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Switzerland and the Lakes of Northern Italy

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 13 day(s)
Group Size: 8 - 16 people
Destination(s): Switzerland   Italy  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey   Sightseeing  
Season: September
Airfare Included: Yes
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 7999 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 7999 US Dollar (USD)

Tour dates:
August 28 - September 10, 2015
August 28 - September 10, 2016

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1
We arrive at the Zurich airport and check into our hotel in the lively city center. Situated on the northern shores of Lake Zürich, with a magnificent view of the snowcapped Alps on the horizon, Zürich (dubbed “Downtown Switzerland”) offers a unique mixture of attractions. We take a walking tour with a local guide and have time to relax before our welcome dinner of excellent traditional Swiss dishes.
Overnight: Zürich | Meals: D

Day 2
After breakfast, we take a short drive to central Switzerland’s largest town, Luzern. On the western edge of Lake Luzern (Lucerne, in French), Luzern is easily explored on foot because of its compact size. We enjoy a guided walking tour of the medieval Old Town, including the famous Chapel Bridge. We then head south to the Bernese Oberland mountain region. Our base for the next three nights is an elegant historic hotel on the shore of beautiful Lake Brienz. Tonight, dinner is a gourmet affair with wonderful Swiss specialties.
Overnight: Brienz | Meals: B, D

Day 3
We are now in the “Jungfrau region,” a spectacular area of deep blue lakes and magnificent mountains. During our three days here we will explore the most beautiful villages and lakes, and take the “Männlichen excursion”— a fantastic journey combining aerial gondola rides from Grindelwald to Männlichen, 2,230 meters high and a popular winter ski resort. From here we have the option of taking a hike with spectacular vistas. We take another gondola ride and then visit the idyllic village of Lauterbrunnen, nestled on the floor of the stunning Lauterbrunnen Valley—the deepest U-shaped valley in the world. From here, our eyes feast on the beauty of this quintessential Swiss alpine scenery, with waterfalls—including the UNESCO Trümmelbach Falls—green meadows dotted with cows and snowy peaks.
Overnight: Brienz | Meals: B

Day 4
Today we visit two beautiful towns— Interlaken and Thun. Interlaken’s name tells us that it lies between two lakes, Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Its setting in the Bernese Oberland is nothing short of magnificent, with three majestic mountains— Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau— as a backdrop. Interlaken is a delight in any season with its many cafés, shops, and pretty pedestrian streets. Thun is equally attractive. Its Old Town lies at the base of a hill crowned by a castle dating back to the 12th century. Wherever you happen to be in the Bernese Oberland, the dazzling panoramas of the snowy crags and valley surrounding you are absolutely astounding.
Overnight: Brienz | Meals: B, D

Day 5
Today we travel to Gruyères and Broc for two delicious tours: one to the Cailler Chocolate factory and then to La Maison du Gruyère, where we have a lesson in the making of the famous Swiss Gruyère cheese. The village of Gruyères was voted the most beautiful village in western Switzerland in 2014. After some time to discover this enchanted village, we continue on a spectacular mountain drive, stopping in Montreux on the shore of Lake Geneva to stroll along the promenade. We arrive at our destination, the famous car-free village of Zermatt, our home for the next two days. Nestled at the foot of the majestic Matterhorn mountain, Zermatt is arguably the most beautiful village in all Switzerland, if not the world. After wandering Zermatt’s quaint streets, we enjoy a Swiss fondue dinner in a local restaurant.
Overnight: Zermatt | Meals: B, D

Day 6
Today is an exciting mountain adventure we take with a local mountaineering Swiss guide: the “Matterhorn Glacier Paradise” excursion. We ride on a spectacular cablecar— the highest aerial cableway in Europe— up 3,883 meters to the top of the Klein Matterhorn summit. If the weather is clear, we have a 360 degree panoramic view of 38 alpine peaks and fourteen glaciers in the Swiss, Italian, and French Alps. As if this wasn’t enough of a thrill, we then literally walk inside a glacier through a tunnel called the “Glacier Palace”. The thick glacial walls of the tunnel are brightly lit, and set within carved out niches are illuminated fairytale ice sculptures, each one more impressive than the last. Cool! At the summit restaurant you may want to try a Slivovitz hot chocolate— a Swiss drink of plum brandy in hot chocolate. Just to take off the chill. We ride the cable car back down the mountain to Zermatt and have a free afternoon to hike, explore, or have another Slivovitz.
Overnight: Zermatt | Meals: B

