Switzerland’s Grand Tour: Spa and Wellness Itinerary
Relax and recharge on this six-day tour, where every stop is designed to promote improved mind-body health.
By Maryellen Kennedy Duckett
GATEWAY AND DEPARTURE AIRPORT Geneva Airport, Geneva
Relax and recharge on this six-day tour, where every stop is designed to promote improved mind-body health. The itinerary includes a sampling of Switzerland’s legendary thermal pools, world-class spa hotels and day spas, and innovative spa treatments. Pick and choose among the activities and attractions featured here based on your interests and the time allotted for your trip. To optimize the restorative benefits of the tour, set a leisurely pace and consider extending your stay in some locations. The route begins and ends in Geneva and can be covered using public transit. For unlimited access to trains, buses, boats, and public transportation, buy an all-in-one Swiss Travel Pass (Tip: Kids under 16 travel for free with a parent who has a Swiss Travel Pass).
DAY ONE: GENEVA
GETTING AROUND In Geneva, use the Geneva Transport Card (free to all hotel, hostel, and campground guests) to ride city buses, trams, trains, and taxi boats for free.
SPA DAY The Spa Mont Blanc, which takes up the top three floors of Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, features saunas and hammams and a variety of treatments, such as the two-hour Swiss detox ritual using juniper berry and cypress oils from spa product provider ESPA. Spa guests can swim in the glass-enclosed rooftop infinity pool offering panoramic views of Lake Geneva and Geneva's skyline. Or try alternative-medicine treatments—including Moxibustion, a traditional Chinese medicine technique combining smoldering dried mugwort and acupuncture needles—at SinoSanté de Genève.
FUEL UP Nourish your body with healthy, nutrient-rich smoothies, soups, wraps, salads, and small plates at Geneva’s two Qibi locations. Qibi specializes in fresh, fast-casual cuisine—such as seasonal soups, spelt risotto, and homemade granola—and offers plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Another nutritious choice for lunch is Une Bonne Santé, a charming health-food shop and café. Try the pumpkin coconut soup or Gruyère cheese sandwich on heart-shaped whole grain bread.
MIND-BODY CONNECTION Bains des Pâquis, a man-made peninsula and popular summer swimming spot, offers restorative options from late September to mid-May, such as sauna, steam room, hammams, and massage. Get there early for the morning tai chi sessions held year-round. Another option for early risers is the Tuesday sunrise yoga class at Innercityoga. All levels are welcome to attend the 7 a.m. class, which, weather permitting, is held on the rooftop deck.
EAT The Café Lauren at La Réserve Genève Spa, Geneva
STAY La Réserve Genève Hotel and Spa, Geneva
DAY TWO: GENEVA TO INTERLAKEN
GET THERE BY CAR A1 > A6 BY PUBLIC TRANSIT IR (InterRegio) train > Bern; IC (InterCity) train > Interlaken Ost
SPA DAY Plan a half or full day of indulgent pampering at Interlaken’s luxurious Victoria-Jungfrau Spa. Day spa options include the weekday morning special, featuring a buffet breakfast and your choice of a 50-minute personal training session, massage, facial, manicure, or pedicure. Or book a special overnight package including use of spa facilities such as fitness classes, indoor pool, Finnish and bio saunas, and steam bath. Specialty holistic and skin-care treatments are available at the two branded spas: ESPA and Sensai Select.
NATURALLY RELAXING Luxuriate lakeside at the Beatus Wellness & Spa Hotel, located on the shores of Lake Thun in Merligen. Room rates include a wellness basic package covering activities such as guided hikes, year-round indoor and outdoor swimming, and fitness classes. Guests also enjoy complimentary use of the hotel’s saunas, exercise equipment, mountain bikes, rowboats, kayaks, and paddleboats. Or soak in a Finnish sauna while taking in panoramic views of the north face of the Eiger at the Landhotel Golf Interlaken. Located a short bus ride from the Interlaken Ost railway station, the Swiss chalet-style Landhotel offers a more rural and rustic spa experience.
