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Alps/countryside off the beaten path suggestion - daytrip near Zurich

Alps/countryside off the beaten path suggestion - daytrip near Zurich

Dec 5th, 2013, 12:31 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Dec 2013
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Alps/countryside off the beaten path suggestion - daytrip near Zurich

I will be in Zurich for 2 nights in mid-March. I will have a full day for a daytrip/overnight on a Sunday (unfortunately - since I know most stores close on that day). It will be my family's first time in Switzerland (I spent a day in Lucerne years ago and absolutely loved it). We love being outdoors and would like to hike for about 2-3 hours at a time. Maybe toboganning. Skiing is not in the budget. We'll be equipped with hiking shoes and warm clothes. As long as it is not pouring rain, I can't see a bit of snow/mud holding us back. We go hiking in the snow in winter in Canada without any real issues and Switzerland in March shouldn't get much below freezing from what I can tell (sounds downright warm).

I've been planning to go to Lucerne and possibly do a trip up either Mt Rigi or Mt Pilatus. and am gulping a little at just how expensive it is - at least 310 SF for roundtrip transportation alone for our family of 4 (with discount passes, etc) from Zurich up to Mt Pilatus (these mountain railways are $$!).

The more I look into it, I'm very tempted to skip Lucerne. While I loved it, right now I'm way more excited about being in the Swiss countryside. I do know it is going to be March so if the weather is bad, we'll switch gears and go to Bern or something. My issue - I don't know what would be pretty, have that quaint Swiss Alps feel and be relatively inexpensive to get to. I've been researching like crazy and everyone seems to default to Lucerne or Interlaken (which is further away). While we like old towns, we would prefer charming villages/countryside. I would love to discover something "off the beaten path" that is not as much of a tourist trap.

Then again, if it is too far/too expensive/not worth it to get to, we might stick to the "usual" Lucerne, which is admittedly beautiful.
elainesj is offline  
Dec 5th, 2013, 12:45 PM
  #2  
 
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You know there is some superb hiking right in the hills to the east of Zurich - hop a hill-climbing tram into the vast forest in the hills and take hiking trails for miles - lovely forests.
PalenQ is online now  
Dec 5th, 2013, 12:54 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 97
I can recommend Appenzell and the surrounding area, also east of Zurich. The higher trails will likely be snowed in but even the lower-level trails are scenic, next to the Säntis mountain.
oedipamaas is offline  
Dec 5th, 2013, 01:21 PM
  #4  
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wow - these are the types of suggestions I was looking for

PalenQ - what should I search for when pricing out train fares? I've been spending a lot of time on sbb.ch. Not sure what you mean by a hill-climbing tram?

oedipamaas - I'm going to research your suggestion some more. Wonder how much the train fare will be?

I'm loving this. I know Lucerne is really beautiful - but for some reason, I'm not really digging the tourist-trap thing for this particular day. We'll for sure spend a few hours exploring the old town sections of Zurich (which looks pretty), and we'll have spent 9 days in London focused primarily on museums and typical tourist trap stuff.

I just want to see the Switzerland of my dreams - those amazing Alps and charming little villages. Also - I'd like it not to hurt my wallet TOO much.

With both Zurich and Lucerne, for transportation and food alone I'm looking at close to USD1000 for just 2 days. That's a lot.

I'm sure we'll be back sometime in the future and the transportation costs won't sound so much when we're there for longer than a day. So this is not a "once in a lifetime, splurge every penny because you'll neverbe back" type of trip.
elainesj is offline  
Dec 5th, 2013, 01:33 PM
  #5  
 
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The tram/funicular climbs to Zurich's local mountain
Uetliberg, where some nice low-level walks can be had.

You can also check
www.wanderland.ch/en for more specific Zurich area
hikes of varying duration, though
March will be muddy...
As for quaint towns, I heartily
recommend Rapperswil-just 30 minutes by train.
Bosts a scenic lake shoreline, castle, deer park.

