May is National Bike Month, and for travelers looking to make the most of this eco-friendly mode of transportation, Switzerland has a number of special offerings to consider. With more than 7,000 miles of sign-posted cycling paths, the country offers opportunities for road cycling enthusiasts, sight seekers and adventurous bikers alike. Here, Travel Agent has gathered the latest on bike travel in Switzerland.
A bicycle tour through Switzerland offers the opportunity to view many of the country’s most popular sights. We spoke with Michaela Ruoss, media relations manager Eastern USA for Switzerland Tourism, about which tours both first-time and return visitors might find ideal.
“I think most people don’t bike on their first visit in Switzerland,” she tells Travel Agent. “But in terms of destinations, they probably see the musts first. So St. Moritz, Zermatt, Interlaken, Wengen and Mürren. Also, they might just do local or regional tours.”
Nature lovers might be interested in cycling through the Swiss National Park, located in the Western Rhaetian Alps in eastern Switzerland. Switzerland Mobility, the largest national network of routes for soft tourism in Europe, has the “Val Müstair” route, which takes travelers from Zernez to Mals. The 32-mile route passes by St. Johann Monastery in Müstair, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to Carolingian times.
Beginning in Zernez in the Unterengadin, the gateway to the Swiss National Park, bikers will cycle along Ofenpass road, the Spölschlucht gorge and through mountainous pine forests before reaching the highest point, Süsom Give. Stops include the villages of Fuldera and Valchava, which have houses built in authentic Engadin style and decorated with traditional Sgraffitto. Later, visitors travel from Müstair over the border into nearby Vinschgau, continuing on through areas of orchards, medieval castles and small towns of architectural interest, including Taufers and the medieval town of Mals. The Val Müstair route is a Stage I route, and is recommended for a medium fitness level.
Note: Because this route crosses the border, travelers are required to have an ID card or a passport on hand.
For more advanced cyclists, Eurotrek offers the “Valais Panorama Bike” tour for those seeking a challenging experience as well as scenic views. This four-day, three-night individual tour is completed in four stages, taking travelers from Sion to Visp through vineyards, ski regions, large tourist centers and mountain trails.
Starting off from Sion, cyclists will travel the 15-mile route past Valère Basilica and Tourbillon Castle on through the many vineyards found along the ascent to Anzère. The second stage begins with a short climb before getting on the first extended descent to Icogne on the opposite side of the valley, from which bikers have the opportunity to visit the well-known tourist resort of Crans-Montana. Later, the route takes travelers past portions of the Alps, leading up to the highest point of the tour, and then beginning a long descent of 1,400 vertical meters (nearly a mile) to Leuk. The tour concludes with a cable car ride to Unterems for the first 400 meters of altitude, later arriving at Zeneggen, a Valais mountain village. From here, bikers continue the descent to the shore of the Vispa before finally ending at Visp.
The “Valais Panorama Bike” tour includes three nights in a standard category hotel, luggage transfers and well-prepared route guidance, and mountain bike rentals can be booked through Eurotrek. The base price for the tour begins at approximately $412.
For cyclists heading to Switzerland who are particularly interested in the culture and cuisine of the country, there are several routes to keep in mind.
The Kulinarische Appenzeller route is a stage one tour designed to let cyclists experience alpine landscapes as well as offer the opportunity to sample a pre-selected menu at either a single location, or enjoy dishes course by course and separate locations along the way.
Travelers begin this bike tour in the small town of Appenzell, following the Sitter River for a short stretch before riding past green meadows and Appenzell farmhouses to Eggerstanden. Here, cyclists are welcomed at the first Gasthaus, later continuing onto Sammelplatz to enjoy views over Gais and Appenzell. At this point it is recommended that travelers take time to recover before returning on their descent.
Continuing on to Schlatt, cyclists can take a break after a steep climb to enjoy a range of culinary delicacies and alpine views. Haslen via Leimensteig are next on the route. Later in Stein, cyclists have the opportunity to visit the Appenzeller Demonstration Cheese Dairy before moving on to the traditional village of Urnäsch and then along the road to Jakobsbd at the foot of the Kronberg. From Gonten it's then a steady descent.
Accommodations along this route include the recently renovated Café-Hotel Appenzell, Hotel Linde, Bed & Breakfast Gästehaus Rössli and Bed and Breakfast Diem.
There is also the Emmental Cheese Route, where travelers can learn about the history of milk production and cheese making. The Emmen Valley cheese path is an app-based (iPhone and Android) topical cycling path with 21 separate points of interest highlighting Switzerland’s world-famous Emmental cheese. Travelers can rent an e-bike with FLYER from either Burgdorf or from the show dairy in Affoltern, and use their phone to navigate from point to point to experience the history of the region’s craft. For more information on this route visit www.kaeseroute.ch/en/.
