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Lavaux

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A view of the grapes and the lake on a fine fall day in Grandvaux

Lavaux [1] is internationally famous as a terraced wine-growing region on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) in western Switzerland. It covers the territory roughly from Lausanne to Montreux, extending to an altitude of roughly 500 meters above lake level and including 6 lakeshore villages and the city of Vevey. Part of the Lavaux (bas-Lavaux) has been recognised since 2007 as a world heritage site by Unesco. The territories of two additional communes Savigny and Forel, also belong to the Lavaux, but lie entirely outside the UNESCO world heitage site. With only distant glimpses of the lake, at 700-900 meters altitude, along with the upper reaches of the commune of Puidoux, these outlying parts of the Lavaux lie too high above the Léman for commercial wine-growing, but nevertheless benefit from stunning views of the entire mountain range from the Moléson of the Fribourgeois Préalps to the Dent D'Oche of the Chablais Français. In winter the haut-Lavaux is often sufficiently snow-covered that it is not unusual to encounter off-piste cross-country skiers on the rolling farmland and abundant forest trails. In Autumn, Savigny and Forel may bask in sunny blue skies on the days when Lausanne and the bas-Lavaux remain shrouded in mist. Highly accurate local weather predictions for the region can be had from the web site of the local weather station, MeteoLavaux.

Get in[edit]

Train[edit]

From Lausanne there is many Lavaux villages reachable by train : Lutry, Vilette, Cully, Epesses, Rivaz and St-Saphorin with the S1 and S3 trains (the S3 doesn't stop everywhere), and Grandvaux with the S2 train. Chexbres is reachable from Vevey with the S31 train. Lausanne has good connections to other major cities of Switzerland, including Geneva, Bern, and Zurich. Most trains run roughly between around 5am and midnight everyday of the week, though the number of trains is somewhat more limited on Sundays and holidays. For details check the website of the Swiss Federal Railway [2]. Regional trains run to many of the smaller towns in the Lavaux, but only those that happen to be along the major lines.

Boat[edit]

Castles and vineyards are everywhere in Lavaux

One of the nicest ways to spend an afternoon anywhere is to take a boat from the port of Ouchy on the Lakefront of Lausanne or from Vevey or Montreux. Enjoy the terraces which produced it roll by at a leisurely steam-powered pace. It's possible (although a much longer ride) to take the same steamboat all the way from Geneva or Evian. The steamboat ports in the Lavaux include Lutry, Cully, Rivaz, and Vevey.

Get around[edit]

By train[edit]

The regional trains stop at many of the villages along the way and can be used to get around [3]. However, the Lausanne-Montreux line runs close to the bottom of the Lavaux, near the big lake, so you are guaranteed to see almost nothing on the train ride (except gorgeous views of LacLéman and the Savoie Alps between Lutry and Vevey), and the train stations are often in the suburban commerce centers of the larger municipalities, away from the vineyards themselves. There is also a Train-des-Vignes that runs from Vevey to Puidoux which can be quite scenic if you aren't fit enough to hike or walk around the Lavaux. There is also a funicular from Vevey to Mont-Pelerin station (where you can walk in perhaps 1.5 hours to the Mont-Pelerin summit at 1080 m which has a viewing tower), a train from Vevey to Les Pleiades (1360 m), and several others. Although not exactly the Lavaux, the cogwheel train from Montreux to Rochers-de-Naye (2042 m) is great because of excellent views on a clear day (although slightly expensive).

By bus[edit]

Regular buses (No. 65 service) run 7 days a week from the Lausanne Metro stop "La Sallaz" to the Lavaux's high altitude communes of Savigny and Forel. These two villages make ideal starting points for countryside walks, or family cycle trips on quiet lanes. (cycle transport is permitted on the buses, and for the adventurous but lazy, electric cycles can be rented in Forel).

On foot[edit]

A fit traveler should be able to reach the village of Cully, in the center of the Lavaux from the port of Ouchy in Lausanne in about an two hours. If you're feeling more ambitious consider the popular walking tour of Lavaux vineyards. The whole walk from Chateau d'Ouchy (Lausanne) to Chateau de Chillion (Montreux) takes about 9 hours, not counting stops for wine-tasting and picnics. This should make for a relaxing 3-day itinerary if you book hotels at villages along the way. The Montreux-Vevey tourism board offers an excellent brochure with a detailed map of the entire bas-lavaux region called "A la découverte des terraces de Lavaux". It can be obtained upon arrival in Lausanne at the tourist office immediately outside the train station or downloaded from their website [4].

For no apparently good reason, it is much harder to find official guides detailing the footpaths and bike trails of Savigny and Forel, but the region is packed with gems for the discerning explorer, and is liberally peppered with charming, inexpensive places to stay. At least one web-site [5] provides an excellent source of attractive bed and breakfast accommodations throughout the entire Lavaux (haut et bas), which are not to be found through the Montreux-Vevey tourist board's site [6].

On bicycle[edit]

Cyclists with strong legs and a decent bicycle may find the Lavaux to be a great place to cycle some hills, and the entire Lausanne-Montreux stretch is easily doable in anywhere from under 2 hours (if you take the uninteresting path the waterfront level) or in a full day (if you take the scenic and paved Route de la Corniche along the vineyards and make plenty of photo stops along the way). Be prepared to walk your bicycle on some roads that are too steep, test your brakes very well, and watch out for extremely steep sections of roads around the corner when descending along vineyard routes. Cycles could be rented in Lausanne for those without one in Switzerland. Get the brochure described above if you don't have a cycling map. For the more adventurous, why not also discover the Lavaux's hinterlands by pedalpower. An abundance of quiet well signed cyclable routes cover the unspoiled countryside between the Mont Pelerin (above Chardonne) and the communes of Puidoux, Forel and Savigny, from where you can freewheel all the way back down to the lakeshore at Lutry (if your bike has reliable breaks).

