Tailormade tour By rail to Swiss Lake Maggiore holiday Switzerland

7 nights / 8 days

Paris • Ascona • Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is unique amongst the Swiss lakes. Its shores are known for being comfortably warm, and its neighbouring towns are rich with Italianate buildings, vibrant colour, and mediaeval history. A seven-night stay in this region of Switzerland benefits from the southerly climate, but still with good proximity to the snow-capped Alps.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £1,930 per person.

Luxury holiday to the Swiss Lake Maggiore by train staying in Ascona or Locarno for seven nights

We recommend travelling to Switzerland by train from London to Ascona, via Paris, Zurich and Bellinzona. Return flights from the UK with rail travel in Switzerland can also be arranged. Your destination is Ascona, Locarno’s more peaceful neighbour, in the canton of Ticino. This region is the warmest in Switzerland, with a near-Mediterranean climate. Palm trees grow on the shoreline of Lake Maggiore, in front of the colourful houses, and behind the rows of quaint fishing boats. On the southern side of the water, opposite Locarno and Ascona, stands the impressive and green Monte Tamaro. Hiking trails and walking routes have a different tone here to further north, with panoramic summery vistas of bright flowers and wildlife. During your week here, explore the Italianate towns, such as Bellinzona and Lugano, seek out the waterfalls on the River Ticino, and visit the mediaeval castles. A stay on Lake Maggiore offers visitors a wholly different experience to that offered by the Bernese Oberland, by the northern cities, or by the Engadine.

Highlights

Paris • Zurich • Ascona • Lake Maggiore • Monte Tamaro • Bellinzona • Lugano

Day by day

Travel from London to Ascona by rail on your first day; or fly into Zurich and travel the rest of the journey by rail. The Eurostar leaves early in the morning for Paris, where you change to a TGV train headed to Zurich. Here, change for Bellinzona, and travel to Locarno on Swiss Lake Maggiore in the Ticino. Take a taxi to your hotel nearby. (If you leave at about 07.00 hrs from St Pancras, you reach Locarno just after 19.30 hrs. You can travel on to Ascona by train, but it’s very close by and easy to transfer by taxi, unless the hotel can fetch you).

Spend seven nights enjoying the highlights of Lake Maggiore, making the most of your eight-day rail pass to explore the lakeside towns and villages, the mountains, and the Mediterranean feel. At just 192m above sea level, Ascona and Lake Maggiore mark the lowest altitude point in Switzerland. This accounts for the warm climate and the rich greenness of the environment. Home to just over 5,000 people, Ascona marks the fine balance between urban cultural experience and rural seclusion; and with Locarno just across the Maggiore River, guests here are at their leisure to determine just how much of the bustling marketplaces and lively lakefront they would like to experience. Ascona itself is also recognised as a centre for the arts as it has an abundance of galleries and craft shops nestled down quiet alleyways. Places of interest on Lake Maggiore: • Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna – housed in the Palazzo Pancaldi, exhibiting works by local artists as well as famous artists connected with Ascona, including Paul Klee • Casa Anatta Museum, Monte Verita – dedicated to the ‘back to nature’ enthusiasts from the beginning of the century • Settimane Musicali – this international festival of classical music is held between August and October each year in Ascona • Festa New Orleans – a Jazz Festival held at the end of June on open-air stages • Isles of Brissago – accessible by boat and known for their botanical gardens • Ronco – famous for its cigars • Madonna del Sasso, Locarno – the sanctuary has an enviable hillside position, from which you can look down across Locarno and Ascona; inside, famous paintings are exhibited in the church, and unique statues line the stairway • From the sanctuary, take a cable car up to Cardada, and then to Cimetta at 1672m above sea level • Locarno’s Old Town – rich with Italianate squares and arcaded townhouses; this is also the best place to seek out some pre-17th century churches • Castello Visconti, Locarno – this 15th century castle houses a Roman and bronze age exhibition • Locarno International Film Festival – for two weeks in August, since 1948, the Piazza Grande is taken over by this festival every evening • Giardini Jean Arp, Locarno – a lakeside park populated by surrealist sculptures • Bellinzona – the capital of Ticino and home to three medieval castles; each has its own museum • Grand Castle, Bellinzona – the middle of the three castles; dates from the 6th century • Montebello Castle, Bellinzona – raised above the town • Sasso Corbaro Castle – higher on the hillside, and therefore requires more of a walk • Bellinzona Saturday Market – on the main street • Piazza Blues, Bellinzona – an open-air Blues festival that lasts for three days at the end of June • Lugano’s Old Town – full of winding alleyways and quaint piazzas; every Tuesday in the summer, a free guided walk is conducted by the Tourist Office • St Lawrence Cathedral – this cathedral has a Renaissance façade and three elegant doorways; frescoes from the 16th century decorate the interior • Alprose Chocolate Museum, Lugano - tour the factory of Switzerland’s largest chocolate manufacturer and learn about the history of chocolate production • Lido, Lugano – offering beaches and swimming pool • Primavera Concertistica – a series of classical music concerts held in Lugano during April and May • Monte San Salvatore – bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro • Monte Bre – take the funicular railway from Casserate to reach the summit • Centovalli Express – take this two-hour journey from Locarno to Domodossola in northern Italy, passing many pretty villages and striking historic buildings: including the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Blood in Re Local sports suggestions: • Walking and hiking on Monte Tamaro, Monte Bre, and Monte San Salvatore • Swimming in Locarno and Lugano • Water sports on Lake Maggiore or Lake Lugano The abundance of available activities, from exploring picturesque waterside towns and villages to scenic walks and hiking, will ensure that each of your days on Lake Maggiore is unique and memorable. This seven-night rail holiday allows you to make the most of this variety and get to know the region in-depth.

