Go from lakes to mountains and back again with this nine-day itinerary. Wander the shores of Lake Garda, take a cable car up to the top of Monte Baldo, ride some of the most famous Swiss train routes, and more as you enjoy the views, history, and more along the way.


  • Tour the lakeside hamlet of Malcesine
  • Ride the panoramic Bernina Express
  • Explore the luxury villas of Lake Como
  • Enjoy the mountain scenery of Interlaken

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Lake Garda Gargnano
Day 2 Tour of Malcesine, Cable Car to Monte Baldo Gargnano
Day 3 Bernina Express Train Journey Across the Alps St. Moritz
Day 4 Transfer from St. Moritz to Lake Como Tremezzina
Day 5 Day Trip to Bellagio & Varenna from Tremezzina Tremezzina
Day 6 Gotthard Panoramic Train, Guided Tour of Luzern Luzern
Day 7 Transfer to Interlaken, Day Trip to Thun Interlaken
Day 8 Transfer to Zürich, City Tour Zürich
Day 9 Goodbye Switzerland!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Lake Garda

Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda

Arrive at Milan Malpensa Airport, then drive to Lake Garda—a beautiful two-hour journey through Northern Italy's Lakes Region. Arrive in Gargnano, then check in to your lakeshore accommodation and spend a few hours unpacking and relaxing after your travels. 

Lake Garda is large, and its northern villages of Bardolino, Riva, Malcesine, Gardone, and Limone are smaller and have a more romantic mountain feeling. The southern towns of Sirmione and Desenzano are somewhat bigger, with a vibrant nightlife, trendy bars and restaurants, and plentiful accommodation options.

In the afternoon head to the town of Sirmione, which sits on a narrow peninsula on the south end of the lake. The town is known for its famous healing waters and its many historical sites, including the striking 13th-century Rocca Scaligera. The fortress is one of Italy's best-preserved medieval castles and features a restored stone harbor. 

Sirmione is also famous for its ancient Roman villa, the Catullo Grottoes, which dates back to the 1st century BCE. The villa is situated on the northernmost tip of Sirmione's peninsula and commands unparalleled views of the lake. Today, visitors can tour the grounds and ruins of the grand villa to see how ancient Rome's rich and powerful citizens built their homes. 

In the evening, stroll through Sirmione's narrow alleyways, then head to one of the town's many restaurants for a dinner featuring fresh-caught fish from the lake. After dinner, you'll take a ferry ride back to Gargnano.

Day 2: Tour of Malcesine, Cable Car to Monte Baldo

The Scaliger Castle in Sirmione
The Scaliger Castle in Sirmione

After breakfast, board a private boat to Malcesine, a small hamlet nestled between the lake and the nearby mountains. The town encircles the striking Scaliger Castle with an old town center of steep cobbled streets that spreads out from the lakeshore. Family-owned shops, medieval buildings, narrow alleys, and hidden pockets of nature give the small town an old-world feeling. 

Stroll through the village and visit the castle to learn about local history. After your tour of the town, ascend to the top of nearby Mount Baldo to see the surrounding area from an elevation of 5,774 feet (1,760 m). You'll reach the summit on a rotating cable-car, with 360-degree views of the landscape that are an absolute highlight. Take in the views of the lake, hillsides, and distant mountains as you sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Once at the top go for a short and easy stroll to take in the views and breathe the fresh mountain air. When you're ready for lunch pop into one of the many mountain huts or restaurants next to the mountaintop station. Enjoy a delicious typical Northern Italian meal with Lake Garda and the Dolomite Mountains forming a stunning backdrop behind you.

Day 3: Bernina Express Train Journey Across the Alps

Rhaetian Railway along the Albula Pass
Rhaetian Railway along the Albula Pass

Start your morning with a drive to Tirano, which sits on the border with Switzerland. Here you'll board the Bernina Express for a panoramic train journey across the Alps. This train line connects Europe from north to south, including a section that passes through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Rhaetian Railway as the landscapes shift from glaciers to palm trees. 

One of the route's most iconic sections is the traverse across the 213-foot (65 m) Landwasser Viaduct, the Rhaetian Railway's signature structure. Altogether the train passes through 55 tunnels and rolls over 196 bridges on its way from Tirano to Chur

Enjoy the incredible 2-hour route through alpine landscapes as you travel to the town of Pontresina. From here transfer to St. Moritz and check in to your hotel, then end your night with a typical Swiss dinner at one of the town's many local restaurants.

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Day 4: Transfer from St. Moritz to Lake Como

Village of Tremezzina
Village of Tremezzina

After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to Lake Como. Before heading to your luxury accommodation above the lake, stop at a winery for a tasting and lunch. The winery is family-owned, with a strong focus on preserving the region's heritage of winemaking. Thanks to the family's commitment to history, a visit to the winery is an authentic cultural experience. 

After a stop at the winery, check in to your hotel in the village of Tremezzina. The town may be small, but it boasts a variety of historical and cultural attractions, including the background scenes for several of the Star Wars films.

Spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring the shops and cafes along the lake. In the evening, head to an upscale restaurant for dinner and drinks. Stay after dinner to enjoy cocktails and a buzzing social atmosphere that continues late into the night, à la Jay Gatsby's lavish dinner parties. If you prefer something a bit more high-energy, pay a visit to Lenno's nightclubs and bars.

Day 5: Day Trip to Bellagio & Varenna from Tremezzina

Spring morning on Comacina Island
Spring morning on Comacina Island

Spend the day exploring the lake aboard an iconic Riva boat, made popular by countless movie stars and famous figures throughout the last several decades. The unmatched craftsmanship of these boats, together with their refined beauty on the water, makes these crafts some of the world's most recognizable and elite forms of recreational transportation. 