For those interested in any bike tours, a quick tip from Ruoss: “You only need to buy one bottle of water, or bring your own drinking bottle. You can refill it at every fountain in Switzerland – in cities and on the country side. They all serve drinking water for free (unless otherwise stated).”
Apart from Switzerland’s bike routes, the country’s hotels are particularly accommodating to cyclists as well, having nearly 800 dotted throughout the regions.
Michaela Ruoss says that Switzerland Tourism offers a selection of hotels that focus on the needs of cyclists, including bike storage, repair facilities and guides providing insider knowledge of the particular area where travelers are staying. We asked her if she has any favorites.
“The range of the bike focused accommodation is quite big – from simple bed and breakfasts to four star hotels,” she says, adding, “I tend to like smaller hotels (family run) and smaller and off the grid towns/villages.”
The Revier Mountain Lodge Lenzerheide is aimed at accommodating Millennials, especially young active travelers and those interested in biking the routes near that particular region of the Alps. Opened in late December, the lodge is located near Rothorn Valley station, and is to be the first in a series of Revier hotels in the Alps.
The lodge is comprised of 96 rooms, which can accommodate one to three guests with a total of 224 beds. Each is designed to focus on the essentials such as a shower, toilet, TV and direct view of Lake Heidsee, as well as fast WLAN and streaming offers for films and music. For dining and entertainment, the Josper Grill serves a variety of burger, steak, fish and vegetarian dishes, as well as craft beers and cocktails. In addition, live events are on the program in the large bar area with a stage and DJ desk. For bikers, special services include a secure and camera-monitored bike room and a bike wash, while for guests looking for rental equipment and repairs, the lodge’s sports shop is available.
In addition, Revier Mountain Lodge Lenzerheide offers several programs and deals for guests looking to get the most out of their biking experience during their stay. The “Downhill for Beginners” package includes a two-night stay in a Smart Cabin, including breakfast, parking, mountain railway tickets and a bike guide in the bike park. Guests will learn the correct position to ride their bike and practice beginner exercises, including how to brake properly and how to drive steep-wall turns. Later, participants will learn how to master stony passages and roots, as well as attempt their first jumps and small drops. Prices start at $297.
For more advanced riders looking to experience difficult terrain, there is the “Epic Bike for Freaks” deal, which includes three nights in the Smart Cabin with breakfast, parking, bike shuttle and guide, a sunset and night ride and a sunrise tour. Guests will travel with a group and experience mountain views while traversing trails with different levels of difficulty. One highlight of the program is the sunset and night ride, where bikers are accompanied only by a flashlight. Rates for this package begin at $555.
Another recently opened hotel focusing its attention on bikers and cyclists is the Valsana Hotel Apartments in Arosa. Environmentally conscious travelers should note that the hotel is particularly known for its attention to sustainable hospitality through its use of carbon-neutral technology, and is the first hotel in Switzerland to be powered by an “ice battery”.
Situated at the edge of a forest and entrance of Arosa, the hotel affords views of the lake and Graubünden Mountains and is comprised of 40 rooms and nine family apartments (1-2 bedrooms with kitchenettes), each with large balconies. Amenities and services include a restaurant with a large terrace and an 8,611 square foot spa. The restaurant, Twist, serves up regional fare with a contemporary touch and a focus on healthy alternatives.
The Valsana also offers a wide range of biking experiences and packages, which vary throughout the seasons. Now available for booking is the “Road Bike Workshop” taking place from August 17-19, 2018. The program will be led by Larissa Kleinmann, founder of FLUGPHASE & Sherpahire.com and former member of the German National Track Team & Track cycling team, as well as a former professional street racing athlete. Participants will learn about topics such as ergonomics on the road bike and efficient training methods, and later take part in rides focusing on teambuilding and team tactics. Extensive training sessions with up to 74 miles covered each day means bikers should be at an advanced level with a good fitness background. The two-day workshop is priced at $638 per person for a stay in a lifestyle double room. Note: Guests a required to provide their own road bikes.
For a more leisurely biking experience there is the “Bike & Night” package, now available for bookings between June 22 and September 22, 2018. The program includes three days of individual biking through Arosa Lenzerheide, a free bike station in front of the hotel, all meals, one free sports massage, daily laundry service for sportswear and an Arosa all-inclusive card. Guests will also have free access to the Valsana Spa. This package is priced from $707 per person for a stay in a lifestyle double room.