The Vineyard Terraces of Switzerland

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There’s inherent beauty evident across Switzerland, but the region around Lac Léman has a certain special charm that is further amplified by the terraced vineyards that border it.

So dramatic is the contrast of the area with the snow covered Alps in the south of the lake – on the opposite side of the vineyards, the deep blue in between – dotted with the occasional boat passing through with the bright red Swiss flag fluttering in the wind, and then the endless green of the vineyards in the North of Lac Léman; It’s majestic, it’s romantic, and it’ll make you feel drunk with splendor much before you taste the wine that’ll come out of it.

This 30 kilometer region – Lavaux – stretches from the city of Lausanne all the way to Chateau de Chillon, and because of its cultural importance, the locality has been given the distinction of being a UNESCO World heritage site.

I had the pleasure to spend a few weeks bang in the middle of this belt, staying amidst the vineyards, exploring the tiny Swiss-French villages that showcase a very different Switzerland as compared to some of the popular – more mountainous – provinces.

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Wine growing is a particularly personal and passionate characteristic that impacts this territory and all the people who live in it. Strict building regulations, Associations that promote working together, and healthy competition between different wine producers makes this a hidden gem that is often overlooked by visitors.

California with Napa and Australia with its Yarra valley have romanticized wine culture to an extreme, but it’s the subtleness and non-commercial, more personal, aspects of the Swiss wine growers that makes it characteristic and praiseworthy. There’s no hullabaloo over wine resorts or mansions, instead it’s only about manufacturing good wine.

pullyThere are enough touristy attractions such as the Lavaux Vinorama or Toy Train rides through the Vineyards that help promote the wine cultural, but what attracted me was discovering cute sounding and looking villages – Pully (pronounced Pu-yee), Cully (pronounced ku-yee), Lutry,  Chexbres (pronounced Shebre), Rivaz… that makes the Lavaux area such a beautiful detour.

Now, technically the small roads that serpent through the Vineyards are private and you cannot take your own car on them – the wine growers use them for their day to day work. However, the best way to be among the vines is to either walk/hike on these roads or take one of the small toy train rides that usually include wine tasting.

The best season to be here is obviously around or just before harvest time (October-ish), but when we visited in June, the grapes had started to show and the leaves were already a beautiful shade of green. Being among the vineyards and appreciating wine is an activity that suits all ages and as for the tasting part, most places have grape juice for kids.

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Reading and researching about Switzerland has led me to believe that unfortunately most travelers skip this area either limiting their visit to some of the nearby bigger towns – Montreux, Vevey, Lausanne, Geneva – or else going higher up in the mountains to popular and well-known places like Gstaad and Gruyere.

Here are a few photographs (and a few videos), that should convince you of the beauty that the region bestows upon us all. Taken at various different places in this stretch, these ought to definitely tempt you, to explore this spectacular province of Switzerland, the next time you’re there…

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40 thoughts on “The Vineyard Terraces of Switzerland

  1. I absolutely love traveling to Europe in the fall so I’d definitely visit in early October! Thanks for that tip. I had never thought of visiting vineyards in Switzerland before but it looks so lovely! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience. I’m bookmarking this for the future.

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  2. You’re right… the photos and videos did convince me! I had never even heard of Lavaux before! What a beautiful part of the world. I’ve only been to Napa so it’s about time I explore another wine region 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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  3. These are great pics and videos and they bring me back to when I was overwhelmed by the splendor of Lac Lemon. I spent one short afternoon in the area and would have loved to explored more. Thanks for allowing me to relive that moment, and also see it from a different point of view.

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  4. Lac Léman and it surrounding areas as well as the vineyards are indeed beautiful as detailed by your photos and videos. I visited Switzerland a couple of years ago and I honestly did not know about Lac Léman. It is definitely worth a visit. Just beautiful.

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  5. We always love visiting vineyards! Would love to check out this area in Switzerland. Your photos definitely convinced us that we need to add it to our itinerary. The villages in the Lavaux area do look super cute!

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  6. We enjoy vineyards when we visit British Columbia, however, never been to Switzerland. It’s hard for me to compare. But I loved the vineyards of Switzerland from the lens of your camera and videos.

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  7. We love spending time in the wine regions of the world and Switzerland is no different. I’m pretty happy to make the most of whatever the region has to offer and don’t compare it necessarily to others, but take each on it’s own merits. This area looks wonderful.

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  8. Ok I hate to leave the most cliche compliment but honestly Switzerland is my favorite so I just love these photos! I too am guilty of visiting Switzerland but overlooking wine country so this was really interesting to read. I am always looking for excuses to head back! Good to know that while October is the best time to go it would be sufficient to go outside of that window also. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. First, your photos of Lavaux are beautiful. The landscapes look amazing and I think any photographer would love to visit just for that. I also love the little villages and towns; it really looks secluded and charming.

    Now, I’m not a wine person so I’m not sure what I’d be talking about, but it is pretty cool to see the vineyards to see them solely dedicated to their craft of making great wine. It was kind of when we were visiting Italy, we went to some places producing olive oil, and there’s nothing fancy about those places, they were just dedicated to producing a good product. Lovely post and will have to keep this region in mind.

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  10. I used to live in Switzerland, so I loved reading this post! 🙂 I am happy to hear that you had a nice experience there. I quite enjoyed watching your time lapse driving videos… and your photos are all so lovely! Thank you for sharing your experience!

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  11. How gorgeous. I never would have considered a winery in Switzerland as you are right – California and Australia truly romanticize the winery experience and culture. The industry does shape a region and it is nice to read that this Swiss region has made itself unique from the norm with its personal and non-commercial aspects. The scenery looks quite pristine and I do agree that it should not be overlooked when a trip is planned to Switzerland.

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  12. My wife and I base in Lausanne and have visited several of these lakeshore towns. Did you see the statue for the late Freddie Mercury of Queen? Across the lake from Montreal, Deep Purple wrote Smoke on the Water.

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  13. Lavaux is a huge UNESCO world heritage site! I guess you get to see a lot of it passing through in the toy train. I agree, more people should visit Lavaux, maybe they will after reading your post and seeing that it is a UNESCO site.

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  14. I am convinced! Switzerland looks/sounds/reads great! I was reading another post recently that inspired me to make a goal about Switzerland and your post has just strengthened that goal – good post!

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  15. Switzerland is a beauty it seems. I agree with Arv above – it seems that every spot in Switzerland is as picturesque as your photos show here. I love exploring vineyards because it is always nice to get a glimpse of how our favorite wines are produced.

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