Click on my name in blue to read
several of my past Swiss trip reports
for more detail.
mokka4 is offline  
Dec 5th, 2013, 01:39 PM
  #6  
 
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Oh, after having been to many of the tourist-desired and super-pricey mountain peaks, I now concentrate on lesser known mountain jaunts. Far less pricey (but still not cheap) but still spectacular IMHO.
Ex: Titlis, Niesen, Stanserhorn, Stockhorn and many others that won't require a second mortgage!
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Dec 5th, 2013, 02:35 PM
  #7  
 
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Fares are available at http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html. Zürich-Appenzell runs CHF35 for adults. If you're trying to save money, have you considered doing your day trip the other way - into Zurich - and save on lodging costs?
oedipamaas is offline  
Dec 5th, 2013, 08:34 PM
  #8  
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I'm hoping to use hotel points to pay for lodging. It's been challenging finding hotels that accommodate my family of 4 where I have points at. Right now, I have found the Comfort Hotel in Zurich that sleeps 4 and also has breakfast included.

I was actually hoping to stay at the Zurich Hilton (by the airport) but as far as I can find out, they only allow 1 extra child....not 2.

Anyway, long story short, it will likely be cheaper for me to base myself in Zurich. Still open to overnighting somewhere else, but it depends on hotels. My flight on Monday leaves at 2:15pm so I have plenty of time.
elainesj is offline  
Dec 5th, 2013, 09:21 PM
  #9  
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Just want to add - I looked at some videos of Appenzell - looks amazing!! I'm doing more research into costs, etc.

oedipamaas: Thanks for looking up the train price. It's a little more than going to Lucerne. However this looks like I will be IN the Alps. I think there is still a cable car to go up right? Is this a must do type of thing?

Overall, I much prefer the look of Appenzell vs the more touristy Lucerne. (especially since Heidi is one of my favorite childhood books!)

mokka4: I have been reading your trip reports - thanks for mentioning them. I'm still struggling to figure out where everything is that you talk about. slowly but surely, I'll have Swiss geography figured out.
elainesj is offline  
Dec 5th, 2013, 10:00 PM
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Switzerland has a network of hiking/strolling trails called Wanderwege. They are well maintained and well marked, usually starting and ending near convenient public transportation. The website is unfortunately not in English - www.wandern.ch

In March you don't want to go too high because of the chance for snow. The Albis to the southwest of Zürich is an ideal range, more hill than mountain, with lots of such Wanderwege.

Easy to get to, not too strenuous, with nice views on a good day.

This website shows you options near Affoltern am Albis - it's in German, but don't let that put you off - the map helps, and any text you can copy and paste into Google Translate.

The suburban trains S9 or S15 will get you there for about 10 Swiss Francs from Zürich Hauptbahnhof (the main central station), in about half an hour or less.

http://www.routeyou.com/location/wal...-wanderwege.de

Other suggestions, some even closer to the city of Zürich, are at http://www.wandersite.ch/Tageswander...20Zuerich.html

Also at www.wanderland.ch/de/services/orte/ort-0437.html
michelhuebeli is offline  
Dec 6th, 2013, 04:10 AM
  #11  
 
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"Thanks for looking up the train price. It's a little more than going to Lucerne. However this looks like I will be IN the Alps. I think there is still a cable car to go up right? Is this a must do type of thing? Overall, I much prefer the look of Appenzell vs the more touristy Lucerne."

In Switzerland, fares are based on kilometer travelled, and Appenzell is further than Lucerne. If you're looking just for a cheap day trip, maybe you could stick within the Zurich transport area and use a transit day pass.

Appenzell is not in the mountains, but rather an area of rolling hills nestled next to a pre-Alps mountain range, the Alpstein mountains. While some terrific hikes won't be open in March, there are plenty of the wanderwege that michelhuebeli mentions. And there is a year-round cable car to the top of Säntis, the highest peak: http://www.saentisbahn.ch/en.html . I didn't actually go to the top of Säntis, so I don't suppose I could call it a must-do thing! However, it may be of interest to you, particularly since the mountain paths are not an option.

Appenzell is quaint, even twee. In summer at least there are some day-trippers but really not that many tourists. It's much smaller than Lucerne.

If you want to get further into the Alps but not go too far from Zurich, maybe some place like Schwyz? I can't speak from experience on what it is like, however.
oedipamaas is offline  
Dec 6th, 2013, 12:49 PM
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I looked through the recommended hiking websites. Wonderful resources I have added to my planning notes. However, hard to compre the scenery, etc since I just don't know these places. (which is why all your feedback has been incredibly helpful).

