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Mennagio to Switzerland - 3 days....

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We are a party of 6 (including 2 older terms). Rented a beautiful villa in Argegno - near Menaggio. Late July. Initially we were to stay and relax the whole time. But got the itch to see Switzerland. None of us have been. Leaving our villa on Thursday morning.... With a flight from Zurich on Sunday morning. We COULD rent a car and drive but might be tight with all of us and the Swiss sure do love their railways. I thought about the Wilhelm Tell express and then base from Lucerne. But we have been lakeside the rest of the time. We want our socks blown off by the alps. And not just from a train. We will want to SEE them, enjoy them. Maybe paraglide So--- please help me. We will need to be Lucerne or Zurich for Saturday night as our flights are 10 am Sunday. But we are free as birds from thur morning to Saturday night. Yes -- I realize very abbreviated. But better than nothing. A scenic rail? (Some seem so time inefficient) but we would do for sure!!! Drive? Lauterbrunnen? That's where the paragliding I saw was located. This is our last time together before my kids go to college so I want to wow them. Any advice appreciated. We are not afraid to spend some money but need to save SOME for their college. ��
Please help with an itinerary. I'm not fond of relinquishing control to a travel agent. Not yet

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    Lauterbrunnen could work very well for you. I thoroughly enjoyed a tandem paraglide starting from a cliff above Lauterbrunnen and ending in Lauterbrunnen, and I enjoyed staying in Lauterbrunnen, too. Some people find it too dark, but I think that depends on the season, as the high cliffs can block sunlight during times of the year when the sun is low and markedly angled. When I was there (early June), it was magnificent! Or you could stay in Wengen or Murren instead.

    Wherever you stay, you will be surrounded by gobsmackingly gorgeous scenery. And there's lots to do in the area, covered especially well, IMO, by the Michelin Green Guide.

    No reason to rent a car -- public transportation in Switzerland is outstandingly comfortable and reliable. And if, for some reason, you do decide to rent a car (who would want to drive when s/he could be devoting every moment to swiveling his/her head to see the scenery?), note that both Wengen and Murren are car-free.

    Absolutely NO reason to use a travel agent.

    Hope this information helps!

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    First, remember that if you hire a car in Italy and drop it in Switzerland you will be hit by a large drop-off charge.
    The easiest thing to do: cross the lake with a ferry to Varenna, up by rail to Tirano, Bernina railway to Engadine. I suspect staying in St. Moritz could mean breaking the bank, but have a look around - Pontresina would probably fit the bill. Not that you have much time to spend, as the first leg will take the most part of your day. By Saturday you will be already leaving via Chur to Zurich. All very scenic train traveling.

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    asps is right -- getting from Argegno to Lauterbrunnen won't be easy -- check for a preliminary sense of options (rome2rio isn't fully accurate). But I didn't see any paragliders in the Engadine, nor did I see terrain suited to it. I could be wrong. If you do go to the Engadine (one of my favorite parts of Switzerland), I, personally, would advise against St. Moritz -- way too up-scale touristy! I was satisfied with Pontresina. That said, I would wait to visit the Engadine (and Graubunden more generally) until you can give it closer to a week. YMMV.

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    Sorry -- I should have said that I was satisfied with Pontresina for the UPPER Engadine. I preferred the Lower Engadine, which is further from the train routes that would be relevant to your plans.

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    Thank you (all) for your helpful input. Can anyone explain the differences between what we would see in the Lauterbrunnen area (which definitely does seem further and more time consuming but worth it??) vs the St Moritz (Engadine?) area? What is the difference in the "wow" factor?

    If we were to do Wilhelm tell express to Lucerne Thursday , would it be too much to go to Lauterbrunnen Friday morning, have the day, spend the night somewhere (murren keeps being brought up) and have Saturday there as well until heading back to Lucerne or Zurich for flight home Sunday morning? Is that just too much rail time? If driving is more time effective (a rental from one Swiss town to another) why isn't it done more?

    I'm so confused.

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    Oooh, I'm really bad at articulating differences, but I'll give it a try!

