The 7 most scenic highway journeys in Switzerland

Switzerland would possibly look tiny on paper, however with most of its land devoured up by the Alps, this little European nation packs in a number of vertical.

Wherever you go, you’re in for one hell of a drive: roads unfurl alongside the shores of nice lakes and glaciers, mountain passes corkscrew as much as fairy-tale medieval castles, and on the excessive roads, each wonderful bend makes you wish to screech to a halt and yodel in delight.

Neatly wrapping all of it up is the massive one: the 1600km (994-mile) Grand Tour of Switzerland, an epic, effectively signposted lap of the nation that hyperlinks 12 Unesco World Heritage websites and exhibits off the Alpine nation from its most flattering angles.

Quick on time? Don’t fear – we’ve picked the 7 greatest highway journeys in Switzerland to provide you a head begin.

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Switzerland’s Furka Cross appeared in a James Bond film © gevision / Shutterstock

By the Furka Cross

Finest highway journey for glaciers and mountain peaks

Obergoms–Andermatt; 35km (22 miles)

The wows by no means go away your lips and the Alps by no means go away your rear-view mirror on this astonishingly steep, snaking, stop-the-car-and-grab-the-camera drive from the distant valley of the Goms in Valais to mountain-encrusted Andermatt in Uri.

Drive the Furka Cross west to east for full-on, hairpin-riddled drama and views of austere peaks and glaciers that can draw fixed gasps. Should you really feel like Bond behind the wheel, it’s no coincidence: this highway starred within the automotive chase scene within the 1964 film Goldfinger and brings out the 007 in everybody.

Swerving precariously round switchbacks, the highway tops out on the 2429m (7969ft) Furka Cross, the place you possibly can peer throughout the lunar rockscape of a wind-battered plateau and park to see the deeply crevassed Rhône Glacier and its ice grotto, earlier than the lengthy, sweeping descent to Andermatt.

Planning tip: The highway goes with the snow, opening roughly from June to October, however verify circumstances earlier than heading out.

A car travels on a mountain road winding its way through a snowy landscape en route to St Moritz, Switzerland
Examine the climate reviews for endeavor the scenic drive to St Moritz © Christopher Smith / Getty Photographs

Into the countryside between Appenzell and St Moritz

Finest highway journey for rural Switzerland

Appenzell–St Moritz; 200km (124 miles)

Switzerland’s rural, folksy coronary heart beats loudest within the Appenzell area, snuggling as much as Liechtenstein within the nation’s northeast. It’s a terrifically unsung area for a highway journey, with rolling dairy nation giving approach to lavishly frescoed cities. Every week? Doable. Two weeks? Now you’re speaking…

The route passes Säntis mountain (on the summit of which you’ll see six international locations), the seven wavy limestone peaks of the Churfirsten vary and the gorgeous medieval hamlet of Werdenberg earlier than crossing little-but-lovely Liechtenstein, with a necessary stop-off at its castle-topped capital, Vaduz. The mountains soar ever increased as you cruise south to vine-rimmed Maienfeld – setting of the beloved Swiss youngsters’s e book Heidi – and the gorge-spanning Salginatobel Bridge, a feat of engineering described as a murals.

Beautiful Engadine villages like Guarda and Zernez entice you into the nature-gone-wild Swiss Nationwide Park earlier than your drive south to St Moritz, the place sky-high mountains promise additional adventures.

Driving southern Switzerland’s peaks 

Finest highway journey for mountain surroundings

Lugano–Zermatt; 264km (164 miles)

The Alps are your fixed companion on this ravishing drive by the excessive mountains of southern Switzerland, which takes in each the Gotthard and Furka passes.

Enable no less than every week to do it justice and start on the route’s finish in lakeside Lugano, which shoulders as much as Italy and delivers a shot of dolce vita in its cafe-rimmed piazzas and palm-fringed parks. From right here, the highway cruises north to Locarno – one other looker with its botanical gardens and palazzo-filled Renaissance Outdated City – and Unesco World Heritage Bellinzona, with its trio of hilltop medieval fortresses.

The language switches from Italian to German as you energy north into the Alps correct and Airolo on the foot of the Gotthard Cross. This drive is just too good to hurry, so think about time for a break in Andermatt the place large wilderness, high-elevation hikes and sensational Alpine surroundings await.

Simply west of right here, the heart-quickening, hairpin bend-riddled Furka Cross leads you up and over into the glacier-encrusted mountains of Valais. The ultimate stretch of the journey encompasses Bettmeralp, the epic Aletsch Glacier and Brig, with its whimsical Stockalper Palace, constructing to a crescendo in Zermatt, the place the mighty fang of Matterhorn holds you in its thrall.

The Gotthard Pass weaves down a mountain in Switzerland, with many switchbacks
The Gotthard Cross spans the once-inaccessible St-Gotthard Massif © Westend61 / Getty Photographs

Gotthard Cross

Finest highway journey for gorges and canyons

Andermatt–Airolo; 26.5km (16.5 miles)

Certain, you possibly can take the tunnel (one of many world’s longest) by the St-Gotthard Massif, however the place’s the enjoyable in that?

