Overlooked by the Alps, crescent-shaped Lake Geneva is shared between France and Switzerland, and the towns and cities that reside on the lake’s shores are influenced by each country’s culture and cuisine. From your base in the majestic alpine village of Villars-sur-Ollon, discover the region’s gems on this superb itinerary - gems that fall under many guises, yet all are highlights. Visit a museum dedicated to Charlie Chaplin; take a boat cruise on the lake itself to the fairytale fortress of Chillon Castle; taste many culinary delights including local family-made wines, cheeses (including the famous Gruyère), charcuterie and Maison Cailler chocolate; take a cable car to the summit station Glacier 3000 to see if you’re brave enough to walk on a suspension bridge that connects two mountain peaks; and visit the fascinating 15th century salt mines of Bex. All this, while you marvel at the scenery of the Swiss Riviera from Lausanne to Montreux, lakes, mountains, dairy farms, alpine pastureland, and the spectacular Regional Park Gruyère Pays-d’Enhaut.
7 nights in hotel (accommodation as specified or similar)
Fly from London Heathrow Airport on a direct, scheduled British Airways flight to Geneva Airport. On arrival we transfer to Villars-sur-Ollon and our base for the next seven nights, the Eurotel Victoria (3T+), where dinner is included this evening.
Day 2 Villars-sur-Ollon
Following breakfast, a knowledgeable guide takes us on a morning tour around the beautiful village of Villars-sur-Ollon, with a breathtaking setting in the middle of the Vaud Alps and overlooking the majestic Rhône Valley. The rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the hotel’s facilities or take advantage of your Free Access Card which allows the use of a number of alpine means of transport - including gondolas, trains and buses; travel between the Villars, Gryon and Les-Diablerets resorts; entrance to sports facilities including a swimming pool, ice rink and mini-golf course, and a number of activities including tennis and archery.
Day 3 Swiss Riviera
Our full-day excursion to the Swiss Riviera begins with a visit to Chaplin’s World, located on the estate of Manoir de Ban - the former home of Charlie Chaplin. There will be time to explore at leisure the impressive museum which exhibits Chaplin’s past in filmmaking and acting including relics of the giant machinery and props he used. We continue to Vevey for a boat cruise on magical Lake Geneva to Chillon Castle, a medieval fortress located on the shores of the lake near Montreux that once belonged to the Counts of Savoy. We admire the fairytale castle’s exterior, before continuing to Montreux - a traditional resort town wedged between tumbling hills and the picturesque lakeside - for some free time. A family-run winery is next, in the scenic, wine-growing village of Chexbres. A tasting of the local wines is included, along with some delicious cheese and cold meats. We return to our hotel later this afternoon.
Day 4 Villars-sur-Ollon
Today is at leisure, or you may choose to join an exciting optional excursion to two of Lake Geneva’s larger resorts - the beautiful resort town of Montreux, or the city of Lausanne, with a medieval old town and 12th century Gothic cathedral.
Day 5 Gruyères
Today is about food - cheese and chocolate. We journey to the picturesque, medieval town of Gruyères and our scenic journey takes us through the awe-inspiring Regional Park Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut of Alpine dairy farms and pastures, wide valley basins, rock faces and forests. At La Maison de Gruyère we arrive in time for a demonstration of their cheese-making process - a feast for all the senses, as we hear the cow bells ringing, smell the fragrance of Alpine hay and taste the mild, ripe or even fresh cheese - 29,000 tonnes of which are made each year. On to Gruyères town for some time at leisure; many of the buildings are medieval and a number of interesting museums exist too, including the Tibet Museum and HR Giger Museum. We’ll complete our perfect day of gastronomy with a visit to the fascinating chocolate factory of Maison Cailler, with an audio-visual tour explaining the history and production of Cailler chocolate followed by a tasting of the delicious end product.
Day 6 Villars-sur-Ollon
Spend the day relaxing at leisure or join an optional excursion by coach and train to Zermatt, an enticing mountain town located below the towering, pyramid-shaped Matterhorn peak. From here, journey on the iconic, open-air cog railway to the summit of the Gornergrat, where glorious panoramic views of the Alps’ highest peaks can be seen - some climbing to over 4000m high.
Day 7 Glacier 3000 - Bex
After breakfast, we depart for the impressive Swiss Alps mountain pass of Col du Pillon. From here we take a scenic aerial cableway to the summit station Glacier 3000, situated high in the Alps with a panorama of 24 snow-capped 4,000-metre giants, including Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Matterhorn, Grand Combin and even Mont Blanc can be seen in the distance. There are many activities on offer here and there will be free time to explore - those more daring, can cross the Pak Wall by Tissot - the world’s only suspension bridge connecting two soaring mountain peaks. We return by cable car for our coach journey to Bex and visit the spectacular salt mines, still mining deposits that were found in the 15th century. There is an interesting museum here, on the history of salt mining.
Day 8 Villars-sur-Ollon - Geneva - London
Today we transfer to Geneva Airport for a direct, scheduled British Airways flight to London Heathrow.