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19 August 2017Last updated
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Switzerland by train, bus and boat

When in the land of chocolates and cuckoo clocks, why not travel like the locals do? From biking along stunning scenic routes, to hiking up picture-perfect alps, Melany Demetillo-Reyes explores the home of some of the world’s most spectacular natural beauty

By Melany Demetillo-Reyes
26 Jan 2016 | 01:55 pm
  • Source:Supplied

Davos

A couple of hours’ train journey from Zurich airport is Davos, nestled in the Swiss Alps, It’s a historic town that used to be popular as a destination, particularly for those in poor health, due to its excellent microclimate and breathtaking views of glacial valleys, mountains and waterfalls. A good starting point is the Nutli Hüschi museum, which dates back to 1565 and gives an overview of life as it was in the region hundreds of years ago. Next, grab a cable car up to Hotel Schatzalp, a luxury sanitarium that’s been converted into a beautifully vintage mountain hotel. Then, after a must-do long walk through the stunning countryside, eat a well-earned meal at the wonderfully rustic restaurant in hotel Walserhuus Sertig, where you’ll find reasonably priced Swiss specialities using regional ingredients, as well as panoramic views.

Where to stay

Grischa Hotel Davos is particularly geared up for cyclists, offering a free laundry service for biking clothes and personal trail recommendations. Dh480-Dh850 per night; www.hotelgrischa.ch; 0041 81 414 97 97

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Zermatt

A scenic seven-hour journey through untouched mountains, deep gorges and dramatic bridges on the romantically named Glacier Express train gets you to Zermatt, a picturesque valley in the shadow of multiple mountains, including the famous Matterhorn (which you’re bound to recognise from the pictures on Toblerone chocolate packaging!). This car-free town has only battery-operated taxis and horse-and-carriages on the road, so pedestrians are free to wander the streets and enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread while admiring the traditional Alpine architecture, or to snap up souvenirs from one of the many local craft shops.

Ramp up the adventure factor with a gondola ride 3,883 metres up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the highest mountain railway station in Europe, where you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the Italian, French and Swiss alps from the viewing platform. Just 15 meters below the surface, sparkling ice crystals and ice tunnels promise to enchant visitors in the Glacier Palace. On your trip back down, don’t miss the chance to visit the Matterhorn Museum next to the village church, where you can enter the world of old Zermatt.

Where to stay

Hotel Alex This uniquely designed hotel combines the modern and traditional. A lovely balcony view is one of its highlights. Perfectly situated to take advantage of the area’s activity options, the hotel is conveniently near the train station too.
Around Dh2,445 for a one-night stay; www.hotelalexzermatt.com; 0041 27 966 70 70

The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

Flexi-travel at its best! This unique travel experience can be booked at any time throughout the year and you can start your trip from any point. There is also no prescribed travel direction or duration. And best of all, the entire tour can be done with a single all-in-one ticket – the Swiss travel pass. If you’re a culture vulture, plan your trip to make the most of the country’s 480 free-entry museums.

Travel Pass details The four-day pass costs around Dh930, while the eight-day option will set you back around Dh1,345. All you need is to do is reserve your seat in advance: www.swisstravelsystem.com/en

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Lucerne

Lucerne is one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist attractions. Century-old sights such as the wooden Chapel Bridge and historic Old Town serve as a thrilling contrast to the contemporary city. Wander through the streets, over bridges and into the famous and touching Lion Monument. It was designed as a memorial for the mercenary soldiers from central Switzerland who lost their lives while serving the French King Louis XVI during the French Revolution.

To immerse yourself fully in the Swiss experience, don’t miss having a traditional meal at Stadkeller – a Swiss folklore restaurant. Here you can enjoy traditional folklore performances in a unique atmosphere. Expect a night filled with yodelling and energetic entertainment that could well be one of the highlights of your travels.

Lucerne’s souvenir shops can be crowded, but are worth visiting for the wide range of keepsakes.

Where to stay

Palace Lucerne On the bank of Lake Lucerne, this hotel’s bright, elegantly decorated rooms and suites come with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and city or lake views. Suites boast airy living areas and access to a club lounge with a rooftop terrace. Around Dh1,420 for a room with a view; www.palace-luzern.ch

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Montreux

Home of the famed jazz festival and to lovers of music, you’ll even find a statue of Queen’s late lead singer Freddie Mercury in Montreux, which lies on the north east shore of Lake Geneva. Stroll along the lake promenade and discover interesting modern sculptures. Next explore Vevey, the old town of Montreux and, if you book in advance, you can stop at the famous watch shop, Lionel Meylan, for a short watchmaking workshop. Then enjoy a boat ride from La Suisse to Chillon Castle, the most visited monument in Switzerland. Numerous artists and writers have been inspired by the medieval fortress. Guided by an audio tour, explore the banquet halls, dungeons and traditional rooms.

Where to stay

Eurotel Situated in the heart of Montreux, the hotel enjoys a stunning view of Lake Geneva and the alps. Don’t miss lunch at Le Safran – it’s a great place for celebrity spotting too. Around Dh662-1,366 per night; www.eurotel-montreux.ch/en/

Need to know

Flights from Dubai to Zurich with Swiss Airlines start from around Dh2,200, or Dh12,300 for business class. Zurich has one of the best-connected airports in the world, and when you land you can just follow the signs to the train station. Always be aware of the schedule as the trains leave exactly on time! It’s best to preplan your itinerary to get the most out of your trip – we suggest downloading the My Switzerland app to help you do this.

By Melany Demetillo-Reyes

By Melany Demetillo-Reyes