This was the best holiday we have ever had and we hope to do it again in a couple of years time.
R & J Whittle, Gourmet Italy
We leave Australia today for an exploration of the great mountains of Europe. In our minds, we replay the stories of arduous climbs from times past.
We base ourselves for three nights in the Bayerischer Hof Hotel. Built in 1841, it was and still is, the residence of choice for Munich’s discerning visitors. Its most famous guests include Sigmund Freud and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
We stroll through Munich on a guided walk that recounts the city’s history. After a light lunch, the afternoon is set aside for the delights of Nymphenburg Palace, the summer residence of the Prince-Electors of Bavaria. Dinner is at a more down-to-earth, but equally important institution, the traditional German brewery. We have handpicked one of the best.
This morning, we take a train to Salzburg. We cross the border into Austria and spend the day discovering Salzburg’s streets and squares and pay homage to its most famous resident, Mozart. As with many medieval towns, a fortress watches over the city. While Hohensalzburg Castle is forbidding and austere from the outside, the Golden Chamber within it is richly ornamented. This evening, we dine at some of Munich’s top restaurants.
We leave Munich today for Innsbruck, visiting Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein Castles in between. Oberammergau is renowned for a truly unusual practice - the whole town stages a passion play once every decade. The first was staged in 1634 in thanks for having been spared by the bubonic plague. Many fairytale castles have been modelled on the Neuschwanstein one. The inspiration for its design, on the other hand, was the operas of Wagner, based on old German myths. We enjoy lunch in its stately grounds.
After, we continue on to Innsbruck and check in to the Grand Hotel Europa, our residence for three nights.
Our discovery of the Tyrol region begins with the Zillertalbahn, or Zillertal Railway, an old steam train that has been in service since 1902. We take this quaint mode of transport today through a scenic valley to the town of Mayrhofen, a popular skiing town at the foot of the Hintertux glacier. Lunch today is with a view of the ski slopes above us. This evening, we return to Innsbruck for dinner.
We cross into Italy for a day to learn about the Dolomites, or Southern Alps, beginning with a cable car ride from the middle of Bolzano/Bozen up to Soprabolzano/Oberbozen. From Soprabolzano, we board the Renon/Ritten Railway to Collalbo/Klobenstein in the heart of the Renon/Ritten Plateau. Scattered across the plateau are 17 picturesque villages, from which breathtaking Alpine views dominate. The region is split between Italian and German speakers, therefore, every town has two names. We descend to Bolzano, where we tour the city, then travel back to Innsbruck for dinner.
St Moritz is the birthplace of the Swiss Alpine holiday. We sample its offerings and lounge in the luxury of the Kulm Hotel, which has played host to well-heeled vacationers for 160 years. After a light lunch, we set out to inspect the town’s streets and its eponymous lake. We return to the lush comforts of our hotel for dinner.
Today, we head over the mountains from St. Moritz to Tirano in Italy via the Bernina Express, emphatically one of life’s great short train journeys. It is the highest railway in the region - glaciers and crystal clear lakes make up the scenery along the way. In between those sights, we traverse steep valleys on vertiginous bridges. Lunch is in the quiet town of Tirano, as always, with views of the Alps in the background. This evening, we discuss our adventures over dinner back in St Moritz.
Today we board another great train journey, the Glacier Express, from St Moritz to Zermatt. Lunch is served on board the train and we arrive in Zermatt at 4pm. We check in to our home for two nights, the Chalet Hotel Schönegg, where each of us is guaranteed a room with Matterhorn views.
Once a small farming town, Zermatt started developing at a frenetic pace after the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. We tour the streets on foot this morning then make a day trip to Gornergrat, at an altitude of 3,809 metres. Its location high on a ridge affords us vast views of the Monte Rosa massif, the Gorner Glacier, more than 20 other mountains over 4,000 metres and the Matterhorn itself.
This morning, we leave for Chamonix in France. The town is home to Mont Blanc, the tallest of all Alpine mountains. On the border, we stop to stamp our passports - a small keepsake of our journey. The Grand Hôtel des Alpes welcomes us for two nights.
The Mer de Glace, or Sea of Ice, on the northern slopes of Mont Blanc, is the longest and largest glacier in France. Today, we board the Montenvers funicular, which climbs an impossibly steep track to a lookout above the glacier. We stop for lunch at the Grand Hotel du Montenvers, a classic refuge for mountaineers and travellers since 1880. From its terrace, we look across to the peaks of Les Drus and Les Grandes Jorasses.
Our journey takes us to the clear waters of Lake Geneva this morning. We travel by coach from Chamonix to Geneva. After a walking tour of the city and lunch by the lake, we board a ferry to Lausanne. At Lausanne, we switch boats to a historic Belle Époque paddle steamer for the leg to Montreux. Once there, we check in to the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace Hotel for two nights.
The epicures in our group rejoice today. We take a trip on the one-of-its-kind Chocolate Train to Gruyères, a town famous for the cheese named after it, and also for the chocolate made there. At La Maison du Gruyère, learn how the cheese is made, then taste some on the spot. We then head to Maison Cailler, Switzerland’s very first chocolate brand, which you can take home with you. We return to Montreux for dinner.
Another iconic train journey awaits us this morning. The panoramic GoldenPass Express takes us from Montreux to Interlaken, winding through mountain sides carpeted in pine trees and grassy meadows. From Interlaken, gazing down the Lauterbrunnen Valley, the peak of Jungfrau glows snowy white between the darker slopes of the valley walls. The coolly elegant Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa invites us in for three nights.
Today, we make the quintessential Alpine train journey to the peak of Jungfrau. At 3,454 metres above sea level, it is the highest railway station in Europe. On one side, we have a view of the Swiss plateau as far as the Vosges mountains in France. On the other side, the largest glacier in Europe, the Aletsch.
A cruise on the pure waters of Lake Brienz starts our day. With the breeze on our faces, we pass pretty fishing villages, old castles on lush hillsides and many facets of the ever-present mountains. Later on, a historic steam train takes us to the peak of Mt Rothorn. From the top, Lake Brienz is a turquoise puddle set in a deep valley. We return to Interlaken where we dine at an idyllic Alpine farm run by a local family.
We are reunited with the GoldenPass Express today for our journey to Lucerne. On the way, the train hugs the shores of Lake Brienz, Lake Sarnen and Wichelsee. The city is set stunningly on the lake that shares its name. We explore the city’s charms on foot, then check in to the luxurious Palace Hotel Luzern on the waterfront. Every one of us is guaranteed a lakeview room.
This morning, we visit our final peak, that of the Rigi massif. From the viewing platform, admire Lake Zug, Lake Lucerne and the rustic country below you. Or look north across the plains into Germany. We end the trip with another paddle steamer ride back to Lucerne.
We leave for Zurich today, squeezing in a short walking tour before driving to the airport to catch our flight home. The plane lands on the 6th of July and we part with great memories of our Alpine expedition.
Sometimes travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the fascinating places you are in. That’s why everything mundane has been moved behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map, luggage, small change for tips or bargain for a taxi fare.
There are no hidden costs. Everything is included – flights and other travel arrangements, luxurious accommodation, travel insurance, all dining and drinks, and sightseeing trips. Even the Your World experiences within your itinerary and internet access when available.
Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.
Fares are based on a standard room. Fares include Emirates flights from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Prices from other cities available on request. Per Person Twin Share
Solo availability at the above price is limited.
Land Only Guests join the tour in Munich for dinner on Day 2 and depart Lucerne after breakfast on Day 21.