An adventurous day in Lugano Switzerland, featuring mountain-top roller coasters, cable car views and a splash-spa experience – read about my fun day trip from Lake Maggiore to Switzerland.
An Unexpected Day Trip From Lake Maggiore to Switzerland
Before my trip to Lake Maggiore with Bookings For You (read my Italian Lake Maggiore posts here), I had not envisaged the opportunity to explore Switzerland; a country I have always wanted to visit. I soon discovered, Lake Maggiore, the second largest of the Italian Lakes is shared with Switzerland on the North-West border. At only a 45 minute drive from the Golfo Gabella Lake Resort in Maggagno, it would be rude not to do an Italy road trip over the Swiss border.
Not only did it give me the chance to tick another cable car off my trip (you all remember those scary teeny-tiny bucket lifts in Lake Maggiore), it also ticked off another country I visited in 2018 – a record 8 countries visited!
Road Trip from Lake Maggiore to Lugano Switzerland
The largest holiday town in the region of Ticino and with such close proximity to neighbouring country Italy, Lugano has the best of both worlds, Swiss culture and Mediterranean elegance. Dotted with Renaissance and Baroque churches, Lugano has the historic charm of other areas of Switzerland but is known for being much more laid back.
Nicknamed the ‘Monte-Carlo of Switzerland’, it is known for its cool and calm atmosphere, yet oozes sophistication with lavish lakeside scenery. Its namesake, Lake Lugano spans 50KM and offers similar breathtaking views you will have become accustomed to seeing on the Italian Lakes.
My only wish is that I’d had a few more days to spend in Switzerland as there is plenty to do even if you are short on time (click here to read about how to spend one day in Basel.)
If you’re looking to spend 7 days in Switzerland, there are plenty of things to see and do. When you’re not lapping up the Lakeside views, there are an array of designer boutique shops to splash the cash.
Though, it wasn’t shopping I was doing this time around, I was splashing it up in the Splash E Spa.
Tamaro Park Splash E Spa
Splash e Spa is located at Tamaro Park, which is within easy reach of the Italian border. Another opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds, I was seeking secluded relaxation in the spa, whilst Adam was intent on reliving his teenage years in the splash park.
Geez, did I really think it was going to be that easy to get enjoy my time in Switzerland in the zen zone! Before I knew it, I found myself dragging the other end of a large rubber dingy up the stairs to the splash slides…
And boy was it fun!
Laughing along on easy going Mania, almost drowning on Wash Machine, to seeing Adam’s face of sheer horror as I almost hit my head on death-defying Gravity Killer, it was an adventurous time for the both of us! Whilst I’m not as brave on water slides as I used to be, I got to enjoy all the three rides I mentioned with Adam by my side.
But, Black Night, a waterslide in complete darkness was a ride I would have to face on my own.
After watching Adam grab the reins of his mat and zip down the waterslide, then watching and speaking to another lady braving the slides, I took the plunge!
And, I loved it!
When you’re reliving your youth on waterslides, it is very difficult to not get caught up in the excitement you once had as a kid. Trying not to run on the wet tiles as you climb the stairs after numerous times stating your last go, I can assure it is much more knackering as an adult!
I was very grateful we had saved the spa until last!
We were thankful to be enjoying a very sunny day in Switzerland so the opportunity to enjoy the outside terrace and pool could not be missed. The spa offers visitors the perfect relaxation, which is ideal if you have spent many hours driving in Switzerland.
Though, after all those waterslides the indoor pool with swim-up bar was first on our radar and mine was a pina-colada!
The spa also has a wellness area, treatment room and Turkish baths offering the perfect relaxation after the excitement of the splash park.
Tamaro Park offers a range of packages and we found we could combine our splash e spa experience with the cable car up Monte Tamaro and a ride on Coaster Bob (mountain-top rollercoaster.)
Why not. I’d already braved the bucket lifts of Lake Maggiore, slid my way down the waterslides, what’s another cable car and mountain rollercoaster?!
The Tamaro Park Scivoli package (cable car, coaster Bob and splash spa) costs 60 euros each and there are a variety of packages to choose from to suit your preferences.
Monte Tamaro Cable Car
We enjoyed the beautiful autumnal view over the mountain as we climbed higher from the safety of the cable car.
The top of the mountain plays host to beautiful green walking trails, a children’s play park, a zipline and of course, Coaster Bob.
