Total tour distance: 580 miles
Daily tour distance: 70 miles
Difficulty: 80 / 100
We follow the Swiss Alpine Panorama Route across gorges and many mountain passes. We’re looking for strong road cyclists who look forward to the climbs and the gorgeous views at the end of each.
Although not an extreme tour, you will be doing riding anywhere from 60 to 100 kilometers a day.
You have some challenging passes to climb in this 580 km ride with over and 8000 meters in just 8 days. The route goes through Chatel (France) -> Gruyère -> Thun -> Fluhli -> Beckenried -> Weesen -> Appenzell-> Arbon
Day 1: Geneva
If you’re flying into Geneva, then simply take the first train from the airport to the main station. Our hotel and shop are right next door !
Day 2: Geneva -> Chatel
We'll begin our trip across Switzerland with a boat ride to France. We'll arrive in the medieval lakeside city of Yvoire and from there bike 25 kilometers to Thonon before beginning our gradual climb into the Chablais region. We'll keep climbing until we reach Chatel, a popular ski village near the peak of our climb.
Day 3: Chatel -> Gruyère
We'll wake up in the French alps and make a long descent to Switzerland and the canton of Valais.
We'll have a long stretch of flat cycling before beginning a long 12-kilometer climb out of the valley. You’ll notice the vistas, air and odors change as you make your way above the vineyards, into the forests and then out onto high mountain plains. Take one more magnificent look at Lake Geneva before turning into the “Hongrin valley”.
Lake Hongrin - This quiet road as been a trade route for over 2000 years.
Not so long ago, dairy farmers from nearby Gruyère would take these same paths to Lake Geneva carrying a 35-kg wheel of cheese.
We’ll stop at Lake Hongrin for lunch. It’s eerily quiet up here. You may see other cyclists, a few shepards or the occasional Swiss soldier on patrol.
Gruyère countryside Dark forest roads and creeks cut through rock eventually bringing you to the Montbovon, the first in a string of villages dedicated to dairy farming and the manufacturing of Gruyère cheese.
You’ll see the medieval village of Gruyère and in the distance and continue to have great views from the comfort of your hotel room.
Tonight’s dinner ? Fondue, of course.
Day 4: Gruyère -> Thun
The grass is wet, the cows are out and so is the sun. We’ll start slowly and quietly by veering off route #4 and onto Regional Route #59 to keep things pastoral.
This first stretch of road is relatively flat and will take you past the dairy farms that have made the region and its cheese legendary.
The silhouette of Fribourg will eventually appear in the distance as we get back on our Alpine Route. We’ll then bike through the deep cut ravines of the “Sensegraben” and then into the Gantrisch nature park for our picnic lunch.
Turn your ear and hear the sing-song calls to the cows in Schwyzerdütsch and see the cabbages growing: you’ve passed into the Swiss-german side of Switzerland.
We’ll be doing gentle climbs the rest of the day until we see the city of Thun. It’s castle and lake shine in the distance and we’ll coast down to our 4-star hotel situated directly on the lake.
Day 5: Thun -> Fluhli
Today being a shorter day, you’ll have some time to enjoy your sumptous breakfast and then have a stroll along the lakefront or the quiet medieval streets of thun.
Late in the morning, we’ll begin our climb out of Thun on the “Col de Schallenberg” to gain around 650 meters. You’re now in the region of Emmental.
During the last ice age, this region was one of the few uncovered areas of Switzerland and the water erosion of the period has formed an intricate system of hills and valleys.
You’ll see hilltop fields with flowered chalets, foggy forests in the clouds and rows of hills stretching one after the other like an army of turtles.
Of course, you know the cheese: Emmental. This is the mild hard cheese with all the holes, the variety we all know as “Swiss cheese”. Although you’ve probably tasted pale imitations at your local deli, it’s here that you’ll see small local “Kaserei” producing massive wheels of the “real deal”. Let’s make sure to stop and buy a slab.
After lunch we’ll be passing into a “biosphere reserve” recognized by UNESCO. The designation confirms what you might suspect, that you’re in a region whose cultural and natural landscape has changed little over the centuries. The locals voted to become a reserve over ten years ago, and in doing so have made a commitment to promoting their own regional products, cultivating the natural resources (grass, wood, and landscape) and developing ecotourism.
We’ll be staying in the village of Fluhli, in the heart of the biosphere. Our hotel, the Kurhaus, has a long and celebrated history. Many famous guests have made their way to this isolated hotel to enjoy the healing waters above the village. It’s been a short day, so you’ll time to walk up the “Schwandalp” path yourself and enjoy the views and the refreshing springs up on top.
Day 6: Fluhli -> Beckenried
A bit of a break from climbing today, but not until we get over the Glaubenbuelen pass. After this morning’s breakfast, we’ve got another steep 600 meters or so and then it’s all down hill. But let’s not be in a hurry. Our descent is going to give you some incredible views of Lake Sarnen and beyond. Once down the mountain, we’ll spend most of the day on flat lake roads. We’ll stop in Sarnen for lunch and then make our way as a group to the town of Stans.