I checked out Albis - but the photos are not quite as inspiring. Beautiful (as everywhere in Switzerland is) but so far I haven't seen scenery photos that really grab me. Ditto for Uetliberg (which I would likely combine in a hike). I am keeping this in my notes in case whether is bad in my chosen destination.

I am intrigued by the suggestion of Schwyz. Definitely cheaper for travel. The first few pictures I have seen look pretty good. Only seen photos of the town so far so am going to research hiking.

Appenzell just looks amazing. I love all the photos I have seen and overall, it makes me feel like a little girl reading "Heidi". I am continuing to research the place.

Unless I find something as good closer (i.e. less expensive), I am definitely leaning towards it.

I saw some info about the Weesen/Amden area. What do you all think?
elainesj is offline  
Dec 6th, 2013, 12:53 PM
  #13  
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oedipamaas: I forgot to respond to you. I would like to stay within the Zurich canton because of transportation costs, but can't seem to find the Swiss views I am longing to see. So am prepared to pay a little more travel a little further afield (though still with an eye to my budget - which is why I'm doing so much research).

You all have been so incredibly incredibly helpful. I just wasn't feeling good about Lucerne. That and the cost was a big stumbling block. And yet, I don't want just to stay in the city the whole time when I am yearning for some gorgeous Swiss countryside.
elainesj is offline  
Dec 6th, 2013, 03:54 PM
  #14  
 
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Well, if you are really leaning toward Schwyz (quite a small town BTW), check out their sites at www.schwyz-tourismus.ch/en
and www.info-schwyz.ch/en

The site mentions a nice walk on the Gibelwald path (spazierweg) of 3:55 duration with great views of such
surrounding mtns as Rigi. I have not done Schwyz area hikes, so can't weigh in, but check out the sites.
The Mythics (greater and lesser mountain peaks) are "in your face" though certainly not as high as Switzerlands better-known peaks.
I personally think the village of Stans with its 1893 funicular, then Cambrio gondola (double Decker with open upper level), would have met all of your wishes, BUT
it only resumes the season on April 12th .
mokka4 is offline  
Dec 6th, 2013, 10:18 PM
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For pictures of views from Albis go to Google, input the German words "Aussicht vom Albis" and click on images. You get distant views of the white-capped peaks on a good day. Most people seem to use wide-angle lenses that push the distant views further away than they appear when you stand there, but - granted - it is near Zürich, therefore not near the really tall peaks. For that you have to spend the money and travel to Lucerne or places like that.
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Dec 11th, 2013, 08:47 AM
  #16  
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Thank you everyone. I have been reading blogs and surfing through websites with all the fabulous recommendations here. I've decided to go to Appenzell. I just really like everything I have seen about it and it's speaking to me. So many other places look great but Appenzell has grabbed my attention from the first photos and videos.

If the weather looks bad when I get there, my fall-back plan with be Uetliberg/Albis.

If the weather is truly horrible, we'll head to the covered section of Bern
elainesj is offline  
Dec 11th, 2013, 10:12 AM
  #17  
 
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Can't go wrong in Appenzell. Lovely gentle hikes through the rolling hills, accompanied by pungent cows!
If time permits, try to see the Heimatmuseum in Urnaesch.
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Dec 11th, 2013, 11:06 AM
  #18  
 
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Do you need to decide now? If you can wait until the beginning of March, you might find some a special offer from SBB that fits with your plans. The weather in March is variable anyway, so perhaps waiting until closer to your travel dates to commit to your outing would be prudent.

Each month, the SBB has special money-saving offers for that month. Here are the December offers:
http://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holiday...-freetime.html

Obviously, a lot of them for this month focus on the Advent markets -- in March it would be something else. FWIW, I like Appenzell too.
WeisserTee is online now  
Dec 11th, 2013, 04:54 PM
  #19  
 
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And likewise Swiss Passes also offer perks like a free extra day for folks traveling off-season - check www.raileurope.com for what is offered - for example now if you buy a Swiss Pass before Jan 1 you get a free perk of free (not 50% as usual) trips to several mountain tops - anyway before buying check that out.
PalenQ is online now  
Dec 12th, 2013, 06:55 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
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meant to add that if you buy a Swiss Pass (of some specific duration perhaps) you could use the free added on perks anytime for several months after issuance - not before Jan 1.
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