Listed in The Telegraph’s 50 greatest art, food and culture holidays on Earth.
Gstaad is one of the world’s premier music festivals, running for seven weeks each summer and featuring artists of the highest international calibre. It was founded by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin after he settled there with his family in 1957. Following a childhood in New York City, the district of Saanenland in the Bernese Oberland seemed paradise, as it does to many of its residents and visitors.
The Saanenland includes Gstaad and six other villages. Local mythology has it that the area came into existence after God had finished creation and rested his seven-fingered hand on the earth, thus creating the seven valleys in which the villages are set. Although billed as the Gstaad Festival, most of the concerts take place in the stunning baroque churches of the resort’s picturesque satellite villages.
The festival also has its own resident orchestra, The Gstaad Festival Orchestra, its members drawn from the best orchestras in Switzerland and brought together for specific concerts and projects during festival time. Meetings with some of the performers will be arranged.
The walking possibilities in the Saanenland are endless, providing the opportunity to explore this stunning country. Many of the ski lifts are open in the summer to provide access to the mountain tops, enabling the walker to explore the summits and enjoy the views normally only available to skiers.
The tour is based in Schönried, a village with views across the valley, perfectly located for the walks and concerts.
Schönried. Fly at c. 11.30am (British Airways) from London Heathrow to Geneva and drive 3 hours (including a refreshment break en route) to the hotel in Schönried.
Schönried, Gstaad, Saanen. Leave the hotel on foot for a 5 km, c. 2½-hour easy meadow walk to Gstaad, arriving in time for an independent lunch and some free time, before returning to the hotel by coach. Early evening concert at the St Mauritius-Kirche, Saanen: Gabrieli Consort, Paul McCreesh (conductor), Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Jeremy Ovenden (tenor), Andrew Foster-Williams (bass): Haydn, The Seasons.
Schönried, Sparenmoos. Walk to the gondola station in Schönried (1,220m above sea level) and ascend to the Rellerli summit (1,831m) for a 4-hour, 10 km ridge walk to Sparenmoos (1,632m). Return to the hotel for some free time. Evening concert at the St Mauritius-Kirche, Saanen: Cappella Gabetta, Mario Stefano Pietrodarchi (bandoneon), Andrés Gabetta (violin): Vivaldi, The Four Seasons; Piazzolla, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.
Schönried, Rinderberg, Hornberg. Take the panoramic rail link from Schönried to Zweisimmen and then the gondola up to Rinderberg (2,004m above sea level) for a 2½-hour, 4 km walk to Hornberg (1,814m). Lunch in Hornberg before returning to Schönried. Evening concert at the St Nicolas-Kirche, Rougemont: Kammermusikfest Gstaad, Christophe Coin (cello): Bach, Cello Suites I; Bach with interludes from G. Kurtag.
Schönried, Gsteig, Gstaad. Visit the beautifully adorned church in Gsteig before a 2½-hour, 12 km walk following the river down to Gstaad. There is some free time in Gstaad before returning to the hotel. Evening concert at the St Nicolas-Kirche, Rougemont: Kammermusikfest Gstaad, Chiaroscuro Quartet, Alina Ibragimova (violin): a programme of works by Bach, Beethoven (Op. 18, No.2) and Schubert (Rosamunde).
Schönried, Chrine, Lauenensee. Drive to Gstaad to take the gondola to ascend the Wispile (1,911m) for a 4-hour ridge walk along to Chrine (1,659m) and then down (steep in sections) to the Lauenensee (1,381m). A local bus service takes us down to Lauenen before continuing by coach back to the hotel. Evening recital in Gsteig: Kammermusikfest Gstaad, Danae Dörken (piano): a programme of works by Schubert, Mendelssohn and Chopin (Sonata No. 2).
Schönried, Saanenmöser. Leave the hotel on foot for a 2-hour, 5 km circular walk using cross country ski trails beside the forest up to Saanenmöser and returning along the river to the hotel. Evening recital in Lauenen: Kammermusikfest Gstaad, Sir András Schiff (piano), Yuuko Shiokawa (violin): Mozart, Violin sonatas, K. 304, 379, 454 & 526.
Homeward journey. Fly from Geneva arriving at London Heathrow c. 4.00pm.
Although we have chosen the walks on this itinerary with due care and consideration, the Saanenland is subject to adverse weather conditions due to the high altitude which may mean that walks have to be changed or modified at short notice. We follow the advice of local walking guides.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £3,880 or £3,740 without flights. Single occupancy: £4,030 or £3,890 without flights.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus 319); travel by private coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 3 lunches and 4 dinners with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer, a local walking guide and tour manager.
Tickets (top category) for 6 performances are included costing c. £500.
Hotel Ermitage, Schönried: a modern 5-star hotel set in traditional chalet-style buildings in the village of Schönried, 5km from Gstaad. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
This is a walking tour. These walks are only suitable for those who are used to mountain walking. Although they don’t present any technical difficulties, they are remote and difficult to access other than by gondola or chairlift, and sometimes rise to up to 2,000m above sea level. Participants should have appropriate walking footwear. Average distance by coach per day: 40 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.fco.gov.uk.