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When tourists first started coming to the Alps in the 1700 and 1800’s, their travels, known as “The Grand Tour”, were always first class and included stops in Europe’s most well-known destinations. We’ve recreated that experience here with visits to three of the most classic alpine destinations. In Grand Tour style, you’ll stay in absolute comfort in distinctive, luxurious hotels, including the stunning 5-star Kronenhof – some of the best accommodations each area has to offer – and travel by 1st class rail along the Glacier Express and other memorable train journeys. World-class hotels, scenic train rides, and interesting villages also make this tour a great choice for non-hiking spouses and friends who would prefer to spend time relaxing while others hike.
Our tour starts in Mürren, a gorgeous car-free village perched dramatically atop a cliff overlooking the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains in the heart of the Bernese Oberland. We spend 3 nights here, and then transfer to Zermatt, a hiker’s paradise, nestled beneath the incomparable Matterhorn at the fabulous 5-star Riffelalp Resort. After two nights in the shadow of the Matterhorn, we board the famous Glacier Express train on a scenic cross-country journey to Pontresina, the serene jewel of the St. Moritz lakes region, near the border with Austria and Italy. Our home here is the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, recently named the “Best Hotel in the World” by Tripadvisor. All three areas contain numerous unforgettable hikes and vistas that make this tour grand in every sense!
A typical day starts with a continental buffet breakfast at your hotel – a bounty of delicious fresh baked bread and croissants, local meats and cheeses, cereal, fruit, coffee and juice – which gives us the energy needed for the day ahead. Soon we’ll be out on the trail, where you’ll get to choose between an easier or more strenuous hike for the day. Each morning, you’ll be handed a lunch to carry, and at a mid-point along the way we’ll choose a beautiful spot to stop and enjoy our picnic. We get a lot of compliments on our imaginative lunches – making them something to look forward to as well!
We should finish our hike around 4 pm, giving you time to wash up, relax at the hotel, visit the pool and spa, or perhaps do a bit of shopping in town. All of our hotels on this tour have great views and gorgeous pool and spa areas, so we’ll look forward to having time each day to enjoy those. Later, we’ll enjoy dinner together at our hotel or another local restaurant. These are true gourmet, multi-course feasts, sometimes centered on local specialties, prepared by some of the finest chefs in the Alps. Our hotels all serve fabulous food, and our dinners will be exquisite, memorable affairs. We will leave one dinner in Murren free, so you will have a chance to explore on your own.
Mürren – The Grand Tour starts with arrival in Zürich and a train ride to Mürren, our home away from home in Switzerland. The trip takes about 4 hours.
Mürren is an idyllic, car-free village, perched atop a sheer 3000-foot cliff above the waterfall-filled Lauterbrunnen valley (picture Yosemite with a Swiss village on top), and we will stay at the elegant and scenic 4-star Hotel Eiger.
Mürren – One of our favorite hikes starts in town, and gently meanders up the hills to the pastoral setting at Spielboden. Here we cross the Schiltbach stream, and start a steep and invigorating ascent to the local peak of Bryndli.
We’ll take our lunch enjoying bird’s-eye views of Mürren and the Lauterbrunnen valley, perhaps with a soaring golden eagle for company. From here the trail levels off, and becomes a relaxing stroll through flowery meadows to a quiet alpine hut at Bogangen. The trail back leads over a small ridge for more great views, before dropping back down to Mürren.
Mürren – The Upper Lauterbrunnen valley curls back beneath the white-capped Breithorn – considered by many to be the most perfect mountain in the region.
It’s also a nature preserve, and contains many wonderful hiking trails. One of our favorites takes us to the small farm at Obersteinberg, where the proprietors keep cows and make cheese by the same simple methods that have been used for centuries. This part of the valley also contains some of the area’s prettiest waterfalls. This evening is left free to explore on your own.
Zermatt – We’ll take the train in the morning to Zermatt. Once in Zermatt, you’ll have time to check out the village, take a short walk, or visit the Matterhorn Museum.
Then we’ll take a the Gornergrat cogwheel train above town to check into our fabulous 5-star hotel, the newly renovated Riffelalp Resort. Perched just above treeline on the Gorner ridge, the Riffelalp is a quiet and welcoming oasis in the mountains.
Zermatt – Taking quiet trails through scenic meadows, we will hike from Riffelalp up to the wide ridge of Gornergrat, past marmots and small glacial lakes, to what has to be one of the finest viewpoints in Europe.
The jumbled mass of the Gorner glacier stretches out before us, and behind that, Monte Rosa, Lyskamm, the Breithorn, and the Matterhorn form a spectacular backdrop.
Pontresina – After breakfast, we’ll say good-bye to the Matterhorn and board the famous Glacier Express train for Pontresina, a mellow and pretty resort town on the eastern edge of Switzerland.
The hiking here is amazingly varied, and there are numerous hikes to choose from. Our home in Pontresina is the friendly and classy Hotel Kronenhof, with a great pool and spa and wonderful food. Enjoy a short walk through the village or relax at the pool and extensive hotel spa.
Pontresina – From Pontresina, one of our favorite hikes anywhere is the panoramic Muragl traverse above Pontresina. Ascending through a quiet back valley, we’ll hike up to the gorgeous views from Segantini hut.
Traversing from here, pass small alpine lakes on a scenic descent back to Pontresina. Boasting quiet wooded stretches, abundant wildlife, and surprising views of the giant Piz Bernina and the paternoster lakes of St. Moritz, this hike provides a wonderful farewell to the Engadine region. Return to the hotel for a final gourmet dinner.
depart – After breakfast at our hotel, say good-bye to the Engadine region and depart for your post-trip destinations.
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