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5 days in Switzerland - base location and ideas needed!

5 days in Switzerland - base location and ideas needed!

Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 07:36 AM
  #1  
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5 days in Switzerland - base location and ideas needed!

Hi There -

I am traveling to Switzerland with my wife in October first week this year. I will be flying in and out of Geneva. So, I am a bit confused about what to choose as my base location - Geneva, Zurich, Luzern or any other? Ideally I would not want to do more than 2 base locations.

I would like to cover Jungfrao, Mt. Titlis or Mt. Pilatus - or atleast one out of these 3. Would definitely like to go to high mountain ranges and snow peaks. Also, would like to include the Golden pass to Montreaux (maybe an overnight in Montreaux); since I have heard it is very scenic. I have been recommended for Wengen and Lake Thun cruise and it seems interesting.I learnt from other posts that Interlaken may be avoidable.

Please suggest which cities to stay and itinerary with the most logical routes (to save time and money). I am okay to cut down a few places if it is too much, but would like to cover the best as much as we can.

Thanks so much!
ghuman_jas is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 07:44 AM
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You can take a train directly from the Geneva airport to Montreux. From there the Golden Pass and onward to Interlaken and beyond. I would not stay in Interlaken but rather go at least as far as Lauterbrunnen for the Jungfrau area.

For the Mt. Titlis/Mt. Pilatus trip/trips I would base myself in Luzern.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 07:45 AM
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The Jungfrau Region to me is the absolute highlight of Switzerland for first-time visitors - this is the dreamy Alpine Wonderland you visualize Switzerland and which will not be found in Lucerne or any city - I would base in yes Wengen, a perpetual favorite of Fodorites and then in say Lake Geneva area - Montreux, taking the Golden Pass scenic train between them.

The Interlaken-Jungfrau Region offers much more than just mountains, setting it off for me from say Titlis or Zermatt - which are pretty much mainly mountain peaks. But the Interlaken area also offers yes neat floats on the two lakes bookending it - I especially like Lake Thun cruises and just a greater variety of things to do for 3 days or more.

Lake Geneva also offers many things - more sweet boat rides, Montreux and Vevey - Chateau de Chillon, made famous by Lord Byron, sits on the lake near Montreux - the Chocolate Train to Gruyeres and a Nestle Chocolate Plant, etc.

If have more time put in a few days in the neat Lucerne area.

Anyway - going by train I presume - if going from Geneva to the Jungfrau and back to Geneva and traveling around from bases check out the Swiss Pass, valid not only on trains but boats, postal buses, city trams and buses and gives free entry to 470 Swiss museums - anyway for lots of great info on Swiss trains and passes, etc I always spotlight these IMO fantastic sites: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.swisstravelsystem.com.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 08:03 AM
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If you are planning a trip to Titlis/Pilatus, basing yourself anywhere BUT Luzern for THAT particular trip, and if you do both they will take a full day to do,seems foolhardy IMO
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 09:22 AM
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Thanks a lot for your responses!

So, maybe I can pick Jungfrau and skip Mt. Titlis or Pilatus - if these aren't feasible. Which area is Jungfrau most accessible from - Wengen? And is Lake Thun around there too?

So, maybe first 2 nights in Wengen, 1 in Montreaux and then golden pass and spend 2 nights in Geneva?

Making sense?
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 10:13 AM
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Be aware that you are going very late in the season and you need to check which things are running and on what schedule (don't expect lake steamers or mountain railways to run that often).

Also be aware that it may take several days before you can ascend the higher peaks - since they are often wreathed in clouds. We were in Interlaken 3 days waiting to ascend the Jungfrau - in June. Naturally had a lot else to see and do - and yes Lake Thun is one of the lakes Interlaken is between - but you can;t pick a day in advance to ascend any of the mountains.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 11:03 AM
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We were in Switzerland the last week of September through first week of October (because a freidn had visited then and had good weather) and we had sunny, warm weather most days. Even at the Jungfraujoch we only needed a light jacket and there were people sunbathing on the snow! Of course there are no guarantess where weather is concerned. We had both rain and snow in Zermatt and the Matterhorn was under clouds While we were there. Since your time is so limited, I would endorse doing the Jungfraujoch (even though going there is expensive, I wouldn't miss it) over Mt Pilatus (which we enjoyed) or Mt Titlus. We stayed at the Hotel Staubbach in Lauterbrunnen and found it convenient for getting around the area, but Wengen is also lovely. It is simple to get to Interlaken by train and take the cruise on Lake Thun one direction and the train the other to save time.

We also stayed in Montreux (at the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic with a beaufiful view of Lake Geneva) and loved it there. Vevey was also a delightful town and can be reached by boat or train very quickly. A highlight of our trip was the Lavaux Vineyards cruise from Lausanne to Montreux. as others have mentioned, All of these boat trips are covered by a Swiss pass.

We did not visit Geneva but from my research can't imagine using up days there when there are so many glorious places to see in Switzerland. Whatever you see will be a delight!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 11:09 AM
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Thank you drChris! Very helpful tips and details. Making me all the more excited. Too bad it's still a few months to go!

I am definitely going to consider the hotels you have mentioned.

So, maybe I can split my 5 nights between Wengen or Lauterbrunnen and Montreaux.
I wanted to do Zermatt too, but I dont think there is time. Maybe a day trip if feasible?