On your eighth day, board an early morning train from Ascona back to Zurich and Paris. Meet the Eurostar here and cross the Channel, arriving in London in the evening.

Holiday price guide From about £1,930 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for second class rail travel. First class supplement about £430 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR13

Luxury holiday to the Swiss Lake Maggiore by train staying in Ascona or Locarno for seven nights

Travel from London to Ascona by rail on your first day; or fly into Zurich and travel the rest of the journey by rail. The Eurostar leaves early in the morning for Paris, where you change to a TGV train headed to Zurich. Here, change for Bellinzona, and travel to Locarno on Swiss Lake Maggiore in the Ticino. Take a taxi to your hotel nearby. (If you leave at about 07.00 hrs from St Pancras, you reach Locarno just after 19.30 hrs. You can travel on to Ascona by train, but it’s very close by and easy to transfer by taxi, unless the hotel can fetch you).

Spend seven nights enjoying the highlights of Lake Maggiore, making the most of your eight-day rail pass to explore the lakeside towns and villages, the mountains, and the Mediterranean feel. At just 192m above sea level, Ascona and Lake Maggiore mark the lowest altitude point in Switzerland. This accounts for the warm climate and the rich greenness of the environment. Home to just over 5,000 people, Ascona marks the fine balance between urban cultural experience and rural seclusion; and with Locarno just across the Maggiore River, guests here are at their leisure to determine just how much of the bustling marketplaces and lively lakefront they would like to experience. Ascona itself is also recognised as a centre for the arts as it has an abundance of galleries and craft shops nestled down quiet alleyways. Places of interest on Lake Maggiore: • Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna – housed in the Palazzo Pancaldi, exhibiting works by local artists as well as famous artists connected with Ascona, including Paul Klee • Casa Anatta Museum, Monte Verita – dedicated to the ‘back to nature’ enthusiasts from the beginning of the century • Settimane Musicali – this international festival of classical music is held between August and October each year in Ascona • Festa New Orleans – a Jazz Festival held at the end of June on open-air stages • Isles of Brissago – accessible by boat and known for their botanical gardens • Ronco – famous for its cigars • Madonna del Sasso, Locarno – the sanctuary has an enviable hillside position, from which you can look down across Locarno and Ascona; inside, famous paintings are exhibited in the church, and unique statues line the stairway • From the sanctuary, take a cable car up to Cardada, and then to Cimetta at 1672m above sea level • Locarno’s Old Town – rich with Italianate squares and arcaded townhouses; this is also the best place to seek out some pre-17th century churches • Castello Visconti, Locarno – this 15th century castle houses a Roman and bronze age exhibition • Locarno International Film Festival – for two weeks in August, since 1948, the Piazza Grande is taken over by this festival every evening • Giardini Jean Arp, Locarno – a lakeside park populated by surrealist sculptures • Bellinzona – the capital of Ticino and home to three medieval castles; each has its own museum • Grand Castle, Bellinzona – the middle of the three castles; dates from the 6th century • Montebello Castle, Bellinzona – raised above the town • Sasso Corbaro Castle – higher on the hillside, and therefore requires more of a walk • Bellinzona Saturday Market – on the main street • Piazza Blues, Bellinzona – an open-air Blues festival that lasts for three days at the end of June • Lugano’s Old Town – full of winding alleyways and quaint piazzas; every Tuesday in the summer, a free guided walk is conducted by