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Revised itinerary for Switzerland – have I come up with a better plan?

Revised itinerary for Switzerland – have I come up with a better plan?

Old Jan 7th, 2013, 11:05 PM
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kja
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Revised itinerary for Switzerland – have I come up with a better plan?

Hello again –

I think I have a much more do-able, if longer (30-day), itinerary for Switzerland than my initial proposal. Many thanks to all of you who already commented! I’m confident that my trip will be immeasurably better as a result of the helpful and thoughtful information that so many of you generously shared.

To briefly recap, I’m a woman who will be traveling solo and using a Swiss Pass. I enjoy art, architecture, museums, churches, parks and gardens, natural scenery, castles, markets, picturesque villages, and good food and wine. (I should definitely enjoy Switzerland!) I don’t mind relocating every night or so, and often find benefits to doing so. I want to take some relatively easy walks or hikes, but am otherwise not seeking outdoor activies. My goal is to have as diverse a range of experiences as possible.

Those who are interested can find my initial thread at:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...to-25-days.cfm

My proposed route may seem a bit odd, but I’m trying to work within a few constraints. Specifically, I want to:
• fly into Geneva before May 27;
• fly out of Zurich;
• ensure that I visit cities when the museums I most want to visit are open;
• make sure that my time in the Upper Engadine is after the seasonal opening of the funicular to Muottas Muralg; and
• maximize my chances of seeing wildflowers in the Bernese Oberland (or should I be seeking to maximize my chance of seeing wildflowers in the Engadine instead??? Which of these two regions should I aim to see first?)

I think this plan meets these goals as well as possible, but please feel free to suggest alternatives!

So here’s my current plan:

Day 1: Arrive in and begin exploring Geneva (night in Geneva)

Day 2: Begin to recover from jet lag, explore Geneva, move on to Lausanne (night in Lausanne) … (I know it would be VERY easy to skip an overnight in Lausanne! At least for now, though, I want to spend a night there, even if it means an unnecessary relocation. You have my permission to call my crazy.)

Day 3: Explore Lausanne and the Lavaux wine terraces; move on to Vevey or Montreux (1st of 2 nights in Vevey or Montreaux) (I know! ANOTHER unnecessary move!)

Day 4: Visit the Chateau Chillon (walking along the lake to get there) and Rochers-de-Naye (where I look forward to sitting for a while to savor the view)

Day 5: Take the train to Gstaad (just to see the scenery en route), spend an hour or so in Gstaad (since I’m there), and then move on to Gruyeres (night in Gruyeres)

Day 6: When I’ve finished visiting Gruyeres, move on to Fribourg (night in Fribourg)

Day 7: Visit Neuchatel’s Latenium and Solothurn on my way to Basel (1st of 2 nights in Basel)

Day 8: Explore Basel

Day 9: When I’m ready to leave Basel, move on to Lucerne—the only place in Switzerland that I have already visited (night in Lucerne)

Day 10: Leave Lucerne for Ascona (1st of 2 nights in Ascona)

Day 11: Explore Ascona, Locarno, etc.

Day 12: Visit Bellinzona on my way to Lugano (1st of 2 nights in Lugano)

Day 13: Explore Lugano

Day 14: Take the Bernina Express as far as Samedan and then go to Mustair (night in Mustair)

Day 15: Visit Mustair and move on to Guarda (1st of 2 nights in Guarda)

Day 16: Begin exploring the Lower Engadine: Guarda, Ardez, Scuol, etc.
• If either Day 16 or 17 is a clear day, I’ll visit Muottas Muralg (the funicular should be open by this time). I may be able to change my arrangements for accommodation, and if not, I can always backtrack.

Day 17: Continue exploring the Lower Engadine, and then relocate to Zuoz or Pontresina (1st of 3 nights).

Day 18-19: Explore the Upper Engadine. My priorities include Muottas Muralg and nearby lakes, valleys, and villages

Day 20: Go to Bern, making sure to take a train that goes through Samedan and Thusis so I can see the Albula Pass, etc. (1st of 2 nights in Bern).
• BTW, I realize that I could see Bern between Fribourg and Basel, but I want to have at least city-and-museum fix between my two blocks of time in mountainous areas.

Day 21: Explore Bern

Day 22: Head to Lauterbrunnen, possibly stopping in Thun en route (1st of 4 nights in Lauterbrunnen) (I’m hoping I’ll feel cozily ensconced at the base of the mountains rather than oppressed by them. I think I’ve found a room that has a view down the valley!)

Days 23-25: Explore the Bernese Oberland. My priorities include Schilthorn, Schynige Platte, Staubachfalle and Trummelbachfalle, Kleine Scheidegg, Brienz and its outdoor museum, and various walks and villages in the area. I’ll decide what to do each day after hearing the weather forecasts.