If it’s Alpine highs you’re after, the outdated highway over the 2108m (6196ft) Gotthard Cross enthralls. Buckle up, roll down the window and put together for a feast of untamed, lonely and bleakly lovely mountain surroundings on this serpentine highway linking the Italian-speaking Swiss area of Ticino to the German-speaking area of Uri. If the curvy highway appears a problem at the moment, simply consider the poor souls that when made the arduous journey on foot and with pack animals.

In a former customs home on the prime of the go, the Museo Nazionale San Gottardo provides perception into the historical past and tradition of the go, nevertheless it’s the heart-quickening views you’ll bear in mind most.

Even the Romans shied away from the Gotthard, and it wasn’t till the Satan’s Bridge was constructed within the 1300s that the go turned correctly accessible. The bridge straddles the Schöllenen Gorge, the place partitions of sheer granite plunge to the raging Reuss River far beneath. On the south aspect of the Gotthard Cross, the cobblestone Tremola is a tour de pressure of 37 switchbacks that ship you pinballing right down to Airolo.

Planning tip: The highway is climate dependent – it is often open from June to October.

Julier Cross

Finest highway journey for getting off the overwhelmed observe

Chur–St Moritz; 157km (98 miles)

Surroundings like this could include a drumroll. Unfurling by the otherworldly grey, jagged, moraine-streaked Alps of Graubünden, the 2284m (7494ft) Julier Cross is the icing on the cake of the beautiful, lengthy, winding drive that connects the Alpine metropolis of Chur to St Moritz within the Engadine Valley.

Little-trafficked and thrillingly wild, the go has been used since Roman occasions, and stays of a Roman temple are nonetheless seen. The highway dives deep into the center of the Albula Alps, ticking off pristine mountain landscapes like Parc Ela, Switzerland’s greatest nature park, the place you may be tempted to briefly swap the open highway for a mountaineering path or two. 

Unspooling like a ribbon, the Julier Cross often tops polls of Switzerland’s most lovely drives and for good motive: its distant, far-away-from-everywhere really feel provides to its enchantment tenfold.

Planning tip: Whereas the drive is technically open year-round, take care with snow and ice. You’ll want winter tires and snow chains within the chilly months.

A bridge crosses a section of Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Take within the views of Lake Geneva on this highway journey round western Switzerland © GlobalVision Communication / Getty Photographs

Western Switzerland drive

Finest highway journey for lakes and forests

Geneva–Neuchâtel; 190km (118 miles)

The Alps get a number of love, however sidling as much as France in Switzerland’s not-so-wild west, the deliciously off-the-radar Jura area has its personal quiet, surprising magnificence, with lakes and vineyards rolling to châteaux and pine forest-cloaked hills. 

Start with a strong hit of tradition in worldly Geneva, reclining gracefully on the shores of its croissant-shaped lake. From right here, the route tiptoes off the overwhelmed observe north into the Jura Vaudois Nature Park for hikes with lake views and tastings of Gruyère cheese at rural Alpine huts.

Commit no less than a few days to the second half of the drive, as you cruise north to serene Lac de Joux, with its watchmaking heritage, and Vallorbe, the place Switzerland’s most astounding limestone caves reveal a wonderland of subterranean rivers, waterfalls and rock formations.

Close to Lac de Neuchâtel, you’ll discover the lushly rolling Val-de-Travers, birthplace of the “inexperienced fairy” (absinthe) and the good crescent-moon canyon of Creux du Van. The drive ends with a metaphorical bang at Neuchâtel, topped off by a turreted fantasy of a medieval citadel.

A bridge spans the Aare River in Bern, Switzerland
Absorb city and rural charms on the drive from Zurich to Bern © L. Toshio Kishiyama / Getty Photographs

Roadtripping Switzerland’s cities

Finest highway journey for nature amongst city Switzerland

Zürich–Bern; 315km (196 miles)

Bookended by Switzerland’s de facto capital and the nation’s largest metropolis (generally mistaken for the capital), this sensationally assorted highway journey leaps joyously from the city to the outside, winging you from culture-crammed cities to nice abbeys, medieval castles, lakes and mountains of fable.

Bidding Zürich’s big-hitting museums and funky waterfront bars a reluctant adieu, the drive swings south alongside the shores of Lake Zürich, with tantalizing views of the Alps on cloudless days. Cease off at ludicrously fairly cities, comparable to vine-ribbed, castle-topped Rapperswil, earlier than heading south to Einsiedeln and its whopping Benedictine abbey.

Lucerne hits the cultural candy spot, with its perfect-looking Outdated City and galleries. Detour to fjord-like, exquisitely turquoise Lake Uri for a style of the nation’s geographical and non secular heartland. Squeeze in dairy excursions and meadow strolls in mellow Emmental as you ease your method southwest to Bern, metropolis of Einstein, elegant arcades and wild swims within the Aare River.

Planning tip: Intention for no less than every week behind the wheel – ideally extra.