Classic Mediterranean-style scenic flair combines with quintessentially Swiss Alpine grandeur to make this an unforgettable whirl of Ticino and Valais, Switzerland. Start in Italian-speaking Ticino and come to a stop at the foothills of the magnificent Matterhorn. Take plenty of rest stops to sample local delicacies and quaff hard-to-find wines!
Our starting point is the relaxed town of Ascona, a charming spot for drinking in the views, wines and easy-going atmosphere of this attractive corner of Switzerland.
Situated in a prime position on Lake Maggiore and near the Italian border, the town revolves around pastel-hued Piazza Giuseppe Motta. A hop away from equally lovely Locarno, Ascona is a smart base from which to explore the surrounding area (Sacro Monte Madonna del Sasso, Cardada, Cimetta etc) over a day or two and we recommend sleeping at Albergo Carcani, situated in a prime people-watching location. There are plenty of great places to eat throughout Ascona and Locarno, but if you head a little bit off the beaten path you’ll be amply rewarded at Ristorante Grotto Broggini.
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After your time on Lake Maggiore and Isole di Brissago, head north to the captivating castles of Bellinzona, the cantonal capital. Bellinzona itself nestles at the foot of the Alps, in the Ticino River valley. It’s a relatively quiet spot (ie, no need to stay overnight here!), but definitely rewards a day’s exploring.
From Bellinzona you have a choice of Alpine passes to take you into Valais; one famous and one lesser-known. Both offer thrilling twists and turns, plus jaw-dropping views and a true sense of navigating the peaks of Switzerland’s Alps. To take the historic St Gotthard Pass, head on the A2 in the direction of Airolo (take exit 41, signed Airolo) and follow the signs to Passo San Gottardo (Italian for St Gotthard Pass). Follow Route 2 until you break the back of the mountain at the famous pass connecting northern and southern Switzerland.
The lesser-known Nufenen Pass is every bit as thrilling and has great views to some of Bernese Oberland’s famous peaks. Stopping here to stretch your legs, grab a bite and take in the views is a good idea. The pass, which only opened to traffic in 1969 is popular with cyclists. While popular with locals it does not attract as much attention (or traffic) as its famous neighbor, the St Gotthard.
Whichever alpine pass you take, you need not worry that you’re leaving breathtaking views behind, as you’ll now head to the extraordinary Aletsch Glacier. From Fiesch, where you’ll park the car, head up via cable car to the vantage point of Eggishorn.
Our end point is the unmissable and magic town of Zermatt, in western Valais (and also, oddly enough, only accessible by train — leave the car in Täsch). Spend at least one night in town and a full day there. Sample some of the town’s famed fine-dining establishments at either lunch or dinner. And of course, get as many Matterhorn sightings in as you can.
With such a playground at your disposal, it makes sense to make as much of the great outdoors as possible: a trip up to Gornergrat on the famous Gornergratbahn is wonderful for Matterhorn views and also allows you to hop-on/hop-off for some easy hiking. If skiing and/or snowboarding is your thing, the year-round snow sports of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise will call your name.
To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in or around Ancona, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments. If you wish to book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you have somewhere particular in mind, enter your preferred resort/town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.