After watching a few children zip down Coaster Bob and leave unscathed, I mustered up the courage to give it a go myself. As much as I wanted to try and squeeze in a car with Adam, it really wasn’t feasible so once again, I was braving it alone…
I was determined to video my ride on Coaster Bob, but for my first ride my hands were well and truly holding on!
After my hair-raising rides, I decided I’d had enough excitement for one day and chose not to do the zip line!
We stopped for lunch at the on-site restaurant and sat on a picnic bench overlooking some works of art located next to the lake. Created by Local artist Ivo Soldini, the sculptures are eye-catching additions to the beautiful scenery and I took great pleasure in catching the reflections on the lake.
We had such a fun day trip in Switzerland and were really glad we had crossed the border from Italy to explore this beautiful area. If only we had more time to explore Lugano and the Swiss region of Ticino.
If you’re looking for a fun road trip of your own across to Switzerland from Italy, here are some handy tips and things to know:
Things to be aware of before visiting Switzerland
As I mentioned, Adam and I had not envisioned visiting Switzerland on our trip to Italy, therefore, before we got to experience our fun day trip to Switzerland we had to ensure we were prepared.
Car Rental/Driving in Switzerland
When we were asked by the car rental company if we would be taking the car to any other countries during the hire, we automatically said no. The opportunity to visit Switzerland was an unexpected surprise but one we certainly did not regret.
As we had not added this element to our car hire agreement, it meant we had to phone Interrent, our car rental company before our day in Switzerland to ensure we had the appropriate cover on the car.
We were initially told a price of 50 euros over the phone but I’m not sure if this was the price we would have paid when we first picked the car up. Upon returning the car, we paid 90 euros and signed the approval paperwork. The lady at Interrent advised we had done the right thing by obtaining approval as failure to do so before crossing the border can result in fines of thousands of euros. No one wants that, least of all when you’re on holiday.
Top tip – Plan your trip beforehand and if you want to visit another country, make sure you add this to the policy before you pick up the car. Car rental fees are often much cheaper when booked in advance.
Speed limits/cameras in Switzerland
Another tip, always make sure you keep to the speed limits, not least, when you are in Switzerland where the cameras are not easy to spot. Similarly to driving in Iceland, speed cameras are everywhere in Switzerland. We even noticed the speediest of Italian drivers making sure they were sticking to the Swiss speed limits!
Traffic in Switzerland
We had no problem with traffic driving from Italy to Switzerland, but upon leaving, we sat in traffic for quite some time. We left the splash-spa to head back to Italy around 6pm but were sat in traffic in Switzerland for just over 30 minutes, which added a considerable amount of time to our drive back to Italy. This was a Friday evening after 6pm and I’m not sure if this is usually a busy time in this area but it’s worth leaving plenty of time for your journey.
Toll roads in Switzerland
Setting your sat nav to avoid motorways and toll roads will help save some money during your time in Switzerland. If you drive on an autostrada/autoroute/motorway you will most likely see a Customs Post. Some roads contain toll booths and others will have an automated pay system in which you will need to have paid for a ticket to cross, not too dissimilar to the Dartford tunnel (and other roads) crossing in the U.K.
We had set our sat nav up to avoid toll roads and motorways and I’d recommend doing the same if you are planning to visit Switzerland for the day.
Parking Fees in Switzerland
Luckily, most parking metres enable payment by card, therefore you are not required to have Swiss currency to pay for parking. We had no problem changing the language to English or paying by card, which was handy as had no Swiss currency with us! Our day at Tamaro Park cost us around 5.50 euros in parking fees and we parked easily in the secure car park.
Swiss Border Control
You will not be asked to show your passports when you cross the border from Italy to Switzerland, though we took ours with us just in case.
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but is included in the Schengen Agreement, therefore there is no customs union with the EU. This means, you are limited in terms of the Swiss money you are permitted to take back over the border when you return, which I believe is under 300CHF in money and gifts. Anything above this needs to be declared at the border.
These are just things to be aware of, not deterrents and, I highly recommend a day trip to Switzerland from The Italian Lakes. It is even possible to enjoy a day trip to Switzerland directly from Milan. A train from Milan to Lugano Switzerland takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
An undeniable benefit of visiting Switzerland from Italy is everyone in Lugano speaks Italian, so no new language phrases to learn! Whether you’re looking to explore the scenery in Switzerland, browse the vast Swiss designer shops or have an active day splashing around or being adventurous at Tamaro Park, there is plenty to do to appeal to all tastes. Speaking of which, I need to go back to try the traditional cheese fondue!
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