Cycling the Italian and Swiss Lakes

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Traveller ratings
4.8 / 5 from 5 reviews >
Moderate
Learn more
Trip code: 
MEL
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Cycling
Min age:
16
Group size:
6–16

Cycle around four lakes in two countries

The Italian lakes of Como and Maggiore are famed for both their spectacular scenery and their well-heeled residents. The rich and famous clearly have good taste as the scenery here is simply wonderful with forested hills and medieval properties overlooking the glistening blue waters. This is a fascinating place to discover on two wheels with excellent roads that closely follow the winding shores. We visit the 10th Century Borromean castle and the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, a striking overhanging abbey built by a rich merchant. The Villa del Balbianello with its ornate Italian gardens may look familiar to film buffs, having featured in international movies such as Bond’s Casino Royale and Star Wars: Attack of the clones. There will be opportunities to taste plenty of delicious local produce en route, including cheese, cold meats, honey, wines and ice cream, before riding across the border to Lugano in Switzerland for a visit to the Chocolate Museum of Alprose. The excellent cycle rides will hopefully help you build up an appetite!

Highlights

  • Cycle around four lakes in two countries
  • Enjoy an incredibly varied local gastronomy
  • Two guided orientation walks at Lugano and Como

Key information

  • 7 nights hotels all en suite
  • 5 days cycling with baggage transfers and full vehicle support
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus leaders. Min age 16 years
  • 95% tarmac roads with some climbs

What's included

  • All breakfast, 1 lunch and 1 dinner included
  • All accommodation (see below)
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Local bike hire

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Days of Cycling
Day by day breakdown
Day 251.0km/32.0miles
Day 337.0km/23.0miles
Day 560.0km/37.0miles
Day 651.0km/32.0miles
Day 736.0km/22.0miles

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Fly to Milano; transfer to Armeno

    Fly to Milano; transfer to Armeno, a small village of Lake Orta. Our accommodation on the first night is in a green park near Lake Orta, at the foot of Mount Mottarone. It is part of a complex who also organise spiritual retreats, making it a relaxing place to start the trip.

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Ride south to Lake Maggiore through Lagoni di Mercurago Natural Park, Grappa tasting

    On our way to Lake Maggiore we ride south along Lake Orta through the amazing Lagoni di Mercurago Natural Park; home to a huge variety of different environments, from swamps to pastures, horses stables to archaeological sites. Continue to the medieval town of Angera to visit Borromean Castle inner decorated halls and outstanding medieval garden right by the lake.  As a perfect ending we taste Grappa; one of the most renowned Italian spirits from a local and historical distillery. In Angera, where we overnight, there will be the opportunity to swim and relax on the lake beaches.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 3

    Cycle along Lake Maggiore to Porto Valtravaglia through Santa Caterina del Sasso Hermitage, cheese tasting.

    Cycling along the shores of Lake Maggiore we make our way to the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso; directly overlooking the water it is one most charming sights of the lake. We take some time to visit this incredible abbey and then we stop in a traditional “locanda” (cosy typical restaurant) to enjoy a tasting of local cheese, cold meats and honey. After the tasting we continue through the picturesque village of Laveno to Porto Valtravaglia, where we spend the next two nights. When the weather allows there will be time to explore the local beaches.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Free day to relax on Lake Maggiore, or take a ferry to the famous Borromeo Islands.

    On this leisurely day you have some time to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of Lake Maggiore or to take a ferry to the famous Borromeo Islands. The archipelago is formed by four Islands. The main one is the monumental Isola Bella, with its 17th-Century Palazzo Borromeo, surrounded by flam boiled gardens. Then we have the picturesque Isola dei Pescatori (Fishermen’s Island), Isola Madre, noted for its botanical garden, the little Island of San Giovanni, and the Rock of Marghera. 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Cycle to Lugano, stop en route to visit the Alprose Chocolate Museum and the town of Menaggio.

