Idyllic pastures, iconic mountain peaks, scenic chalets, quaint villages blanketed with snow, hand-crafted cheeses, bespoke chocolates, and some of the prettiest drives in the world – a road trip in Switzerland is one of those things you must experience once in a lifetime.
When to go on a road trip in Switzerland
Skiers hit Switzerland during winter months but summer (June-September) is the most popular time to go on a road trip in Switzerland. While Switzerland is stunning during summer, it can also get crowded and expensive. A great time to visit is the shoulder season of November-December. The summer hordes have left the country and the skiers are yet to come. Snow-laden panoramas are everywhere to be found and you will feel like you’ve walked into a picture postcard every step of the day.
Renting a car for your road trip in Switzerland
We suggest flying into Geneva and renting a car there for your road trip in Switzerland.Quite expectedly, roads are in great shape in Switzerland, so you needn’t opt for a 4X4 in summer. But if you are planning your road trip during winter months, try to choose a 4X4, equipped with snow tyres and heated seats. As always we suggest comparing prices of car rentals on Economy Bookings and opting for the most cost-effective provider through them.
Budgeting for your road trip in Switzerland
Let’s face it – Switzerland is an expensive country! In fact I’ve even ranted about just how expensive it is in our article on 5 Travel Annoyances. So it is almost impossible to plan a road trip in Switzerland on a budget. If you’re on a budget, we suggest opting for a Road Trip in Bavaria or a Road Trip in Slovenia (stunning routes both!). If not, then start charting out your itinerary for a Swiss road trip. Expect to spend at least €250 per day per couple – this cost includes car rental, mid-range accommodation, grocery shopping, occasional meals at restaurants, and entry fees to some sites.
Itinerary for your road trip in Switzerland
We suggest setting aside at least 10 days for the road trip. The itinerary you will roughly follow for this road trip is as follows: Geneva -Montreux – Vevey – Bern – Adelboden – Zermatt – Gruyeres – Lausanne – Geneva – Zurich and Mt. Titlis (optional)
Day-by-day breakdown and tips for your road trip in Switzerland
Days 1 & 2 – Land in Geneva and explore Geneva
Geneva is a convenient starting point for your road trip but other than that, it doesn’t have too much to offer. It’s both tough and expensive to find parking in the middle of the bustling city, so we suggest renting an apartment or chalet on Air B&B at the outskirts of Geneva. You can use this link to get $35 off your first booking on Air BnB if you’d like.
Spend Day #2 exploring Geneva but don’t take your car to the centre. Just park it at a convenient parking lot and take the tram into the city. The tram is convenient and stops at most prominent sites in Geneva. Take your time in Geneva to explore the UN Building, walk along the lake, or shop at the dozens of shops lining the centre. If you enjoy speciality coffee, then definitely try out one (or all) of these coffee shops for a perfectly brewed cup of coffee – Coutume, Birdie, and Boréal.
Day 3 – Drive to Montreaux and Yvoire
While Lake Geneva seems distinctly underwhelming from Geneva’s centre, it acquires a personality of its own when viewed from Montreaux. The town of Montreaux offers a stunning view of the lake against the famed Chillon Castle. This spot is ideal for some photographs.
While a number of tourists drive to Montreaux for a view of Lake Geneva, literally nobody knows about a romantic French village not far from Geneva or Montreaux. Yvoire is a locals’ secret and we got to it after a chance conversation with a friend who lives in Geneva but we just HAD to share it with you. The car-free village will take you back in time. It offers gorgeous views of Lake Geneva. But that’s not all. The fishing village has so much character, all its own. We’d recommend lingering in Yvoire over a meal.
Day 4 – Drive to Adelboden via Bern
The drive from Geneva to the little village of Adelboden takes approximately 3 hours. But we would suggest leaving Geneva early and spending a chunk of Day 4 in the capital city of Bern. Take a walking tour and explore the historical Old Town. It will leave you mesmerised. Make sure you visit The Gurten, which offers an incredible view over the city of Bern or Rosengarten for a panorama of the Old City of Bern.
Drive onto Adelboden and check into your hotel. Adelboden is a little skiing village that wasn’t particularly on the tourist radar till quite recently. The quaint village can get quite busy during ski season but other than that, it’s usually quiet. We would recommend staying here instead of touristy places like Interlaken in the vicinity. Adelboden makes for the perfect romantic getaway during the last weeks of November when it’s covered with a blanket of snow but the skiing crowd hasn’t yet descended on the village.
