8 Night Itinerary with 2 Bases

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Dec 7th, 2018, 09:22 AM
  #1
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8 Night Itinerary with 2 Bases

Hello -

My family is hoping to visit Switzerland next year. We are open to traveling anytime, however, I've narrowed it down to late June or early September based on reviews I've read. Do both of these options sound good? Leaning more towards September to see some fall colors... No flights booked, not sure if we would fly into Zurich or Geneva.

We are a family of 3 (myself, husband, and baby daughter who will be 1 year old in June next year).

We are planning for 8 nights, and would like to minimize changing hotels. We are thinking only 2 base cities/towns so that we only have to move once. Probably 4 nights in each place or 5 nights and 3 nights. I need help figuring out where to base ourselves. This is our wish list (will probably cut it down some after more research).

Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Jungfraujoch, Interlaken, Grindelwald, Wengen, scenic train up to Schynige Platte - these places all seem pretty close to each other. What would make the best base? How many nights?

Bern, Lucerne, Lake Geneva, Chateau de Chillon, Gruyeres, Zermatt (to see Matterhorn) - do any of these place make a good base for a few nights? I realize some are out of the way, what could we cut out?

Any places we are totally missing? We are looking for some fun, easy scenic hikes that we can take a stroller on or a baby carrier. Would love to do a boat cruise/tour. Because of the baby, we'd like to limit day trips to "half day trips". Meaning, go out for a few hours, back in the afternoon for nap, and then go out for a few more hours before dinner. So no long full day trips.

Is public transportation easy enough for all of these places? Will we want to rent a car during any part of our trip?

Thanks!
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Dec 7th, 2018, 09:44 AM
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Public transit great all those places and in Jungfrau area cars not even permitted beyond Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald - folks here rave about Wengen - especially with families and good rail or cable car links everywhere. Lucerne or Lake Geneva make perfect bases for 3-4 nights - if flying out of Geneva Lake Geneva makes the most sense and Montreux and Vevey are favorite towns on Fodorites.

You can take the special scenic Golden Pass train between Interlaken and Montreux with spiffy panoramic cars on last segment. If flying out of Zurich go for Lucerne and its lovely lake. Trains - great info - www.sbb.ch; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com. An 8-consecutive-day Swiss Pass would be great it seems. Compare to regular fares and the half-fare card.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 09:59 AM
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No fall colours in early September - thus better travel in late June to see the wildflowers. For two bases pick Wengen and the eastern end of Lake Geneva and you can visit most of the places you mentioned. You must realise you cannot see everything that Switzerland has to offer in eight days, so you will of course miss a lot of places. Your itinerary sounds good, though.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 01:34 PM
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Most people are going to tell you to pick Wengen or Grindelwald as your base for the Bernese Oberland. I chose Interlaken and am glad I did. Weather in Switzerland (especially the mountains) is unpredictable at all times of year. Being up in the high mountains when it's cloudy or rainy is a waste of time (and time in Switzerland is expensive). By basing in Interlaken you can watch the weather (there's even a webcam on the main street showing what it looks like in real time up in the mountains) and do your mountain day trips on the better days, on the less nice days go to Bern, take a boat ride on the lake to Spitz, Thun, etc.



Same thing for the Lake Geneva, Gryeres, Zermatt part. I really wanted to see the Matterhron (and it remains one of my highlights from over 30 trips to Europe) but I knew it's top is covered by clouds more than 50% of the time. So I based in Lausanne and checked the forecast every day for five days and on the fifth day (I was there six days) I got a good one and made the first train and got there while it was still gorgeous. A few hours later the clouds had rolled in. On the days while I was waiting for a good forecast for the Matterhorn I did day trips to Gruyeres, Sion, Geneva, Montreux/Chateau de Chillon, etc. I have to say I didn't love Lausanne (but didn't hate it either) so you might consider basing in Montreux instead.



I think the only place not easily day tripped from either of those bases would be Lucerne. But if you end up flying in or out of Zurich you could one night there. It's very close to the Zurich airport so no need to stay in Zurich.


Here's my Switzerland photos - https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/f283697298
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Dec 7th, 2018, 03:07 PM
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I love Interlaken and based there many times - many diss the city but if you get off the main tourist schlocked street there are some delightful sections. That said if it were my first time I;d stay in Grindelwald - Wengen is too quiet for me but again many here rave about it. Grindelwald is just 20 minutes from Interlaken-Ost train station - Wengen however about 50 minutes. Anyway to be eyeball to eyeball with glacier-girdled Alpine peaks from your hotel balcony is neat and Interlaken has views of these peaks in the fr distance and only from certain segments of the city.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 05:19 PM
  #6
kja
 
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ingo has given his usual excellent advice: late June rather than early Sept., and Wengen & a base on the eastern side of Lake Geneva.

