Welcome to 14 days in Europe. An itinerary traversing 3 countries and covering some of the best Europe has to offer. It’s a fantastic introduction for first-timers but also ideal for well-travelled Euro-pros who want out-of-the-way places that don’t pop up on the regular tourist radar.

If you’re looking for a unique holiday in Europe with immense variety, hugely impressive sights and dreamy unknown villages, look no further. We swim in beautiful Mediterranean waters, scale lofty Alpine peaks, dine lakeside with celebrities and explore hilltop markets. We feast on local produce, discover quirky restaurants, walk famous alpine routes and sail on iconic lakes. This is 14 days in Europe, 3 languages, multiple regional cuisines and fantastic sights all the way.

Trip Overview

2 Days
2 Days
2 Days
4 Days
1 Day
3 Days
Glitz and glam on the French Riviera
Cinque Terre by land and sea
Sailing with celebrities on Lake Como
Exploring the dramatic Swiss High Alps
Stunning Mont Blanc
Haute Provence and the Gorge du Verdon

A mix of French, Italian and Swiss culture all in one trip
Collecting the best mountain views in Europe
Beautiful hill towns showing off in golden sunlight
Walking in snow and ice one day, laying on the beach the next
Travelling by car, boat, plane, train, cable car and funicular

Why we loved this trip

Trip Overview

2 Days
2 Days
2 Days
4 Days
1 Day
3 Days
Glitz and glam on the French Riviera
Cinque Terre by land and sea
Sailing with celebrities on Lake Como
Exploring the dramatic Swiss High Alps
Stunning Mont Blanc
Haute Provence and the Gorge du Verdon

Why we loved this trip

A mix of French, Italian and Swiss culture all in one trip
Collecting the best mountain views in Europe
Beautiful hill towns showing off in golden sunlight
Walking in snow and ice one day, laying on the beach the next
Travelling by car, boat, plane, train, cable car and funicular

Day 1 | Promenades, Art and Old Town Cool in Nice

Start your 14 days in Europe by arriving in Nice and taking the Nice Airport Express to the centre. You don’t need a car just yet, and you’re probably better without one. Driving in Nice can be busy, messy and slow. It’s a small city that’s best explored on foot.

Start your exploration on the Promenade des Anglais, probably the most famous stretch of seafront in France. After the English aristocracy took to holidaying here in the 18th century, they agreed the existing seafront would never do. So they commissioned the walkway which now takes their name. Spend some time walking along the promenade, spotting the well-to-do lazing by their perfectly colour coded beach bars.

Next, head to Place Masséna, a recently constructed square framed by Neoclassical buildings and brightly coloured houses. The large statue of Apollo on the Fontaine du Soleil is a crowd favourite. A stroll down the Cours Saleya Markets in the heart of the old town with its photographic displays will get the taste buds ready for some fine French food. But before lunch, have a coffee at Hobo Coffee  (5 Bis Rue Sainte-Reparate), then savour the atmosphere with a stroll around this fantastic old town. Middle Eastern spices waft in the air, Parisian cafes line the laneways and artists of all types sell their wares at makeshift stalls.

After lunch,  head over to the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain. This gallery has an impressive collection of pop art works by Andy Warhol, Sol Lewitt and Yves Klein. If the art itself doesn’t impress, the building with its stunning roof terrace overlooking the city, surely will.

After brushing up on your knowledge of contemporary art, stroll down the west side of Port Lympia. Snap away at the beautiful Venetian buildings before taking the elevator up to Le Parc de la Colline du Château for beautiful afternoon views over Nice. This should have you ready for a sundowner on the front, perhaps at Movida, where you can watch the other beautiful people file by.

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Nice
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The amazing atmosphere of old town Nice

Day 2 | Monte Carlo and Villefranche-sur-Mer

This morning, take the train to Monte Carlo (25 minutes) for a quick exploration of this unique city. The casino is the highlight. The idea of opening a casino in Monaco is credited to Princess Maria Caroline Gibert de Lametz who needed to raise cash to save the House of Grimaldi from certain bankruptcy. Lack of roads and other infrastructure made it difficult to attract visitors, so the casino ran at a loss for many years.