    The Bernese Oberland (Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Murren, etc.) is, IMO, rather quintessentially picture-book Swiss Alps. (Do a google image search to see what I mean.) There are some magnificently snow-capped Alps (the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau are, I believe, the highest in the area and probably the most well known) positioned on a plateau above the Lauterbrunnen Valley, which is surrounded by cliffs of up to a kilometer in height, IIRC. During the spring snow melt, there are dozens of enormous waterfalls leaping off those cliffs; one of the most spectacular is the Staubbach Falls. From Lauterbrunnen per se, I don't believe one can see the highest Alps, although one can see high snowcaps. From some (but I believe not all) parts of Wengen, one can see parts of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau AND can see down into a wide part of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. From much of Murren, one can see some of the highest Alps and, if close enough to the edge, down into a narrow part of the Lauterbrunnen Valley (but it's hard to see both the peaks and the valleys at the same time). There are a lot of paragliders in the area, as they can run down the hills above Murren or Wengen and jump off the edge of the cliffs into the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

    Graubunden is a huge area that includes the Upper Engadine (I believe St. Moritz is in this part), Lower Engadine, and several other areas. The Upper Engadine has some of the highest and most awesome peaks in Switzerland, but IMO, the terrain seemed to have less variation than the terrain of the Bernese Oberland. JMO based on limited experience. (And no good options for paragliding, or at least, none that I saw.)

    The Lower Engadine doesn't have the extraordinarily high peaks of the Upper Engadine, but it has dramatic vistas that readily include high peaks and deep valleys, with little steeple-marked towns perched in the middle. That, I think, is one of the things that sets this area apart from the others under discussion.

    Other differences: The Bernese Oberland is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, but has a very highly developed tourist industry so almost everyone at hotels and restaurants and tourist destinations will speak English (and probably at least 3 or 4 other languages). It is a heavily touristed area, with all the pros and cons that come with that.

    In contrast, Graubunden is the Romansch-speaking part of Switzerland. Again though, most people you are likely to encounter will speak English (and several other languages). The tourism industry is alive and well in Graubunden, but geared a bit to skiing and winter sports in the Upper Engadine and, in the Lower Engadine, much less extensive than in the Bernese Oberland -- which makes perfect sense, as the number of tourists who visit these areas differ substantially.

    IMO, all of these areas have true WOW factors, just slightly different. They all have options for walks ranging from easy to challenging and from short to long. They all have excellent options for public transportation. The buildings of the Bernese Oberland include more traditional chalets, while the buildings of Graubunden are not chalets and instead often include the sgrafitti that is unique to the area. I thought the food a bit more interesting in the Engadine, but I had some nice "classic" Swiss dinners in the Bernese Oberland and wouldn't make a choice based solely on food.

    I hope others jump in to comment on the differences, as I can only speak to my remembered impressions of differences experienced at a particular time of year during one particular trip!

    Re: your plan options: I thought Graubunden easily worth a full week. With your time frame, as noted above, I'd go for the Bernese Oberland. I wouldn't worry about whether you take the Wilhem Tell Express or a "regular" train -- I believe they travel the same tracks, and your time is too limited to worry about the niceties of the differences between them. (JMO.) Only you can decide how much time to give to Lucerne, but I would note that it would be easier to revisit Lucerne than to get back to the Bernese Oberland, so those of you who want to see more of Lucerne might consider deferring your time there until you can revisit it. Just a thought....

    I would NOT try to rent a car -- Swiss public transportation options are excellent and very easy to use; in contrast, a driver would have to forego some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. Why do that?

    I hope these impressions -- again, JMO -- help!

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    Arcegno CO - ZRH:

    1. either boat, hovercraft or bus to Colico, train to Tirano, Bernina train to Pontresina, stay there and ennjoy the mountain peaks, rope railways and gondolas, Glaciers, lakes and hiking trails of Upper Engadine, go then by traoin via Allbula Tunnel and Chur to ZRH.

    2. either boat, hovercraft or bus to Colico, train to Tirano, Swiss Post bus to Stelvio (highest pass rod of the Eastern Alps) - Mustair monastery - Mals - Nauders - Scuol-Tarasp, stay there and ennjoy the thermal bath, the mountain peaks, gondolas, Glaciers, tiny mauntain akes, hiking trails and the extremely beautiful Lower Engadine houses, go then by train via Vereina Tunnel and Klosters to ZRH.

    3. either boat, hovercraft or bus to Colico, train to Chiavenna, Swiss Posts bus via Maloja Pass to Sils-Maria, stay there and ennjoy the mountain peaks, rope railways and gondolas, Glaciers, lakes and hiking trails of Upper Engadine, go then either by bus via Julier Pass or by train via Albula Tunnel to Chur and ZRH.

    4. bus to Como SG, train to Airolo, Swiss post bus either via Nufenen Pass - Grimsel Pass or via Gotthard Pass - Susten Pass to Meiringen, train to either Interlaken or Lucerne.

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