the Tourist Office • St Lawrence Cathedral – this cathedral has a Renaissance façade and three elegant doorways; frescoes from the 16th century decorate the interior • Alprose Chocolate Museum, Lugano - tour the factory of Switzerland’s largest chocolate manufacturer and learn about the history of chocolate production • Lido, Lugano – offering beaches and swimming pool • Primavera Concertistica – a series of classical music concerts held in Lugano during April and May • Monte San Salvatore – bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro • Monte Bre – take the funicular railway from Casserate to reach the summit • Centovalli Express – take this two-hour journey from Locarno to Domodossola in northern Italy, passing many pretty villages and striking historic buildings: including the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Blood in Re Local sports suggestions: • Walking and hiking on Monte Tamaro, Monte Bre, and Monte San Salvatore • Swimming in Locarno and Lugano • Water sports on Lake Maggiore or Lake Lugano The abundance of available activities, from exploring picturesque waterside towns and villages to scenic walks and hiking, will ensure that each of your days on Lake Maggiore is unique and memorable. This seven-night rail holiday allows you to make the most of this variety and get to know the region in-depth.

On your eighth day, board an early morning train from Ascona back to Zurich and Paris. Meet the Eurostar here and cross the Channel, arriving in London in the evening.

Holiday price guide From about £1,930 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for second class rail travel. First class supplement about £430 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR13

Our prices include ● Rail travel London to Switzerland via Paris in standard class (first class can be booked at a supplement)
● 8-day Swiss rail pass
● 7 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Standard double room at the Romantik Hotel Castello Seeschloss, Ascona
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, usually between Swiss Francs 1 and 3 per person per night, and payable locally to the hotel
● Transfers in Paris
● Travel by air from UK to Zurich

Expressions Holidays includes these hotels in this touring holiday as suggestions, but they can be substituted by others in the same region, if you have a preference to stay elsewhere.
Hotels included in this tour

Holiday price guide

From about £1,930 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for second class rail travel. First class supplement about £430 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR13

Luxury holiday to the Swiss Lake Maggiore by train staying in Ascona or Locarno for seven nights

About Ticino

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to Ticino allows travellers to witness the sheer diversity of Switzerland as a country. Hailed as having a Mediterranean climate, Ticino is Switzerland's most southerly region. Italianate towns, influenced by the proximity of the Italian border, provide a wholly different culture and atmosphere to the Bernese Oberland, the Saanenland, and other central and northern regions. A smattering of small lakes mark the upper boundary of Ticino, but it is Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano that dominate the south, prompting many of the long, straight valleys that lead into Italy. The River Ticino winds its way down from its source on the Ticino border, meeting dams, lakes, and trickling and tumbling waterfalls on its way. Palm trees line the lakesides, medieval Italian castles form the centre-points of towns, and colourful, higgledy-piggledy houses look out across the water or from their tiered position on the steep mountainside. Communities here seem to effortlessly blend the feel of southern coastal towns with the rural authenticity of the mountain villages of central Switzerland.

