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Switzerland in July

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My wife and I are going to Switzerland in July for 10 days. We're flying into and out of Zurich. Never having been to Europe, we are super excited buy we have a couple of questions.

First, should we rent a car or should we take the trains? Our only concern is how lightly we have to pack to travel by train. Going for 10 days, we'd like to take more than 2 changes of clothes - and we'd like to buy souvenirs along the way. Or if we rent a car - how difficult will it be to drive around and through the Alps?

Second - where are the "must sees"? We've heard Murren, Interlaken and Gstaad are beautiful. We're looking for a romantic, relaxing Alpine vacation. Leaving from Zurich and returning to Zurich, any suggestions on route planning?

Third - any suggestions for lodging along the way?

Looking through the other postings, it doesn't seem like we can wrong with anywhere.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Ben

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    You've got that right, Ben -- it's impossible to go wrong in Switzerland. I'm a train/boat/bus person via the Swiss Pass, but you'll find a large number of contributors on this site who think driving is the only way to go. As to must-sees and where to stay? -- use the "Switzerland" search and read the multitude of suggestions. We'll drive you crazy with our zealous descriptions of our favorite country. J.

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    Ben---
    You are right; anywhere in Switzerland is beautiful, and you couldn't go wrong. My recommendation for spots to go, with you making the decision on how long and where you'll stop for the night, is as follows.
    1. Rent a car. It's easy driving all around Switzerland. But get a stick shift; automatics in the mountains, especially in smaller cars, are a headache.
    2. Use a circular itinerary as you seem to be planning already. If you land in the morning in Zurich, my recommendation is to rent the car and drive to the Interlaken area for your first night. I always stay in the little old village of Bonigen on the outskirts of Interlaken, and right on the lake.
    3. Staying in the Interlaken area for a few days, you should make day trips to Murren, Grindelwald, Gstaad, Gruyeres, Montreux, Romont, and Murten. Get a good road map to see how you can group some of these into the same day trip. I would group Murten, Romont, and Gruyeres into the same day. Not many Americans know Romont, but it's a lovely hilltop village with a spectacular setting and a neat town square.
    4. From Interlaken, my recommendation for the next stop is to drive south to the Locarno / Lugano area, staying overnight in the beautiful little village of Morcote on Lake Lugano for a couple of nights.
    5. Next, drive south around the south side of both branches of Lake Como, through Lecco, then north to the St. Moritz area, stopping for a night or two in Silvaplana, a nice little village that is only 2 km from St. Moritz and much less touristy. Just past the Italian border into Switzerland as you drive toward St. Moritz, take a slight side trip to the incredibly situated little village of Soglio, which sits perched on the mountainside with incredible views. Have a coffee or beer at the outdoor tables of the local hotel restaurant.
    6. From Silvaplana / St. Moritz, drive north to St. Gallen and stay overnight in Appenzell, a delightful village where they drive the cows down from the meadows right through the middle of town.
    7. For a last night or two, go from Appenzell to the pretty little town of Baden just northeast of Zurich. From Baden to the Zurich airport is an easy 30 minute drive over fast highways.

    What I've described is a set of routes I've taken at one time or the other, and I can recommend the itinerary highly. A car makes it possible to see all the sights and to stop wherever you want when you spot something of interest. I'm sure you will receive many other suggestions, and likewise you will not be disappointed whatever you do. These places and routes are my favorites; if you want to know more, feel free to contact me.

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    In the past, we have rented a car in Switzerland for the mobility and convenience. On the other hand, if you are planning on staying a few days in the Berner Oberland, you don't really need a car because villages like Mürren and Wengen are not accessible by car.
    And in Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald it is hard to find a free place to park.

    I have driven over several of the high passes including the Furka, Grimsel, and Susten. They are all highly spectacular. With a car you can come and go as you desire. Having driven over the tops of the ridges, I know that you do not see nearly as much from a train, except possibly a couple of the mountain trains that "go high", like the Jungfraubahn. I do endorse the stick shift because automatics use up power and do not provide good downhill braking. We had a little Fiat our first year and it was slick. The last two visits we ended up with an Opel Vectra, automatic. Not quite as good.
    Do NOT let the rental agency foist a diesel off on you. We had a diesel powered Opel last year in Austria and I did not particularly care for it. Granted diesel fuel is cheaper than gasoline and readily available, but the response time of the engine is slow.
    It got us where we were going, but there were times when I had to sit and wait because I knew I had little acceleration to bail me out.

