Cycling Switzerland

Another reader that I have shamelessly neglected in preference to the day (and usually evening) job this past week is Iain in Deal. He sent the following email;

My Switzerland trip has been booked, well the ferry has been booked I’ll drive down to a friend who stays in Hornussen in the Rhinefelden.

From there he plans to take a combination of Swiss routes 3 and 2.

I’ll probably be spacing this out over 7 days and should be about 500 miles in total.  My friend lives in Hornussen and thought I should pop through Basel to see it and pick up the cycle route out of there towards Andermatt direction.  I’ll plan the cycle route into my Garmin but may deviate from it from time to time.  

Anyway do you have any pointers for me about Switzerland?  I think you took the same route to Andermatt via Lucern.  Can I ask you for a few details of your trip?  I have had a read over your posts to refresh my memory.

My route, as you say, took me along the Swiss Route 3 all the way from Basel to Como. I followed the route most of the time but even in super-efficient Switzerland, I occasionally lost sight of the signposts and just cycled off in the direction I was meant to be going in. Because Switzerland is a country that is channeled through its valleys, very often, even if I knew you were on the wrong road, I was never particularly anxious that I wasn’t going in the right direction. I think I would have noticed if I had somehow hopped over into the next valley as my legs would be shouting at me! The route profiles on the Swiss National Cycling website (that you know about) were excellent and I used them as my main route map. They lacked the detail of the 1:200,000 maps that I had with me but I knew that they would at least send me in the correct direction and were very useful for pacing the days and in helping me decide where to stop.

My route from (a very wet) Lucern took me around the lake (following route 3) in an anti-clockwise direction. That was all fairly flat. I caught the ferry across the lake as shown in this picture and then headed for Altdorf. I did plan to stay overnight in Altdorf but cycled straight past the place (there were alot of roadworks). When I realised my error I did turn back to try and find the campsite but after checking the weather forecast at the tourist office it was in my best interests to get to Andermatt as soon as I could because the following day was going to be good and wanted to see the view from the top of the mountains as I passed through the Gotthard Pass.

Do you have the details or locations of the campsites you stayed in? Especially Andermatt.

In Andermatt I stayed at the only campsite in the town. It’s not much of a site – a field near the cable car with washing / showering faciltiies in the building that houses the cable car entrance itself – but it has a great view towards the pass in the morning (if it’s a good day of course). To find the site just cycle all the way through the town until you get to the cable car and you’ve found it. The other places I stayed in were all good campsites; Sursee, Lucern, & Bellinzona. They were all easy to find; well-signposted.

Did you find it expensive as it is rumored to be?

Not particularly, in fact I think I found it a little cheaper than I had expected. Camping is a cheap option wherever you go so even though I was paying probably more than elsewhere on the route to Brindisi, it was never excessive. It seemed cheaper than the last time I visited the place overnight which was about 15 years ago. And it’s worth noting that most places seem to accept the Euro. I took some Swiss Francs out of the cashpoint in Basel but I probably could have survived without them.

Were there enough supermarkets etc en route for lunching and snacks?

Plenty; I didn’t starve. Even on Sunday when Switzerland is famous for shutting down I was able to find somewhere – it was a service station – to keep me fuelled.

Is Basel worth a look?

I cycled through quickly on the Sunday morning quite early the morning after the national holiday celebrations which made the place look a bit similar to that Will Smith movie where he is in a deserted New York. I’m sure it has its attractions but you’ll havce to ask someone who spent more than just a couple of hours there.

Any other top Swiss tips?

It was flatter than I expected; everything is channelled into the valleys which makes for some stunning architectural moments with roads, railways, rivers inetrtwined in the valleys. Clearly going over the mountains wasn’t so flat but stunning; well-worth the effort!

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What do you think?