In 1863, frustrated with incompetent management, Princess Caroline hired François Blanc – a French entrepreneur with a knack for running casinos – to turn this loss-making dud around. One of his first suggestions was to rename the place to make it sound more appealing to visitors. Monte Carlo was eventually chosen.

The casino is nothing short of beautiful and even if you’re no fan of gambling, having a champagne in the bar will make you feel like a movie star. When you get the bill, you’ll wish you were one. After draining your daily travel budget on bubbles, take a much more affordable stroll around the harbour.

Next up, take the train to Villefranche-sur-Mer (15 minutes), one of the most charming and authentic French villages in the area. The setting is beautiful and a stroll along its streets is the best way to pick your favourite spot for lunch. There are numerous places with views in town, plus a number on the front. After lunch take to the beach for a couple of hours until the sun drops behind the hill.

Take the train back to Nice for the evening.

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Nice
1 hour on train
Feeling like a movie star sipping champagne in Monte Carlo Casino

Day 3 | The Famous Cinque Terre

Today, pick up a hire car from Nice to continue this 14 days in Europe by driving to Moneglia (3 hours), a small village near the start of the Cinque Terre park.  Your base for the next couple of days. As you get closer to Moneglia, there is a one-way tunnel which may require a bit of a wait. If you see other people getting out of their cars at a set of traffic lights, it’s your queue to jump out as well and collect your first shots of this stunning coastline.

Once at Moneglia, jump on the train to Vernazza (40 minutes) and have a quick stroll around the town. It’s one of the more picturesque towns in Cinque Terre and after a bit of exploring, you’ll no doubt find your ideal spot for a drink.

Take in a sunset boat trip at around 5 pm to get a different view of this spectacular region. A number of private boat operators work from the harbour where you can head down at your leisure and pick your favourite. For a more plush experience, Tiburon Boat Services offer guided tours with complimentary wine and cheese.

After your boat trip, take the train to Monterosso (or get dropped off by boat) for an evening in this buzzing town. For a memorable dining experience try Torre Aurora which boasts spectacular views from the top of an old castle.

After dinner, take the train back to Moneglia when you’ll be staying for the evening.

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Moneglia
3 hour drive; 1 hour, 30 minutes on train
Golden facades of Cinque Terre at sunset

Day 4 | Walking the famous Cinque Terre Trail

Wake up bright and early this morning to take the train from Moneglia to Monterosso, your starting point for the beautiful Cinque Terre Trail. At the time of our visit, part of the trail was closed due to a landslide which wiped out much of the path. But the walk from Monterosso to Corniglia is open and much less travelled by tourists.

Purchase your trail pass from either the train station or the start of the walk, then take the path from Monterosso to Vernazza (1hour, 30 minutes). The views are impressive, the walking easy, and the bars along the way are too enticing to miss. The picture post-card setting as you approach Vernazza is particularly Instagram friendly.


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As you leave Vernazza to commence the next leg to Corniglia, stop off for a drink at La Torre, a bar perched on the cliffs about 5 minutes after you leave Vernazza. It has fantastic views, cheap drinks, no-frills service and plastic chairs. Exactly what you’re looking for when a bit hot and sweaty from the walk.

The walk from Vernazza to Corniglia should take around 1 hour and 30 minutes. To cap off a great day out-and-about in spectacular scenery, get straight on the train and go to Manarola. Find Nessun Dorma perched on a terrace overlooking the village and enjoy a late lunch and Aperol with some of the finest views you’ll see in the whole area. This was a definite highlight for us.

After lunch, have a swim off the rocks at Manarola before getting back on the train to collect Riomaggiore. Walk down to the harbour to capture a shot of the colourful village from the marina. It’s a classic scene, but the town itself lacks a bit of charm, so get back on the train to Moneglia for a dinner in one of the many great local restaurants on the main square.