    I would suggest going to Zermatt, at least for a ride up the Gornergrat for a look at the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa, which spawns some huge alpine glaciers
    Certainly Mürren, which is up on the side of the valley, provides beautiful views. But the best views of all in that region can be had from one of two places: the Männlichen Ridge which towers over Wegen, and from the First gondola station above Grindelwald.
    (First is a name, not a number.)
    The ride up in the gondola is spectacular as everything, and the view from the terrace of the gondola station at First is beautiful.
    You did not mention how energetic you are, but from First the walk to the top of the Faulhorn will lead you to the most awesome view I have ever seen.
    The full panorama is incredible. To the north you look down on Interlaken and the Thuner See and the Brienzer See on either side of Interlaken. To the east and west mountains seem to go on forever, and to the south you are looking straight at the north wall of the Eiger as well as all of the other peaks of the Berner Oberland.
    There is an incredible amount of scenery.

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    Thank you all so much for your help!!

    What about lodging? Should I make reservations in advance or just wing it?

    As for the hiking - we absolutely love hiking - getting outside, the fresh mountain air. This is, in large part, why chose Switzerland - beautiful scenery and great chances to get out into the fresh alpine air!!

    July can't come soon enough....

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    Definitely great suggestions you have received, Ben. Considering you have only 10 days for travelling I suggest to stay at 4 places. More could be hectic and too short time for each, less would mean to miss too much.

    Bob and Wayne suggested to rent a car. I am from Germany and go to Switzerland by my own car. But after arriving I park the car and use only public transport. Considering that two of the places you should visit are car-free (Zermatt and Murren/Wengen) a car is not the best choice. And I do not share the experience of enjoying driving a car over a pass. The driver is not able to watch the scenery, he has to care for the road. In July lots of cars and bikes are on the way – it is a horror sometimes. The distances between the several places are quite long, so you might not have enough time to stop at every corner. You can check in your luggage and send it forward by plane and train to your next destination (jw and s (he is in vacation at the moment) will give you details on this).

    Now let’s go to my recommendations: 3 nights Wengen/Murren, 2 nights Zermatt, 2 nights St. Moritz or surrounding villages, 2 nights Lugano or surrounding villages and your last night close to the airport. If your flight departs in the evening, you can stay one more night in Lugano and leave the town in the morning.

    I read you are addicted to hiking. Maybe it would be the best to concentrate on one area with lots of hiking trails? In this case I would recommend the Engadin/St. Moritz or Berner Oberland/Grindelwald, Wengen, Murren.

    I do not recommend to stay in St. Moritz or Silvaplana. My choice would be Sils, Celerina or Pontresina only a few km away. You definitely should do reservations. July is peak season. Where? It depends on your budget, of course.
    There are so many things to do in this area! Hiking and doing excursions by train, bus or cable cars. If you are interested I will give you some details.

    Bye Ingo

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    July and August are the peak summer tourists months in that region. It is incredible how many people ride the train to the Jungfraujoch. So I think you should reserve your rooms in advance. You will find that Swiss hotels are not cheap in the popular tourist areas.
    With respect to the Jungfraujoch trip, it is a costly but memorable experience. If you elect to go, I recommend getting a very early start because as the day stretches into the late afternoon, the waiting time for a return train can be quite lengthy. The trains haul people up all day, then everybody wants to go down between 5 PM and 6 PM. The last scheduled train gets back to Interlaken Ost about 8:30.

    I can go on at length about the hiking trails in the Berner Oberland Region. I have walked a few of them myself and I know which ones I like. The best book on the subject is by Kevin Reynolds,
    The Bernese Alps Switzerland - A Walking Guide.
    I can tell you right now that a week is not enough time to fully explore the area around Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald. I have been there a total of 3 weeks plus, and there are still some unvisited areas. In 2000 we had good weather and we went until finally on the 6th day we were so leg weary that we headed up to the Grimsel Pass and came back over the Furka and Susten Passes. My wife is an excellent driver and we take turns on those mountain roads. And we stop where we can so that both of us can look. But yes indeed you do have to pay attention to the road, and motorcycles do go whizzing by you at breakneck speeds. An alternative is to ride the postal bus to the top of the Grimsel Pass. There is one hike from the Hospice over a landscape that could be from the Karakoram Range just as easily.
    If you want to explore this subject more, I do suggest the book by Kev Reynolds. He covers just about the whole landscape.

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