Situated along Lake Geneva in the southern region of Switzerland, the
French-speaking canton of Vaud is known for many things, among them Chillon Castle, Glacier 3000 and UNESCO-listed vineyards. With its idyllic location along the shores of Lake Geneva and backed by snowcapped mountains, Montreux is a good base to explore the riviera; outdoor enthusiasts can head for the hills, while culture lovers can appreciate its historic vineyards and castles along the lakeshore.
Apart from its scenic landscape, this region bordering Lake Geneva has historically been a gateway between Switzerland and France. Its rich history has given birth to 2 magnificent medieval castles, while its temperate climate makes it a perfect location for cultivating wine.
Thanks to an ideal micro-climate that exists between the mountains and the lake, Lavaux is home to thousand-year-old vineyard terraces that lie on the steep slopes facing Lake Geneva.
Stretching from Lausanne to Montreux, this UNESCO site has 9 public cellars and wine bars, producing mainly local Chasselas wines (fruity dry white wine). You can hop on the Wine Train (from Vevey to Puidoux) that runs along these wine terraces; at Chexbres station, you can hop off for a hike along the countless paths that line the vineyards. There are also 3 themed walking trails, ranging from easy to medium, that take you through winegrowing villages, ancient churches and cellar doors. The best place to end the walk is at the Vinorama in the village of Rivaz, where you
an sample over 250 wines from the region.
Another wine-producing area is at the nearby town of Aigle with its picturesque 12th century castle, the Chateau d’Aigle, which is surrounded by vineyards all the way up to the hillsides. Located at the entrance to the Rhone Valley in the Chablais region, the castle – now a wine museum – once controlled access to the valley and Pays-d’Enhaut. Wines in this region – both red and white varieties – are made from fully matured grapes, which results in a caramel taste. You can stop at one of 18 winemakers in the area for a tasting session. The best way to explore the vineyards is along the Vineyard Trail (Sentier des vignes), which is an easy walking route that passes Aigle’s vineyards and Bex’s salt mines before ending at Lavey-les-Bains where you can relax in its thermal baths. This 23km trail (8 hours) can be broken into several stages – you can also tackle just the Aigle-Bex portion, which is 14km long (4.5 hours) through wine terraces and forested slopes.
Another major attraction along the lake is Chillon Castle – built on a rocky islet set against a steep forested slope. This 13th century castle once controlled the passage along Lake Geneva, and has been a prison, arsenal and royal residence before becoming a museum. Here, you can visit its chapel, frescoed rooms, towers, courtyards and dungeon that was made famous by Lord Byron’s ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’. Chillon Castle also produces its own White Vaud wine – a Grand Cru made with Chasselas grapes that are grown, aged and bottled by the castle.