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Moneglia
1 hour, 30 minutes on train
Sublime views over Manarola at lunch

Day 5 | Celebrity Spotting at Lake Como

Today, leave the stunning coastline of Cinque Terre to take in an altogether different Italian aqua experience. The cool, hip, celebrity hangout, Lake Como. Drive from Moneglia to Torno (3 hours, 20 minutes) with a stop off at Camogli. This quaint fishing village has some beautiful spots to explore and is perfectly located for a coffee break on the drive.

Make your way to Torno, marvelling at what constitutes two lanes on these tiny roads hugging the lake. Once you get settled, locate Vapore for lunch. This idyllic spot right on the water is a fantastic place to sample some Italian wine and enjoy a very reasonably priced lunch.

After lunch, catch the ferry to Como and collect some of the sights on foot for the rest of the afternoon. The cathedral is particularly impressive and the square nearby is an ideal place to sit – ice cream in hand – watching the world go by.

Get the ferry back to Torno and stop for a drink at Bar Italia. The Italians like to make sure you’re eating while you drink and the complimentary food you get with a glass of wine at Bar Italia could be all you need for dinner.

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Torno
3 hour drive; 1 hour, 20 minutes on ferries
Delicious lunch sitting right on Lake Como

Day 6 | Boating on Middle Lake Como

This morning, drive to Bellagio and take the local ferry over to Varenna for a stroll around this beautiful, and surprisingly quiet, village. Grab a coffee at Varenna Caffé and sample one of their fantastic bruschettas for an early morning pick-me-up. After your caffeine fix, get back on the ferry and head to Tremezzo to visit the impressive Villa Carlotta.

The villa has an impressive collection of sculptures and is beautifully set overlooking Bellagio, enhanced with their very own botanical garden. After Carlotta, check out the imposing Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Being a Lake Como stalwart for over 100 years, it’s art deco inspired lobby is worth a look, even if lunch was slightly disappointing.


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After Varenna, take the ferry back to Bellagio and hire your own boat from Lake By Boat. In one hour you can get to a number of impressive villas on the lake. Sailing to your own schedule on Lake Como is a fantastic way to fully appreciate this beautiful spot.

In the evening, take some time to explore Bellagio and be sure to have an Apero Spriz on the front before heading back to Torno.

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Torno
1 hour on ferries, 2 hours on private boat
Coffee in Varenna in the early morning light

Day 7 | European Road Trip - Como to Zermatt

You want to start early today as we have a bit of driving to do, with a number of sights to see along the way. So stock up on snacks and have your navigator prepped. First up, drive to Bellinoza (1 hour, 30 minutes from Torno) and take a potter around Castelgrande. This impressive castle is one of three in tiny Bellinoza and is located high on a hill offering great views over the valley below.

After a stroll around Bellinoza, get back in the car and drive over the spectacular Nufenen Pass, making your way to the cute Swiss towns of Ulrichen and Münster (1 hour, 30 minutes). At 2478 metres, Nufenen is the second highest pass in Switzerland. It’s an easy road to drive, giving you the opportunity to watch the views unfold and the temperature drop. There’s a small parking bay at the top to stop for some photos on the way.

Continue on the short distance to Ulrichen, then to Münster, stopping at both to have a look around these almost deserted, but packed with atmosphere, local Swiss villages. Have lunch at Hotel Croix d’Or et Poste in Münster, where they serve a diet-busting Beef Stroganoff that would easily have fed 3 of us.

After walking off the Stroganoff, drive into Fiesch (20 minutes) and take the cable car up to Eggishorn. The last cable car leaves at 4:30 PM so make sure you have plenty of time. If you do, the views will astound even the most hardened tourist. Looking down on the Aletsch Glacier towards Jungfraujoch, it’s hard to image nature looking any better.

After Eggishorn, drive into Täsch (1 hour) where you will need to park the car, collect your belongings and take the train into car-free Zermatt. Parking is easy at the train station and the 10-minute journey into Zermatt leaves every 20 minutes. Once at Zermatt, check into your accommodation and find somewhere that takes your fancy for a relaxing drink after a long day on the road.

