The song «(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66», which was written in 1946 and covered by such performers as Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode and many others at different times, has inspired generations to cross the United States of America from west to east on that very Route 66.
The Grand Tour of Switzerland is half the length of its trans-Atlantic prototype and does not yet have its own anthem, but it definitely has the potential to go down in history as a prime tourist experience in this country.
The Swiss have created a unique route – even though almost 60% of their country is covered by the Alps – considering the size of the country and the number of cultural, architectural, and natural sites per hectare. Using one of Europe’s best railway and road systems, the Grand Tour of Switzerland passes through four regions in which a number of different languages are spoken and five mountain passes, 22 lakes located in the vicinity of 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and two stunning biosphere reserves may be witnessed. In total, the route traverses 1,643 kilometers at altitudes of between 193 and 2,429 meters above sea level.
Can you imagine that tiny little Switzerland has 1,484 lakes?! The Grand Tour route takes in just two dozen of them, but these are some of the most beautiful! Lake Geneva, Lake Neuch tel and Lake Thun, Lake Zurich and Lake Lucerne, Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano… these are not just the largest bodies of fresh water in Switzerland but are, moreover, unique natural ecosystems set among picturesque landscapes. It is a true cultural phenomenon to immerse oneself in the way of life of coastal towns and villages. Take a walk along the coast or take a boat ride, go fishing, go sunbathing, or have a snack in the shade. You can take a swim while on the road – do not deprive yourself of this pleasure!
Mountain passes in Switzerland in summer are an obvious fetish in the motorcycle community and also among owners of convertibles and simpler cars from all over Europe. It is considered mandatory for all respectable biker and car clubs in Alpine countries to make two or three passes per day with an obligatory stop for lunch at the highest point. They can even spend a night at a historic hotel or shelter near one of them. An exhibition of vintage racing cars and motorcycles at which you can find the owners nibbling on some snacks and discussing the whole history of the global automotive industry with friends over a glass of wine or beer is much better and more authentic than the Geneva Motor Show!
The library at the Abbey of St. Gallen is one of Switzerland’s many treasures
City walks are one of the key elements of the Swiss tourism industry. Cherished relics and artifacts, museums, rare and ambitious exhibitions… centuries of architectural heritage, art and entertainment, gastronomy, and even shopping! You get to decide what to do with your time, but we strongly recommend turning Zurich, Lausanne, Bern, Lucerne, and Lugano into something more than just an ideal place for a comfortable overnight stay on your way. You can get plenty of impressions during just a few hours or, better still, a couple of days with the help of any tourist office. You can even do it yourself online by visiting www.myswitzer- land.com.
There are many iconic landmarks in Switzerland which are unique natural and artificial creations. Some are located far away from big cities and highways. For example, the Matterhorn is Switzerland’s most famous mountain. Many tourists like taking pictures there. There is also the highest railway station in Europe located close to the summits of the Eiger, Jungfrau and M nch mountains (3,454 m). Others landmarks can be found in the heart of Swiss cities: for example, the historical center of Bern or the famous library of the Abbey of Saint Gall, which is one of the main Benedictine abbeys in Europe. Do not forget that the Grand Tour also includes The Rhine Falls near Zurich, the Lavaux vineyards set high above Lake Geneva, Chateau de Chillon located near Montreux, and many more.
GRAND TRAIN TOUR
The Swiss would not be the Swiss if they did not provide an alternative way to discover all these wonders and travel the Grand Tour route in comfort and with minimum effort. For those who do not have a driver’s license or don’t feel like driving on the (excellent) Swiss roads, there is a special Grand Train Tour. We are talking about a colorful journey through Switzerland by train, as offered by the Swiss Travel System. All you have to do is get off the luxury train and visit one of the many points of interest along the route. Some people are satisfied with less: they enjoy the view from the panoramic train windows going through places inaccessible by road. You can take unique pictures and make up an entire album of wonderful photos on this journey. The windows, by the way, are easy to open, and your shot won’t be ruined by spots and random sun glares.
MEMO TO DRIVERS
In Switzerland there are practically no motels near the road, unlike Austria or Germany, where it is possible to drive along any given road and find a place to stay. So, plan your overnight stops in advance.
There are not so many gas stations along the high-ways far from the cities, so it is advisable to keep the gas tank at least half full at all times. This is especially important when it comes to mountain passes, since fuel consumption increases markedly there.
The cost of gas on the highway is higher than in small towns and villages, but big gas stations are also a place to buy food and useful household/travel items.
In Switzerland there are no toll roads, but you need a special sticker, which costs 40 francs and can be purchase at virtually any gas station and post office, to drive across the country.
On weekdays, all bypass roads and many highways to such major cities as Geneva, Zurich, Lucerne, Bern, and Basel, if not completely jammed, will be moving very slowly from about 4 pm to 7 pm. Keep this in mind!
Parking spaces in Switzerland, as a rule, are paid. To avoid confusion, do not neglect to use parking meters in big cities, and even in resorts. Pay attention to signs: parking spaces are often free of charge from 7 pm to 7 am.