Luzern and Central Switzerland Feature
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Towns where travelers used to stop to brush the dust off their clothes have turned into full-service spas with culinary temples, hiking trails, and docks for pleasure boats. What was once a part of the long route from Germany to Italy is now a destination in its own right.
The many inlets of Lake Luzern that stretch all over the region vary in size, depth, and wind conditions. They are at some points flanked by gentle green hillsides, and at others by steep mountain cliffs. The lake's lower end is home to gusting winds that thrill windsurfers, while the quiet middle basin is perfect for waterskiing. Boats steam along from the top of the lake to the bottom, carrying lunching locals and tourists snapping shots of imposing peaks that loom high above. Endless trails snake around the region, often with altitude differences of 1,000 feet over just a few miles, while secondary (and some primary) roads along its shores are narrow and winding—the perfect excuse to rent a convertible.
Best Time to Go
While misty spring or fall can be romantic, the low clouds that winter brings usually obscure the scenery. It's summer you want: hiking trails are free of snow, the lake is a comfortable 73 degrees, restaurant terraces are open, cowbells clang in the distance, and the sky is so blue you're suspicious.
Ways to Explore
The best way to see the sights if you have the time, is on the water. Short one-hour cruises offer a new angle on the area you're in, but to get the full Technicolor panorama of the lake's character, take the 3½-hour tour of the whole lake: it heads from the hilly and small-scale but busy series of inlets dotted with impressive villas near Luzern; through the quieter basin surrounded by the spa towns of Birkenstock, Weggis, and Vitznau; to the wilder Urnersee between Brunnen and Flüelen, where the cliffs rise precipitously out of the depths of the lake and high into the sky.
Whether you prefer an easy ride through the green pastures of cow country or are ready to tackle a steep mountain pass, you'll find both options here, and all levels in between. For easy trips, check out the good network of official bike paths off the main thoroughfares. For something with more altitude, you may have to share a narrow twisting road with a car or two from time to time.
Switzerland has such an extensive network of hiking trails that you can be sure of getting to wherever you want. Thousands of official yellow Wanderweg (trail) signposts can be found all over the country, so you always know where you're going and how long it will take to get there. The map system is also very comprehensive and detailed, so feel free to go exploring up Mt. Pilatus, along the lake, or into the green fields of the lowlands.
Best Photo Ops
If your camera doesn't have a panorama setting, you may want to upgrade before heading to the Bürgenstock, a resort that dates back to 1873 when two entrepreneurs built a group of hotels for the world's elite, who came in droves. Today, the area still drips with luxury, but the best aspect is still something money can't buy. On a clear day, from the peak at 3,700 feet above sea level, the lake spreads out far below you, on its shores the full spectrum: to the left Luzern and Mt. Pilatus, lake villas in the center with Zug far in the distance, and to the right the spa towns of Weggis and Vitznau, with Mt. Rigi looming over them. Turn around to see some of Switzerland's most famous Alps, including Mt. Titlis.
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