ALPINE ESCAPES From Interlaken, wellness options in the wider Jungfrau region are a quick train or bus ride away. About 30 minutes southeast in Grindelwald, day passes are available year-round for the spa at the historic Hotel Belvedere, founded in 1907. In winter, warm up in the spa’s heated swimming pool, outdoor saltwater Jacuzzis, and adults-only (clothing-free) Finnish sauna and glacier steam bath. About an hour south (by public transportation) of Interlaken is the car-free resort of Wengen, where, in summer, you can enjoy views of the Jungfrau while swimming in the town’s historic outdoor pool. Year-round, buy a spa day pass (or stay overnight) at the Hotel Victoria-Lauberhorn to relax in the sauna, therapeutic saltwater pool, and steam bath.
EAT Restaurant Stadthaus, Interlaken
STAY Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, Interlaken
DAY THREE: INTERLAKEN TO LUCERNE AND ANDERMATT
GET THERE BY CAR A8 > A2 BY PUBLIC TRANSIT IR train > Lucerne; IR (InterRegio) train > Göschenen; R (Regio) train > Andermatt
RIVERIA RENEWAL Lucerne’s Weggis Vitznau Rigi region is recognized as a Swiss Tourism Federation wellness destination for its exceptional wellness services. Weggis, known as the “Riviera of central Switzerland” for its mild climate, is home to several top-notch spa hotels, including the luxurious Park Weggis on the shores of Lake Lucerne. Splurge on a two-hour (minimum) stay in one of the resort’s six spa cottages. Each private retreat is equipped with relaxation amenities such as a sauna and steam room, whirlpool or soaking tub, tanning bed, and water bed. Available treatments include Tibetan massage and hot-stone therapy.
SUMMIT SOAK Take the cog railway from Vitznau or the panoramic cable car from Weggis up to the stunning Rigi Kaltbad Mineral Baths & Spa. Designed by Swiss master architect Mario Botta, the minimalist stone, wood, and glass complex is perched on Mount Rigi, high above Lake Lucerne. Book a day admission to soak in the indoor and outdoor mineral bath pools. Or indulge in one of the spa’s “spoil and pamper” experiences, such as the Queen of the Mountain, including a mineral bath, full-body massage, and facial peel.
MILKY WAY Pampering without the pomp is part of the allure of the “dairy spas” offered by some Swiss cheesemakers. The open-air soaking tubs at these rustic spas (typically simple Alpine huts) are filled with steaming whey—the velvety, yellowish liquid remains of the cheesemaking process. Bathing in warm whey softens the skin, and the setting—snowcapped peaks in the distance and the hypnotic sounds of clanging cowbells in the air—soothes the soul. May to September, experience a restorative whey bath (reservations required) at the Alpkäserei Gerschnialp (cheese dairy) in Engelberg, about a 45-minute train ride south of Lucerne.
PURE BLISS From Lucerne, it’s about an hour by car and two hours by train to the five-star Chedi Andermatt, a newer (opened December 2013) addition to the Swiss collection of sumptuous spa resorts. The posh hotel’s nearly 26,000-square-foot spa includes an indoor pool and temperature-controlled outdoor lap pool, state-of-the-art gym, yoga classes, and personal training sessions, plus bio and Finnish saunas, organic sol steam bath, and a wide array of relaxation and therapy treatments. For pure bliss, try the Chedi Jade Massage—60 or 90 minutes, two therapists, four hands, and multiple massage techniques (such as shiatsu, Balinese, and Swedish).
EAT Restaurant Focus at Park Hotel Vitznau, Vitznau
STAY Chedi Andermatt, Andermatt
DAY FOUR: ANDERMATT TO ST. MORITZ
GET THERE BY CAR A2 > A13 > Route 3 BY PUBLIC TRANSIT Glacier Express train (not available late October to early December) > St. Mortiz, or R train > Disentis/Mustér; RE (RegioExpress) train > Reichenau-Tamins; RE train > St. Moritz
OLD-WORLD ELEGANCE Healing thermal springs have lured people to the Engadin/St. Moritz region for thousands of years. Luxuriate in the therapeutic waters at a grand and historic spa hotel, such as the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains (established in 1897), the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina (opened in 1848), and the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz.
