Planning your cycling holiday in Switzerland

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Planning your cycling holiday in Switzerland: cycling holiday tour on a road with trees and forests in the distance
Planning your cycling holiday in Switzerland: group of women preparing to ride a bike

When I thought of all the places I wanted to fly and ride, a cycling holiday in Switzerland never crossed my mind. The first place that most cyclists will suggest as the best place to ride a bike in Europe is Mallorca. Perhaps Lanzarote will follow and, more recently, Girona.

However, this spring just ended, I stepped in at the last minute to fill a spot on a women’s cycling tour in Switzerland with Switzerland Tourism. It had been years since I was last in Switzerland, 9 years to be exact, when I ran the Geneva marathon relay, and back then, I was much more of a traveler than a “real cyclist”.

Since Switzerland is known for its towering snow-capped peaks, I had doubts as to whether I was fit enough to cycle there, especially as the hills I’m used to in Essex could never compare. But the bikes we would be using on the ride were high-end BMC Roadmachine electric road bikes, so I figured no matter what, I would always have backup from the bike’s battery.

I know I’m not the first person to worry about being too slow to ride a group bike; but if this post is any help, I hope it makes you feel like you’re capable of cycling in Switzerland and inspires you to consider Switzerland for your next cycling holiday as well.

So where is Switzerland?

Switzerland is a pretty unique country if you ask me. First, it is landlocked in its Central European location, sharing its borders with Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.

Despite its small size, Switzerland is known for its towering snow-capped peaks, pristine lakes, and charming villages that you’ll see in abundance when biking Switzerland.

How to get to Switzerland from the UK

Switzerland has three main airports; Zurich, Geneva and Basel. Geneva is perfectly located to reach the French Alps for places like Chamonix, while Zurich, where we flew to on this occasion, is perfectly located to reach the Jura 3 Lacs region. However, Basel also offers easy access to the Jura and Three Lakes region.

Once in Switzerland, consult the Swiss Travel Guide app to help plan your trip around Switzerland by public transport: train, bus or boat. We transferred by train from Zurich airport to Saint-Ursanne for our first night.

100% Women

In 2023, Switzerland Tourism focused its 100 Women campaign on cycling. They have a lot of information on their website sharing everything you need to know about biking through the epic Jura mountains.

Organized trips like the one I share in this cycling guide in Switzerland are perfect for meeting other women and living the experience of cycling, whether it’s mountain, gravel or road.

Our itinerary and guide for the trip was put together by out & ABOUT – Switzerland Trekking, which creates authentic and sustainable outdoor experiences.

Your list of bike travel kits

Packing for this Swiss bike tour was interesting; somewhere between packing for a long trip, a bike trip, and a vacation. All without the need to worry about the bike itself.

However, the hardest part was being prepared for the weather, which can always be changeable. Also, with cycling, we know that layers work well when we’re warming up and then stopping and cooling down quickly.

I think the most valuable piece of gear I took was a lightweight jacket that could easily be stowed in my musette when it got too hot.

Here are some other must-haves for your Swiss cycling trip:

  • Bicycle helmet
  • Pedals (if you don’t want to use the supplied flat pedals)
  • GPS device (optional)
  • Cycling clothing (warm layers)
    • padded cycling shorts/tights
    • base layers and t-shirts
    • casquette / cycling cap / ear warmers
    • socks
  • Cycling shoes/Hiking shoes
  • Cleat covers (for walking)
  • Small backpack / musette
  • Waterproof jacket and waterproof pants.
  • Water bottle with sports cap (that can fit in a bottle cage)
  • Cycling gloves
  • Sunglasses (photochromic or interchangeable lenses)
  • Sunscreen (full guide here)
  • travel adapter
  • Global Health Card (GHIC) and/or travel insurance policy

Do you have your luggage organized? Check out my review of the Osprey Rolling Transporter 40L or the Osprey Transporter Carry-On 44.

Explore Jura and Three Lakes Region, Switzerland

One thing I loved about this cycling holiday in Switzerland was that there was so much more to do than just ride a bike. The days were planned with no crazy early starts or late finishes so that meals could be enjoyed together.