As isabel notes, there's always a risk of bad weather, so planning really means thinking through what you want to see and experience and what you will do if it rains. For the Bernese Oberland, I'd go with Wengen -- if it rains, it rains, and you can still get on a train to visit the places you identified as back-ups. But if it's nice -- and it often is in June -- OMG, you'll want every possible moment in that glorious part of the Alps! But maybe your interests differ from mine. (BTW, I found many of the guidebooks confusing when I planned my time in the area, particularly until I realized that Wengen, Múrren, and Lauterbrunnen aren't really places to visit -- they are places one might stay to visit the Bernese Oberland.)

For the eastern part of Lake Geneva, you might consider Vevey (just outside Montreux) or Lausanne.

And as ingo notes, you can't possibly see all of Switzerland's gems in 8 days, and there are certainly many wonderful destinations that are not an easy day trip from these possible bases. But you can see many of the things you list from those two bases. Whether you can see them all in 8 days depends on what you want to see and experience. It would have been too much for me!

FWIW, you might find some useful information in my old trip report:
My delightful sampling of Switzerland’s gems, with many thanks
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Dec 8th, 2018, 03:33 AM
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For the visit of "Lauterbrunnen, Muerren, Jungfraujoch, Interlaken, Grindelwald, Wengen, Schynige Platte" you ay stay at Grindelwald, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen or Wilderswil (my order of preferencies).
If you want to visit Bern, Lucerne, Gruyeres, Montreux, Zermatt in day trips from a basse iin the Bernese Oberland, stay at the railway hub Interlaken (less scenic than the above mentioned villages, however) or at Wilderswil.
I never recommend day trips to Zermatt (the area with the highest mountains of Switzerland). If your base is not in the Canton of Valais (like Brig/Aletsch area or Visp), such day trips mean always at least 6 hrs train journeys (up to Gornergrat and back). Stay at least 1 night at Zermatt or forget it!
Same remark for Lucerne: the medieval buildiings, museums and churches are interesting for sure, but the real gems are in the surroundings (Lake cruise, Rigi cog wheel railway, Pilatus round trip by boat, cog wheel railway and gondola, Stanserhorn historic funicular and open air gondola, steepest rope railway of the world to Stoos, Einsiedeln monastery, Brienzer Rothorn roundtrip by train, postbus, gondola, steam cog wheel railway and Brunig railway, et). For all that you need a few days.
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Dec 8th, 2018, 02:17 PM
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I'd skip Matterhorn if you've spent fournights in Bener Oberland which all in all has more glacier-girdled Alpine peaks and much more a variety of things to do besides the Alps - Yes Matterhorn is world-famous but as said above often shrouded, clouded or hazed or fogged in. Beautiful train ride up there however.
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Dec 9th, 2018, 03:46 AM
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" I'd skip Matterhorn if you've spent fournights in Bener Oberland which ALL IN ALL HAS MORE GLACIER-GIRDLED ALPINE PEAKS."

Not really. There are much more glaciers and very high peaks in the Zermatt area.
There are just 2 railway stations and 1 gondola station above 2800m/9200ft in the Interlaken/Jungfrau area,
but 3 railway stations and 9 gondola stations above 2800/9200ft m in the Zermatt area

But that's not the question.
A day trip from the Interlaken area to Gornergrat/Matterhorn Paradise is as ridiculous as a day trip from Zermatt to Kleine Scheidegg/Jungfraujoch.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 08:48 AM
  #10
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Thank you all for the great advice. This has given me a lot to think about. Any particular reason for late June vs early September? As kja mentioned "I found many of the guidebooks confusing when I planned my time in the area, particularly until I realized that Wengen, Múrren, and Lauterbrunnen aren't really places to visit" - I'm feeling the same way!

I'll approach the questions/planning in a new way. Our interests for Bernese Oberland include: amazing views, scenic short easy hikes/walks (we will have a 1 year old which we will use a stroller or baby carrier for), waterfalls, leisurely actives like boat rides or a picnic by a lake. Our interests for the 2nd part of the trip include: Lake Geneva, Chateau de Chillon, boat ride, markets, food, chocolate, fondue, explore scenic towns, Bern.

Day 1: Arrive in Zurich - train to either Grindelwald, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen (5 nights in Bernese Oberland - still undecided on a base)
Day 2: ?
Day 3: ?
Day 4: ?
Day 5: ?
Day 6: Train to Montreux, overnight in Montreux (4 nights in Montreux) - maybe stop in Bern for a few hours this day on the way?
Day 7: ?
Day 8: ?
Day 9: ?
Day 10: Train from Montreux to Zurich, fly out of Zurich (should we stay closer to Zurich if flying out of Zurich?)

