Switzerland’s Secret Islands: Part One

Photo by H. Emre from Pexels

With international travel being pushed the side, I’ve spent the majority of my time searching for places to visit in Switzerland. There are so many hidden gems in this country that many of the locals are shocked when I tell them. For a long time, I have wanted to go back to the Italian speaking part of Switzerland as it is the region that I have visited the least. I had planned to visit the Brissago Islands in Ticino last Easter but the country was still in lockdown. As lockdown will be easing up soon, I hope to visit them and the other islands that I have discovered in the meantime. Here I will be sharing some of Switzerland’s secret islands including the Brissago Islands, Schwanau Island, and St. Peter’s Island.

Brissago Islands in Ticino

A photo of the Brissago Islands taken by Pamela Pintus

In the middle of Lake Maggiore on the border between Switzerland and Italy, you will find the Brissago Islands. These two islands are a botantical park housing over 1,700 plant species and the climate of Lake Maggiore allows them to grow subtropical plants.

How To Get There: If you want to visit these islands, you can plan a four day trip to Ascona- Locarno in Canton Ticino. You can easily take a train from anywhere in Switzerland to get there or fly into Lugano airport and then take a 50 minute train to Locarno.

What To Do There: You get the best of both worlds in Ascona-Locarno, the sunny side of winter with the subtropical climate of Lake Maggiore with the views of the mountains. This area is a hidden gem in Switzerland with so many places to visit, eat, a version of the Bali swing etc. You can visit for a wellness retreat, a romantic holiday, a solo traveller, do extreme sports like bunjee jumping, rafting, moutain climbing, hiking and more.

Where To Stay: The Lake Maggiore region is considered to be a Swiss Mediterranean luxury-styled location from 5 star hotels at the lakefront to cute bed and breakfasts hidden in the valley. You are able to find any accommadation within your budget and means. I would also recommend looking for Air Bnbs as an option as well. I find that the locals will share more hidden gems than what its typically found in the tourism package.

I will definitely do an updated post when I visit this area but I’m already excited to go!

Valle Verzasca in Ascona Locarno

Schwanau Island in the Lucerne Region

Schwanau Island is nestled in between the Rigi and the Grosser and the Kleiner Mythen mountains in Canton Schwyz and it lies in the middle of Lake Lauerz (the German-speaking part of Switzerland). It’s known as the peace and pleasure island that is a secluded paradise with the Chapel of St. John, ancient ruins of a castle and a very popular restaurant amongst the locals.

How To Get There: If you would like to visit this island, I would suggest planning a three to four day trip to visit the region as well. You can take a 30 minute ferry from the Gemma von Arth ferry harbour in the city of Luzern. If you are visting from abroad, the closest airport is Zurich airport and the train journey from Zurich to Luzern is roughly an hour and 10 minutes.

What To Do There: Schwanau Island is a peaceful and relaxed place to visit with ruins of a medieval castle, a small chapel and traditional restuarant that overlooks the peak of the Rigi and Grosser Mythen mountains that surround the lake. You can do historical walks throughout the island, take ferries to other areas across the lake or venture out and explore the city of Luzern. You can check out my post on my staycation trip to Luzern for more ideas.

Where To Stay: With the city of Luzern only 30 minutes away, you can stay in one of the many hotels on the lakefront. There are a variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts, Air Bnbs to choose from and fit your styling of accommadation and budget. If you would like a more scenic and non-traditional stay, the lake around the island offers tree tents where guests can spend a night in a tree tent that hangs one metre above the ground

St. Peter’s Island in the Jura

Photo by Jura Trois Lacs

…nowhere have I felt so truly happy as on St. Peter’s Island in the middle of Lake Biel.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French writer

The Canton Jura is famously known for its variety of landscapes, its well-protected nature, its history, its architectural heritage, and it’s the home of the watch-making industry. From Le Creux du Van to the asphalt mines in the Val-de-Travers, and the mountains of Neuchâtel, what else can this beautiful region offer us? The Jura and the Three Lakes district house St. Peter’s Island which lies in Lake Biel. St. Peter’s Island is famously known as the island that Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a French writer and philosopher in the 18th Century, fled to the island where he found peace and tranquility. St. Peter’s Island became a place for travellers and those who seek peace.

How To Get There: The nearest airport is in Zurich and it roughly takes 1 hour 20 minutes to get to the town of Biel. In Biel, there is a ferry that takes you across the Three Lakes to St. Peter’s Island. If you want some more scenic routes, you can go through the winegrower villages or from Erlach, you can walk or cycle via the Heidenweg path.

What To Do There: On the island, there are guided tours, exhibitions, picnic areas, and you can swim in the lake. There is an opportunity to visit the chamber of Rousseau and his memorial. As the Jura and the Three Lakes is a huge region, you can actually spend a week there depending on when you visit. To really enjoy what this region has to offer, I recommend exploring these six others locations in the lake district:

Where To Stay: If you would like to stay on the island, there is Hotel Jean-Jacques Rousseau and four other hotels in the lake district. If I had the choice, I wouldn’t mind spending one night in one of these hotels but I think that staying in an accommodation in the middle of the Jura region with access to all the sites I would love to visit, is more reasonable to me. There is a variety of choices within the Jura such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, lakehouse campsites, treehouses, tipi rentals, agri-tourism, vacation apartments and more. Swiss treehouses tend to fall into the glamping side of accommodation, it is an experience within an experience.

Photo by Damian Hedinger

Overall, discovering Switzerland’s Secret Islands and planning potential trips for all of them has been so much fun. I have shared three of the six islands that I would love to visit, if you want to know the other three and my guides for them, stay tuned for part two. From the Brissago Islands, Schwanau island and St. Peter’s island, there is already so much potential for another staycation trip or a quick getaway to this Alpine beauty.

4 thoughts on “Switzerland’s Secret Islands: Part One

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