After savouring the delights of Zermatt, Gaya Travel team continued its journey in Switzerland by travelling to Lugano, located in the canton of Ticino, close to the Italian border.

From Zermatt to Lugano

To reach Lugano from Zermatt, travellers are required to take the three-hour train ride to Andermatt on the train service called the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn, which carriages are fitted with large panoramic windows. There service is also known as the Glacier Express, consisting of mountain trains that run on rack rails (railway tracks that have toothed rails located between the bearing rails that engage with a cogwheel under the locomotive to help the train climb steep slopes).

The Glacier Express plies the route that starts from Zermatt and ends at either Davos or St. Moritz – with stops at designated stations along the way – taking approximately eight hours in total to arrive at either destination. As the train pulled out of Zermatt to head to Andermatt, travellers are able to savour the wonderful mountainous sceneries that Switzerland is renowned for.

Once we arrived at Andermatt, we took a different train to Groschenen, located 20 minutes’ ride away.  From Groschenen, we took another different train to Bellinzona (capital of Ticino region and UNESCO World Heritage site since the year 2000), which took about an hour. We noticed that the train enters a different territory as we reached Airolo – the houses henceforth are more of Italian and Mediterranean style compared to the typical Swiss chalet fashion. From Bellinzona, we took the 30-minute train ride to Lugano.

Million-franc views

Whoever so loves travelling on trains (like the Gaya Travel Magazine Editor) and admiring sceneries along the way will definitely love the experience. Throughout the journey, we can’t stop reiterating the fact that we did not know how beautiful Switzerland is until we saw it with our own eyes.

Gaya Travel team strongly believes that all travellers who explore Switzerland must experience riding on the Glacier Express since the journey is full of breathtaking views that simply affirm the fact that the country is without doubt one of the most picture-postcard perfect destinations in the world.

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During the journey from Zermatt to Lugano, we realised that around 60% of Swiss territory are mountainous, resulting in space and arable land in Switzerland as premium. Besides snowcapped mountains and glaciers, Switzerland is also blessed with pristine rivers, waterfalls and gorges, elements conducive for the construction of hydropower plants, which produces 56% of the country’s energy, making it the most important domestic source of renewable energy. It is followed by nuclear power plants (producing 39% of energy), thermal and other power plants (5%).

Ticino

Ticino is the Italian-speaking canton located in south of Switzerland, bordering with Italy. The area used to be under the rule the Duchy of Milan from 1100 until the 15th and 16th centuries, when the Old Swiss Confederacy (a loose confederation of valley communities and independent small states located in the Central Alps sharing common interest that were considered as the pre-cursor to Switzerland) began annexing the territory during the Transalpine Campaign (military expeditions that resulted in the conquest of territories south of the Alps).

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Ticino boasts 160 kilometres of lake shores, including 3,600 kilometres of hiking trails and 737 kilometres of cycling paths. The factsheet by Ticino Turismo also claims that the canton is home to 130 lakes that are ideal for swimming and fishing. Due to the canton’s mild climate, we were informed that travellers could hike at any day of the year, especially during spring through autumn.

The canton is dubbed as the sunnier side of Switzerland, clocking 2,302 hours of sun in a year. It receives many Swiss German tourists who prefer to come here for its warmer weather compared to the other areas in Switzerland, especially during weekends. The best time to visit Ticino is in September to October, but we were told that May onwards should already be lovely for travellers to visit.

Ticino is also home to two UNESCO Sites: one located in Ticino’s capital, Bellinzona, which contains three castles that possess unique military architecture from the medieval times; and the other is in Monte San Giorgio located right at the border of Italy, which is home to the best fossil record of marine life from the Triassic Period (between 245 and 230 million years ago).

Hiking in Lugano

Lugano – Monte San Salvatore – Ciona – Carona – Church of Madonna d’Ongero – Torello – Morcote

Lugano is a conurbation within Ticino that is home to around 70,000 people. Though not being the capital of Ticino, Lugano pulses with excitement during summer as it hosts Estival Jazz in July, art shows and concerts. It is Switzerland’s third largest financial centre, which is why it is brimming with businesses, meetings and fairs. Travellers to Lugano should take advantage of the area’s wonderful hiking trails that come in various levels of difficulty, but mostly are easy, which we experienced first-hand.

