Returned to Luzern for the last 2 days before leaving Switzerland. We stayed in a Junior Suite of a 5-star hotel overlooking Lake Luzern.
Did not plan any specific day visits as our last stay was 16 months ago including a day trip to Mt. Pilatus. Besides, it was gloomy and misty for those 2 days when not even Mt. Pilatus could be seen. We strolled around after checking into the hotel.
view from balcony
Junior Suite that we stayed for 2 nights
boulevard below on lakefront
On the next day, took free city bus (using Transport Card) to Seeburg, which is about 20 min from our hotel along the lake rim. It was tranquil and serene.
Returned to Luzern bus station for a change, dropped by KKL Luzern again while waiting for the next bus to Horw.
Hofkirche and the hotel that we stayed
Strolled around small town Horw – views of the other side of the lake along the way were beautiful. Had lunch in an Italian restaurant – it was quite full with locals, some were from offices looking at their attires.
Returned to old town after lunch.
Chapel bridge in the distance
Hofkirche at night
~~~~~~~~ END OF TRIP ~~~~~~~~
Visited this Roman fortress town as another easy half day trip – just 30 min away served by frequent trains from Lugano (free rides provided by the travel card).
The town is famous for its 3 castles built/expanded by the dukes of Milan during the Middle Ages. All of those have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage sites. We visited 2 of those closest to the old town.
Easily accessible from the train station in less than 10 min on foot. It was the oldest and probably the largest of all three castles. With a lift ride we ascended onto the castle sitting on a high plateau, featuring two towers – the White and Black Towers.
Castelgrande viewed from Piazza del Sol
White and Black Towers (r to l)
vineyards within the castle
wall from Roman times
Castello di Montebello
This castle from the 13th century is located on the opposite side of the valley. To approach it, we had to climb plenty of stairs via narrow alleys from the old town. It was a residential palace. Great views of Castelgrande and old town below, the Castello di Sasso Corbaro further uphill.
via narrow alleys
Castello di Sasso Corbaro – further uphill
Castelgrande – downhill
old town – downhill
Castello di Montebello viewed from Castelgrande
Returned to old town for lunch. Strolled around the piazzas before heading back to Lugano for the only ferry ride in this entire trip.
Piazza Collegiata in old town
Chiesa Collegiata dei SS Pietro e Stefano
sculptures on streets
Visited Locarno as a day trip while weather forecast predicted it being the last sunny day (while in Lugano).
Ponte dei Salti
Took commuter train to Locarno with 1 change in about 1 hour. Change a local bus heading into the Valle Verzasca in northern Locarno – all these rides were covered by the transport card issued in Lugano !
Bus was quite full and it started to meander uphill along narrow roads. Passed by a large dam and an artificial lake behind it. Took about 30 min to reach Lavertezzo where river Verzasca was spanned by Ponte dei Salti, a medieval double-arched bridge. It is famous for people taking dives from it into emerald river water beneath, though there are plenty of signs warning about slippery rocks and rapid/hidden currents in the river. Rocks along the riverbed was sculpted into different shapes.
fall foliage higher up
Strolled around bumped into a church and a small rapid nearby before taking bus back to Locarno.
Santuario della Madonna del Sasso
Once back in Locarno, took a funicular uphill to this pilgrimage church, which overlooks the town. The church was built in 16th century to mark the spot where Madonna appeared to a Franciscan monk.
After returning to town, had a coffee break and strolled along the lake rim of Lago Maggiore and the Piazza Grande before calling it a day in Locarno.
views of Locarno from the Santuario
coffee break in Locarno
Arrived at Lugano via Zurich in 4.5 hours, due to delay of incoming train from Milano to Zurich in over 20 min. Had I known that the last leg was served by Trenitalia, I would have bought 1st class tickets (as in my previous travels in Italy). The seats in the 2nd class were cramped – worsened by a poor design of a fixed metallic dustbin behind each row of seats which further reduced leg room.
