3 week European roadtrip for mountains and wine

If you look through a typical European highlights itinerary it will invariably be dominated by the cities.  For instance, the Lonely Planet’s top itinerary for Europe is 12 cities and nothing else, and of its 24 overall European highlights, only 6 are not cities (the Norwegian Fjords, the Matterhorn, Greece’s Santorini, Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor, Transylvania, North Macedonia’s Lake Ohrid . . .  if you’re interested).  It’s understandable – Europe is a centre for culture and stunning capital cities, but it also has some world class experiences to be found outside of the cities and this itinerary gives you a flavour of those with a focus on its mountain and wine regions

 

With this itinerary you will enjoy:

  • Mountains – the most spectacular views of Europe’s premier mountain regions with Switzerland’s “big three” of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau from Interlaken, and the Pyrenes’ Cirques de Gavarnie
  • Wine regions – 4 of the best wine regions France has to offer with Bordeaux, Provence, Alsace and Champagne
  • Lakes – 2 of the world’s truly stunning lakes with the simply magnificent Lake Como and the Swiss Lakes surrounding Interlaken
  • Coastline – the epitome of luxury and style with the most famous stretch of coastline in Europe with the Cote d’Azur, its trio of corniches and Monaco
  • Hilltop villages and rural regions – the prettiest in Europe with the hilltop villages and elegant treelined streets of Provence and the timbered fairytale villages of the Black Forrest
  • Roman Ruins – some of the best preserved Roman Ruins with the Pont du Garde and the Arles Amphitheatre
  • Driving – and of course, some of the best driving scenery in all of Europe as you pass from one mountain range to another and along some of the prettiest countryside on the continent

Walking the lakeshore in Geneva

Geneva is about as Alpine, fresh and clean a city as you can imagine.  Sitting by the Lake Geneva shoreline and with the Alps surrounding it, its setting is quite simply beautiful; its streets all have the elegance of of what you’d imagine a world-city sitting on the border with France and Switzerland to look like; and the cosmopolitan feel with the likes of the WTO, WHO, Red Cross, World Bank HQs, and supposedly 180 nationalities living here, make it a truly cosmopolitan city

 

But . . . its a tad dull and far from the highlight of Switzerland.  Give yourself half a day to wander along the lake shore and swim / paddleboard in the lake near the swans from the Bains des Paquis, and half a day if you can get a spot to see Large Hadron Collider at CERN, but no more

Hiking around Interlaken

Interlaken is the gateway to the legendary Jungfrau region with its 3 immortal peaks of Switzerland’s “big three” – the Eiger (Ogre), Monch (Monk) and Jungfrau (Virgin) – and has, quite simply, some of the most stunning mountain views to be found anywhere in the world.  There are many viewing spots and cable cars to chose from to get these views, but my top tip is to take the Mannlichen Cable Car from Grindelwald.  It’s Europe’s longest cable car, so you have extended views on your 6.3km / 4mile, 19min journey to the top, and when up there, even in busy season, you’ll have loads of room because of the wide plateau at the top to make the short 10min walk to the crown of the hill for the amazing views of the “big three”.  From here you also have a range of world-class hiking options

 

I focused on the hiking, which was wonderful, but there are three things I wish I’d also done:

  1. Taken the train up to the Junfraujoch station at 3454m.  Looks sensational and definitely will next time!
  2. Got involved with some of the adrenaline sports in what is one of the world’s adventure-sports meccas
  3. Europe’s longest toboggan run at Faulhorn

 

As an extra slightly more unusual recommendation, if you’re driving through this stunning part of the world and heading south or east, see if you can work your route through the Murmeltierpark Grimselpass.  You’ll be rewarded with daunting views over the Grimselsee reservoir and dam which dominate the surrounding area