Last week Rayburn Tours’ very own Lucy, Sarah and Ian were lucky enough to venture out to stunning Switzerland. As an excellent location to study Geography, Languages and Business Studies, the trio were tasked with familiarising themselves with the area and checking out the excursions on offer, all to ensure we offer you the very best experiences on your tour.
Follow their adventure in their own words…
Exploring Geneva by foot, train and boat
We started off our trip with a day in Geneva. We got to see a good overview of the city on a hop on hop off trolley train, taking us past landmarks such as the Red Cross Museum, the United Nations and a quick drive past ‘the colony’ – an area which celebrities and royalty call home and enjoy fabulous views over Lake Geneva back to the city. It was fantastic to see how much international and diplomatic influence is contained in such a small area of one city. A must for any visitor!
After an ice-cream to help with the 30°C heat, we sailed across Lake Geneva giving us a clear view of the Jet d’Eau which pumps over 500 litres of water a second! This has fast become a landmark representing Geneva, the locals are very proud of it and it is easy to see why.
After a quick stop at our hotel, we took a walk around the Old Town, managing to resist the siren calls of Prada and Dior, instead exploring the old Cathedral which played host to some more amazing views. For those not wanting to walk up the many steps to the Cathedral there is a small train which takes visitors to the doorstep.
Chocolate and Cheese!
After a night in Geneva, we took to the road and travelled to Leysin, via Maison Cailler, Maison du Gruyère and Les Mosses.
The visits to Maison Cailler and Maison du Gruyère gave us a brilliant insight into the businesses and we found out in more depth exactly about how the products are made. The tour around Maison Cailler was extremely informative interactive, starting with the history of chocolate production and finishing with a very enjoyable tasting room!
Similarly, Maison du Gruyère gave a very informative self-guided audio tour in the voice of Cherry the Cow! We were able to see the process of the making of the cheese and, if timed right, visitors are able to see live churning. We ended our tour with a Swiss classic – fondue, to make sure we had optimum knowledge of the end product!
Our stomachs full and happy in the knowledge we had done our tasting duty, we then travelled through stunning countryside and rolling hills to the small village of Leysin nestled in the mountains.
On top of the world!
After a morning around Leysin, we ventured out to Les Diablerets where we caught the cable car up to Glacier 3000. Immediately, we felt the first chills of our trip with the fresh air hitting us at 3000m high! Whilst up so high, we took the opportunity to try the Alpine Coaster, the worlds highest luge. This is a brilliant ride from which you can see the spectacular views and geography of the area whilst travelling down in a luge – you can control the speed you travel.
Glacier 3000 also offers the Peak to Peak bridge which you can walk across and take in the scenery around you, if you are brave enough of course. We finished our visit with a ride on the chair lift down onto the glacier itself where is it possible to partake in a walk. A perfect place for studying glaciation and other geographical topics.
Once we had taken the cable car back down to Les Diablerets, we took a stroll around the village, admiring the chalets and trying to imagine how it would look covered in snow! Down here, you get a fantastic panoramic view and we could appreciate how high we had actually been.
Highs and Lows
Starting the day with the Grande Dixence Dam, we travelled along the zigzag route which led to the base of the dam. As we got closer, we were astounded by the size of the dam as none of us expected it to be as tall and overpowering as it was! To start off, we were given a guided tour inside the dam which gave us a great insight into how and why it was built, the formation and how it works. We walked through the tunnels which the engineers still use and were able to track where we were with the markings on the walls. Once we had seen inside, we took a cable car to the top of the dam where we could appreciate the expanse of the lake and the views of the valley below us.
We then travelled to Bex where we went down into the Salt Mines. After taking the small mining train through the dark tunnels to the heart of the mine we had an hour to explore. Here you can do the guided tour in French or have an audio-guide in English as you learn about the history of the mines and the machinery used. There is even a chance to have a go at a spot of mining yourself with a small pick-axe and the promise of being able to keep whatever you mine!
After a busy geographical day, we ended with a trip to Lavey Les Bains thermal baths. Surrounded on all sides by towering mountains, the thermal pools were the perfect way to relax and soak up the atmosphere whilst reflecting on all we had seen and learnt that day.
Ending on a high!
For our final full day in Switzerland, we travelled to Emosson Dam where we caught three trains to the top of the dam – the first of which was a furnicular with an 87% incline, followed by a small picturesque train hugging the mountainside with views over Mont Blanc before the final ascent in a mini furnicular! Perfe
ct for groups, it takes around 40 minutes in total to get to the top where, similarly to Grande Dixence, you have the incredible views. There is an option also to do a tour within the dam here too which sadly we did not have time for. There are a multitude of hikes of varying lengths when you reach the top of the dam including one where you can see 25 million year old dinosaur footprints.
We then travelled across the boarder into France to Chamonix, where we caught the train up to Mer du Glace. Here, you can walk and see the glacier and how it has receded over the years. If you are wanting to do some exercise, there are 420 steps down to the Ice Cave which is a fantastic experience to view, although it is another 420 steps back up afterwards! It’s a brilliant location to study glaciation.
On the final day, we took to the roads to head back to the airport but we had one more sight to see. We were stopped mid-route in order to let some cows cross the road. Over the week, we had heard some cows in the distance and even seen a few dotted around but this time we got to see them right in front of us! A brilliant way to end the trip, to listen to the cowbells as they crossed! A true sight of Switzerland!
Keen to find out more about a trip to Switzerland? Our expert team would be delighted to hear from you on 01332 347 828 or visit www.rayburntours.com.