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Austria, Germany and Switzerland.....Route Planning

Austria, Germany and Switzerland.....Route Planning

Old Apr 3rd, 2019, 05:17 PM
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Austria, Germany and Switzerland.....Route Planning

Hi! We are planning a driving trip through the aforementioned countries in June of 2020 and looking at Vienna as our landing spot with 19 full days of travel. We have already been to Vienna so won’t be spending time there this trip. So from Vienna airport we will head straight to the Wachau Valley perhaps staying in Spitz and renting bicycles there to bike along the Danube spending about 3 nights there. From there we will head to Passau for 2 nights. From there to Schwangau for 2 or 3 nights to see Neuschwanstein Castle. Next on the itinerary is Lucerne to stay for 2 or 3 nights. From there to Grindelwald with day trips to Interlaken, Wengen and Murren. Can anyone tell me how many nights we should allow there for these day trips.

Here comes the dilema. We would like to head back towards Vienna (to drop the car off and fly out) from Grindelwald but want to stop in Saltzburg making side trips to Hallstatt and St. Wolfgang and see the Lake District. Firstly, what would be the best route to Saltzburg from Grindelwald and where could we stop enroute for the night. Secondly, how many days would would be advisable to stay in the Saltzburg area to see the day trips planned and can anyone suggest a town nearby to stay in while there or would Saltzburg be the best place to stay? I had considered going to Innsbruck on the way to Saltzburg but from anything I have read in various forums it has underwhelmed everyone!

If the number of days I mentioned to stay in any of the above places are not sufficient or if this is too aggressive an itinerary please allowing driving times please comment!

I have always received wonderful advice on these forums and have had very successful trips!

BarbaraAllison7911 is offline  
Old Apr 3rd, 2019, 10:45 PM
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Depending on how long you want to drive, consider perhaps Feldkirch, Bregenz, St. Anton am Arlberg, Seefeld in Tirol, or Innsbruck. The last three destinations are about 5 hours from Grindewald; the other two, under 4. I liked Innsbruck when we visited both at Christmas and in the summer; the farmers market, Alpine Zoo, Ambras Castle (the older museum in the world!), and taking the Nordkettenbahnen gondola up for some hiking appealed to us.

Some people are happy with one day in Salzburg; I am a Sound of Music fan and needed two days, one for SOM and the other for the fortress, the Dom, and so forth. If you're planning to see the usual sights in one day, the Salzburg Card is a good value.

Nice bases for Salzburg and the Salzkammergut, at least for us, have been St. Wolfgang and St. Gilgen. If you can indulge, spend the night in Hallstatt at the Seehotel Grüner Baum: take a lakeview room with balcony. When the day trippers leave the little city it becomes magical at night (and in the early morning.)

Happy Planning!
fourfortravel is offline  
Old Apr 3rd, 2019, 10:48 PM
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I guess you have not booked your flights yet.
If so, you could check for open jaw flights: to Vienna as planned, but home again from Salzburg.
Often you get those feeder flights from secondary cities to the main hub for next to nothing extra costs.
Compare with costs saved for 1-2 days rental car (as you could already drop the car in Salzburg) and for gas.
You might even need an extra night in Vienna otherwise, as most flights from Europe to the US leave in the AM hours.
Which would mean a really early start in Salzburg if you need to factor in drive time and time at Vienna airport to drop off the car, check-in, etc.

Whether or not the drive time between your overnight hubs is calculated too ambitious or not depends a bit on your travel preferences or on what you expect from the drive.
For example: Wachau > Passau is a pretty easy and quick drive via motorways only which means that you can leave Wachau after breakfast and arrive in Passau three hours later in time for lunch. Without any stops along the route so you have more time for Passau.
Or you can take the route on regular 2-lane highways via Krummau, explore the town, but eventually you'll have spent all day "on the road" and arrive in Passau for a late dinner. You'll probably be more exhausted, but you'll also have seen much more than by taking the motorway.

If I wanted to explore Berner Oberland by car (which I did, by the way), I'd base myself almost anywhere but in that dead-end valley of Grindelwald. Grindelwald would be perfect if your main objective was to mostly explore/hike the Eiger-Mönch-Jungfrau area.
But if you plan to go elsewhere using your car, I'd probably lean towards a more accessible and "car friendly" hub like, for example, Brienz on Lake Brienz.

