Geneva again?! Yes, I had to be in Geneva again for the second time this year. Last time I chose to take a side trip to Chamonix which was spectacular, click here to read on my post: How to make the best of Chamonix in one Winter’s day when you don’t know skiing.
It’s late September, the weather is always pleasant in Geneva with a slight dip in the temperature but still maintaining summer warmth. I searched and browsed ideas of places to visit near Geneva. Top option in my opinion is Lavaux Vineyard Terraces. The 800 hectares of vineyard terrace in the Lavaux region is listed on UNESCO world-heritage. The footpath measures some 32km in length between Lausanne to Montreux. Check out the official tourism information site: http://www.lavaux-unesco.ch/.
The site of Lavaux is vast for day visitors, so an advanced and concrete plan is very much needed. Don’t be like me: sloppy planning led me to waste a lot of time looping in circles on the train, although the views through the window were quite enjoyable. Here are the things you need to know before going.
Purchase your train ticket in advance:
Train tickets / timetables can be found here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html
They only allow online ticket purchases 1 day prior to your trip. I wish I could have known this before I arrived at Geneva airport train station, an online ticket will be a lot cheaper than purchasing it at the counter or with the ticket machine.
What type of train ticket should you get?
There are so many options. Since this post is all about my one-day trip to Lavaux I will list out what I know.
A one-day pass that works on all transports in Switzerland including boats on Geneva lake and trains run by MOB (known: GoldenPass, http://www.goldenpass.ch/en) which take you into the Alps.
A regional pass for all zones in Lavaux costs CHF 29 for unlimited rides on the public transport in the region. This is the pass I bought for my day trip plus a return ticket between Geneva airport and Lausanne.
You can pick up a booklet in the station ticketing office on the airport’s website. I found this booklet is quite handy as it contains one-day trip suggestions, train routes and timetable. The booklet can also be found online via link: https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/regionen/lavaux.html.
Plan your walking routes if you have only one day to explore:
Although there are different one-day trip suggestions you will find online, the area is large so you have to work out your routes depending what matters to you. You need to make the best of your day but note that most one-day itineraries online require an early start. Below is how my day went.
I took the earliest flight possible and landed in Geneva at 9am, the hotel I stayed at located 5 mins from the airport terminal.
It was 10.50am when the train departed from the Geneva Airport station. I was a little unsure which routes I should take as clearly I haven’t done enough research beforehand. I took a suggestion posted on Trip Advisor and I was heading towards Chexbres Village.
My train arrived in Lausanne station just a little past 12pm. I had to transfer and hopped on the S2 train that goes by the edge of Geneva lake. The train was busy, many people wanted to sit on the right hand side to get best possible view from the train. I got off at Vevey station then changed again and jumped on the S7 train towards Chexbres-Village. The window view from the S7 train is also very nice and it gives you a more panoramic outlook to the lake and surrounding mountains. The water was reflecting the blueness from the sky and there were very few clouds in the sky.
Chexbres-Village is really quiet and small and I arrived at what I thought was a very charming and cute station. I got off the train with a small crowd of people and while I was taking couple of pictures around the station, everyone had disappeared and I was left alone on the platform. There weren’t many signs to tell you which way to go to see the vineyards. I followed my gut and started to descend towards Rivaz as suggested on Trip Advisor. Not very far from the station the road opened into wide open space. I smelt the grapes! I saw nothing then but the green vineyards and the blue sky reflected in the lake at the foot of the Alps.
The walk between Chexbres-Village and Rivaz was easy and only descended (this is also the main reason I chose this route). Occasionally I ran into another soul but it was very quiet. Before I approached Rivaz station, I walked through a tiny village with many choices of wine bars but unfortunately most bars were shut as it was Sunday so I didn’t manage to taste any wine in Lavaux region. What a shame!
Although it was suggested the walk for this route should be around 45 mins my pace was slow enough that I could just enjoy the view and the climate so it took me almost 2 hours until I reached Rivaz station.
I hopped on the S2 train again and got off at Veytaux-Chillon station to visit Chillon Castle.
Chillon began as a Roman outpost, guarding the main strategic roads through the Alpine passes. The later history of Chillon was influenced by three major periods: the Savoy Period, the Bernese Period, and the Vaudois Period. Chillon Castle is an island castle located on Lake Geneva. It is situated at the eastern end of the lake, on the narrow shore between Montreux and Villeneuve, which gives access to the Alpine valley of the Rhône. Chillon is one of the most visited castles in Switzerland. More information of visiting the place can be found: https://www.chillon.ch/en/.
I strolled around the castle but due to limited time I wasn’t able to go inside. If you have the time and desire you could take a look, there is a cost to visit which can be seen on the website above, and there are limited places on each date. Before I headed back to Geneva Airport I hopped off Vevey town and had my dinner in a Irish pub.
If I had the opportunity to visit again I would plan my itinerary along this loop: Geneva Airport – Lausanne – Puidoux Chexbres – Chexbres Village walk to Rivaz – Veytaux Chillon – Vevey – Geneva Airport