Also open to flipping the itinerary and doing Lake Geneva first and Bernese Oberland second.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 01:28 PM
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Day 6: Train to Montreux, overnight in Montreux (4 nights in Montreux) - maybe stop in Bern for a few hours this day on the way?>

I'd take the Golden Pass scenic train to Montreux and do Bern as a day trip from your Jungfrau base - when the uniquitous funky weather day pops up - about an hour each way.

Or stop in Bern on Day 10 en route to Zurich. I'd consider staying in Lucerne - beautiful Lucerne on its idyllic lake and with trains to airport in about an hour.
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Dec 10th, 2018, 05:12 PM
  #12
kja
 
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Originally Posted by rachill_az View Post
Any particular reason for late June vs early September?
As ingo noted upthread, because you'll have a good chance of seeing wildflowers in late June -- and the wildflowers in the Alps can be glorious! I'll add that waterfalls are likely to be fuller.

Originally Posted by rachill_az View Post
Grindelwald, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen (5 nights in Bernese Oberland - still undecided on a base).
I found Grindelwald too crowded, loud, and busy for my tastes. Unlike many Fodorites, I enjoyed Lauterbrunnen, but (like most of them), I preferred Wengen.

Originally Posted by rachill_az View Post
(4 nights in Montreux).
As I mentioned above, you might consider Vevey instead -- it's just moments away by public transportation, and IME, much more pleasant. JMO.
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Dec 11th, 2018, 01:31 AM
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Just adding that Vevey will be a construction zone in June for the vigneron festival, kind Fodorites steered me to Montreux instead.

We loved Switzerland in September last year, and are visiting in June next year. So that doesn’t help you much. I had the impression it might be more likely to rain in June, would be really green and have lots of wildflowers, obviously nothing is a given with mountain weather though.
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Dec 11th, 2018, 02:57 AM
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You didn't mention the 1 year old before... our doctors here in Switzerland tell us not to take children under 24 months any higher than 2000m. Many things recommended for you to do are way above that - Jungfraujoch to start with at 3450m. I think you need to go "back to the drawing board" with the planning of this trip OR, if the high alps are really an important part of your itinerary, put it off for at least a year until you can travel safely everywhere you want to go.

On another issue - I totally agree that no one should make a day trip to Zermatt. Not only will staying up there for a couple of nights give you a far better chance for great views of the Matterhorn and the other 29 4000m plus mountains around it but the village has an incredible "buzz" and you need to stay there to experience it. It isn't really true that the top of the Matterhorn is in the clouds 50% of the time either... that depends totally on the weather of the day and partial cloud makes for wonderful photos of the mountain.
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Dec 11th, 2018, 05:32 AM
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I did mention our baby in my original post:

We are a family of 3 (myself, husband, and baby daughter who will be 1 year old in June next year).
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Dec 11th, 2018, 10:04 AM
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Lauterbrunnen may not have much to see but Trummelbach Falls just outside the town is - a water torrent inside the mountains.
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Dec 11th, 2018, 06:52 PM
  #17
kja
 
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Originally Posted by Adelaidean View Post
Just adding that Vevey will be a construction zone in June for the vigneron festival, kind Fodorites steered me to Montreux instead.
Sorry if I've misled -- I thought Adelaidean was planning a trip for 2018, and thought the OP (rachill_az) was planning a trip for 2019. I'm so confused!!!

And i'm confused by the comments about altitude: Although Jungfraujoch is above 2,000 meters, Wengen itself is, from what I can tell, less than 1,300 meters above sea level, and much of the area the would be of interest to most travelers -- especially those with an infant -- would seem to me to be low enough to be worth considering. BUT I agree that you should be sure to consider altitude and consult a physician before making any final decisions.
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Dec 12th, 2018, 01:48 AM
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Rachill - sorry I did not catch the bit about the baby... or I would have said something sooner.

Wengen is about 1200m. Schilthorn over 3000m Jungfraujoch too. The valleys are, of course fine with a baby. So are the lakes, Ballenberg Open Air Museum - www.ballenberg.ch etc. I would not take an infant to the Trümmelbach falls though. the noise can be scary for small children and the steps (there are a lot of them!) get slippery. You would have to carry the baby and you might slip.

The Männlichen, above Wengen, is 2200m. I wouldn't take the baby there either. really mountain destinations are not great with young infants because there are so many "restrictions".
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