    Today is quite exciting as we cycle into the second country of our trip: Switzerland. The first stop is Caslano where we visit the Chocolate Museum of Alprose to learn about the traditional art of Swiss chocolate-making and we get the opportunity to sample some of their delicious products! With a happy stomach we continue to Lugano: a Swiss city with a Mediterranean flair, for a guided walking tour. This gives you the opportunity to see how the combination of styles is reflected in its architecture and cuisine. The day ends in Menaggio, on the shores of Lake Como, where we will stay for the next three nights.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Circular ride to Colico, wine tasting.

    Leaving Switzerland we take a circular ride around the Northern side of Lake Como to Colico. En route we stop at a local wine cellar to taste some of the excellent wines of the area. Once at Colico, you can visit the Cistercian Santa Maria di Piona Abbey, masterpiece of the Lombard architecture. Built in the 12th century, it represents the first source attesting a monastic community present in the territory. After the visit we return to Menaggio by ferry, another great chance to admire the beautiful views that the lake is offering.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Ride to Balbianello Villa, visit to a traditional gelateria and gelato tasting.

    On our final ride we head to the beautiful Villa del Balbianello, riding south along Lake Como. Built for a prominent Italian family during the 19th century it has been recently chosen as setting of international movies such as 007: Casino Royale and Star Wars. After lunch, on our way to the city of Como we enjoy a relaxing break at a traditional gelateria, to try to learn the secrets of real Italian gelato. In Como we take a guided walking tour of the city's main sights, such as the remarkable Renaissance Cathedral, and then we return to Menaggio by ferry boat.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Transfer to Milano Malpensa, fly to London.

    Our trip ends in Menaggio. From here we transfer to Milano Malpensa for our flight back to London.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Italy

No visa required for British passport holders.
Please note in Italy it is compulsory to carry ID with you at all times.

Switzerland

No visa required for British passport holders.

Vaccinations

Italy

There are no specific health risks.

Switzerland

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfast, 1 lunch and 1 dinner included

All breakfasts are Continental in style, consisting of coffee or tea, bread, jam and/or honey.

 

For lunch and dinner, when not included, our leader will be on hand to recommend his favourite restaurants based on your budget and preferences. The standard of food and drink throughout the tour is extremely high and the Chocolate Museum visit in Switzerland will be an added value to the experience. 

The cuisine of that lakes region encompasses traditional recipes with new ingredients where the main characteristic is the usage of local products. Typical dishes are: minestrone, fish and polenta, risotto, roasted meats (rabbit, kid), stewed, polenta with Bologna sausage or braised meat and many other delicious proposals.

Weather

The visited areas have a good all year round climate, with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures from the spring through to autumn. Summer departures will usually have hot weather, with temperatures reaching the low to mid 30s centigrade. April-June and September-November departures are likely to be cooler with a slightly higher chance of rain. In late summer there is the possibility of heavy thunderstorms (generally in the afternoons), but these are usually short-lived.

Is this trip for you?

This trip is classified Road: Level 3 Moderate

Please see the introductory pages of the cycling holidays brochure or our website for more important information on classification and grading. 

Average daily distance: 45km (28 miles) with 5 days cycling

Terrain and route: 95% tarmac roads

We aim to use mainly quiet roads and cycle paths where possible, but at times we need to cross busy road sections in order to reach the quieter routes on the other side. There are no technical difficulties but at times there will be some climbs therefore a reasonable level of fitness is required, along with some cycling experience.

Please note that occasionally it may not be possible to follow the itinerary exactly as planned. Leaders will always look for alternate routes/solutions whenever required.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

You will spend 7 nights in 2 and 3 star hotels. All hotels have been carefully selected for their welcoming atmosphere, location and services offered. All rooms provided are en suite.

We can arrange single rooms throughout the trip (subject to availability). Please check with your sales consultant for availability and prices.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Embracing a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, but if you’re going to keep it up there’s got to be more to it than

  • Reviewed July 2018
    Simone and Bruce Kuklinski

    Absolutely Superb!