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Zermatt
4 hour, 20 minute drive; 10 minutes train
Wondrous view from Eggishorn

Day 8 | Exploring the Mighty Matterhorn

Prepare yourself and your camera equipment for some of the most spectacular sights imaginable as today you take in the peaks of the Alps, then complete an exhilarating walk to the Matterhorn basecamp.

Start early, as visibility is often better in the morning. Walk to the cable car station in town and take this aerial cable wonder up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, which stops at Furi, Trockener Steg, and then Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. The views are breathtaking and on a clear day, Mont Blanc is visible off in the distance. Once you’ve snapped all your shots, get the cable car back down to Schwarzsee (changing at Trockener Steg) where it’s a good idea to grab some sustenance for the next part of the day.


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The walk up to Matterhorn basecamp (Hörnlihütte) is exhilarating and with an ascent of 2,300 feet, it can also be exhausting. But for a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the Matterhorn, it’s not one to miss. The walk is quite steep, making it a bit of a slog all the way, but no particular equipment is needed other than a sturdy pair of shoes and a head for heights. The walk takes around 2 hours up and 1 hour, 30 minutes down.

After a congratulatory beer at the top, and lunch at their great cafe, walk back down to Schwarzsee. From Schwarzsee, take the cable car down to Zermatt and treat yourself to another drink at Unique Hotel Poste watching the other wearing walkers file by.

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Zermatt
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Viewing the Matterhorn and Alps from the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

Day 9 | Incredible train journey to Gornergrat and Gornergletscher

When you’re surrounded by these impressive views, there’s no time to rest. So after recovering from yesterday’s walk, take the train to Gornergrat for another action-packed day in the Alps.

The first part of the day, the train up to Gornergrat is an event in itself. This cog train climbs up the mountains opening incredible views from the comfort of your seat. For the best photo opportunities, hustle like a crazed tourist for a seat on the right-hand side of the train. Sit back and relax as you chug up through the clouds, with Zermatt disappearing below you. If you scored that window seat, you may find yourself pressed under the armpits of other travellers itching to get those shots. But the views make it all worth it.

Once you get to Gornergrat, spend some time breathing in the crisp air, and the sight of Monte Rosa and the Gornergletscher. Head back down (by train or foot) to Rotenboden to commence the long, but very rewarding walk back down to Zermatt. It’s a beautiful, mostly downhill walk, with the Matterhorn in full splendid view in front of you the whole way.

From Rotenboden follow the Riffelsee path that passes Riffelsee lake after 5 minutes, and then another smaller lake 5 minutes further. After about 30 minutes continue downhill on the Gletschergarten path that drops steeply into the valley (rather than going around to Riffelberg). As you get toward Furi where the path splits, take the one that goes over the hanging bridge (Hängebrückenweg) for that extra bit of excitement. At Furi, follow the path to Zermatt that passes through the cute village of Zum See. Find a restaurant in this idyllic little stop and enjoy a late lunch overlooking Zermatt.

From Zum See it’s a further 30 minutes back down to Zermatt, where we suggest you enjoy a delicious tapas-style dinner, washed down with excellent local beers at Paperla Pub.

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Zermatt
3 hours, 10 minutes: Total walking time
Hiking down from the Gornergrat with lunch at Zum See

Day 10 | Swiss Thermal Spa and French Wine

This morning, take the train back to Täsch, pick up the car, and commence the next leg of your 14 days in Europe extravaganza. From Täsch, drive to Leukerbad (1 hour, 15 minutes), an attractively set Swiss town, renowned for its thermal spas.

The drive up to Leukerbad is beautiful, with steep-sided valleys dictating your path and the leaves getting more and more autumnal the higher you get. When in Leukerbad, do your head in trying to find a park, then recover from the stress at Alpentherme, a fantastic thermal spa with a huge outdoor heated pool. The views from the pool to the mountains across the other side of the valley are impressive, even though they bizarrely built the loungers facing the wrong way.