If you are athletic, cycling is probably the best way to daytrip the bas-Lavaux because you will always be going right alongside the vineyards and villages rather than at the train stations below, and unlike driving, you can stop anywhere at ease to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Start in Lausanne's waterfront at Ouchy, and simply hug the coast until you get to Lutry's old town; turn left, go uphill, and look for the Chateau de Bertholod sitting amongst vineyards. From there, simply follow a map, signs, or your desires eastward; it's hard to not reach Montreux because you will always have the giant lake in view to guide you. The Route de la Petite Corniche which later becomes the Route de la Corniche are particularly scenic. You can even stop in Chexbres for a budget lunch at the Coop, and then continue onwards. When you reach Montreux, catch an S train back to Lausanne with a bicycle ticket, or cycle back via the flat and fast roads at waterfront level.

By car[edit]

The Lavaux could make for some nice drives, but this is discouraged. You will miss the best views and the peacefulness of the place if you stay in your car for too long.

The coast of Lavaux seen from a CGN steamboat

One of the great joys of spending your leisure time in a place like the Lavaux can be exploring on foot. There are thousands of footpaths and stairways linking the vineyards with the major villages and the cities of Lausanne and Vevey. For the fit, a trip up through the vineyards to the Tour de Gourze [7] in the commune of Riez will reward you with fantastic views of the entire length of the Lac Léman as well as the possibility of a tempting fondue on an atmospheric terrace known only to the locals. The Tour can be reached by car except in winter months, but beware, the road is narrow and steep.

  • Le Petit Train de Lavaux +41 21 791 62 62. [8] If you get tired of walking there is a "Petit train" which leaves regularly from the villages of Lutry and Cully and which stops at many of the major vineyards and wine cellars. It is actually a tractor dressed up as a train, which pulls two covered carriages around the footpaths among the vineyards. The price is 10 Chf per adult, or 5 Chf for children (who love it). Groups can charter the Petit Train outside of the normal schedule for a starting price of 200 Chf, which is a good deal if you have a group of 34 (the maximum capacity of the train).

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Montreux Jazz Festival [9]
  • The Cully Jazz Festival [10] Usually held during the last week of March or the First week of April, the Cully Jazz festival features mainstream and offbeat jazz artists from around the world. During the festival many of the village's wine-growers open their caveaux to festival goers as bars featuring their own produce and a selection of wines and beers from elsewhere.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Budget[edit]

  • Coop and Migros supermarkets, which you will find easily in the larger towns including Lausanne, Chexbres, Vevey, Montreux and Savigny. Pack a lunch from there and plenty of water before you go on a long walk. The tiny villages in the vineyards usually do not have grocery stores. Lutry and Cully have grocery stores, which are even open on sunday morning. But your best bet is to check out the villages' glorious open-air markets, which offer local produce, meats, and dairy products, all of outstanding quality and authenticity. The days/hours when the markets operate in each village can be found by consulting the list of Swiss municipalities for Canton Vaud [11]. Among the gems of the haut-Lavaux hinterlands, be sure to look out for Forel's relatively new cooperative épicerie [12] run by the ladies of the Association of Vaudoise Paysannes' Forel-Savigny section.

Mid Range[edit]

  • Restaurant du Léman [13] Grand rue 19, Lutry. +41 21 791 33 87. This little Peruvian restraurant is right in the heart of Lutry village. They also have an extensive menu of Swiss and Provencial favorites so you are still well taken care of during one of the "chef de cuisine"'s trips back home to Peru.
  • La Gare Place de la Gare 2, 1096 Cully. +41 21 799 21 24 [14]. Excellent and creative French cuisine, reasonably priced. Recommended by Euro-Toques International. Conveniently located a few steps from the Cully train station. Unusually good wine menu, including local wines from Lavaux and Valais and well-selected older vintages of Bourgogne and Bordeaux. There is also a café for those on a budget and a pleasant outdoors terrace.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Budget[edit]

  • Camping de Moratel, Cully
  • Camping du Portillon, Lutry
  • Camping des Cases, Forel (Lavaux)

Mid-range[edit]

This site [15] provides details of a good selection of attractive, affordable B&Bs throughout the Lavaux region.

  • Au Major Davel, Place d'armes 8, Cully. +41 21 799 94 94, info@hotelaumajordavel.ch [16]
  • Chambres d'hôtes à Cully, Chemin du Vigny 10, Cully, tel and fax: +41 21 799 38 12, levigny@lavaux.com [17] Lovely bed and breakfast in the middle of the vineyards, about five minutes walk from the train station. The proprietress, Yolande Perdrizat-Duboux serves breakfast on the terrace overlooking the lake in good weather. Yolande speaks no English, though her apprentice Florine speaks some. CHF50
  • Comfort Hotel Intereurope, Cully. +41 21 799 93 93, info@hotelintereurope.ch [18]
  • Auberge de la Crochettaz, Route de la Corniche, Puidoux. +41 21 799 34 34, contact@crochettaz.ch [19]
  • Auberge de la Gare,a new small hotel in Grandvaux,Rue de la Gare 1,1091 Grandvaux +41 21 799 26 mailto:info@aubergegrandvaux.ch)

(http://www.aubergegrandvaux.ch) A nice hotel with a wiev on the lake and with a family ambiance.A Good restaurant with typical specialities and a panoramic terrasse.

Splurge[edit]

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