    This trip was in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary and suffice it to say, it was a wonderful holiday. Gorgeous scenery, great food, lovely wines, great camaraderie, excellent guides.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Every day was full of inspirational moments; however, some do stand out: having a nun as a barista at the spiritual retreat, the hundreds of richly-coloured umbrellas suspended over the streets of Pietrasanta (I think this was the place), the tour of the Borromean castle, grappa-tasting, the wonderful lunch of delicious cheeses, cold meets, pear jelly, and wine tasting at the locanda, our visit to Lugano, as well as our stop at the Villa del Balbianello. The list is long but those are some of our favourite and most inspirational moments.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leaders, Sara Giorgini and Francesco Cavallone, were absolutely superb in every way. They were well-prepared, professional, extremely knowledgeable, helpful and supportive, and clearly have a passion for cycling and working with people. From the moment they greeted us at the airport to the time of our departure, they were thoughtful, kind, joyful, and patient. They work well together and make an excellent team.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If travelling in July, pack light clothes as the heat and humidity is quite high. The cycling is not extremely technical. There are some hills; however, most of the course is relatively easy cycling. Unfortunately, the days seem to fly by so try to take time just to soak everything up.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is our second trip with Exodus and we are hooked! Can't wait for our next adventure!
  • The best trip yet.

    Having now completed nine trips with Exodus this has been one of the best, and of the European trips it is the best. Beautiful scenery, enchanting towns and villages, wonderful food and lots of Gelato.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip was inspirational due to my fellow travellers, fun and laughter all the way, how lucky I was to be a part of it all.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Francesco and Sara were a good as it gets, not just leaders but a part of the group. Great to be with and they obviously enjoy their work.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The cycling isn't too hard (but this means different things to different people), so for anyone who has a good level of fitness it's fine. The only advisory note is that you need to be confident of occasionally cycling on busy roads.
  • Reviewed June 2018
    robert seatter

    Cycling the Italian & Swiss Lakes

    Absolutely great group - I knew some from an Exodus trip to Puglia 2 yrs ago, led by fun and engaging leaders, in a lovely part of the world. Some quibbles about the route, but overall a great time. Thank you Exodus!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Last couple of days were the best: cycling along the border of Lake Como on winding. charming roads with breath-taking vistas More of this pl!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent - Francesco was our main guide, supported by Sara Francesco was charismatic, fun and engaging, but also clear and serious when he needed to be Both guides joined in with everything and made the group go with a swing Big thank you to both of them!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is not a difficult trip - v few hard or arduous climbs, and not long distances I wonder if the rating is correct? More an easy than a moderate?

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Re the route, I could happily have done without the Swiss section - a lot of cycling on busy roads, to cross the border for a few hours into Lugano which is v expensive and not especially interesting Would much rather have spent longer in Italy Re group mgt, I think guides cld be better briefed at the beginning by Exodus on protocols for taking groups on the roads over a week ie always have a back sweeper, divide groups into smaller groups to aid traffic flow, give each member of group a daily map to take with them so we are not constantly asking 'how much further to next stop? etc' The guides absorbed this quickly when we told them, but if they had this as part of their mgt training it wld have been helpful As an ex language teacher, I do also wonder if you could perhaps help yr guides more with v specific vocabulary eg cycling parts/route instructions/health & safety, rather than leaving them to find their way round this?
  • Reviewed May 2018
    John and Sarah Halpin

    Stunning scenery

    Smaller towns of northern Italy with wonderful people.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Riding right along the edge of the lake.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Francesco was such a positive, good natured personality who went above and beyond to make everyone happy. This is no easy feat for a group of 13 from ages of mid 20's to mid 70's. Sara was the steady reliable backup that kept our gear and bikes moving.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The May trip is preseason and a little quieter.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Although a moderate rating be prepared to ride in traffic with some hilly terrain.
  • Reviewed May 2018
    Gloria and Martin Douglas

    A great cycling trip

    A really enjoyable trip to a beautiful part of Italy. Our excellent leaders Franchesco and Sara made a huge contribution to our enjoyment.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the backdrop of the snow covered Alps beyond the Lake Maggiore and Lake Como

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent. From beginning to end they were determined to make sure that everything went smoothly to the customer's benefit. They handled any problems with skill and good humour.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are fit and prepared for some traffic.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

Call us on 020 8772 3936