Day 26: Go to Zurich (1st of 4 nights in Zurich)

Days 27-29: Explore Zurich (and Winterthur)

Day 30: Flight to the US

Any and all comments are welcome!

BTW, this particular plan means that I’ll skip a number of places that originally made it to my high-priority list, such as Zermatt, Sion, Chur, Appenzell, St. Gallen’s, Schaffhausen, and Stein-am-Rhein. (St. Gallen's and the Appenzell were probably the hardest to forego.) At this point, I’d say that much as I’d like to see these places, I’d feel worse if I missed the places that remain on my list. But nothing is written in stone, so feel free to offer counterpoints!

I’d also welcome recommendations for restaurants and/or foods. As a rule, I don’t eat lunch, but I definitely enjoy my evening meals. I want to sample local foods and, as a foodie-wanna-be (if only I could afford to be the real thing!), I’ll probably splurge on a a few dinners along the way. I’ve been taking some notes from guidebooks, trip reports, and other sources, and will welcome your input on regional specialties and restaurants throughout the price spectrum.

Thanks so much!
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Old Jan 7th, 2013, 11:30 PM
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Yeah, I see you like to move around. Geneve, Lausanne, then Montreux? You can easily get to any of these places upon landing, and you can visit other places using frequent trains. Near Neuchatel is a charming town and a lake of Murten. I think you realized that you are spending several days in Geneve and Zurich which is probably keep you from including other hard to drop destinations. The way I see this type of trade-off is that Geneve and Zurich are trivial to include in future trips, but not so with others. In this case, I prioritize harder to visit places first, and usually I end up visiting gateway cities like Geneve or Zurich without even trying in the future.
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 05:36 AM
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Just a note on the train travel part - as you are moving around a lot I think a one-month Swiss Pass is a no-brainer - as said in other thread covers nearly every conveyance you will be taking - lake boats - do not miss taking a lake boat ride on Lake Lucerne, Lake Geneva or Lake Lugano or Thun or Brienz, etc. Passes also good on city trams, buses - practically everything that moves in Switzerland.

Again great sources for planning the rail part and about passes check out these superb sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com (has links to Glacier Express site and other specialty train sites like the Bernina Express); www.sbb.ch - Swiss Railways official site for schedules and fares to compare with the pass (key point of pass is you can just hop on virtually any train, postal bus, lake boat, etc. And I always find myself using the pass actually more than I planned on); http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id3.html; and www.ricksteves.com.

<Day 20: Go to Bern, making sure to take a train that goes through Samedan and Thusis so I can see the Albula Pass, etc. (1st of 2 nights in Bern)>

If you go from St Moritz there is no way to go by rail other than via the Albula Pass/Loops - the only other way out would be to take the Maloja Pass bus to Lugano and take a train to Zurich (change there for Bern).
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 08:26 AM
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(I know it would be VERY easy to skip an overnight in Lausanne! At least for now, though, I want to spend a night there, even if it means an unnecessary relocation. You have my permission to call my crazy.)>

No not crazy - I too like to relocate and spend the whole day and night in a town rather than day tripping in - though for utilitarian reasons I often do that - say base in Vevey for the whole time - but I understand your desire and Lausanne is a very very nice town - most folks prefer smaller more old-worldish Montreux or Vevey but you will be there too.
Try to walk along the lake to the Chateau Chillon! Or take a boat there - nice to approach it from the water, this castle built on the water!
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Old Jan 8th, 2013, 09:07 PM
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➢ greg

Thanks for commenting!

I definitely hear your point about Geneva and Zurich – they are, indeed, cities that I might end up in again in the future, since they have major transportation hubs. Something to think about!


➢ PalenQ

I will most certainly and without question get a Swiss Pass and I will enjoy the tremendous freedom it gives me to take multiple forms of transportation and to enter museums and other places without reaching into my wallet. I promise! Thanks for making sure I don’t miss all the opportunities it presents.

I’m still debating which stretches I’ll do by boat rather than train, but at the very least, I do plan to get out onto the water in multiple locations.

Thanks for confirming my understanding of the trains through the Albula Pass – I want to make absolutely sure to ride that stretch of track!

To visit Chateau de Chillon, I’m looking forward to going one way by boat and one way by foot. Is there an order you recommend? Otherwise, I’ll choose once I’m there and see what the weather and light are like.
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 12:39 AM
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Day 14 involves a lot of travel on train/bus: almost 9 hours. According to the schedules on www.sbb.ch you'll take a regional train from Tirano to Pontresina (not the Express, but that's fine) and change there for the train to Zernez, where you change for the bus to Müstair.

