This Scenic Bike Trip Is the Best Way to See the Swiss Countryside — Even If You're a Beginner Cyclist
“You can never get lost," my guide, Ruedi, reassured me. I was about to set off along Switzerland's Lakes Route, which meanders from Lake Geneva all the way to Germany. His maxim would repeat in my head throughout my trip — usually just after I realized I'd taken a wrong turn. But he was right: in a country so beautiful, a detour now and then isn't so bad.
Switzerland has long been a destination for serious cyclists, but the abundant train connections (and now the option of e-bikes) make it possible even for beginners. A tour operator such as Eurotrek (four-day trips from $529) can set you up with gear, maps, and on-the-ground assistance.
After picking up the bike in Villeneuve, I pedaled off toward Château de Chillon, a castle on the shore of Lake Geneva. From a window in one of the turrets, I took in the aquamarine waters of the lake and the snow-dusted peaks of the Alps in the distance. From there it was on to Montreux, where live music spills into the streets during the town's annual Jazz Festival (June 28–July 13). I stopped for a coffee and some music, then began the winding ascent through the hills to Vevey, where Charlie Chaplin retired. The Modern Times Hotel (doubles from $236) pays homage to the Little Tramp with its black and white décor and film stills on the wall, while Chaplin's World, a museum built in the actor's former home, delves deep into his life and work.
Before leaving Vevey, I coasted down the steep streets to catch the funicular to Mont Pèlerin, where dramatic views of the Lavaux vineyards were just the inspiration I needed to get back in the saddle. After a morning spent biking through meadows where dairy cows grazed lazily, I spotted the steeply pitched roofs and turrets of the village of Bulle. At La Cabriolle (entrées $16–$20), I ordered soupe de chalet. The cheesy mélange of potatoes, Emmentaler, and pasta was just what I needed to fortify myself for the hills ahead. I dipped my water bottle into the square's fountain — the quaintest refill of my whole trip — and rode on to the town of Broc, the home of chocolate factory Maison Cailler. After watching a quick chocolate-making demonstration, I sampled the wares, which included white, dark, and every shade in between. The sugar high didn't wear off until a few miles later, as I whipped through shady forests on my way to Charmey. That night, the bubbling pools of the spa at Hotel Cailler (doubles from $236) worked wonders on my tired legs.
The town of Charmey sits nestled in the Jogne Valley, so I spent my morning steadily climbing to cross the pass through Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut Park, where the foothills begin to give way to the Alps. I drank in the sweeping landscapes while coasting down to Gstaad. Though primarily a ski town, Gstaad offers world-class hiking and mountain biking in the warmer months. After a stroll through the old town, I rode into the hills to Schönried for a night at the Hotel Ermitage (doubles from $243), a luxe chalet-style property with a wellness bent. For the second night in a row, I headed for the spa, where I moved from the saltwater pool to the steam room as my muscles relaxed. Then I had a decadent six-course dinner, which concluded with a sampling of Switzerland's best cheeses.
Leaving the mountains behind, I sped down hills and pedaled alongside rivers toward Lake Thun. As the granite crags pulled away from the path, my view widened. I passed valley farms with small stands selling cheese and milk, and stopped at an observation deck to look out on the surrounding vineyards. Biking into the town of Spiez, I began to encounter hikers venturing into the hills. I checked in to Hotel Eden Spiez (doubles from $334) and relaxed with an aperitif in the garden. But I needed one more ride, so I went for a final spin around Lake Thun before turning in.