Adequate time was allotted for the routes we cycled each day and adapted where necessary. There was often time to explore the town/city we were staying in, visit museums, local sights and learn about Swiss history.

Where to stay in Jura and the Three Lakes region

Each night during our cycling tour of Switzerland, we stayed in a different hotel which made it feel more like a bike packing trip, without having to haul your luggage on your bike every day.

The breakfasts and the dinners were made in the corresponding hotel, and the lunches were also provided in the hotels. However, we strongly recommend that you pack your favorite snacks on the bike to ensure you’re fueled the way you like to be.

Hotel du Boeuf aka Peanut Medieval Lodge

Our itinerary:

Day one

Since the weather was pretty bad that day, the decision to shorten the route and start riding later in the day felt like a wise move.

We spent the morning on a tour of St-Ursanne, before hopping on a train to find our bikes and begin our first day of cycling.

We rode around 5km to test our bike setup so that we could make any necessary adjustments by lunch time.

We stopped at the most beautiful spot, Etang de la Gruère, for a mini hike and lunch on a log overlooking the water.

The subsequent lunch was the most notable part of our day: the ascent of Mont Soleil, to reach the largest solar power plant in Switzerland, located at 1,289 meters above sea level.

The e-bike defo made the climb a bit easier…especially with the altitude trying to make me work harder.

Blessed with a lot of downhill after that, with views of the Jura mountains behind us.

Not long before La Chaux-de-Fonds, an unusual Swiss town with a “checkerboard cityscape”, came into view.

Day two

Our day began with a tour of La Chaux-de-Fonds (our home for the night before) and its unusual ‘checkerboard cityscape’. Lots to see (sculptures, panoramic views, art deco buildings) and a visit to the International Watchmaking Museum – after all, La Chaux-de-Fonds has a heritage in the watchmaking industry.

Then back on the bikes to start our journey to Couvet.

Lunch on a log, self serve ice cream, more views and luckily some sun. I felt like I was on Zwift. The views were spectacular and today was the first wild descent. My hands froze in the brake position when I hit the bottom.

We end the day in Val-de-Travers via Maison de l’Absinthe before a short turn to Couvet.

Day Three

With trains to catch in the afternoon, we started the day’s journey a bit early to allow enough time to climb 700m to Creux du Van.

The views of Creux du Van were spectacular. We got to see the solar power plant at Mont Soleil, which we had climbed on the first day.

Lunch in a secret garden next to the source of the La Noiraigue river.

An unplanned pit stop at Gorges De L’Areuse to see the stone bridge and take some stunning photos.

Finishing up in Neuchâtel for a celebratory Aperol Spritz before heading to the train for the airport, bound for home.

Want to see more of what we cover, in pictures? Check out the guide (a collection of posts) I put together on Instagram.

Cycling routes in Switzerland

The routes we rode during our cycling holiday in Switzerland were really just a taster of what is available throughout the Jura and Three Lakes region. Check out our routes on Strava to see the kind of cycling you’d do on a cycling vacation, or use them as a starting point to plan your own routes or vacations.

Jura & Three Lakes Region STRAVA CYCLING ROUTES:

Each day definitely had its highlights. Everything from lunch overlooking the lake, to the persistent climb up Creux du Van for the most spectacular views from the cliff edges.

Final tips for your bike trip

It’s been a couple of months between my Swiss cycling holiday and writing this post, which meant a lot digging through the archives for images and in my mind to remember the details.

I documented the ride on Strava and Instagram, but another option is to pack a small notebook. Just spend a few minutes journaling each night before or after dinner. It’s easy to forget details, so use the journal as a way to remind yourself.

Also, if you’re like me and like to know the ins and outs of the routes, just ask your guide to share the GPX. You can then upload it to your GPS device (I used a Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM V2) which shows you turn-by-turn directions along with upcoming climbs and the progress on each individual climb.

But my biggest piece of advice is don’t hold back thinking you’re not strong enough, because if I can do it, so can you!

Have you ridden in Switzerland before? Any routes or tips to share, leave them in the comments below.


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