You'll go on a private 2-hour tour of Lake Como to see some of the lake's beautiful summer villas, including Villa D’Este and Villa Oleandra (George Clooney’s Villa). Enjoy stunning views of Comacina Island, the Roman bridge of Nesso, cascading waterfalls, and the majestic Alps in the background while sipping on a refreshing glass of sparkling Italian Prosecco. 

Stop in Bellagio, "The Pearl of Lake Como," located between the two southernmost branches of the lake. Bellagio is renowned for its beautiful villas and scenic shoreline. Meet a local guide, then stroll through the village to see grand buildings and picture-perfect cobblestone lanes lined with cafes and shops. 

Enjoy lunch at a quiet cafe in town, then head back to your Riva boat to reach Varenna—a typical Northern Italian village on the eastern shore of Lake Como. The village is divided into a grid of streets that slope steeply down towards the lake. Go for a walk among the colorful houses that brighten the village streets and visit Villa Monastero, one of the area's most iconic villas. The sprawling property features impeccable landscaping and a terraced Botanic Garden. Spend a peaceful afternoon in the fragrant gardens and enjoying the shaded benches and pavilions. 

Afterward, return to  Tremezzina and enjoy a free evening.

Day 6: Gotthard Panoramic Train, Guided Tour of Luzern

Gotthard Panoramic Train
Gotthard Panoramic Train

In the morning, transfer to Lugano to board the Gotthard Panorama Train to Flüelen. This 2.5-hour trip travels through some of Switzerland's most beautiful regions.

Enjoy a luxurious trip in first-class, with full panoramic views of the surrounding area thanks to the windows that completely surround the train compartment. Admire the Mediterranean landscape of Ticino, travel along the historic Gotthard route, and enjoy the views as the train passes through a series of tunnels and over bridges. Photography lovers will enjoy getting the perfect panoramic shots of the surrounding landscape from the specially designed photography coach.

Once you reach Flüelen, board a steamboat to cross Lake Luzerne and enjoy the views of the quiet bays and notable local sites as you cross the lake. You'll pass the Rütli Meadow where Switzerland was founded in 1291, as well as the Schiller Stone and Tell’s Chapel.

Arrive in Luzern, a city in the spectacular heart of Switzerland. Join a local guide as you tour the city's sunny plazas, candy-colored homes, and peaceful lakefront promenades. Continue the tour in the well-preserved medieval Old Town to see its ancient rampart walls and towers, 15th-century buildings with painted facades, and Luzern's best-known landmark: the Chapel Bridge. Built in 1332, it's the world's oldest covered wooden bridge. The bridge leads to another well-known historic site, the octagonal Water Tower. Despite the name, the tower does not hold water and has instead been used throughout history as a treasury, a prison, and an archive.

Your evening in Luzern is free to explore. The city is a food lover's paradise, with a combination of stylish new restaurants and well-loved old-world taverns on every street corner. 

Day 7: Transfer to Interlaken, Day Trip to Thun

Lake Thun
Lake Thun

In the morning transfer to Interlaken, a quiet city famous for its mountain scenery. Interlaken sits in the Bernese Oberland on an alluvial plain between the glacier-fed Thun and Brienz Lakes. The town is surrounded by the snowcapped mountain peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, and is the gateway to Switzerland's fabled Jungfrau region. 

Make your way to Thun, a charming city at the lower end of Lake Thun. The city has a young spirit with lively crowds that hang out at riverside cafes and unique boutiques. Meet with your local guide and visit the medieval town to see old-world squares and 15th- and 16th-century homes. 

Stroll to the nearby 300-year-old Untere Schleusenbrücke, a covered wooden bridge that is covered in pink and purple flowers in summer. Take in the views of the turreted 900-year-old Schloss Thun Castle, which sits on a nearby hilltop and once belonged to Duke Berchtold V of the powerful Zähringen family. 

At the end of the tour, enjoy a leisurely guided bicycle ride along Lake Thun. Marvel at the ever-changing views of the surrounding mountains and enjoy the cool breeze that blows from the deep blue waters of the glacial lake. 

Return to Interlaken and enjoy a free evening in town. Take advantage of being in a culinary capital and enjoy haute cuisine at one of Interlaken's many restaurants. If you want a night out, the city's many bars and clubs provide a vibrant nightlife experience.

Day 8: Transfer to Zürich, City Tour

Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse
Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse

In the morning take the train to Zürich, known as the financial center of Switzerland, as well as the country's largest and wealthiest metropolis. 

Join your local guide to discover this cultural and vibrant city, set in a beautiful landscape at the confluence of the Limmat River and Lake Zürich. Go for a leisurely stroll on the famous Bahnhofstrasse, a traffic-free 19th-century boulevard designed by Arnold Bürkli. The boulevard is based off a model of Parisian streets and is one of Europe’s most exclusive shopping areas.

Make your way to Old Town Zurich, starting at the Lindenhof, one of the city’s prettiest squares. From there, walk along the river to the 11th-century Fraumünster Church, decked out in beautiful stained glass windows.  Learn about Zürich's past from your guide as you walk the pedestrian route, then stop to see the café-gallery that gave rise to the Dadaist art movement. 

Take the remainder of the day to relax or shop. Treat yourself to a traditional dinner of Swiss fondue, complete with a glass of white wine.

Day 9: Goodbye Switzerland!

Wintertime in the Alps
Wintertime in the Alps

Time to say goodbye! After breakfast, head to the airport for your connecting flight home.

Written by Sonya Pevzner, updated Feb 18, 2021