I would pick Pontresina, not Zuoz as base for the Upper Engadine - more centrally located for excursions.

You could still do a day trip to St. Gallen or Appenzell from Zürich on Day 28 or so e.g.

Sounds better than your first itinerary.
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 10:27 AM
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To visit Chateau de Chillon, I’m looking forward to going one way by boat and one way by foot. Is there an order you recommend?>

can't see how it could matter - myself I would walk out with the spector of the famous castle of Lord Byron links anticipatorily looming in the distance - a goal. But really makes little difference.
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Old Jan 9th, 2013, 11:07 PM
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➢ ingo

OMG, after all the information that you and PalenQ so patiently and kindly shared with me about the Bernina Express, did I still get it wrong? SO sorry!

So here’s what I’ve come to believe so far. I do hope you’ll continue to help me understand!

a) When I checked the Rhaetian Railway site for the Bernina Express, I saw an option from Lugano (10:00) to Tirano and then on to Samedan (arriving at 16:24). Switching to the sbb web site, I saw a way to get from Samedan (17:14) to Mustair (19:20). That’s the 9.5 hour trip I was considering because I thought it might be most scenic AND because I thought it would include trains (and/or buses) with panoramic windows on the most scenic stretch(es). It would obviously be a very long travel day, but I figured I’d rather have a very, very long trip with easily seen breathtaking scenery than a very long (if somewhat shorter) trip without it. And even with this longest route, I should still get to Mustair before sunset and in time to check in and have a decent meal.

b) Using the sbb web site, I saw an option from Lugano to Mustair in just over 6 hours (e.g., leaving at 11:12 and arriving at 17:20). When I looked at the routing information for that train, my impression was that it does not go throught the Bernina Pass, and so would not be as scenic as the other options I identifed, but I could easily be mistaken (about either the route or the merits of the scenery).

c) And on that same sbb web site, when I added either Tirano or Poschiavo, I saw an option that would take about 8.5 hours (leaving Lugano at 10:00 and arriving in Mustair at 18:20), so it should include the atretch from Tirano to Pontresina, which I’ve read (perhaps in error), is considered particularly scenic. I think this train would use more-or-less the same track as that identified under route (a), but without the option of panoramic windows.

d) There’s another option routed through Tirano that appears to go through Milan. It takes more time than any of the agove – about 9’45”, so I’m not considering it.

So, if I now understand correctly, I can choose to make this leg of my trip as quickly as I can (option b) or as scenically as I can (option a) or save a bit of time (about an hour) for a bit more limited opportunity to see the scenery (no panoramic windows – option c). Is that right?

To be honest, an extra hour for better views doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, particularly if I’m already committed to at least 8.5 hours in transit AND will still be able to reach my destination before sunset and in time for dinner. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to spend an hour in the confinement of transportation unnecessarily. In early June, how much difference might the panoramic windows make? Are there other issues I should take into consideration?


• I would pick Pontresina, not Zuoz as base for the Upper Engadine

Good to hear, especially because I haven’t yet found suitable accommodations in Zuoz, but did find a place in Pontresina – the Hotel Rosatsch. Do you know it?

Is Pontresina one of the places where one can ensure that one’s arrival by train is coordinated with a bus if one knows exactly what to specify when consulting the sbb web site (like Guarda, where one would—I think, if I read your notes correctly—need to specify “Guard cumün”)? Is the “cumün” the operative word elsewhere in Switzerland?
(I’m so glad I saw that comment of yours about Guarda!)

(BTW, I’ve been finding your photographs and commentaries on various places throughout Switzerland both helpful and inspiring. Thanks so much for directing me to your web pages!)


• You could still do a day trip to St. Gallen or Appenzell from Zürich on Day 28 or so

Great idea! At first glance, it seems like I might even be able to combine St. Gallen with Winterthur in a single day trip from Zurich – that might work out very well for me!


• Sounds better than your first itinerary.

I know my first itinerary was pretty bad, but I take this remark as a good sign! You’ve been a tremendous source of much appreciated information. ☺ ☺


➢ PalenQ

Thanks for confirming that I can visit the Chateau de Chillon by foot or boat in either order. I suspected as much, but wanted to confirm – you never know when it makes a difference!

BTW, I hope that you (and Ingo and others) will tell me if I should seek a particular side (left or right) of the various trains, buses, and boats I’ll be taking. I’m not a betting person, but if I were, I’d bet that you have paid attention to this kind of detail in your many train journeys through Europe!

And to call on some of that knowledge….
• Boat or train from Geneva to Lausanne?
• Boat or train from Lausanne to Vevey/Montreux? I’m thinking boat, so I can see the Lavaux wine terraces from the water…

Thanks again!
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 12:27 AM
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Thanks for the kind words, kja.

