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Zermatt or Jungfraujoch? Alps Scenery

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Hello,

My 10 year old daughter wants to see and experience the Alps! We will probably take a trip in November or December.

My husband and I (non-skiers) previously visited Zermatt on a day trip just to take the cable cars and see the sights. My daughter wants to take this day trip after having seen the video and pictures. I, however, wouldn't mind trying something new while giving her an "alpine" experience. I am thinking about Jungfraujoch.

One main con to Jungfraujoch, however, seems to be the length of the train ride to get there; it seems like a long day filled with trains unless we overnight in the area. With Zermatt, we will use the cable cars after the trains. (We probably will be based in either Geneva or Zurich depending on which trip we choose so that we can use a combination of miles/hotel points to defray costs.) Is Jungfraujoch worth the extra time and money? Please bear in mind that Switzerland is only one stop on our trip; we cannot spend much time in Switzerland - that will have to wait until another trip!

Thanks for the input,

Chels

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    You're correct that it would be virtually impossible to do the Jungfraujoch from either Geneva or Zurich (about the same travel time from either) in a single day. And most of the train ride from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch is exactly as scenic as a subway tunnel. But it seems like Zermatt is also a long day filled with trains, especially if you start from Zurich. Each is a unique experience - personally, I think the scenery in the Berner Oberland is superior overall, but there's nothing that gives you that "seeing the Matterhorn for the first time" breathtaking feeling (unless you happen to be a climber who's waited a lifetime to see the Eiger Nordwand).

    Based on everything you've said, here's a different recommendation. Starting from Geneva, you can be in Lauterbrunnen in 3 hours, then take the funicular to Grutschalp and the short narrow-gauge train trip from there to Murren where you can get on the tram to the Schilthorn. Return to Murren and then continue on the tram to Gimmelwald, then down to Stechelberg, then back to Lauterbrunnen (short bus ride) and Geneva. It doesn't involve any more time on trains than going to Zermatt and would give you something different (riding on no fewer than five different types of transportation) while still giving your daughter a spectacular day amidst wonderful alpine scenery - pretty much the same views you'd have from the Jungfraujoch. A very long day for sure, however.

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    I thought you would get a zillion opinions on this one.. .here is mine. I live in Zurich. To do this for one day with a child after flying internationally (I assume from the US) does not seem that attractive a proposition to me. A lot will depend on the weather, and in November there is likely to be fog and rain or sleet, which means you won't see a lot of either the Matterhorn or the Jungrafajoch. December is better in terms of fog/rain, but again weather will play a role. It also could be bitterly cold and windy, Zermatt esp is prone to this in December and January. If you had more days, then you could choose the clearest one to go to the mountains and/or up the cable cars and trains, but you don't have that luxury. I like the suggestion of the Murren area, above, but again weather will be the big factor. Remember also that days are short in November and December, which means it will be dark longer in the morning and dark by 5 pm, which will cut into your sightseeing time.

    If you really only have one day, then I think it is better spent elsewhere either in Switzerland or places on the rest of your itinerary. If you are going to be based on Geneva, then I would go down along the lake to Vevey, Lausanne or Montreux. You will see gorgeous mountains with snow, but there probably wont' be snow along the lake a lower elevations. Still the train ride down is short (about an hour) and pretty and the little towns are lovely. In Vevey, you can take the incline railway up to Mont-Pèlerin and get excellent views. There is the castle at Chillon which you could visit. Freybourg is a medieval town further inland that is good for a day trip, as is Gruyeres.

    If you are based in Zurich and it is after November 1, the Christmas decorations will be up in most parts of town and are very beautiful (should be the same for Geneva, but Zurich is really gorgeous at Christmas, esp the old town areas.) You could make a day trip to Appenzel, i.e. "Heidi Land", this is about 2 hours by train and is very beautiful; it admittedly does not have quite the drama of Zermatt or the Jungfrajoch, but there are plenty of Alp views and the little countryside towns are charming. You could also take the train to Chur (most of it a very pretty ride along the valley floor) and then take the little train up to Arosa for some real mountain scenery. Chur is just over an hours from Zurich, and Arosa about an hour, so door to door the trip would take about 2.5 hours each way. Take a look at rail.ch for timetables.

