Preliminary Switzerland Itinerary

Old Apr 21st, 2009, 06:11 AM
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yk
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Preliminary Switzerland Itinerary

Hi,

I am planning a Switzerland Itinerary for my parents for sometime in July/August 2009. They are in their 60s & 70s, in good health, and prefer fast-moving trips. They are not into mountain hiking though. The last time they spent a long trip in Switzerland was almost 40 years ago right after they got married.

I spent 10 days in Switzerland in 2003, so I am somewhat familiar with it; but I'd welcome your comments.

I am thinking of a 15-day trip, so that they can utilize the 15-day consecutive SwissSaver Pass ($335 per person for 2nd class).

- Fly into Geneva and go directly to either Lausanne or Montreux. Stay in either Lausanne or Montreux for 3 nights. (which one is "better"?)

- Montreux to Interlaken via GoldenPass. Stay in Interlaken for 3 nights (visit Jungfraujoch, Lake Thun or Lake Brienz, +/- Bern)

- Interlaken to Visp, then pick up Glacier Express to St Moritz. Stay in St Moritz for 1 night.

- Bernina Express from St Moritz to Tirano, then onward bus to Lugano. Stay in Lugano for 3 nights.

- William Tell Express from Lugano to Lucerne. Stay in Lucerne for 2 nights.

- Zurich for 3 nights (should they visit Lake Constance & St Gallen? Can you do both on a daytrip from Zurich?)

Fly home from Zurich.

I know for most people, this is moving a lot, but my parents are active, travel very light, and won't mind this.

I know the Montreux Jazz Festival is on during the first half of July, so they will go right after the festival is over.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 06:45 AM
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Hi yk, I have a few comments.

If your parents travel to St Moritz and contine the following morning to Lugano, they really don't have time to see anything in St Moritix (the Glacier Express arrives between 5 pm and 6 pm, depending on which train they take and the Bernina Express departs at 9.56 amd 10.00 am or 12.04). So, at best they have the morning in St Moritz. An alternative would be to stay in Chur, often referred to as Switzerlands oldest town. Chur might be a better choice, it's flat, St Moritz is hilly, Chur would be easier to walk around. Unless your parents specifically want to go to St Mortiz, I stay overnight in Chur. It is best to sit on the right side of the Bernina Express when travelling southbound.

You can use the Swiss pass on the GLacier Express and the Bernina Express but you still need to make reservations in advance and pay a surcharge to use these trains, CHF 30 for the Glacier Express and CHF 9 for the Bernina Express.

From Interlaken they can visit Ballenberg (open air swiss museum) if interested.

Not sure why your parents are spending 3 nights in Zurich, it's just a city and not the "real" Switzerland. Schaffhausen made be done as a day trip from Zurich if this appeals to your parents.

The only other comment I have is that I'd remove a day from Zurich and add a day (overnight) in Zermatt after Interlaken, your parents can travel on the Glacier Express from Zermatt. They may also be interested in Klein Matterhorn or Gorgengrat from Zermatt on the day they arrive, assuming they travel in the morning to Interlaken.

Where did you get the price of the Swiss Rail pass from? I checked prices with Rail Europe and they are quoting more than the price you have quoted. I'll be in Switzerland next month and I was planning on buying my rail pass once I arrive.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 06:56 AM
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Hi retired,

Thanks for your input. My dad isn't too excited about going to Zermatt just to see Matterhorn. They've seen it on their honeymoon trip, and it seems like going to Zermatt is simply adding an extra (dead-end) leg to their trip.

I wasn't a huge fan of St Moritz, but I saw that Chur is an alternative. I haven't been to Chur except passing it on the train and somehow got the idea that it's an ugly industrial town. If it's relatively scenic, I think it's a good alternative to St Moritz.

The 3 nights in Zurich is really just a base for them to do daytrips. They need to fly out of Zurich, so they have to at least stay 1 night there before thir flight. The rest of the time I'd say a daytrip to Lake Constance, and perhaps a daytrip to Stein am Rhein.

The Swiss SaverPass fare I find is here:
http://traintickets.myswitzerland.co..._saverpass.htm

RickSteves' website also provides the same price.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 07:00 AM
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P.S. The SaverPass is 10% cheaper than the regular Swiss Pass.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 07:31 AM
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Hi yk,

How great of you to help them plan this nice trip. I'm sure they'll have a great time and will be really happy with your help!

Anyway, I wouldn't stay in Interlaken, particularly in July/August time frame. It's still so far from the mountain peaks and the mountain villages -- and at that time of the summer, it will be literally swamped with tourists and tourist busses. Why not stay nearby, someplace with a little charm? Lots of folks like Lauterbrunnen, which would be very convenient for them yet relatively peaceful. Or maybe even Thun (would be farther for the Jungfraujoch excursion but perfect for trips on the lake).

I prefer Montreux to Lausanne, but then for me, the smaller the town, the better. Here are links to my "reviews" (w/photos) of my favorite activities around the lake:

Montreux old town
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...reux_Vaud.html

Lavaux
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...reux_Vaud.html

Promenade Fleuri
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...reux_Vaud.html

Morges
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...rges_Vaud.html

Gruyeres
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR..._Fribourg.html

Saanen
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...wiss_Alps.html

Gstaad
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...wiss_Alps.html

You probably know that Gstaad, Saanen, & Gruyeres are on the way between Montreux & Zweisimmen on the Golden Pass route. They may want to stop, hop off the train, put the bags in lockers, and stroll around and have a bite at one of those places.

Good luck!

s
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 07:33 AM
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ps, there are lots of (scenic) alternatives to St Moritz. Here are a few: Sils, Pontresina, Scuol, Guarda . . . You can see them at

www.engadin.stmoritz.ch

or

www.scuol.ch

s
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 07:57 AM
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Thank you yk for answering my question about the Swiss Pass. I hadn't taken the 10% discount into account. I won't be able to use the Saver Pass since I'm travelling solo.

No need to include Zermatt since your parents have seen the Matterhorn.

I guess the Chur and St Moritz topic needs to be debated. Of the two St Moritz is more scenic. St Moritz is a glitzy resort, with prices to match. Other than the lake shore there is hardly a level street. Climbing up and down streets to get to their hotel, restaurants, shops, etc may not be a good choice for you parents. In Chur your parents can wander around the old town as they'd have enough time to do this on the day they arrive on the Glacier Express. I feel that walking around Chur is easier because of the terrain. The ABC Hotel in Chur is very close to the train station.

I will be in Switzerland next month and I'll be taking the Glacier Express and Bernina Express, I will buy my rail pass when I arrive. I had contacted Ratische Bahn via their website (www.rhb.ch) to make my Glacier Express and Bernina Express reservations. I'd do this once you know your parents travel dates, they'll send you an email with a confirmation number, your parents can pick up their tickets once they arrive in Switzerland. The prices I quoted, CHF 30 and CHF 9 were for reservations from Zermatt to Chur and Chur to Tirano. I'm not sure if the price will be different for your parents since they'll be travelling from Visp and to Lugano.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 08:06 AM
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Hi retired, are you staying overnight in Chur then?

I agree with you about St Moritz (with my limited, overnight experience).

Is it necessary to book the GE and BE reservation so far in advance? I was planning to have them make the reservations after they arrive in Switzerland. Based on my tentative itinerary, they will be there 1 week before they take the GE. When I went in 2003, I also booked my train reservations after I got to Switzerland, but that was in late May, shoulder season.

Also, are you reserving for the regular train or the scenic/paronamic cars? When I took GE/BE on my trip, I just sat in the regular cars.

swandav - thank you for all your information and links. I will have to go through them one by one and see which places they may like. I hadn't thought about getting off mid-way along GoldenPass route and walk around one of the towns... that's a great idea!
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 08:36 AM
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yk, yes, I'll be staying in Chur, I travel Zermatt to Chur and then Chur to Tirano the following day.

Sorry, I really cannot tell you if it's necessary to book train reservations this far in advance, your parents are travelling during peak season so I'd definitely make reservations from home. There is no extra charge for this, if you book directly with RHB. The reason I recommend this is because their travel dates won't be flexible and the Bernina Express is often booked with tour groups, also, not sure of your parents seating preference, but good seats/window seats will be the first to go.

The GE and BE are tourist trains, that have scenic/panoramic cars, the regular SBB trains do not. This is why I had to pay a surcharge for these trains. Your parents will be travelling in summer, in summer the regular SBB trains from Chur to Tirano that run on the BE route have open air carriages too. However, when travelling on regular trains you parents would have to make one or two transfers, check the sbb website (www.sbb.ch) for details about regular service from Visp to Chur/St Moritz and Chur/St Moritz to Tirano. When I read your post I understood that your parents were travelling on the tourist trains (the GE and BE) and not on the GE and BE route on regular trains. If it's the later, there's no need to make reservations.

wandav makes a good point suggesting that your parents explore places enroute. Just to let you know, if your parents want to they can have their luggage forwarded to their destination by SBB. The cost for this service is CHF 20 for same day delieverly and CHF 10 for next day deliverly. This maybe a better option instead of loading/unloading their luggage onto trains and moving their luggage to/from the left luggage office.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 08:43 AM
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YK while your parents are in Zurich they might enjoy the trip by boat from Rapperswil at the other end of Lake Zurich, they could go by train to Rapperswil and lunch there plenty of resaurants around the lakeside and take the boat back.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 08:46 AM
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Thank you again, retired. When I went in May 2003, I traveled on the GE & BE (the direct, tourist trains) but I sat in a regular car, not the glass-ceiling paranomic cars. I also had to pay for a seat reservation. I need to go back to the SBB and other websites to figure out paranomic vs regular cars on the scenic trains. Perhaps they don't offer the paranomic cars except peak summer season. Thanks for the tip about making reservation at Ratische Bahn via their website (www.rhb.ch).

As much as I love the Swiss Rail system in general, I however find the various scenic train websites/routes/timetables cumbersome to peruse.

My parents are on a trip to Asia right now and won't be back until mid-May, so I won't be able to do anything more until then.

My parents travel very light (1 small rolling backpack each), so they won't have any trouble carrying it with them. But I'll let them know about the luggage-forwarding service.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 09:47 AM
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I would definitely not stay in Chur instead of St. Moritz. As swandav suggested, there are other small towns/villages in the area with lots of charm where your parents could stay. Pontresina and Samedan are both on the Glacier/Bernina Express rail route. Another aspect to consider is that July and August can be hot - and the days in the mountains will be much more pleasant than in the valleys. Which is another reason IMO to stay in Wengen or Mürren instead of Interlaken, in Pontresina instead of Chur, and to deduct a day from Lugano and add it to Pontresina (St. Moritz area).

Three nights in Zürich are ok IMO. Day trips to Stein am Rhein, Schaffhausen, Einsiedeln, St. Gallen or Rapperswil are highly recommended.

I'd stay in Montreux or Vevey, not in Lausanne. Much more charming IMO.

I.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 10:12 AM
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From Interlaken they can visit Ballenberg (open air swiss museum) if interested.>

Swiss Passes on 100% covered days include free admission to this and over 400 other Swiss Museums - a $20 value here about.

Swiss Passes are sold in Switzerland but currently are cheaper for the same pass bought in the States thru RailEurope or their agents - prices are always the same but look for free mailing - some charge $18 (RE i think does on orders below $450 - not sure exact amount).

Great resources: www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.ricksteves.com; www.seat61.com and http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id3.html

BTW yk I think the itinerary you have come up with is superb. One thing you may not consider is that from Interlaken they can train to Meiringen and then take the Susten Pass Bus to Goschenen and then take the shuttle train up to Andermatt, where they can also join the Glacier Express train - i've taken this bus and it provides a much different view of the Alps than trains that generally burrow under them.

And if going to Visp from Spiez as of last year it is practically all in the new Lotschberg Tunnel - no views at all - they could take the classic old line that is incredibly scenic IMO but it would take at least an hour longer on a long day already - the bus route may provide variety and could be shorter (not sure)

Anyway you have a swell itinerary for them, given their peripathetic traveling style
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 10:24 AM
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tipsygus, Ingo & PalQ-
Thanks for all your input.

To get from Visp from Interlaken does require a change in Spiez - now I see why the trip is so quick (less than 30 mins between Spiez and Visp).

I know most people here don't like Interlaken, so I'll try to persuade my parents to stay higher up in the mountains. Thanks again.... lots for me to research and tweak my itinerary suggestion before they return from their current trip.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 10:50 AM
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yk, when I booked with RHB I was given a choice of first class or second class.

When planning my trip I did a search here and found lots of information. Take a look at this thread, it's definitely the Swiss Trains superthread:-

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...iss-trains.cfm

Also take a look at thisbr />
http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/desti...srailjourn.htm

Hope this helps.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 11:14 AM
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yk, I hope when this itinerary evolves from preliminary to final that you'll post a day-by-day schedule. I think this is going to be a great trip, and the final itinerary would be very helpful for anyone planning to tour Switzerland by train.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 11:46 AM
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- Fly into Geneva and go directly to either Lausanne or Montreux. Stay in either Lausanne or Montreux for 3 nights. (which one is "better"?)

**** I stayed in Vevey. You can walk from Montreux to Vevey, mostly on a beautiful walking path along the lake. I have not visited Lausanne.

- Interlaken to Visp, then pick up Glacier Express to St Moritz. Stay in St Moritz for 1 night.

St. Moritz has the name but I think there are prettier places close by. Pontresina is very nice! Will they be doing any walking ("hiking")? There are flat walks to be had as well.

Ingo, nice to see you!
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 11:54 AM
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ps. HIGHLY recommend a night in Guarda versus St. Moritz. It's a tiny, tiny little village. Mom and I stayed there on our drive from the Dolomites to Lake Como. I'd pick that as number one for that night. Is it really just an overnight? You can also walk from there to other little towns on the same elevation. Serene, peaceful, beautiful.

Here are some photos from our overnight (and a few along the road the next day). More than half are in Guarda, some are in Zuoz, some in Soglio. A few were taken at Samedan, Europe's highest airport.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/skywalk...40788912/show/
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Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 08:54 AM
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I've strolled around St Moritz on several occasions and though, like any Swiss resort on a lake, it's swell i never cared to linger any more than an hour or so. To me rather blah - now i know it's a great base for hikes, the Bernina pass train or car route, etc.

But as a town leaves me rather blah. Just my opinion and different things turns different folks on i guess.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 12:41 PM
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Yes indeedy, nice to hear from Ingo.
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