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From the centre of Lugano, we first took the funicular train up to Monte San Salvatore (912 metres above sea level) to admire the fantastic views of Lugano area, Lugano Lake and Melide causeway, including the plains of Lombardy and the chain of Swiss and Savoy Alps. Travellers are encouraged to climb to the top of the San Salvatore Church and enjoy the arresting 360-degree view of the surrounding panoramic expanse. We then hiked down through the woods that are full of chestnut trees, besides oak and hornbeam, and subsequently reached the paved road leading further down to the delightful Mediterranean hamlets of Ciano and Carona.

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Soon we stopped for a quick lunch on the grounds of a scenic Baroque church called Madonna d’Ongero that was built in 1624.  We then proceeded down to the aged yet elegant Torello (an old farmhouse surrounded by meadows) and finally arrived at the quaintly mediaeval Morcote, a remarkably scenic lakeshore town with edifices made of stone and wood that are neatly packed, forming narrow alleyways in between them.

After resting our tired feet and imbibing refreshing beverages while absorbing the atmosphere, we took the ferry back to Lugano, which afforded us great views of other lakeshore towns along Lugano Lake and surrounding mountain chains from the water. Once in Lugano, travellers could leisurely amble along the promenade by the lakeshore to take in the view, besides checking out Lugano’s Old Town Mediterranean-style squares and arcades.

Where to stay when visiting Lugano

Gaya Travel team had the chance to stay at Kurhaus Cademario, a marvellous spa and wellness resort situated 850 metres above sea level that splendidly serves up the awesome views of Lake Lugano. Each of the resort’s 82 rooms is equipped with strong Wi-Fi connectivity for up to 10 devices.

Opened in 2013, the resort keeps a multi-lingual reception team who are knowledgeable on what is currently happening in Lugano. For guests who love hiking, There are around 320 kilometres of trails located close to Kurhaus Cademario, for example the Chestnut Trail in Malcantone.

At the heart of Kurhaus Cademario is the 2,200-square-metre spa and wellness area named DOT.Spa, characterised by sharply designed treatment rooms and efficacious treatments, including refreshing salt pool and external pool that are heated during winter, sauna, Turkish steam bath, fitness room and incredibly cosy relaxation spaces.DOT.Spa not only caters for guests who stay at Kurhaus Cademario but also walk-ins.

Interested to discover Switzerland? Here are some pointers:

Travellers are recommended to refer to the website www.MySwitzerland.com, which is one of the best sources for researching and obtaining up-to-date information on Switzerland, including suggestions on what to do and see.

To the Gaya Travel team, Switzerland is about liveability – travellers should take time to absorb Switzerland’s fresh air, exceedingly beautiful natural landscapes and high quality of life. Swiss cities such as Zurich and Geneva tend to score high on the world global cities index when it comes to liveability.  Visiting Switzerland offers international travellers the real understanding of what ‘liveability’ actually means.

In Switzerland, it seems that the philosophy of their urban and transport design and planning is strictly bent towards making life easy. Be sure to purchase the handy and all-encompassing Swiss pass online at www.swiss-pass.ch prior to visiting Switzerland. The pass allows travellers to easily use railways, trams, buses and boats throughout the country. Travellers will also be able to get more travelling information from swisstravelsystem.com.

To know what time and what mode of public transport to take to travel from one point to another when being in Switzerland – for example from Cademario in Lugano to Zurich Old Town – simply download the ZVV Fahrplan mobile app onto your mobile device. The app precisely calculates the time and schedule of the relevant mode of transport that travellers can take from one point to another. It also suggests various possibilities and alternative options for travellers to get to their destinations from respective points of departure.

Yes, Switzerland is no doubt expensive and travellers sometimes can’t help but compare the prices of goods here to those back home. However, we feel that embracing this reality is part of the travelling experience since prices are also exorbitant at other European countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Luxembourg. The chance to travel through one of the world’s most beautiful and most liveable countries on the planet far outweighs the cost.

When Malaysians budget for their trip to Switzerland, the rule of thumb is to anticipate their expenditure to be similar to shopping and dining at Suria KLCC’s retail outlets and restaurants (not food court), especially those located on the Concourse and Ground Floor levels. Travellers must be comfortable with the idea that one meal might cost them RM50 to RM75 per person. But of course, if travellers consume less and opt for merely sandwiches, pastries and fruits, the cost for meals can be considerably reduced.

(Original article that was published on 10.1 issue)

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