SPA HOP Luxury hotel spas aren’t the only options in the Engadin/St. Moritz resort. If you’re not staying at a hotel with wellness facilities, purchase a day pass at a location open to the public, such as the Bellavita Pool and Spa and the Hotel Saratz Day Spa in Pontresina, or the Mineralbad & Spa in Samedan.
DIP AND DIVE One of the newest public-access wellness options is Ovaverva pool, spa, and sports center in St. Moritz. Opened in 2014, the state-of-the-art facility includes an indoor swimming pool, waterslides, fitness center, and a café specializing in light, nutritious foods. Buy the combination entrance ticket including access to the pool, spa, and “gut training” (fitness center). Massage and other treatments are available for additional fees.
EAT ViV Bistro at Ovaverva, St. Moritz
STAY Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Pontresina
DAY FIVE: ST. MORITZ TO LOCARNO
GET THERE BY CAR A13 BY PUBLIC TRANSIT RE train > Thusis; Bus 171 > Bellinzona Stazione; Bus 311 > Locarno
LAKE LIFE Locarno, located on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, is blessed with an abundance of sunshine (an estimated 2,300 hours of sunshine per year) and the warmest climate in Switzerland. And even on the coldest winter day, it’s swim time inside the family-friendly Lido Locarno, a lakefront beach, fitness, and wellness destination. The ultramodern Lido Locarno complex includes floor-to-ceiling glass walls, multiple indoor and outdoor pools, and four giant tubes (all-season waterslides) spiraling down from a glass tower into an outdoor heated pool.
SERENE SURROUNDS Next door to Lido Locarno is the recently renovated Termali Salini & Spa, a sleek, stone-and-glass structure featuring saunas, indoor and outdoor saltwater pools, spa treatments, and dining. The multitiered design of the indoor pool area creates a waterfall effect. Stairwells connect the stacked pools, making it easy to move from pool to pool.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
MYSTICAL POWERS Learn about the healing vibe associated with Locarno and neighboring Ascona on a guided walking tour of nearby “power places,” high-energy sites purportedly created by the natural combination of ancient volcanic soil, mineral-rich water, and oxygen-rich Alpine air. Power places such as Monte Verità (“mountain of truth”) in the hills of Ascona are popular sites for meditation, spiritual pilgrimage, and quiet reflection. Tap into the energy on the Excursion to Places of Power tour. Reservations required; minimum five people.
EAT Antica Osteria Il Malatesta, Locarno
STAY Hotel Eden Roc, Ascona
DAY SIX: LOCARNO TO VALAIS
GET THERE BY CAR A9 BY PUBLIC TRANSIT Ponte Brolla D (fast train) > Domodossola; EC (Eurocity) > Sion (capital of Valais); IR > Lausanne
THERMAL BATHS On the way to Lausanne, stop off in the canton of Valais for a relaxing soak and sauna. Valais is home to Switzerland’s largest concentration of ancient thermal pools. At the newly renovated (reopened in December 2014) Brigerbad in Lötschberg, you can swim in thermal pools totaling 2,600 square meters, the largest of its kind in Switzerland. Brigerbad also offers spa treatments, saunas, and steam baths, among other options. And in the wine region of Saillon, the thermal zone complex at Les Bains de Saillon includes multiple thermal pools, whirlpool baths, and a thermal lazy river.
SKI AND SPA Valais also is the place to take a ski-bath day in winter or a hike-bath day the rest of the year. Mountain resorts such as Ovronnaz and Leukerbad offer a wide range of winter sports and soothing, soaking options. At Leukerbad—the largest thermal spa resort in the Alps—there are 30 thermal pools and numerous public thermal baths. Ovronnaz has three thermal pools, plus a new spa, sauna, steam room, and black-light chamber.
LAST STOP A fitting final stop on your wellness road trip is the world-class Spa Cinq Mondes at the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne. Activity and relaxation options include swimming, tennis, spa treatments, sauna, and hammam. Or enjoy the view while you exercise in the fitness facility, where the floor-to-ceiling windows face Lake Geneva and the hotel’s private park.
EAT Eat Me tapas restaurant and bar, Lausanne
STAY Beau-Rivage Palace, Lausanne
DAY SEVEN: RETURN TO GENEVA AIRPORT
GET THERE BY CAR A1 BY PUBLIC TRANSIT RE train > Geneva Airport