This past weekend I was lucky enough to go exploring with my camera amongst what I like to think of as Switzerland’s best kept secret. Occupying 30km of the Lake Geneva shore, the Lavaux vineyards are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and surely offer the most beautiful views around the lake. As an experience it’s right up there with the Jungfraujoch, and there are few better ways to spend an afternoon in the region.
We left by train from Geneva heading toward Grandvaux which is where our walk began. Grandvaux is a small town toward the top of the terraced vineyards making it a great starting point for a journey on foot. The land is so steep you really don’t want to be walking uphill for too long. We followed the well marked walking route through the vineyards, heading east toward the picture perfect village St. Saphorin where we intended to get the train back to Geneva. We stopped for a picnic along the way in one of the only spots we found with any semblance of shade. My progress was slow as the scenery was just so spectacular, I couldn’t keep my eye away from the viewfinder for very long.
At about the half way point in our journey we passed through a small village named Epesses. Although most of the local caveaux (wine tasting shops) only seemed to open at 5pm, we found a small place nestled amongst the vines that was open and so stopped to enjoy some local wine whilst looking out at the vivid green and blue colours all around us. I love visiting wine regions. There is something quite romantic about being in a place where you can enjoy the local produce with the people who lovingly craft it year after year, watching it grow all around you.
Whilst strolling along the terraced walkways the Lavaux Express tourist train passed us by a number of times. I expect the people on the tour thought we were crazy for walking through the hills in such heat, but there really is only one way to experience these places fully and that’s on foot at your own pace. Unfortunately a distinct lack of any shade and the ever burning sun meant that we decided to cut our journey short at the village of Rivaz. I only wish we’d come prepared with some swimming gear so we could have taken a dip to cool off in the lake before heading back to Geneva.
Whilst inspecting the train times for the return journey at Rivaz station we noticed a particular train with a strange name. Running between 3 and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays, the pyjama train is something of a novelty I have not seen anywhere else in the world. I guess it’s there to allow people a long night in the vineyards, but we didn’t spot any local establishments that remained open until anywhere near that time. I think it would be great fun if a pyjamas-only policy was enforced during these times. Maybe the region holds an even bigger secret that we are blissfully unaware of?!
Lavaux is accessible by train from either end of Lake Geneva. Trains from Geneva run to Lausanne where you’ll need to pick up a second onward train to Lavaux. There are two train lines, one that runs through the towns at the top of the vineyards such as Grandvaux and Chexbres, and a second that runs along the lake providing access to Rivaz and St. Saphorin. Walking routes amongst the vineyards are free to access and fairly well signposted. Most of the towns in the area can be accessed by car and have some form of public parking. Many of the wine tasting caveaux are only open in the evening after 5pm, so this is a great time to visit.
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