Just 30 minutes from Geneva, high above the lake sprawl 800 hectares of the historic terraced Lavaux vineyards (Terrasses de Lavaux). In the area between Vevey and Lausanne you can taste excellent wines and sample hearty local dishes while hiking or riding a train between picturesque winegrowing towns on the Lavaux Vineyard Trail.
Lavaux has been known for its winemaking traditions since Roman times. However, the steep terraces with vineyards as we see them today were built by local monks in the 11-12th centuries. If you fancy a comfortable ride from one wine cellar to another, you can hop on the Train des Vignes, Lavaux Panoramic or Lavaux Express that run through the Lavaux vineyards. Hope off at one of the stops to taste wines, eat in charming family-run mini-restaurants called pintes and take short walks among the vines. Another leisurely way of exploring Lavaux is by a boat that stops in the towns of Rivaz and Cully on the shore.
If you are feeling up to it, you can hike along the Lavaux Vineyard Trail, wondering from one village to another. For a full day of hiking, take the Discovering the Terraces of Lavaux route (Grand Traversée de Lavaux) which runs from Ouchy to Chateau de Chillon Castle between Montreux and Villeneuve. In September, when grape harvesting starts, you will see many other fellow hikers along the trail and locals in the vineyards.
There are many shorter scenic walks, such as from St. Saphorin to Chexbres or Cully to Riex. The views of the Lake Geneva, the Alps and the endless terraced vineyards are breathtakingly beautiful here. Each village has several wine cellars open for tastings, restaurants and bars. In the medieval St. Saphorin you can admire characteristic winegrowers' houses from the 16th-19th centuries and an excellent Michelin star restaurant Auberge de l'Onde serving local delicacies. The delightful village of Chexbres is often called the balcony of Lake Geneva for its magnificent views of the area. Cully has a picturesque old town centre with many historic buildings.
The wine route is suitable for all levels of fitness but if you get tired of walking you can always hop on the train or boat to head back as all villages and towns are very well connected.
Photos via Flickr by: Laurent Bernier, Patrick Nouhailler.