Most people think exploring exotic places means flying long-haul, but we tend to forget that Europe is magnificent as well.
To prove the point, our Travel Expert Irina and her family took a road trip from Zurich, stopping in Liechtenstein, the Italian Alps and Venice, travelling all the way through to Lugano and returning to Zurich...
This road trip was one of the best in Europe so far for us and for me, the different experiences we had along the way make a good mix if you like nature and culture. From winding mountain passes with impressive snow-clad peaks in the Italian Alps and cocktails at a rooftop bar in Venice overlooking the Grand Canal, to the spectacular view of Lake Lugano from the mountaintops, Switzerland and Italy are amazing destinations for any fly-drive travellers.
Our first stop was at Rheinfall, the largest waterfall in Europe and only one hour from Zurich. We arrived late in the afternoon and were able to take great photos with few other tourists in them. The blue-green rushing waterfall and the buildings and skyline in the background really belong to a postcard. To take the best photos, wait for a boat to get closer to the waterfall.
Our second stop, Liechtenstein, is small but a rather beautiful country, one seemingly untouched by the tourism that has taken hold in many European destinations. Come here to experience nature and its beauty, the perfect stop for those who want to savour a sense of authenticity. This small state has its own unique charm, and I’d say it’s a hidden gem worth visiting.
Nothing beats a road trip in the Italian Alps, so we headed on to the Dolomites. As we went mid-April, the peaks were still covered in snow, making our photos look like professional postcards. The dramatic views of the terraced landscape and the contrast of untouched snow, proud-standing dark green fir trees and eye-catching rock pinnacles were simply astonishing. Light-reflecting snow at the top of the mountain created a stunning winter effect. These mountains are not just for skiers and climbers, but for those seeking silence and peace as well. Like us.
For a change of scenery, we took the picturesque route through the Italian Alps to fairy-tale Venice, where we stayed in an elegant and welcoming hotel with an amazing location overlooking the Grand Canal. My favourite spot for taking in the view was the rooftop cocktail bar.
Venice is a living and breathing city full of charm. In order to explore as much as possible on foot, we decided to take the vaporetto (water bus) to St. Mark’s Square and then walk back to our hotel, soaking up the the vibrant atmosphere of the city's waterways, labyrinth of narrow bridges and the iconic Venetian gondolas along the way.
We called in too at Libreria Acqua Alta, the most famous bookshop in Venice. This library has plenty of character and for me is a must-see, especially if you like quirky things – like seeing old bath tubs and gondolas full of books in a shop!
We also loved Rialto Bridge, but far more appealing was a fish and vegetable market tucked away to its side, where you really sense the smell of the sea in the air.
Lake Garda was our next adventure and although it wasn’t initially on our list, we were loved the views of the clear green water from Garda town. The scenery is idyllic, especially with the mountains surrounding the tranquil lake, making the lake a fantastic side stop or destination in its own right.
On our way to Lugano in Switzerland, we passed lake Como, treating us to yet more beautiful views. Lugano is a relaxed place with an upmarket town centre and cobbled stone streets. There’s a large park in the town centre adorned with seasonal flowers, ducks and swans which integrate perfectly with the lake and surrounding mountains.
To better appreciate the lake, we took the funicular up Monte Bre. Even though it was a little cloudy, we were treated to a spectacular panorama, the perfect spot for a coffee or a cocktail.
Our last stop was at Lake Lucerne, wher the views of the lake and mountains were simply breathtaking. The day was perfectly clear, so we could gaze happily at the mountains and soak up the ambience. This might just be the most beuatiful lake I've ever seen!
Overall, I loved the changing scenery as we travelled across Europe. This is a trip that needs to be on anyone’s bucket list - who needs long-haul?