ABOVE: Rivaz and the Lavaux vineyards, with Lac Léman and the Swiss Alps in the background.
by Durant Imboden
Lavaux is one of Switzerland's most celebrated wine-growing regions. The vineyards, many of which have been owned by the same families for generations, are perched on terraced hillsides above Lac Léman between Lausanne and Vevey. Lavaux's geographical situation is so unique--and so beautiful--that the Vignoble de Lavaux is a candidate for UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Towns and sightseeing
Lavaux includes more than a dozen villages, among them the lakeside district capital of Cully and hillside villages such as Grandvaux and Epesses.
As you explore the countryside, you can sample the local wines at caveaux run by individual winegrowers such as the Maison de la Crausaz in Grandvaux (see article), where I spent a pleasant couple of hours drinking wine and nibbling on flutes au beurre pastries during the 2005 harvest season. (The blurred image on the photo shows what the resident cat looked like after several glasses of Domain de la Crausaz blanc and rouge.)
Restaurants and traditional inns known as pintes vaudoises offer the same wines with good meals. I can personally recommend the Relais de la Poste just outside the pretty little village of Grandvaux, which has a spectacular view of Lac Léman and serves traditional favorites such as lake perch (which should be enjoyed at least once during any visit to Canton Vaud).
How to reach (and get around) the Lavaux
Rail. Trains between Lausanne and Montreux stop at several points in the Lavaux, including Cully and Vevey (which, in addition to being the wine-trading center for the district, has vineyards of its own). For a pleasant excursion, catch the Train des Vignes or Wine Train from Vevey to Chexbres, or take the scenic funicular ride from Vevey to Mt. Pèlerin.
Hiking or biking. If you aren't in a hurry, you can take several days to explore the Lavaux region on foot or two wheels, using the free hiking and bicycling maps from the Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office. Paths are well-marked, and distances are relatively short. Cully, for example, is only a two-hour walk from the Ouchy lakefront in Lausanne--and you can easily combine walking or biking in one direction with public transportation in the other.
Switzerland Tourism's Exploring the Lavaux Terraces page has more information on the 32-km or 20-mile walking path from Lausanne-Ochy to Villaneuve at the eastern end of the lake.
Car. For directions, consult a good road map. (You'll need to decide which villages you want to visit, then pick the best roads for your journey.)
More information on Lavaux and its wines
Maison de la Crausaz (wine caveau) switzerlandforvisitors.com
In French and/or German:
Also see: Maison de la Crausaz (wine caveau)
Photos (except cat) copyright © ST/Swiss-Image.ch.
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