Switzerland: Driving around Lake Geneva
When imagining Switzerland my mind has always pictured black and white Milka cows grazing in green pastures, set on rolling hills with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, and girls dressed in colourful dresses skipping about with plaits and collecting flowers. Ok, that one is a little ‘Sound of Music’, which is probably why I love Salzburg so damn much! But I was happy to find out that the first part was pretty much spot on.
Whilst visiting Geneva last weekend, my bestie Claire and I rented a car on Saturday, ready to explore the Swiss countryside. We caught a bus to Geneva airport to pick up our rental VW Golf (CHF 160 for the whole day, 9am-11pm) and set off towards Montreux, a city on the exact opposite end of the croissant-shaped Lake Geneva, about 100km’s away.
The fastest way to get to Montreux is to take the highway, which will get you there in just over an hour, however we had the whole day to explore so we took the scenic route along Lake Geneva.
The first thing that took me aback me was the amount of vineyards in this region. Have you ever heard of, or drank, Swiss wine before? I certainly hadn’t before this trip and after seeing so many beautiful vineyards, I was excited to try! I begged Claire to pull over so we could go exploring the vineyards and she assured me she’d take me to a nice one soon!
Mid-November can often be a real hit-or-miss time of year for any travel around Europe, but I was incredibly lucky that due to a longer summer, autumn was still clinging on in this beautiful part of Switzerland. The colours all around us were absolutely breathtaking!
The contrast between the bright yellows, oranges and reds of the Autumn leaves positioned against the thick grey fog that surrounded Lake Geneva made for some pretty incredible viewing (and photos). The lake looked so mysterious and romantic, not knowing where the water ended and the sky began.
We drove to higher ground, through a little village called Foren and broke through the lake’s fog to these incredible views. Exactly how I always pictured Switzerland to look! You can even see the huge blanket of fog lying below
After getting a bit edgy that we weren’t going to find a vineyard to stop at, Claire came through on her promise and as we drove into Via Lavaux, I was completely … arghhh! I still can’t find the words to describe what I saw or how I felt, it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, something I definitely didn’t expect when we set off on our adventure that morning. A village sitting on top of a very steep hill, leading down into the lake, with every single inch of space covered with vineyards. Rows upon rows of grapevines, all changing colours with the season, disappearing down the cliff and into the foggy lake.
My photos unfortunately do it no justice, I just couldn’t capture the beauty myself, so here’s a photo I found on the interwebs to give you a better idea!
Lavaux is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers over 2,000 acres on the southward-facing side of Lake Geneva. It envelopes around 14 well-preserved little villages. Created by monks in the 12th century, the vineyards of Lavaux are perfect to explore on foot or bike.
Once we finally managed to find a spot to park the car, we hopped down into one the vineyards and it was a total maze trying to make our way through the crops to the bottom. I’m not entirely sure if we were allowed to climb through the vineyards, but the gate wasn’t locked and I absolutely love going off-road and exploring, climbing and finding a way through a rogue path, so I couldn’t help myself! Claire, who isn’t so fond of heights, wasn’t too pleased but she did an amazing job of sucking it up and climbing down with me (and back up again too – thanks Claire!).
We then set off again towards Montreux, now only around 15km’s away. It was the opening weekend of the biggest Christmas markets in the region, beautifully set along the lake in Montreux. I was expecting some cute stalls and yummy food, but again Switzerland surprised me with the sheer size of the Christmas market!
There were over 150 decorated chalets, each selling completely different and unique things, as well some some delicious food and, my favourite, hot mulled wine.
Any jazz lovers may recognise Montreux as it’s also the home to the the second largest annual jazz festival in the world, held each year since 1967. Whilst I thought my trip to this region of Switzerland would be once-off thing to tick off my list, I’m now determined to return in the summer to not only explore the vineyards some more, but to attend the jazz festival and also make use of the incredible Lake Geneva. I’m told it’s the perfect place for paddle boarding and I imagine a day out on a boat, surrounded by the Swiss alps, would be such a fantastic way to spend a weekend!
For now though, it was time to drive back to Geneva, return the hire car and make our way back home (via the best Falafels in Geneva at Les Parfums de Beyrouth).
Have you ever been to Switzerland, or do you have plans to visit one day? What do you want to see most?