How about staying in Luzern - should I skip that too or maybe worth a day trip?
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 11:52 AM
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Which area is Jungfrau most accessible from - Wengen? And is Lake Thun around there too?>

Wengen is easily reached by train from Interlaken-Ost (Swiss Passes valid in full) - then you can take trains to Grindelwald - again fully covered by a pass or the gondolas up to Mannlichen for the celebrated Ridge Walk to Kleine Schiedegg (jumping off point for Jungfraujoch trains)

Lakte Thun is one of two lakes bookending Interlaken - from Wengen take the train to Lauterbrunnen, change trains for Interlaken East - walk or take a train the few kms to Interlaken-West station from whose rear the boats frequently leave - take the boat to Spiez or Thun, return to Interlaken by train - trains and boats all covered in full by a pass from Wengen - one reason a pass can be so useful in this area if not just hiking.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 01:12 PM
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Note that the best seats on those lake boats are on the outside upper deck up front and for those you need a first-class ticket - if you have a 2nd class pass then you can pay an upgrade on board of the difference between the first and second-class fares - well worth the extra to be perched on the top deck out front with relatively few others there - lay back and get intoxicated on the views of the glacier-girdled Jungfraujoch Massif looming high above the lake.

Get off at Oberhofen to see a really cute lakeside town - nice castle overlooking the lake - re-board another boat and go to Thun or Spiez - both nice stops - Spiez has the castle of your dreams looming high above the boat dock.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 03:09 PM
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bookmarking
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 10:23 PM
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These are great ideas. Thanks PalenQ. I can't stop imagining the paradise its going to be.

So, as fas as itinerary is concerned -
Land in Geneva and head to Wengen or Lauterbrunnen - 4 nights
Last night - Montreaux
Fly back from Geneva

I should be able to cover Jungrau, Lake Thun, Interlaken area as this base etc.

Is there something worth going around Luzerne or Zurich for a day? Also, is Zermatt a day trip from these places?

Thanks a ton!
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 06:54 AM
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Zermatt could be a day trip - about 4 hours though each way by train - check weather reports to see if the Matterhorn is out and now shrouded in clouds.

Going from Geneva to Wengen and back - look strongly at the Swiss Card as you best ticket to ride perhaps.
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 11:22 AM
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Oops just 3 h 10 min each way Wengen to Zermatt - thanks to the new Lotschberg Base Tunnel replacing the old line and knocking about an hour all told each way off the trip. And except for the tunnel part a very scenic ride the whole way. Easily done even though you have to change trains 4 times!
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 09:25 PM
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Thank you PalenQ. Appreciate your time for these responses.

As far as the pass is concerned - which pass should I go for? half rate card or 4 day pass or any other? can you also suggest a website to look and buy this in advance?

Thanks!
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Old Jun 5th, 2014, 05:51 AM
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can you also suggest a website to look and buy this in advance?>

Well I always buy passes from www.budgeteuropetravel.com from Byron - he is an expert who you can actually talk to and will IME objectively answer questions whether you buy or not. www.ricksteves.com also has some phone jockeys who know more than those folks at say www.raileurope.com - the original purveyors of Swiss Passes here - part owned by Swiss Federal Railways - but starting to someone there who knows anything more than how to sell a pass is impossible.

But check prices for passes in Switzerland in CHF - Swiss francs and see if the prices are similar - like I often have said in comparing pass prices for years the same exact pass here is often cheaper than there - especially if you have a 3% foreign transaction fee from your c card as many do - but if bottom line is about the same then just wait and buy your pass at any Swiss train station - including those in airports.

Half-Fare Cards are only available in Switzerland and again no need to pre-order - buy them at train stations.

www.seat61.com also has insights on passes and Half-Fare Cards too.
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Old Jun 5th, 2014, 09:15 AM
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We just did Zermatt on the day we were in transit from Montreux to wengen. Worked out great, if a little long. Used the swiss fast baggage service to send our luggage direct to wengen (although it did require an overnight for the bags to get there).

Hey, I'm posting this from my balcony overlooking Lake Brienz. Switzerland is great.
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Old Jun 5th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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I think if the sun is out and the Matterhorn shines in all its world-famous majesty it is worth even a few hours here just to ponder it all - gotta be one of the most sublimely gorgoeus scenes in the whole wide world!
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Old Jun 5th, 2014, 01:14 PM
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Land in Geneva and head to Wengen or Lauterbrunnen - 4 nights
Last night - Montreaux
Fly back from Geneva>

What kind of pass?

I would look strongly at the Swiss Card which gives you a train transfer from Geneva Airport to any place in Switzerland - like Wengen and then a train trip back to Geneva from Wengen - and in between you get half-off everything just like the Half-Fare Card so it is a better deal than that because you also get two longish expensive train trips.

Now you are only going back to Montreux but you will have a ticket Wengen to Geneva Airport - nothing to prevent you getting off the train at Montreux - then buying that cheap regular ticket to Geneva from there.

Swiss Cards are much cheaper than Swiss Passes and in your case since you are only traveling around the Jungfrau Region where you may take many cables that are half-off only anyway with a Swiss Pass it may be better.

Or if traveling around a lot on trains and cable ways that are covered in full by a Swiss Pass - like the ones to Murren, Gimmelwald, etc from Lauterbrunnen and taking boat rides, etc the 4-consecutive-day pass could be a good deal if it fits your time frame.

One of those I would say but not a Half-Fare Card because in your case the Swiss Card gives everything that pass does and more.
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Old Jun 6th, 2014, 09:12 AM
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Between Interlaken and Montreux or v.v. you can take the Golden Pass scenic train - with special observation seats and vaunted VIP seats - just a few on each train - on the Zweissimen to Montreux segment - the prettiest part - sitting next to the driver compartment so you can think you are driving the train. Check the official site if interested in those and they do need to be booked really early. There are normal trains on that scenic route which takes marginally longer than the faster route via Bern and Lausanne.
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