Once in Stans, we’re only 10 kilometers from our overnight in Beckenried.
For those of you who would like to continue riding, we’ll be going 25 kilometers further afield to the resort town of Engleberg before taking the train back to Stans.
Otherwise, get to Beckenried and enjoy your luxury hotel right on the lake. You’ve got a beach with a nice bar right outside. Or, take the gondola up from Beckenried to Klewenalp for some amazing views of Lake Luzern. The lift is right next to the hotel and leaves every 20 minutes.
Meet back at the hotel for drinks on the beach at 7 O’clock. We’ll likely have had some different adventures that we’ll want to share.
Supper is on the terrasse overlooking Lake Lucerne.
Day 7: Beckenried -> Weesen
This morning we’ll board the ferry with our bikes for a 1/2-hour ride across the lake to Gersau to continue on Alpine Route #4.
We’ll be following a flat lakeside road with some traffic and tunnels to the town of Altdorf, the capital of Canton Uri.
For the Swiss, there is no legend more powerful than the story of William Tell and Altdorf is where the story takes place.
Stretch your legs to dmire the bronze statue of William Tell in the city center, but then fill your bottles. It’s time to tackle the Klausen Pass.
You’ll be climbing for approximately 1600 meters in 20 kilometers. You’ll have hairpin turns, 100 meter-high water falls and snowcapped mountains to admire.
The route also takes you right along the Urner Boden Alp, Switzerland’s largest and possibly most beautiful Alp with over 1200 head of grazing cows.
We’ll have lunch at the summit, admire the views, put on another layer and then enjoy 20 kilometers of coasting to reach the long open valley below.
We’ve now got an beautiful stretch of flat road all the way to our lakeside hotel in Weesen.
Day 8: Weesen -> Appenzell
Get up early to watch the sun burn the fog of the lake. We'll then cycle north on a long flat stretch before reaching the climbs that bring us to the Appenzell region.
This is perhaps how you’ve imagined Switzerland: neat little houses perched on manicured alps, men cutting grass with scythes, blooming flowers decorating tidy villages. Ask about how the fields and farmhouses are kept so immaculate and even the Swiss will conceed that the Appenzellers are a tad obsessive. Nevermind: it’s a cyclists paradise and so we’ve decided to take some extra time to explore.
We’ll make our way through Appenzell’s most beautiful valleys with the Santis mountain always in the foreground. It’s an Appenzell icon and we’ll skirt the base of before heading off to the pasture lands
Our overnight is in the center of the small city of Appenzell itself. This is a very popular destination for tour groups, but we'll be pulling in late afternoon after the buses have left and have the streets, shops and beer gardens to ourselves.
Day 9: Appenzell -> Arbon
The Appenzell farmers have been up for hours ! Time to rise and shine. Let's make the most of our last day of riding.
We will head northeast for lots of gentle climbing and coasting: Appenzell is a natural roller-coaster. Our last climb of the trip will take us up to the village of Heiden where we’ll stop for ice cream and get our first look at the sprawling Lake Constance.
From there we’ll turn westward to the medieval city of St. Gallen. You’ll have time to park your bikes and take a stroll: visit the cathedral, window-shop and perhaps even take time to see the city's famous abbey library and its illuminated manuscripts.
Our overnight is just down the hill. We’ll coast into Arbon, turn over our bikes to the train station attendants and then celebrate our trip’s end with drinks on the lakefront !
Day 10: Arbon -> Berne -> Geneva
Say goodbye to your trusty 27-speed steed; after a late breakfast it’s all-aboard ! We’ll interrupt our five-hour train trip back to Geneva with a stop-over in the Swiss capital of Berne.
You’ll be on your own for lunch, sightseeing and shopping.
Your last evening in Switzerland will be spent back where it all started: on the shores of lake Geneva. If the weather is good, we’ll catch the last of the long summer rays with a tall drink and good food at the lakefront.
Day 11: Departure
Your last morning. Enjoy breakfast and the spectacular views from the top of the Hotel Cornavin.
The price will vary depending on whether you are signing up for the guided or self-guided tour.
The independent self-guided tour includes:
• Orientation and bicycle fitting at shop
• Fully equipped new 2016 touring bicycles
• All accommodation in 3 and 4 star hotels
• All breakfasts
• Return train to Geneva
• Return of bicycle to Geneva
• GPS navigation, maps
• Luggage transfers
The guided tour includes:
• Experienced local guides
• Premium lodging (3 and 4 star hotels)
• A 2016 touring bicycle with bags, bottles, lock, tools, etc.
• Personal bike fitting at shop
• Support van for luggage or weary cyclists
• All meals except for one lunch and one dinner
• Cocktail nights
• GPS navigation on all bikes & our own maps.
• Special events (wine tasting, farm breakfasts, bonfire night, etc.)
• Return train travel back to Geneva with stop-over in Berne