Anyway, picked up our pre-forwarded luggage from Lugano station and headed to hotel by taxi. Checked into hotel after 2pm, relaxed a bit in our spacious room and enjoyed the lake views from room balcony on a warm afternoon (over 20C).
views from balcony
Monte Bre viewed from hotel pool
Headed up to Mont Bre around 4pm. The funicular station was close to our hotel – in about 10 min on foot. The funicular was split into 2 sections. Anyone can take the lower section to an upper road w/o any ticket. The ticket counter for the funicular to mt top was on the upper road. Took about 15 min to arrive at the top – the climb was steep at some sections.
Arrived at the top station around 5pm. Had some nice views of Lake Lugano and Monte San Salvatore in the south. Took the next funicular downhill and dropped off at the next upper station. Followed a path to an observation point where views were unblocked.
Monte San Salvatore surging in Lake Lugano
our hotel right underneath
Lugano town from Mont Bre
path in evening sun
distant mt ranges in silhouette
It’s already dark when we arrived back in the hotel. Went for the 1st dinner in Lugano old town by city bus (free using transport card again) in about 15 min.
Booked an Italian restaurant with many good reviews. Food was as delicious as in Italy and professional service.
seafood pasta * 2
Took the only ferry ride in Lake Lugano to Gandria – the only ride funded from our pockets in Lugano. It took about 1 hour stopping at Paradiso on the western lake rim before heading back towards Gandria, stopping at a few small piers along the way on the opposite side of the lake.
Monte San Salvatore on ferry
town beneath Mont Bre
a small town clinging to the steep hillside above the lake and is close to the Italian border – probably in less than 5 km by road. Had a coffee break and headed back to hotel in less than 20 min by bus.
mountains on the Italian side
Lake Como on the other side of Lake Lugano
It rained heavily on the following day.
We visited Morcote on the subsequent day when rain had somewhat subsided. Took train + bus in about 1 hour. It was quiet on Sunday – hardly any shops were open. Had a delicious Italian lunch in a seemingly historical restaurant.
rainy clouds clearing up
quaint small town of Morcote
After lunch we went for exercise again – head uphill to a small church of Santa Maria del Sasso, in typical Italian style but under renovation. Afterwards, we took bus back to Lugano.
heading uphill again via hundreds of stairs
small church under renovation
quaint town on Sunday
On the next day, we left Lugano after 5 days and returned to Luzern.
The weather had forecast a rainy day and so we headed to nearby Thun by bus (free) using the transport card. But first we strolled along the lake front in Spiez once more before the rain.
Schloss Spiez and yachts in the bay
brown goats feeding
Rain started to dump while we were on the bus. Took about 30 min to reach Thun and by then rain turned into drizzles. Strolled around the town again but did not visit the Schoss Thun which we visited before. Had lunch in a Thai restaurant with good reviews – it was delicious and nice to have a break. Grabbed some groceries and returned back to Spiez.
Rathaus – town hall
Schloss Thun towering over town
Did not visit anywhere while rain was getting even heavier from late afternoon. On next morning Niesen @2200m was capped with snow. Left Spiez with fond memories and headed to Ticino in the far south via Zurich.
Niesen capped in snow
Spiez in morning glow
Visited Jungfraujoch – top of Europe in June 2018 when Jungfrau was covered in clouds. Thus, in this trip I had planned a day trip on a clear day hopefully (out of 4 days based in Spiez). Gladly, our humble wishes were realized ultimately.
Arrived at Kleine Scheidegg @2000m after 2 changes – at Interlaken Ost and Lauterbrunnen via Wengen before 11am. Hiked up to a small pond Fallbodonsee @2100m on a cloudless day in about 20 min.
Wow, the snowy Eiger-Monch-Jungfrau (around 4000m) was towering in front of us in glaring sun. It was another calm day so we had some shots of perfect reflections of the giants 🙂
Eiger-Monch with approaching Jungfraubahn
Jungfrau, Silberhorn and reflection
Jungfrau and Silberhorn
distant Wetterhorn and reflections
After lingering for about 30 min we returned to the station and walked up to an observatory on the other side. Dropped by a heart-shaped turquoise pond (again!) and caught sight of some fall foliage covering the mountain slopes 🙂
Wetterhorn in the distance
Jungfraubahn heading uphill
Had lunch in Kleine Scheidegg as we did 16 months earlier. Descended to Wengen @1200m by train and waved goodbye to the giants in perfect weather. Strolled around the mountain town and not many shops were open – maybe in low season. Spotted some para-gliders in the air taking advantage of that calm day with fall foliage, snowy mountains as backdrop.