Day 7
Leaving Zermatt, a gorgeous scenic drive east through the Alps takes us to the picturesque town of Ascona, Switzerland, for lunch. After passing through Lugano, we cross the Italian border and arrive at the shores of Lake Como. We drive along the lake to Como and check into our lovely hotel on the lake. Tonight we enjoy our first delicious Northern Italian dinner.
Overnight: Como, Lake Como | Meals: B, D

Day 8
We begin our day on Lake Como with a visit to the beautiful Villa Carlotta, with its acres of magnificent gardens. We then take a boat across the lake to the enchanting village of Bellagio, known not only for the famous movie stars who reside here but for the quaint medieval streets winding up the mountain with spectacular lake vistas. After time to explore Bellagio, we then drive eastward to Lake Garda and arrive at the charming lake village of Salò. Our lakefront hotel is home for the next three nights. We enjoy a gastronomic Italian dinner overlooking the lake.
Overnight: Salò, Lake Garda | Meals: B, D

Day 9
This morning we take a boat to the ancient Roman village of Sirmione, where we visit the ruins of a fascinating Roman villa, complete with heated swimming pool. After lunch in Sirmione, we take another boat to an island called Isola del Garda. Here we are met by a countess, descended from the Borghese family, who gives us a tour of the palace gardens and then invites us into her home for a glass of wine on the terrace! We return to Salò for free time to stroll the boardwalk along the lake and peak into the shops. Tonight is free to choose one of the many enticing restaurants in Salò.
Overnight: Salò, Lake Garda | Meals: B

Day 10
After breakfast we take an excursion to Verona to see the oldest part of this beautiful city, including, of course, Juliet’s famous balcony. Before returning to Salò, we visit a Valpolicella winery to sample the famous Amarone red. Tonight is another special dinner of Northern Italian specialties.
Overnight: Salò, Lake Garda | Meals: B, D

Day 11
Today we head west to Lake Maggiore, where we check into our lakefront hotel in the lovely town of Stresa. If weather permits, we can take a chairlift ride high up the side of a mountain for a magnificent view of the mountains and lake below. In the afternoon we are free to stroll the lakeside promenade or explore the delightful village. Tonight is an Italian feast you won’t soon forget. Before retiring you must sit on the balcony of your room to gaze out at the sparkling lights across the lake, reminding you of how lucky you are to have this experience.
Overnight: Stresa, Lake Maggiore | Meals: B, D

Day 12
A short boat ride takes us to the three Borromean Islands (Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Madre). The first, “Beautiful Island,” houses a lovely 17th century palace belonging to the Borromeo family, owners of these islands since the 12th century; the second, the “Mother Island,” has a large garden filled with exotic plants and flowers and an elegant villa to explore; the third, “Fisherman’s Island,” is an unspoiled dream of a tiny Italian village straight out of a movie set and a perfect place for lunch. Our farewell dinner tonight in Stresa is a gourmet affair of regional northern Italian dishes.
Overnight: Stresa, Lake Maggiore | Meals: B, D

Day 13
This morning we drive to the Milan airport for our return flights home.
Meals: B

Airfare is included in the tour price.

Price Includes:

- Roundtrip airfare from Boston or New York (airfare price can be deducted)
- 12 nights charming hotels with magnificent mountain or lake views
- All breakfasts and 9 dinners
- Full-time English-speaking escort
- Transportation in comfortable minibus and train
- Scenic mountain train rides in Switzerland
- Visits in Switzerland to: Zürich, Luzern, Thun, Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken, Wengen, Grindelwald, Zermatt, Ascona, Locarno and Lugano
- Visits in Italy to: Como, Tremezzo, Bellagio (Lake Como); Salò and Sirmione (Lake Garda); Stresa (Lake Maggiore)
- Walking tours led by local expert guides (see itinerary)
- Chocolate-, cheese-, and wine-tastings
- All tour guides, all museum and monument entrance fees, tips and taxes.