    The other thing you could do is to take the Bernina Express train. This is one of the "scenic" trains and the scenery is stunning as it winds through Switzerland and over the pass into Italy. If you do the whole trip to Italy, then out and back from Zurich will take about 9 hours. However, I think you can choose to only go as far as St Moritz or Pontresina and back to Zurich (via Chur on both ends), which would shorten the trip and should give you the opportunity to get out and walk around the mountain areas. (You would miss the Berninia Pass however.) St Moritz is a nice little town and Pontresina is a lovely area in the Engadine. It is however a long day, most of it spent on a train, albeit one with panoramic windows. Take a look at For information on the Berninia Express, go to http://www.rhb.ch. Click on "English" in the upper right corner to get the English version. Click on "Experience Trains" and then look for the Berninia Express

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    Hi,

    Thank you for the responses; it has given me some interesting options.

    I should give you a little more info in case it makes a difference. The alps portion of the trip will be after spending a week in Italy with friends. I decided to add 2 extra days to the trip so that we could travel to Switzerland, and return home from Geneva or Zurich depending on where we decide to visit.

    We will travel from Rome via overnight train, and then have 2 days/ 2 nights to work with. We can go to either Geneva or Zurich, or stop somewhere in between. I've thought of Zermatt or Mt. Titlis from Zurich, but I have been to both places, and wish to see something new while being high up in the mountains.

    FlyFish and Cicerone, I will look into both of your suggestions; I really appreciate the ideas!

    Cicerone: My good friends moved to Zurich 2 years ago for work, and they do not want to return! You have a lovely home - I understand why it has been rated No. 1 for quality of life!

    Thanks for the suggestions, and I am open to all idea!

    Cheers,
    Chels

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    OK, if you are coming from Italy:

    1. Have you considered Cortina or other parts of the Dolomites? You can get to Bolzano from Rome non-stop on a Eurostar in 5.5 hours. Have not been there, but I hear it is beautiful mountain scenery, run a search. From Bolzano you can get to Zurich in about 6 hours or Geneva in about 8.5 (night trains might also be possible).

    2. Have you considered mountain areas around Turin? The Sauze D'Oulx, OULX and surrounding areas areas are beautiful. Turin is a major rail hub, you can get there from Rome in about 6 hours. You can get to Zurich from Turin in 6 hours.

    3. You could also go to Mt Blanc in France from Italy and then head to Geneva from there. Train from Rome to the Chamanoix/Mt Blanc in about 8 hours (overnight trains might be possible). From Chamoniz, you should be able to get to Geneva by train in 2 hours.

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    The Dolomites are gorgeous, but they have a very different feel than the Swiss Alps.

    I am with Flyfish. I think I would opt for the Bernina Express which goes through the Engadine of Switzerland, but heading North from Italy. Then, you won't be backtracking...if that makes sense.

    Are you sure that you want to do this for your daughter? It seems excessive to add a country in just for a child's wishes. Just MHO, but add the 2 days in and spend it in Italy. She would still have a wonderful time.

    Cheers,
    Jan

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    I think Slojan is saying you do as follows, which would work if you take an overnight train from Rome.

    Train Rome to Tirano, Italy - 10.5 to 13 hours depending on the train you choose. Some require 3 changes, and some don't depart until after midnight. You would have a few hours to pass in Tirano, which is kind of a cute little town. (There is a 7:30 am train from Rome that gets to Tirano at 2:40 pm, but IMO that would be cutting it close to make the 2:50 pm departure of the Berninia Express.)

    Berninia Express Tirano to Chur - 4 hours. The Berninia Express departs Tirano at 2:50 3 pm and arrives in Chur at 7 pm.

    Chur to Zurich - 1.5 hours. You would arrive in Zurich at about 9 pm

    It might also be possible to get off the Berninia Express in Pontresina and spend the 2 days/1 night in the mountains there, then go to Zurich either by Berninia Express or the regular train, about 3.5 hours no matter which train you take.

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