After relaxing in the spa, drive to Sion (45 minutes) and enjoy a fantastic lunch at Brasserie du Grand-Pont. Here we had the best steak we’ve sampled in a long time, served by a waiter who hated us completely. Their truffle risotto was absolute perfection. Wash it all down with a bottle of their superb Merlot.

If you timed this day to fall on Saturday or Sunday, head to Le Cube in nearby Varone for wine tasting in a very local, difficult to find winery overlooking the vineyards. If not, drive on to Chamonix (1 hour, 15 minutes) and settle into your accommodation for the next alpine leg of this trip.

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Chamonix
10 minutes train; 3 hours, 15 minutes driving
Fantastic lunch in Sion

Day 11 | The incredible Mont Blanc from Aiguille du Midi

This day ranks as one of our all-time favourite holiday days, ever. The spectacular views and beautiful walks are a treat for the soul. Get up early to take the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi and remember to take some warm clothes because regardless of the weather in Chamonix, it will be achingly cold at the top.

Aiguille du Midi means “needle of midday” so named because, when viewed from the church, it’s exactly noon as the sun passes over the summit. It’s also the starting point for an ascent of Mont Blanc, and the closest you can get to the summit without doing the hard work yourself. As one of the highest cable cars in the world, it’s a treat in itself anyway.

The razor-sharp ridges of the Alps sitting way above the cloud line make you feel like you’re in another world completely. The various different vertigo-inducing viewing platforms offer plenty of opportunities to marvel at the climbers heading out to tackle Mont Blanc. Allow around 2 hours at the top to fully appreciate the splendour all around you. Once you’ve had your fill of this amazing place, take the cable car back to Plan de l’Aiguille to commence The Grand Balcon Nord walk to Montenvers.

This popular walk, which gave us a flashback to the Dolomites, will take around 2 hours, 15 minutes. It’s a mostly flat walk that skirts the north side of the valley. With the clouds that hover over Zermatt just below you and the high Alps just above you, it’s a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the grandeur of the place.


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Head for Refuge du Montenvers for lunch, stopping to check out the Mer de Glace on the way. It’s a gondola ride or walk down to the glacier itself, but viewing it from high above just off the walking trail is a better option. After refuelling at Montenvers, take the train which runs regularly back to Chamonix to flick through the amazing photos you’ve taken today.

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Chamonix
2 hours, 15 minutes
The best view in the alps from Aiguille du Midi

Day 12 | Road Trip through Haute Provence to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Leave the impressive scenery of the Alps behind today, to add a completely different element to this 14 days in Europe with a trip through Provence. Set the SatNav to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie but be sure to include a stop at Veynes.

It’s about a 3 hour, 30-minute drive to Veynes, so you need to be out of Chamonix in time to aim for lunch La Sérafine. Situated just outside Veynes, this charming restaurant run by a French / Vietnamese couple serves excellent and innovative food in a quirky arty space. On our visit, we were offered a very reasonably priced 4-course set menu that was a fantastically foody break from our long day on the road.

After partaking in fine French fusion food and superb wine, head to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (2 hours). The drive through the lavender fields of Valensole, Brunet and Puimoisson sits in stark contrast to the dramatic alpine scenery you were enjoying hours earlier.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is positioned on the border of Haute-Provence and the Alps; the Gorge du Verdon creates a natural barrier between the two. Set high on a hill, it’s one of the most beautiful French villages we’ve laid eyes on.

All going to plan, photography buffs should be arriving just in time to take advantage of golden hour. Walk up to the church at the top of the hill behind the town and collect some magical photos. The sun going down between the crumbling buildings make this delightful village a photographer’s dream. For a hearty, good value dinner with the nannas of Moustiers, head to Le Relais.

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Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
5 hours, 30 minutes
Golden hour in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Day 13 | A day in the Gorge du Verdon

Spend today exploring the Gorge du Verdon. This 25-kilometre long, 700-metre deep gash in the landscape is a feast for the eyes from every angle. Take the D23 loop from La Palud-sur-Verdon (around 20 minutes from Moustiers) and stop off at every point that takes your fancy. After completing the D23 loop, head to Point Sublime for one of the best views of the gorge. All this should take around 3 hours with plenty of stops for photos.

