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Switzerland in a day: A Scenic road trip through nature's treasures

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Embark on an unforgettable one-day adventure through the stunning landscapes of Switzerland! Skip the bustling cities and dive into the serene beauty of the Swiss Alps, mountain lakes, and glaciers. From charming villages to breathtaking viewpoints, this itinerary promises a day filled with awe-inspiring sights. Buckle up for an epic road trip, and let nature guide you. Get ready to discover Switzerland like never before!

If you only have one day in Switzerland, consider spending it in nature. Head out to experience the natural beauty, as the Swiss Alps, mountain lakes, and glaciers are the true treasures. At the end of the day visit Lucerne - and you will have it all in one day!

Upon landing in Zurich Flughafen (airport), the sole international airport in this small country, you'll need a car to cover all the sights. While Switzerland boasts fantastic public transportation, having a car gives you the freedom and flexibility to make the most of your time. So, rent a vehicle and hit the road early, as the drive alone will take approximately 6 hours (covering a distance of 390km).

The plan for one day trip around Switzerland:

One day in Switzerland - road trip map

Zurich airport - start

Just grab a car. We will skip the Old Town and the city... and... we will not do any shopping here. Maybe except some food and snacks in Migros (level below car rentals ;-)).

The Lake Luzerne - from Weggis and Vitznau to Flüelen

Our suggested itinerary commences in Weggis, offering breathtaking views of Lake Lucerne and the Pilatus mountain. If you're fortunate, you might catch sight of a paddle steamer docking at Weggis' main pier - capturing a photo of this Victorian steamboat against a mountainous backdrop is a truly unique opportunity.

From Weggis, follow the winding road that passes through Vitznau, Gersau, and Brunnen - the Vitznau area provides the most spectacular views. Next on your journey is a curvy road above the lake - Axenstrasse, offering splendid vistas of the Urner Alps set against the azure waters.

Be sure to make a stop at Tells Platte, renowned as one of the best photo spots along this route.

Old road above Lake Luzern

Road trip through the Swiss Alps - the Susten Pass

As you leave Lake Lucerne behind, it's time to ascend and put your engine to work - your destination is the Susten Pass, a mountain road that reaches its highest point at 2,224m. Here, you'll be able to admire glaciers and lakes. A handy tip: when driving towards the Gotthard Tunnel, consider exiting at Amsteg (one exit earlier, before Wassen) to avoid potential traffic congestion.

After descending from the pass, take a detour to Steingletscher - a gravel road (requiring a 5 CHF toll paid in cash) leading to a glacier valley.

The Susten Pass
The Susten Pass - one of the places to visit during one day trip

The Susten Pass

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To the land of Swiss fairytales

In Inertkirchen, turn right towards Meiringen - a town renowned for its association with Sherlock Holmes and delectable meringues. While the town itself may not be particularly spectacular, the surrounding valley is. Depending on your schedule and available time, you might opt for a short walk into Aareschlucht, a stunning gorge carved by glacier waters thousands of years ago.

The subsequent stop is Iseltwald, a quaint village on the southern shore of Lake Brienzersee. You're likely familiar with the iconic photo of a small palace reflected in the lake's turquoise waters - there's really nothing more to add; it's simply perfect.

Iseltwald - a stop on the road trip


The Lauterbrunnen Valley and the white peaks of the Swiss Alps

Interlaken is often touted as a must-see destination in guidebooks, but take my word for it - steer clear. Instead, head to the Lauterbrunnen valley, arguably one of the most idyllic places on Earth. I recommend parking in the large but admittedly unattractive car park at the beginning of the village. From here, catch a train to Wengen. For a little insider advice - choose a seat on the right side!

Wengen is a charming village perched on the steep slope of the Manlichen. A brief stroll around the center, encompassing the church and back, is sure to leave you grinning with delight.

While many tourists head to Kleine Scheidegg from Wengen - and yes, it's a nice spot - it's most worth visiting if you plan to explore the Jungfraujoch. For a day trip, this might be a bit much. Instead, I recommend taking a cable car to the Männlichen (be sure to purchase a round-trip ticket). From there, embark on a short walk to one of the finest vantage points in the Bernese Oberland.

Standing on this crown-shaped perch, you'll be treated to views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau peaks, surrounded by glaciers. Additionally, you'll have a panoramic view of the entire Lauterbrunnen Valley and the town of Grindelwald. In the background, you can even catch a glimpse of Shynige Platte and part of Lake Thun.

From Wengen, I suggest embarking on a leisurely walk down to Lauterbrunnen - it's an easy and brief 3km journey that takes approximately 1 hour. The trail leads through meadows and forest, giving you a few beautiful views on the valley. This way, you'll stretch your legs before the return drive.

Way back - Brienz and Lungern

On your way back, take the northern route to Brienz for lighter traffic and superior views. A possible detour here is Giessbach Waterfall - but remember, you will need an additional 90 minutes to stop for this attraction!

Once you've crossed the Brunig Pass, don't miss the opportunity to take in the Chälrütirank viewpoint overlooking Lake Lungern - it's the last photo-worthy spot on your return journey.

If you still have time, consider a stop in Lucerne, where you can enjoy a stroll around the old town. I recommend parking in Altstadt instead of the large lot next to the central train station to avoid heavy traffic.

Lunger view point

The old town of Luzerne

Take a leisurely walk across the town and discover its lovely magic. The Chapel Bridge, Lion Monument, and Old Town are the essence of Lucerne's history. The Bridge, adorned with vivid paintings, leads to the Lion Monument, a powerful tribute to fallen Swiss Guards. In the Old Town, cobbled streets wind through medieval buildings, housing shops and cafes. This blend of elegance and heritage offers a vivid glimpse into Lucerne's past, making them essential stops for any visitor.

And now, it's time to head back.

I hope your trip wasn't too packed with activities! ;-)

Check all the best photo locations during your trip, and spare time on planning.

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