Hiking, Biking, Boating & Eating: The Swiss Alps and Italian Lakes by Train
This 14-day itinerary sees you travel either from London or Lyon to the Alps and Italian Lakes by train, hiking, biking, boating and eating well along the way and visiting Zermatt, St Moritz, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore en route.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Walk and eat your way around Lyon, France
- Hike a seriously scenic section of the Alps in foodie-haven Zermatt, Switzerland
- Take the famous Glacier Express train to St Moritz and take in the unbelievable scenery as you snake through the Swiss mountains
- Balance active pursuits with plenty of pampering in St Moritz
- Sail or SUP on Lake Silvaplana
- Take Europe's most scenic train journey from Switzerland to Italy on the Bernina Express
- Lounge lakeside at Lake Como
- Bike or walk around Lake Maggiore or take to the water on a boat trip
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Day 1: To Lyon
You can either start this trip directly in Lyon, France, or begin at the very beginning with a start in London. If it's London you fancy, head to St Pancras for the first leg of your London to the Alps and Italian Lakes by train itinerary. Take a morning Eurostar train from London to Paris, arriving two-and-a-half-hours later. You then need to transfer across from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon, which is an easy two-stop hop on the Paris RER. Once at Gare de Lyon we've planned it so you can have a lovely lunch in the splendid art nouveau Le Train Bleu restaurant in the station.
After lunch, make your way to your onward train from Paris to Lyon, which takes around two hours, arriving in France's second city in the late afternoon. Transfer to your city centre hotel and enjoy a fun evening in the city generally regarded as the culinary capital of France. We can recommend and reserve a table in one of the many fabulous restaurants, but before dark we recommend going for a stroll around the old town and exploring some of the famous traboules - secret alleyways that snake through the city blocks like ancient pedestrian shortcuts.
Day 2: Lyon to Zermatt by Train
This morning, take a two-hour onward train to Geneva and then connect onto the service to Visp in the Swiss Alps. This train takes a little over two hours, and then there's one final connection onto a final hour-long service to Zermatt, arriving in the late afternoon.
Zermatt is car free so you can then either walk to the hotel or take a horse-drawn carriage. This evening we can recommend a book one of the resort's outstanding restaurants for your first supper in the mountains.
Day 3: Half-Day Hike in Zermatt
Today is your first chance to properly explore this picture-perfect setting, the first proper stop on your London to the Alps and Italian Lakes by train itinerary, with the iconic Matterhorn mountain as a pyramidal backdrop. Whether you are here in winter or summer you can now go on a pre-lunch wander along well-marked trails which are well maintained even in the snowy months.
Have lunch back in town, and then you have the afternoon to relax or wander around what many people consider to be the prettiest village in the Alps. Tonight you can indulge in another hearty mountain meal at another lovely restaurant.
- If you're here in winter you could also try snowshoeing or skiing, of course.
Day 4: Half-Day Bike in Zermatt
Yesterday was all about two feet; today is about two wheels as you tackle some of Zermatt's superb biking trails (in summer only). There are several to choose from, depending on the duration and difficulty level you are after, but the best known are the seven-mile Gornergrat Riffelsee and the one-mile Kate Moos.
This afternoon is yours to relax, walk, bike some more or just breathe in the fresh mountain air. This is your last night in Zermatt, so make the most of it with another supper in one of the town's best restaurants.
Day 5: Zermatt to St Moritz by Train
After breakfast at the hotel wander back to the station to board the famous Glacier Express to St Moritz, the next stop on this London to the Alps and Italian Lakes by train trip. The 'express' bit might be something of a misnomer as this is actually one of the slowest railway journeys in the world, covering the 180-odd miles in eight hours. That's all the more time to take in some of the most glorious alpine scenery imaginable, we say.
On arrival into St Moritz, transfer to your hotel and check in. Our detailed Dossier lists our recommendations of the best places to eat and drink in town.
Day 6: Hiking in St Moritz
Today you have the chance to explore your new surroundings on a hike along one or more of St Moritz's well-marked and maintained hiking trails. The Muottas Muragl Panorama Trail (4.1 miles) or the Water Trail on Corvatsch Mountain (3.1 miles) are excellent choices.
This afternoon you can relax at your hotel or indulge in a spot of shopping in St Moritz.
Day 7: Sailing on the Lake Silvaplana
Today you'll be taking to the water for a morning sail at nearby
Lake Silvaplana. Famous for its wind, which makes this a
watersports fan's paradise, Silvaplana is the place to sail,
kitesurf or stand up paddleboard.
Return to St Moritz and you have the afternoon and evening to relax.
Day 8: Take the Bernina Express from St Moritz to Tirano
You'll be leaving St Moritz this morning and enjoying what is commonly considered the most beautiful train journey in Europe - the Bernina Express. The route for the most part follows the Rhaetian Railway through the Engadin Alps in Switzerland and into Italy, climbing up the Berninan Pass before descending through the extraordinary Brusio spiral viaduct where the line corkscrews, allowing for an iconic photo opportunity.
The entire journey from St Moritz to Tirano takes around two-and-a-half-hours, before you change trains to Como with a connection in Monza, arriving in Como three-and-a-half-hours later. From Como it's a 45-minute drive to your next hotel, on the shores of Lake Como in the gorgeous Italian Lakes region. The hotel will be home for the next three nights.
Day 9: Lakeside Living on Lake Como
You've completed the alpine leg of your London to the Alps and Italian Lakes by train itinerary, and today you'll have the whole day to do as much or as little as you like. Lounge by the pool or wander around the fragrant gardens at the hotel, borrow some bikes and explore a bit further afield; the decision is yours. Our clued-up local Concierge is on hand to suggest other options, such as walking to a lovely local viewing point, San Martino's Hill, or visiting nearby Villa del Balbianello, famed for its terraced gardens overlooking Lake Como. They are also on hand to suggest a local restaurant and book a table should you wish to dine out this evening.
Day 10: Lake Como by Boat
Today you can explore Lake Como by boat. Enjoy a day of total freedom as you buzz about, mooring up where you want to dive in for a swim, or explore charming little villages on the shoreline.
Day 11: Lake Como to Lake Maggiore
Bid farewell to Lake Como today as you head back to Como station
and take the train (via a connection in Giubiasco) to Lugano, back
in Switzerland, which takes roughly two hours.
A short transfer sees you reach your next hotel, a lovely lakeside property on the shores of Lake Maggiore.
Day 12: Lovely Lake Maggiore
Today you can explore the beautiful landscapes around Lake Maggiore, the next destination on your London to the Alps and Italian Lakes by train trip. There are nearly 1,000 miles of marked trails around the lake itself and the Locarnese and Gambarogno valleys and in the Ticino mountains, where you can stop for restorative fare at one of the fun Ticino Grotti, simple taverns in the woods serving hearty local dishes. We can recommend the best.
Alternatively, take to two wheels on a guided mountain bike
adventure along fun trails, or test your stamina on some tough road
bike climbs in the region.
If you'd prefer to be on the water, then we can arrange a half or full day boat trip on Lake Maggiore itself, visiting the lake's pretty islands and exploring the popular pilgrimage site and monastery of Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso. The town of Locarno is also worth a wander.
Day 13: Locarno to Zurich by Train
This morning you will have time for breakfast at your hotel before heading to Locarno to catch the train to Zurich. The journey, including a change in Bellinzona, takes around two-and-a-half-hours.
Enjoy lunch at your hotel before you are met by your historian guide for a private half-day tour of this much under-rated city. Visit the Lindenhof, a one-time Roman fortress, and the medieval Grossmunster church, and sample some Swiss delicacies en route.
Zurich is a renowned foodie city, so tonight we can recommend (and reserve a table at) one of the city's many fine restaurants to celebrate the last night of your London to the Alps and Italian Lakes by train itinerary.
Day 14: Head for Home
Today is sadly the last day of your London to the Alps and Italian Lakes by train itinerary. You can finish your journey here if you wish with a flight from Zurich home. Alternatively if you want to loop to London, this morning take your time over breakfast and maybe enjoy another stroll around town before you head back to Zurich Station and board the high speed TGV-Lyria train to Paris Gare du Lyon, which takes four hours.
As before you then need to transfer across from Gare de Lyon to Gare du Nord, again an easy two-stop hop on the Paris RER. Once at Gare du Nord if you feel so inclined we can reserve you a table at the lovely bistro-style Terminus Nord restaurant beside the station for an early supper before boarding your two-hour-and-twenty-minute Eurostar train to London.
Charlotte H is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.