There are a number of walking paths you can do around the gorge if you have the energy. Some of which are long, tough and require a good head for heights. Le sentier du Bastidon is a 6 hour, 30-minute walk around the gorge. Le sentier Blanc-Martel (6-hour walk) leaves from the car park at Couloir Samson.

If you’d prefer to sit with a glass of wine, enjoy spectacular views on the edge of the gorge, and dine on crepes instead, head to Rougon. They have a fantastic creperie (about the only thing in Rougon) that’s very well regarded in the area. I find it hard to get too excited about crepes, but with this view, I’m not complaining.

After lunch, drive to Base de l’Etoile and hire a boat to take out on the lake. Electric boats are €40 per hour, a kayak or canoe is €15 per hour, for a maximum of two hours. Last departures around 4 pm. It’s a fantastic way to take in the gorge and weather permitting, a great place for a swim.

Back in Moustiers for the evening, treat yourself to dinner at La Treille Muscate, a swish restaurant with fantastic french cooking with even better wines.

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Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
2 – 4 hours driving, depending on how often you stop
Kayaking up the gorge and jumping in for a swim

Day 14 - Tour of Haute Var Villages

Wrap up these 14 days in Europe with a tour of the villages of Haute-Var. Completely off the agenda of regular tourists, Haute-Var is local French all the way. Markets sell fresh local produce that’s still covered in dirt and twisted the way nature intended it. Vendors sit chatting to their neighbours, slurping their coffee, while locals take a good long sniff of today’s truffle delivery.

We recommend collecting Bargemone, Tourtour then Seillans. Seillans is beautiful. Perched on a hill overlooking the valley, the crumbling old town is full of all the nooks and crannies that make these places so interesting to stroll around. Find your favourite dining location, then sit out reminiscing about all the amazing sights you’re covered on these 14 days in Europe. Lakes, mountains, locals, incredible scenery and delicious French, Italian and Swiss food.

Drive on to Nice for your flight home.

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Home
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Lunch in Seillans
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Itinerary Amendments

  • We started and ended this trip in Milan rather than Nice but it’s better not to have a car in Nice, so we flipped it around for this itinerary.
  • We had one extra day more Moustiers and another in Cinque Terre, however we have removed these days from this itinerary as they were not really necessary.
  • If you’ve had enough of hill towns, on day 14 you could head into Antibes or Cannes rather than visiting the villages of Haute-Var.
Guide Books & Reading

We recommend the various Lonely Planet guidebooks that cover the regions included on this itinerary: Provence and the Côte d’Azur, Switzerland, The Italian Lakes, all of which provide helpful information to help you get the most out of your trip.

For a very good holiday read set in the Italian Riviera try Call Me By Your Name by

         

Booking Tips & Checklist

  • Book the boats at Bellagio and Cinque Terre in advance.
  • Look into buying the two day pass in Zermatt which gives you unlimited access to trains and lifts. It was marginal based on this itinerary but made life easier and more flexible.
  • It can be -2 to -5 degrees at the top of the cable cars and can be 30 on the coast so some clever packing is required for this trip.
  • Be flexible in the mountains in regard to weather, go up when the weather is good and don’t bother paying if it’s all covered in cloud.
  • Some of the Chamonix cable cars stop running around mid-September, Montenvers train stops the first two weeks of October, Mer de Glace closes 28 September.
  • The ferries around Lake Como stop on 1 October.
  • The ideal time for this itinerary is June until mid September.
Hotels to Book

All our accommodation for this trip was booked via Airbnb. With four of us travelling it gave us the flexibility to spread out, do some laundry and cook dinner occasionally. See below for the list of dates you need to book.

2 nights in Nice
2 nights in Moneglia (near Cinque Terre)
2 nights in Torno (on Lake Como)
3 nights in Zermatt
2 nights in Chamonix
2 nights in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie