Magic Mountains: A Literary and Artistic Tour of Switzerland

3 Sep – 23 Sep 2021 Approximate dates

  • Region:
    • Switzerland
  • Status: limited
  • Code: 22128

Tour Highlights

  • Learn about Swiss writers, past and present, familiar and unfamiliar, from literary expert Susannah Fullerton, President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia. Susannah will be assisted by Anne Harbers, an experienced presenter and writer in Art History.
  • Walk down mountain paths honouring Mark Twain (‘Mark Twain Weg’), and Thomas Mann (‘Thomas Mann Weg’) and wander through the UNESCO heritage-listed vineyards of the Lavaux in the footsteps of Charles Dickens.
  • Ascend Davos, setting for the Thomas Mann classic The Magic Mountain and the place where R.L. Stevenson completed Treasure Island.
  • Enjoy a journey on the famed Glacier Express, and funicular and cog-railway trips up and down Swiss mountains.
  • Visit the homes of Hermann Hesse, Einstein and Madame de Stael (the woman who terrified Napoleon!)
  • Enjoy a literary walking tour of Basel (a town that has hosted Anthony Trollope, Patricia Highsmith, Thomas Mann, Stephen Crane and many others) with Padraig Rooney, author of The Gilded Chalet: Off-piste in Literary Switzerland.
  • Take a day trip to see the Mer de Glace, the glacier that Mary Shelley used as a setting for the climactic scene in Frankenstein and see the Lauterbrunnen landscape Tolkien used in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Spend a day following in the footsteps of James Joyce in Zurich.
  • Visit the ancient Abbey library of St Gallen.
  • Admire art (textiles, Impressionists, modernist, sculpture and paper) in Swiss galleries and museums including the Centrum Paul Klee designed by Renzo Piano and Basel’s famed Kunstmuseum.
  • By special appointment view a selection of manuscripts at Zurich’s Thomas Mann and Max Frisch Archives, the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Archives in the library of Neuchâtel, the Robert Walser Centrum and at the Swiss Literary Archives in Bern.
  • Take a boat across Lake Biel to St Petersinsel, the idyllic island where the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau spent “the happiest time of his life.”
  • Enjoy accommodation in a number of heritage hotels including the charming 5-star Hotel d’Angleterre and the historic Krafft Basel.
  • Dine at a number of literary restaurants including the Fondazione Monte Verità Restaurant, Anita Brookner’s Grand Hotel du Lac and Zurich’s famed Café Odeon.
  • Conclude with a farewell meal at the 2-star Michelin Einstein Gourmet Restaurant.

21-day Literary & Artistic Tour of Switzerland

Overnight: Locarno (2 nights) • Davos (1 night) • Zermatt (1 night) • Geneva (3 nights) • Veytaux (3 nights) • Basel (2 nights) • Bern (2 nights) • Meiringen (1 night) • Zurich (3 nights) • St Gallen (2 nights)


Switzerland is famous for its mountains, chocolate, banks, cheese and cuckoo clocks, but the country can also be intensely proud of its literary heritage. Swiss born writers such as JJ Rousseau, Germaine de Stael and Johanna Spyri had world influence, but the lovely lakes, the alpine health resorts, the majestic landscapes and the safety of Swiss neutrality attracted many writers from other places. The Shelleys and Byron escaped calumny back home, Dickens happily roamed its vineyards and knew his Little Dorrit would find peace there too, Robert Louis Stevenson sought a lung cure, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thought its precipices suitable for a Sherlockian death, and Mark Twain found comedy for a travel book. German Hermann Hesse was profoundly influenced by the stunning scenery of Montagnola, Anita Brookner found her ideal ‘Hotel du Lac’ on Lake Geneva, and for Voltaire Switzerland was a haven after his outspoken writings were attacked in France.  Some writers ended their days in Switzerland – James Joyce, Nabokov, Thomas Mann – as did actors Audrey Hepburn and Charlie Chaplin.

This tour will also include some fabulous libraries, an historic paper mill and paper museum, a visit to a glacier, and stunning train trips through the mountains. There will be literary walks in charming lakeside towns, funicular trips up steep mountain sides, and meals in restaurants where famous authors dined and wrote. See the landscapes which inspired Tolkien, Mary Shelley and Byron, and get to know some Swiss authors who might be new to you, such as crime novelist Hansjörg Schneider and poet and novelist Robert Walser who was deeply admired by Hesse and Kafka. There will be those who wrote in German and those who wrote in French and of course some familiar names from British and American literature.

The tour will be an exciting journey of discovery through the literature inspired by Switzerland and the travels of noted writers through its land-locked regions. Heidi and James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and young ladies at finishing schools, Romantic poets and philosophers – you will find them all in Switzerland!

And there will be some gorgeous art, with visits to the Paul Klee centre, to see the classic modernist works in the amazing Beyeler Foundation, an unusual textile museum, and Zurich’s remarkable Kunsthaus (currently holding a controversial collection of Nazi looted art). Art guide Anne Harbers will share her knowledge about the treasures of these collections.

Mark Twain remarked that Switzerland would be “a mighty big place if it were ironed flat”. Come on this tour and delight in those un-ironed mountains, superb scenery, artistic treasures and the rich literature by the many writers it has inspired.



Draft Itinerary

The following itinerary lists a range of site visits which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. Furthermore, a number of the sites have not yet confirmed their opening hours for 2021. Therefore the daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight/ferry schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunch and evening meals as indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

Locarno – 2 nights

Day 1: Friday 3 September, Milan Malpensa – Locarno
  • Airport transfer for participants arriving on the ‘ASA designated’ flight
  • Introduction & Short Orientation tour
  • Light Evening Meal at the hotel

(Overnight Locarno) D

Day 2: Saturday 4 September, Locarno – Montagnola – Ascona – Locarno
  • Museo e Fondazione Hermann Hesse
  • In the footsteps of Hermann Hesse: A literary walking tour of Montagnola
  • Light lunch at the Boccadoro Literary Café
  • Museo Casa Anatta, Monte Verità
  • Welcome Dinner at the Monte Verità Restaurant

(Overnight Locarno) BLD

Davos – 1 night

Day 3: Sunday 5 September, Locarno – Schatzalp – Davos
  • Funicular from Davos to Schatzalp
  • Light lunch at the former sanatorium, Hotel Davos Schatzalp
  • Botanical Garden Alpinum
  • Thomas Mann Way

(Overnight Davos) BLD

Zermatt – 1 night

Day 4: Monday 6 September, Davos – Zermatt
  • Glacier Express from Davos to Zermatt via Filisur

(Overnight Zermatt) BD

Geneva – 3 nights

Day 5: Tuesday 7 September, Zermatt – Riffelberg – Riffelalp – Geneva
  • Gornergrat Cog Railway from Zermatt to Riffelberg
  • Hotel Riffelhaus 1853: Morning tea & short tour of the hotel (2500m)
  • A Guided walk from Riffelberg to Riffelalp along The Mark Twain Way
  • Light 2-course lunch at the Restaurant al Bosco, Riffelalp Resort (2222m)
  • Gornergrat Cog Railway from Riffelalp to Zermatt
  • Afternoon train from Zermatt to Geneva

Mark Twain visited Zermatt on the 27th August 1878, and spent the night at the historic Riffelhaus. The Mark Twain Trail from Riffelberg to the Riffelalp Resort is approximately 2.2kms taking you approximately 50 minutes mostly downhill. The group will be accompanied by 2 guides in order that group members may take this walk at a leisurely pace. September is an ideal time to enjoy this walk, the local wildlife and the famous 4000 meters peaks that frame Zermatt below. (Overnight Geneva) BL

Day 6: Wednesday 8 September, Geneva – Cologny – Geneva
  • Literary Walking tour of Geneva
  • Voltaire Institute & Museum
  • Fondation Martin Bodmer
  • Villa Diodati (exterior only)
  • Evening Apéritif in the Leopard Room followed by dinner in the Observatory

(Overnight Geneva) BD

Day 7: Thursday 9 September, Geneva – Chamonix – Montenvers – Geneva
  • Montenvers Railway to view the Mer de Glace & Ice Caves

(Overnight Geneva) BL

Veytaux – 3 nights

Day 8: Friday 10 September, Geneva – Nyon – Nernier – Yvoire – Coppet – Tolochenaz – Veytaux
  • The Medieval French villages of Nernier & Yvoire, Lake Geneva
  • Château de Coppet: The life of Germaine de Stael
  • The Grave of Audrey Hepburn, Tolochenaz

(Overnight Veytaux) BD

Day 9: Saturday 11 September, Veytaux – Lausanne – Lavaux – Veytaux
  • Lausanne: Literary Walking Tour with Padraig Rooney (Gibbon, Dickens, Hardy, Rousseau and Anita Brookner)
  • Lunch at the Auberge de Rivaz
  • The Lavaux Vineyards: In the footsteps of Charles Dickens
  • Château de Chillon

(Overnight Veytaux) BL

Day 10: Sunday 12 September, Veytaux – Corsier-sur-Vevey – Vevey – Montreux – Veytaux
  • Chaplin’s World, Corsier-sur-Vevey
  • Sunday lunch at Anita Brookner’s ‘Hotel du Lac’, Vevey
  • Literary tour with Senior Historian and Archivist, Evelyne Lüthi-Graf , visiting Nabokov’s Grave at Le cimetière de Clarens and the resort town of Montreux

(Overnight Veytaux) BL

Basel – 2 nights

Day 11: Monday 13 September, Veytaux  – Neuchâtel – La Neuveville – St Petersinsel – Basel
  • Private viewing of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Archives at the Neuchâtel Public and University Library (Bibliothèque publique et universitaire – BPUN)
  • Boat transfer from La Neuveville to St Petersinsel
  • Light Lunch at Restaurant und Klosterhotel St Petersinsel
  • Guided Tour of St Petersinsel

(Overnight Basel) BL

Day 12: Tuesday 14 September, Basel
  • Literary walking tour of Basel with author Padraig Rooney
  • Paper and Literary Museum
  • Kunstmuseum

(Overnight Basel) B

Bern – 2 nights

Day 13: Wednesday 15 September, Basel – Bern
  • Fondation Beyeler, Basel
  • Centrum Paul Klee, Bern

(Overnight Bern) B

Day 14: Thursday 16 September, Bern
  • Albert Einstein House
  • Robert Walser-Zentrum
  • Swiss Literary Archives
  • Time at leisure (with option to visit the Kunst Museum)

(Overnight Bern) B

Meiringen – 1 night

Day 15: Friday 17 September, Bern – Thun  – Lauterbrunnen – Trummelbach – Meiringen
  • Coffee break in Thun
  • Staubbach Falls
  • Lunch in Lauterbrunnen
  • Trummelbach Falls
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum, Meiringen

(Overnight Meiningen) BLD

Zurich - 3 nights

Day 16: Saturday 18 September, Meiringen – Lucerne – Zurich
  • Reichenbach Falls, Meiringen
  • Light lunch at the Frutal Versandbäckerei
  • Walking tour of Lucerne including the Lion Monument described by Mark Twain as ‘the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world’

(Overnight Zurich) BL

Day 17: Sunday 19 September, Zurich – Kilchberg – Hirzel – Zurich
  • Guided tour with Curator, Dr Elisabeth Lott-Büttiker: Thomas Mann Grave at Friedhof Kilchberg & the Conrad Ferdinand Meyer House
  • Johanna Spyri Museum, Hirzel
  • Kunsthaus Zurich

(Overnight Zurich) B

Day 18: Monday 20 September, Zurich
  • James Joyce Foundation: Guided Tour
  • Coffee break at the James Joyce Bar
  • Fraumünster Church featuring stained glass windows in the choir by Marc Chagall
  • Light lunch at the Café Odeon
  • James Joyce Literary Walking tour of Zurich

(Overnight Zurich) BL

St Gallen – 2 nights

Day 20: Tuesday 21 September, Zurich – St Gallen
  • Thomas Mann Archiv at ETH Zurich: Guided tour with Dr Katrin Bedenig, Head of the Thomas Mann Archiv
  • An introduction to Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt by Dr Tobias Amlinger, Head of the Max Frisch Archiv
  • Textilmuseum St Gallen

(Overnight St Gallen) B

Day 19: Wednesday 22 September, St Gallen
  • Guided tour of the Abbey of St Gall: Abbey Library, Vaulted Cellar, Exhibition Space & Cathedral
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Farewell Dinner at the 2-star Michelin restaurant ‘Einstein Gourmet Restaurant’

(Overnight St Gallen) B

Day 21: Thursday 23 September, Depart St Gallen
  • Airport transfer from St Gallen to Zurich Airport for participants travelling on the ‘ASA designated’ flight.



21-day Literary & Artistic Tour of Switzerland

ASA has selected 3- to 5-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom. Double/twin rooms for single occupancy may be requested – and are subject to availability and payment of the Single Supplement. A hotel list will be given to all participants prior to departure.

  • Locarno (2 nights): 4-star Hotel Palma au Lac – situated on the beautiful lake promenade of Locarno, a few steps from the city centre.
  • Davos (1 night): 5-star Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère – this historic hotel built in 1875, has hosted many writers including Robert Louis Stevenson who stayed in Davos in 1881 and 1882.
  • Zermatt (1 night): 4-star Resort Hotel Alex – a classic chalet located in the centre of town within easy walking distance to the Gornergrat Cog Railway.
  • Geneva (3 nights): 5-star Hotel d’Angleterre – located on the banks of Lake Leman, this charming c. 1872 family-run boutique hotel offers magnificent views of the famous Jet d’Eau and Mont Blanc.
  • Veytaux (3 nights): 3-star Hôtel Masson – occupying a Belle Époque building dating back to 1829. A member of the Swiss Historic Hotels, this charming hotel is surrounded by a large garden and overlooks Lake Geneva.
  • Basel (2 nights): 4-star Krafft Basel – an historic hotel with an idyllic location on the banks of the Rhine in Kleinbasel. Awarded the title ‘Historic Hotel of the Year’ in 2017, this is where Herman Hesse penned some of ‘Der Steppenwolf”.
  • Bern (2 nights): 5-star Bellevue Palace – an historic hotel occupying an elegant Art Nouveau building dating from 1913. Located in the heart of the old town next to Federal Parliament, it has hosted famous guests including Charlie Chaplin.
  • Meiringen (1 night): 4-star Park Hotel du Sauvage – an Art Nouveau hotel dating from 1880, offering panoramic views of the Bernese Alps. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is believed to have stayed here. Known as the ‘Englischer Hoff’, in ‘Sherlock Holmes The Final Solution’, this is where  Holmes and Watson set out for the Reichenbach Falls.
  • Zurich (3 nights): 3-star Hotel Florhof – located 260m from the Kunsthaus and 800m from the James Joyce Foundation, this charming family-run hotel occupies a former 18th-century merchant’s home.
  • St Gallen (2 nights): 4-star Einstein St Gallen Hotel – located on the edge of the pedestrian zone, 300m from the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Abbey of St Gall.

Note: hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

How to book

Making a Tentative Reservation before the tour price has been published


Some ASA tours fill almost immediately. Don’t miss out! You can register your ‘Intention to Travel’ by completing this application and returning this to ASA with a AUD $200.00 per person deposit. Once the tour price has been published, the itinerary and ASA Reservation Application Form will be sent to you. From the time you receive the itinerary you will have two weeks to either:

  • Send us a completed ASA Reservation Application Form together with an additional deposit of AUD $300.00 per person. On receipt of this Reservation Application and deposit, ASA will process your booking and if approved, send you a tour confirmation. At this time your deposit of AUD $500.00 is subject to the tour’s Booking Conditions.


  • CANCEL your Intention to Travel in writing. ASA will refund your AUD $200.00 per person deposit, less a $66.00 service fee (including GST).
Participation Criteria

To participate in an ASA tour, you must be reasonably fit, in good health and able to participate in all activities without assistance from Tour Leaders or other tour members. If you require assistance, a fit and able travel companion must undertake to accompany and assist you with all tasks for the duration of the whole tour. ASA’s ability to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your specific needs, your health and safety and the health and safety of other tour members, is of paramount importance to us. For this reason the ASA Reservation Application includes a Medical Information section. As a general guideline, you must be able to accomplish each of these activities without assistance or support:

  • walk and stand unassisted for at least 2-3 hours a day in hot, humid conditions
  • walk confidently on and over uneven surfaces
  • climb at least 3 flights of stairs
  • embark and disembark from ferries, buses and trains
  • walk up and down steep slopes
  • walk at a steady pace and no less than 1km every 15-20 minutes
  • organise, manage and carry your own luggage on and off trains
  • manage hotel bathrooms which provide a shower over a bath
  • follow and remember tour instructions
  • meet punctually at designated times and places
  • administer your own medication.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double (or twin) room for single occupancy throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Gallery Tour Map
Physical Endurance & Practical Information
Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 21-day literary tour of Switzerland involves:

  • A daily schedule generally involving an early-morning departure (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (5.30-6.00pm).
  • 2-3 site visits most days, involving up to 1-2 hours of walking at each (regularly on uneven terrain, cobbled streets, and steep slopes) and/or standing, interspersed with coach travel or rail travel.
  • 3- to 5-star hotels with nine hotel changes.
  • Most hotel bathrooms include a shower over bath (not walk-in showers).
  • If you prefer a twin room, please note that the majority of twin rooms in Switzerland have 2 beds that are placed together (i.e. no gap between the beds).
  • Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person. Not all hotels have lifts.
  • Porterage is NOT available at railway stations; you must therefore be able to carry your main suitcase on and off the train.
  • Three (optional) walks:

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers:

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $TBALand Content Only

AUD $TBA Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3- to 5-star hotels
  • Breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals indicated in the tour itinerary, where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal.
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Transportation by public ferries on Lake Geneva, and by tram in Zurich
  • The Glacial Express from Davos to Zermatt (Day 4) , Rail travel from Zermatt to Geneva (Day 5)
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights on arrival and departure
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at most hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour Handbook
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Milan Malpensa, Zurich-Australia
  • Porterage at some hotels
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to canel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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