Kleine Scheidegg station
approaching Wengen downhill
lodge in Wengen
paraglider with Silberhorn as backdrop
En route to Lauterbrunnen descending
Breithorn in the distance
Murren on the opposite side of U-shaped valley
fall foliage on hillside
Staubbachfall from above
Before arriving at Interlaken with more fall foliage
fall foliage in Interlaken
Returned to Spiez on a very crowded train, with lots of passengers standing on a normal day. We were very grateful for the almost perfect weather in the last 2 days in the Bernese Alps.
Took bus and arrived at Blausee (downhill en route to Frutigen) in less than 30 min. Entrance ticket fee on weekend is double that on normal days @CHF10. The small lake was less than 5 min behind the entrance. There were many more people around another turquoise lake on that Sunday afternoon.
We walked around the small lake and left after less than an hour to take next bus to Frutigen station, from where we returned to Spiez by train.
Had another nice Italian dinner (2 nights in a row) close to the lake rim of Thunersee, about 15 min on foot downhill from our apartment.
We had a wonderful day visiting two turquoise lakes surrounded by tall mountains on a fine day. Rested early to be ready for yet another day in the Bernese Alps.
Visited Oeschinensee and Blausee as a day trip from Spiez – one of the highlights in this trip.
Took a fairly crowded train to Kandersteg in 20 min but it turned out to be about 45 min. Due to unknown reasons (announcements were made in Swiss-German) the train stopped at Spiez station for about 15 min. From Kandersteg station, we walked towards the cable car station in about 20 min when it was still overcast.
Rothorn, Bluemlisalphorn, Oeschinenhorn
Though it was on a Sunday, we lined up for a while at 10+ am to board the cable car, which took us up to nearly 1700m in around 10 min. Outside the top station, we were surrounded by plenty of summits in blue sky. In higher spirits, we followed an easy trail heading slowly downhill to Oeschinensee in 20 min.
Though Oeschinensee is a lake at nearly 1600m, it is a gem surrounded by summits (Rothorn, Bluemlisalphorn, Oeschinenhorn, Frundenhorn) of well over 3200m. The lake was almost transparent and turquoise on a calm and sunny day. We walked along the lake rim before having lunch in one of the two lodges along the lake rim. Well, we did not expect food to be delicious @1600m but it was one of those few lunches with such a scenery that surely we would treasure for many years to come. Service was also friendly despite on a fairly busy Sunday.
some fall foliage
On the way back to Kandersteg station after 1pm, there were still many people heading towards the lake. We were eager to catch the next bus to Blausee which only serves roughly once per hour.
Rothorn, Bluemlisalphorn, Oeschinenhorn, Frundenhorn
Mt Bire in blue sky
outside Kandersteg station
Arrived at Spiez by the Golden Pass Line from Montreux in about 3 hours with 1 transfer at Zweisimmen. As it was on a Saturday, the train was full with plenty of passengers standing. Luckily we were on board 15 min before departure and had secured seats.
After departing from Montreux @395m, the train had to ascend and descend multiple times – reaching the highest point @1274m before descending into the Bernese Alps.
Views along the train ride
ascending from Montreux
changing trains at Zweissimmen
Spiez is a small town on the southern lake rim of Thunersee. We stopped at this station briefly in June 2018 while transferring trains to Zermatt and Luzern. This time we based here for 4 nights to visit the Bernese Alps.
We checked into an apartment annexed to a hotel. The concierge was nice to offer a free pick-up service from the Spiez station. Again, we were allowed to checkin early and were given two transport cards in the Thunersee area. The apartment was spacious with views of Mt Niesen.
apartment that we stayed
Niesen in the distance
vineyards + Niesen
After lunch we strolled downhill to Schloss Spiez and along the lake rim.