Driving from Berner Oberland to Salzburg with one overnight stop en route is again a matter of preferences.
I would probably drive via Furka or Susten pass, Andermatt, Chur, Albula - spend all day on the road with many photo stops en route - to some overnight destination in the Engadin (around Zuoz, for example). And drive the rest of the route next day, on motorways only once I hit A12 near Landeck in Austria.
But if you preferred an easier drive with not many stops and an overnight stay where there is more to explore, i.e. focus more on destination than route, you could drive via Bregenz on Lake Constance and stay there for the night. Next day you could drive via Munich to Salzburg (motorways only again).
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 03:13 AM
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Visit Salzkammergut on your way from Passau to Fuessen (if Passau is a must) and drop off your car at Bregenz (Austria), just before entering Switzerland by train.
I suppose you know that there are tons of stunning glaciers and mountain peaks (with and without cablecars) in Austria too and that the highest situated hotel of the Alps is at Grawand, in the Oetztaler Alpen.
I suppose you know that there are tons of real castles all over Austria (some of them in the Wachau Valley).
But I know too, that most American tourists are not happy if they cannot visit Neuschwanstein, Lucerne and Grindelwald.
Therefore I suggest: car drop off at Bregenz, train to St. Gallen, Voralpen Express to Lucerne, Luzern-Interlaken Express to Interlaken, visit Jungfrau area, Intercity trains Interlaken - Bern - Zurich, overnight train (with sleeping cars) Zurich - Vienna.

If you had more time, and if you were really interested in the Alps, you could enter Switzerland through the Alps (at Pfunds/Martina) and reach Grindelwald via Engadin Valley - Maloja Pass - Lake Como - Lugano - Airolo - Nufenen Pass - Grimsel Pass - Brienz. But you have 19 days only. So forget it.
neckervd is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2019, 05:36 PM
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Neckervd, We are not sure where we are flying into yet. We are Canadian and are used to driving long distances as Canada is so vast. We returned from Italy and the return air route from Italy to Frankfurt was over Austria. We viewed so many beautiful villages from the plane we immediately vowed our next trip would be Austria but also decided to do the Swiss Alps at the same time. So.....musts to see are Wachau Valley, Saltzburg, Salzkammergut, Neuschwanstein (every Disney Movie and TV Show always started with the likeness of Neuschwanstein Castle....thus the desire to see), and in Switzerland Lake Lucern, Interlaken, Murren and Wengen. So, we will have a car for the whole journey which is easiest for us. I have a couple of maps and it doesn’t look like it would make much difference flying into either Munich, Zurich or Vienna as all our destinations are a fair distance apart. Can you suggest a better order for an itinerary? We would like to see as much as we can while driving without retracing our routes if possible. Although we purchased a Rick Steves Planning map, not all roads are on it. We have other maps which are so small they don’t nessarily show all the small villages which might be pretty and interesting. Thus the problem planning routes. Any further help would be greatly appreciated.

BarbaraAllison7911 is offline  
Old Apr 5th, 2019, 08:18 AM
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If Vienna - Wachau - Salzburgerland - Fuessen - Lucerne - Interlaken etc. is set and if you will spend 5 days along the Danube river, 3 days in the Salzburgerland, 2 days around Fuessen and 7 days in the Lucerne - Interlaken area, you will have to move along the most boring motorways, because you will just have no time for scenic roads and alpine valleys.
I suggested to drop off the car at Bregenz for 2 reasons:
1. A drive from Grindelwald to Vienna airport takes at least 11 hrs, with some breaks about 14 hrs. With the overnight train solution, you could save a full day. You could get the same result if you would fly into Vienna and out of Zurich or Geneva. If you want to do the full loop by car, Munich could be a good solution too, however.
2. A car is of no help in the Lucerne and Interlaken areas, as the most popular places there are reached by boat, cog wheel railway or cableway. You can just drive a few miles from your hotel to the starting points of these railways (where the road ends), search for a parking lot and pay the parking fee. The standard fares of Swiss mountain railways are rather high. In order to get them bearable, most people buy a railpass. Most of these passes grant huge reductions all over Switzerland. Therefore the car solution is usually more expensive.
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 08:27 AM
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I would consider flying into Vienna and out of Zurich (or Vice Versa). You can do the Austria portion of the trip via car and then drop off the car at some point and train into Switzerland. We had a car in Switzerland and liked the convenience, but it certainly isn't necessary. Otherwise you will have to come back into Austria as dropping off a car in a country other than where you picked it up from comes with hefty fees.

We've been to the Salzburg region three times and are headed back in a few weeks. Our preference is staying in/around Berchtesgaden (Germany) which is an easy 20 minute or so drive from Salzburg. There are a number of things to do in the Berchtesgadenland region, including the stunning Konigssee. But obviously the Salzkammergut is beautiful as well.
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