Base in Switzerland Three Weeks

Old Jun 20th, 2024, 11:25 AM
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Base in Switzerland Three Weeks

I am planning a three week trip to Switzerland in August as a solo female. I like basing myself in places and doing day trips. I like to walk on well groomed trails without too much elevation gain, seeing nature, taking boat rides and cable cars, eating good food, walking tours, and people watching.

Where would you recommend basing and for how many days per location? I plan to get the 15 day Swiss Pass or Flex Pass. Which scenic train would you recommend or should I use the regular train with the pass?

I noticed most hotels donít have refrigerators in the room. I am ok having a heavy lunch and light dinner. Do the small towns have grocery stores open at dinner time to grab a quick bite? How late are they open? Or are there food options at the train stations? I see recommendations to stay in smaller towns but Iím not sure how that works with dinner options. In Japan I stayed by train stations and it was super easy with the convenience stores and restaurants nearby.

Also, is it a good chance to see mountains in summer since often time mountain viewing is better in winter. Do you advise two weeks in Switzerland, and a week somewhere else? Thank you.

Last edited by OCGirl; Jun 20th, 2024 at 11:36 AM.
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Old Jun 20th, 2024, 01:52 PM
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You might consider three separate one week stays - I keep planning to do this myself, but I always end up with five nights or so as there's so much to see and do.

Assuming this is your first trip, you might consider a week in the Berner Oberland, but I hesitate to suggest this as it will be a madhouse in August as it's tourist central. If you're talking THIS August, it might already be too late to find accommodation. I'd suggest Wengen or Murren as a base - it's easy to get around the entire BO from either one and your week will fly by. You'll find plenty of lakes, cable cars and hiking trails in the BO. You'll also find hordes of people in the summer months.

I'd also suggest a full week in the Engadine - or perhaps one week in the Lower Engadine and one week in the Upper Engadine. Possible bases to choose from in the Upper Engadine are Sils, St Mortiz, Celerina, Samadan, Pontresina, Bever, Zuoz, etc. Many people like Pontresina - I'm not one of them - I prefer Celerina, Samadan, or Zuoz. You can visit the entire Upper Engadine from any of these. Transport between towns is frequent and easy. Which one you choose depends on what you're looking for - St Mortiz is the biggest, but also the least interesting IMO.

Towns in the Lower Engadine include Ardez, Ftan, Garda, Zernez (gateway to the Swiss National Park), Tarasp, and Scuol amongst others. I love this area and have spent a lot of time in Scuol over many visits. This area is generally low key and sedate, unlike the BO and other popular places in Switzerland.

You'll find trails for all abilities just about anywhere in Switzerland. Same for cable cars.

Many visitors like Lucerne - here you'll find lakes and nearby mountains Lucerne is a city, and it attracts a lot of tourists.

Most trains in Switzerland are scenic. No need to pay extra for a specific 'scenic train'. The local trains follow the same tracks, the scenery is the same. Those who chose the well advertised and expensive 'scenic trains' are usually short on time and content to look at the country from train carriage windows instead of spending quality time exploring.

You might take a look at the Half Fare Card as well - we find it much better value than the Swiss Pass, and as your trip is longer than 15 days, it might be a good option for you.

Honestly, you can't go wrong with most of Switzerland. You just need to decide which areas most appeal to you and choose between heavily visited hugely popular places, cities, quiet villages, off-the-beaten path towns, etc. The options are endless.

Grocery stores (usually Coop or Migros, Volg in small villages) can have limited hours, but most are open until around 6:30 pm or so. Some close for lunch. Expect closures on Sundays. Large train stations have food options and grocery stores (such as Zurich), smaller ones might have a kiosk or a snack bar. Some are so small they have no services, but this is pretty rare IME.

Once you narrow down your search, you can look up specifics for opening times on line.

I'd spend all three weeks in Switzerland. There is so much to see and do.

We've been visiting Switzerland for about 25 years and I have many detailed trip reports posted here on Fodor's if you're interested.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 20th, 2024 at 01:56 PM.
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Old Jun 20th, 2024, 02:10 PM
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Thank you so much. This is so helpful. It will be my first trip and I am going August 10-Sept 2, so do you think BO would be less busy the last week, or does it not matter. I wanted to take advantage of the strong dollar. If you think it is too late to plan for this year, I can go next year instead. I usually travel shoulder season (September-October or May-June), but August is the only time I could get off work this year. I really appreciate your through and thoughtful response.
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Old Jun 20th, 2024, 05:24 PM
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The Berner Oberland/Jungfrau region can be busy year round, but is crazy busy in summer... or so I keep hearing. This due in part to a Korean Netflix series called Crash Landing which was/is filmed near Interlaken (Berner Oberland). I never travel in high season if I can avoid it, but I'm about 99% certain that the Jungfrau region will be uncomfortably busy until mid to late September. I'd avoid Interlaken at all costs, other than to pass through on your way higher up (Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Murren, Grindelwald).

Lucerne is also a tourist magnet, and when we last visited a few years ago, we were put off by the sheer number of people (and this in October).

That's not to say you can't find places that aren't tourist magnets, but most first timers to Switzerland head to the Berner Oberland/Jungfrau region and many also visit Lucerne.

We often visit in mid-Sept to late October when cable cars are still operating, but the hordes have gone home. We also tend to visit off-the-beaten path, having been to the BO/Jungfrau region many times early on in our visits.

The US dollar isn't strong against the Swiss franc - one Swiss franc is about $1.12 at the moment.

Keep in mind that Switzerland can be eye-wateringly expensive.

Perhaps neckervd, our resident Swiss expert will chime in with some less busy alternatives.

FWIW - I can't stand crowds, but you may be more tolerant.

Maybe take a look at Kandersteg, Adelboden, Lake Thun. Ticino has some lovely lakes and mountains - an area you might consider. Locarno, Bellinzona, Lugano.

There are so many options, so many beautiful options.

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 20th, 2024 at 05:36 PM.
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Old Jun 25th, 2024, 10:32 PM
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Thank you for your tips. I don't mind crowds. I decided to stay in Luzern, Wengen, Montreaux, and Zermatt, with the most time in Wengen. I'll buy the half-fare card and Berner Overland pass, and bought some super saver train tickets and day passes. I really appreciate your insight.
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Old Jun 26th, 2024, 05:37 AM
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Have a great trip!
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Old Jun 26th, 2024, 06:07 AM
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Hopefully everything will be back to normal in Zermatt by the time of your trip. The past week-end's storms resulted in some pretty destructive flooding but the Swiss are usually quite efficient at clearing things up. You don't have the Ticino on your list, but anyway, keep in mind that the city of Locarno hosts a fairly large film festival 7-17 August. From Montreux, you might want to visit Sion which is roughly 45 minutes away by train.
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Old Jun 30th, 2024, 12:19 PM
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Don^t mind: Zermatt wasn't heavily touched and will be as usual within a few weeks.
Actually, Saas Grund is devastated by a frane, a part of Sierre is under water, the Maggia Valley above Locarno is isolated, the highway from Chur to Bellinzona is closed.... So are the Simplon Pass, the Grimsel Pass, the Furka Pass and the Nufenen Pass.
Snow, earth and rock avalanches are nothing new in the Alps. But until mid July, everything will be repaired, as usual.
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