Highlights of Ticino

Two of the main cities in Ticino lie quite close together in the south of the region: Locarno and Lugano. On the banks of Lake Maggiore, Locarno is rich with cultural treasure. Visit the 17th century Church of St Anthony, the 16th century Church of San Francesco, the mid-17th century New Church, or the late 15th century Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso to begin your tour of Locarno's beautiful and historic sites. Perhaps most noteworthy, however, is the Visconti Castle, in which there is a permanent exhibition of Roman glass. On Thursdays a market is held in the centre of the town, which always makes for an excellent place to enjoy Locarno at its liveliest, as well as to pick up a few delicacies. Venture outside Locarno to climb the Cadada Cimetta, from the top of which you can see both the Valais High Alps and Lake Maggiore, the highest and lowest points in Switzerland. Follow the paths of the Magic Valley or the Verzasca Valley to witness the turquoise-green, crystal-clear waters that flow there. For a more leisurely day out, enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Maggiore. As you leave Locarno and head west down the valley towards Italy, you will see the rocky gorges that prove so popular with cliff divers. Eerie tunnels and caverns have been carved out over time, providing ethereal little spots to stop off on your travels.

Cultural highlights of Ticino

East of Locarno is Bellinzona, a town remarkable in that it is the most Italianate town in Switzerland and capital of Ticino. The central medieval castle and its two neighbours are among Switzerland's best preserved, coming together to form a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ramparts of the central castle run alongside the vineyards within, with lush grass carpeting the fortified walls. North of Locarno, you will come across Tegna, the site of some interesting prehistoric ruins. Continue along this route towards the Italian border on the Centovalli Express to discover the old wine press in the village of Cavigliano, the museum and cableway in Intragna, the cable car up to the solitary, traffic-free hamlet of Rasa from Verdasio, and finally, across the Italian border to Re, where the stunning, yet imposing, Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Blood stands on the very edge of a dramatic cliff. In eastern Ticino is Biasca, a town where a waterfall cascades down the mountainsides, under bridges and over rocks that have been smoothed by time. Towns and villages such as Airolo, Lavizzara, Acquarossa, Blenio, and Brione all offer alternative views on this beautiful region. Any visit to Ticino is incomplete without a few hours spent in Lugano. Famous for its eponymous lake, San Salvatore Mountain, and Monte Bre, Lugano is a quintessentially ‘Ticino’ town. Take the funicular railway from Casserate as high as possible up Monte Bre to witness the phenomenal panoramas and enjoy the traditional Swiss rail experience.

Festivals in Ticino

As with much of Switzerland, there is a high focus on dairy products in both the regional dishes and their self-identification. To appreciate Swiss dairy products in Ticino, head to Ambri Quinto in the Leventina Valley at the end of September to enjoy the Agriculture and Cheese Fair. The first weekend in October brings with it a celebration of autumn. In Lugano, this autumn festival focuses on local products, folkloric music, and small dramatic shows. In Ascona, the autumn festival celebrates the versatile chestnut, with jams, cakes, cheese dishes, and entertaining concerts. Ascona's unique carnival is celebrated on Mardi Gras on the lake promenade. In Muralto on the second Sunday of March there is a fish festival beside the water, involving a fishing contest, music, games, and food stalls. Beside the smooth rocks of Solduno, on St Joseph's Day in March, the streets are filled with the smell of the speciality Tortelli, a fritter whose recipe is strictly guarded.

Gastronomy in Ticino

The varied and delicious specialities of Ticino may very well be the highlight of your trip, influenced by hearty Swiss cuisine, as well as Italy's Mediterranean flavours. One particular feature of dining here are the ‘grotto' restaurants. Usually housed in picturesque stone farmhouses, with abundant flower boxes, shuttered windows, and vast terraces canopied by views on which customers eat fresh, home-cooked food. Popular so-called ‘slow foods' include farina bona flour, cicitt sausages, Zincarlin cheese and shortbread biscuits. At the heart of many dishes you may come across are polenta and Merlot wine, which can also be sampled at a local winery. Originally cooked in a large cauldron like porridge, polenta is now best served alongside braised beef. Before leaving Switzerland, ensure you sample some of the world-famous fondue.

Other holidays you might be interested in...