nest/Berchtesgaden

We travel today to the Bavarian resort town of Berchtesgaden, site of the clifftop Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest), the Nazi Party’s alpine retreat. Arriving by the original 1930s brass elevator, we tour the chalet given to Hitler on his 50th birthday and captured by the Allies in the closing days of WWII. After lunch together, we enjoy a walking tour of Berchtesgaden, once a residence of the Bavarian royal family. We return to Salzburg, where we attend an intimate chamber concert performed by the Salzburg Mozart Players then celebrate our splendid journey at a farewell dinner. B,L,D

July 29 Depart for the U.S.

We transfer today to the Munich airport for our return flight to the U.S. B

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