Ever since my grandfather passed away, I’ve been wanting to go on a solo hiking trip to Switzerland just to unwind and reflect on the last few years of my life. I love going on family trips with my parents, sister, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews, but there’s something special about wandering around at your own leisure and pace. It’s really when you get to know yourself well. And let me be honest, I’m always looking for great excuses to make my almost yearly “pilgrimage” to Switzerland. If you haven’t ever done a trip alone, let me just say that you don’t know what you are missing out on.
The Long Story of How I Booked this Flight
Interestingly enough, I might have never dragged my feet out the door if it hadn’t been for Lufthansa which finally gave me an ultimatum on an award ticket I had booked to Switzerland a while back. You see back in mid-2020, I booked a business class award ticket using some expiring miles for a flight to Zurich. Lufthansa, like the sly airline they are, said that my miles would expire if I didn’t travel, and there were no exceptions despite a raging pandemic. The flights I booked luckily kept getting canceled throughout the pandemic and 2021. This allowed me to pretty much keep postponing my trip six more months at a time.
Fast forward to Memorial Day 2022, the weekend I had my latest reservation booked for, and my flight to Zurich departing Frankfurt was cancelled yet again. Seeing this as an opportunity to postpone my trip a bit more, I called up the Miles and More Service Centre. After a long wait, I was finally connected with an agent who looked through my itinerary. I asked for my flights to be pushed back to February of 2023 given that I couldn’t take days off to travel if it wasn’t going to happen that weekend. The agent tried to give me flights in February of 2023, but try is he might, he was unsuccessful in pricing them out properly. After several attempts, he offered to refund me the miles. At this point I had to ask if my miles would expire if that were the case. The agent did some research and reached the conclusion that unless I fly “soon”, I wouldn’t get my miles back nor be able to change the award ticket any longer.
By chance, I noticed on my calendar that I had the following weekend free for the most part. And an idea quickly popped into my head based on a picture I saw on Google Photos from an old train ride through the country. What if I hiked and photographed stuff somewhere in here:
I asked the agent very politely if he could send me to Geneva instead of Zurich, to which he kindly obliged. And so here I was with a business class award ticket to Europe for the following weekend.
I quickly scoured the internet for an award flight back and found nothing so decided to just wait and see, since award availability is always better a few days out. I’m glad I took that chance because on the way back I was able to redeem 87,000 Lifemiles for a Lufthansa First Class ticket from Frankfurt to Houston on the “Queen of the Skies”, the 747-800 intercontinental. Stay tuned for my impressions on that.
Booking my Accomodation:
Next up was booking the accomodation. Well it turns out that Marriott has a very decent and modern hotel called Moxy located right in the centre of Lausanne with easy access to the vineyards I was going to hike through. The going room rate was 130 CHF or ~130 USD, but I ended up using my free night certificates (from my Marriott credit card) for a two night stay there.
I had an additional two nights during my stay, but I decided that I would book those closer in to keep my travel plans flexible. I ultimately ended up booking the Hotel Bären in Wengen for a night for $150 and the Hyatt Place Zurich Airport using my Hyatt free night certificate.
Switzerland has an awesome public transportation system and buying a Swiss Rail pass makes sense in most circumstances. On this particular occassion though, I had plans to explore roads and villages which were more readily accessible via car at odd hours. This is especially true for photographers who shoot at odd hours of the morning or at night. For a 4 day, one way car rental from SIXT, between Geneva and Zurich. the price came out to 385 CHF (all inclusive). For most people, I would highly recommend just using the Swiss Travel Pass or Regional Pass and not deal with parking or traffic.
About the Region:
The Lavaux region of Switzerland is an approximately 2000 acre area, along the north shore of Lake Geneva with vine terraces dotting the hilly terrain. The area is one of Switzerland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and traces its origins to Benedictine and Cistercian monks who began the construction of the vineyards back in the 11th century. As I mentioned before I first discovered the region on a train ride from Zurich to Geneva in 2013. The thought that came to my mind when I first saw it was: why aren’t people raving about this just like Tuscany? The region not only has beautiful vineyards nestled with medival villages dotting the steep hillsides, but also has a serene and cerulean alpine lake at its shore. The cherry on top of it all is of course the backdrop of the Alps, looming ominously over the landscape. Beat that Tuscany!
On top of all of this, it had always been a dream of mine to capture a castle with the Swiss Alps as the backdrop. Well I went to capture Chillon Castle along the shores of Lake Geneva, and ended up stumbling upon Aigle Castle by pure accident just driving around the area. After getting there I realized that it was the same castle featured in quite a few Tollywood/Bollywood songs.
I literally just spent a day just wandering around the vineyards from dawn to dusk, taking pictures. I’m not much of a wine expert, but the wine produced in the region is supposed to be some of the very best. The region is often referred to as the “Swiss Riviera” because of its notably French style architecture and location on the cerulean Lake Geneva. One huge advantage was there were really no crowds throughout my time. I can surely say that this is not a trait that Tuscany, Napa, nor the French Riviera possess right now.
The Swiss Rivera is perhaps one of my all time favorite locations for travel photography and hiking. Taking a solo trip to this country/region should be on everyone’s bucket list. Whenever I think I’ve seen it all with regard to Switzerland, I keep discovering more magical places to visit and re-visit. I’m already planning on taking my parents back here with me to these awesome localities. Yes I agree, Switzerland can be more expensive than its European counterparts. However with the proper planning and research it can become manageable on a budget.
Stay tuned for the full trip report, tips, and reviews……