There is truly no better place to stay here than The Cambrian Adelboden. The sumptuous boutique hotel is easily one of the most scenic properties we’ve ever stayed at! Scenic and spacious suites offer 180 degree views of the surrounding valleys and villages and an unobstructed view of snow-laden mountains. The lounge overlooks the village nestled amidst Swiss peaks. Breakfast is tasty and plentiful – expect an expansive variety of cheese. The wellness area of the hotel truly stand out – expect amenities such as a heated outdoor pool surrounded by mountains on all sides and a thoroughly relaxing sauna area.
Days 5 and 6 – Enjoy Adelboden and Interlaken
It is easy to spend days walking around the village of Adelboden doing nothing but relishing the sights and sounds of Swiss village life. But you MUST take your car out for a drive of two. There is no shortage of things to do in the Adelboden area. Here are some that we would recommend – pick and choose ones that suit your preferences best
- Blausee is a little lake ringed by trees and mountains. Not many tourists make it here but it’s definitely worth the visit. The lake’s stark blue water, combined with snow-laden trees during winter months, makes for a panorama like no other.
- Engstlige Falls make for a scenic outing. It isn’t the most spectacular waterall you would’ve seen but it offers some great hiking and picnicking oppportunities
- Interlaken and Lake Thun are ideal if you want to witness green Swiss pastures . They remain green till December even when the skiing villages are snowed under. Drive to this area for a change in scenery. Combine the visit to Interlaken with a day trip to Grindelwald. It’s stunning!!
- Take the train to Jungfaujoch also known as the Top of Europe. There is no denying that the view from here is spectacular. However we are not big fans of the experience as it can get really crowded with tour groups at the top.
- In fact if you have an extra day and are keen to see a new country, you could even drive down to the tiny country of Liechtenstein and make a day trip out of it
- Go for an Alpine hike – there are so many gorgeous hikes for both amateur and experienced hikers. Choose a trail that suits you and work that fondue off!
- If hiking doesn’t interest you, go for an aimless drive instead. This area will leave you hypnotised, irrespective of the direction you choose.
Days 7 & 8 Drive to Zermatt and explore surrounding villages
This drive from Adelboden to Zermatt takes just 2.5 hours. Make sure you pack a picnic because there are dozens of picnic spots along the way. The actual village of Zermatt is both expensive and car-free. That’s why we suggest booking a traditional Swiss chalet, that offers free parking, in a scenic spot outside of Zermatt. You can find plenty of options on Air BnB. You can use my link to get $35 off your first booking on Air BnB if you’d like.
Once you’re all settled in your chalet, take the next 2 days to explore the villages dotting the area. Zermatt should definitely be the first village you explore. It is home to the iconic Matterhorn and some of the prettiest skiing slopes in the world. Its sylvan surroundings are bound to cast a bit of a spell on you. Check out these photos to see what we were greeted with upon reaching Zermatt.
Once you have had your fill of Zermatt, we’d recommend driving further afield to villages such as Grachen, which is home to a stunning alpine lake and the supremely scenic Simplon Dorf, home to the Simplon Pass that connects Italy and Switzerland. When it’s time to eat, head to the busier town of Brig. The Old Town of Brig is ideal for a post lunch gander. If you want to do something truly unique, you could also stick around in the area for an additional night and sleep on a bed on ice in a rare igloo hotel near Zermatt.
Day 9 – Explore Gruyeres and surrounding villages
We highly recommend spending an entire day exploring the utterly charming village of Gruyeres and the surrounding countryside. Where else in the world would ALL conversations revolve around cheese and chocolate. Take a stroll in the village of Gruyeres, sample traditional Swiss fondue for lunch, and visit a chocolate factory in the area. Visitors have access to unlimited samples of chocolates in most factories in the area – free chocolate is always a good thing right?! 😊
Read everything you need to know about visiting Gruyeres on a day trip here (opens in new tab)
Day 10: Drive to Geneva via Lausanne
At this stage, you could go directly to Geneva and catch your flight from there. But if you have an extra day at hand, we’d recommend spending it in Lausanne. The bustling city offers a unique mix of history, culture, marketplaces, and restaurants. Spend some time exploring the Old City and the lakefront district Ouchy. If you like your wine, then don’t leave without stopping at the supremely scenic Lavaux vineyards, overlooking Lake Geneva.
Day 11 – Fly out/Drive to Zurich
It’s time wrap up your roadtrip and catch the flight back home. If you 2-3 extra days, you could combine this itinerary with a drive to Zurich and Mt. Titlis. Watch this video for some ideas about things to do when you are in Zurich
That’s it – everything you need to plan an epic road trip in Switzerland. Hope you have an incredible time driving in the country and don’t forget to read all our articles about Switzerland 🙂