You're totally right about the options to get from Lugano to Müstair. What I meant is that right after your arrival in Tirano a regional train (without panoramic windows) runs to Pontresina. I thought you would not want to spend more time than necessary in Tirano.

(Side note: To explore the town - centor storico - you just follow the signs, it's nothing special IMO, just typical Italian ambience with a church or two, definitely not enough time to visit the museum in the palazzo. And the walk to the other important sight in Tirano - pilgrim church Basilica Madonna di Tirano - takes at least 15 minutes one way. You'll see its exterior from the train anyway.)

On the other hand, you could always have lunch in Tirano right on the small square by the train station - did that myself and it was ok. Pizza, local red wine, water, coffee. Inexpensive.

I personally favour the traditional regional trains over the Express train with panoramic windows - you can open these windows and take better photos (no reflexions). Also, if it is a sunny and hot day the sun may actually be too much in the panoramic cars (despite A/C). So, I would choose option c). Of course, this would also mean you have to wait between trains another 50 minutes in Samedan.

The regional train - option c) - takes the absolute same route that the Express train - option a) - does. Same views.
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 12:41 AM
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I forgot the question about the hotel and transfer, sorry.

Hotel Rosatsch is a very good choice. Haven't been there lately, but only heard good things. Bathrooms may be a little outdated, though, but clean. Ask for an upgrade if you're not happy with your room - it's shoulder season and this should be no problem.

As for transfer - the train station is located below the village. Bus transfer is not as well timed as from Guarda station to Guarda cumün. BUT - Hotel Rosatsch and most others offer free mini bus/van transfer from/to the train station. Just call ahead (from Lugano, I'd say) and tell them when you'll arrive. The closest bus stop to Hotel Rosatsch is "Pontresina, Rondo" (tourist office), the Rosatsch is a stone's throw up the main street.
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 07:16 AM
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And the walk to the other important sight in Tirano - pilgrim church Basilica Madonna di Tirano - takes at least 15 minutes one way. You'll see its exterior from the train anyway.)>

and if you do want to see it and can wheel your luggage around then walk to it and there is a small train station or platform near it to board the regional trains up and over the Bernina Pass.
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 07:41 AM
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Boat or train from Geneva to Lausanne?

well that I think is a long long boat ride and scenery about the same after a while - I'd take the train unless I had loads of time - on a nice sunny day these boats can be so so relaxing however.

Boat or train from Lausanne to Vevey/Montreux? I’m thinking boat, so I can see the Lavaux wine terraces from the water…>

Yes boat would be sweet as it is a short ride and you reason for seeing the shore is a good one. A third way between Lausanne and Vevey and I think Montreux is via trolley bus (Swiss Passes valid on them like anything else that maoves in Switzerland).
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 11:38 AM
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As for which side of trains to sit on one line that pops up is the Bernina Pass rail line where most of the awesome scenery is on the west side of the tracks - the glaciers - Alpine lakes, etc.

If you take the fancy official Bernina Express you will probably be stuck in one seat on a typically full or fairly full train that caters a lot to tour groups - especially Germans IME.

Thus I prefer to take the hourly or so local trains that go over the same rails with yes the same exact scenery as these are rarely full and often half empty so I can jiggle from one side to the other as scenery dictates.
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 03:19 PM
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I’m still debating which stretches I’ll do by boat rather than train, but at the very least, I do plan to get out onto the water in multiple locations.>

The nice thing about Swiss lake boats is that nearly every dock is it seems close to a train or bus station - postal buses usually running where trains do not - postal buses fan out from train stations - like at Pontresina discussed above. So if you tire of the boat or need to pick up speed it is easy to change plans en route, like say from Geneva to Lausanne.
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 04:29 PM
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We really enjoyed our stay in Pontresina and stayed at La Collina. They have another less expensive lodging on the property, Soldanella . Two of our party were celebrating birthdays and they had a special way of singing the birthday song. The town is quaint with the painted stucco buildings. We had our best meal in Switzerland at the Hotel Kronenhof's Stube. We also thought the Thai restaurant at La Collina was exceptional; it was packed the night we dined there so reservations are a good idea.
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 04:57 PM
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I, for one, love Lausanne and don't understand why it is overlooked so often. The flowers along the lake are beautiful and the old city up the hill is scenic too. I'm so glad you're going there and ---- have a wonderful trip. You can't go wrong in Switzerland (plus I envy you)!
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 08:33 PM
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Such a wealth of helpful information! I do love Fodor's forums.

➢ Ingo

A 50-minute stop in Samedan doesn’t sound so bad. I’m sure I’ll be ready to get into the fresh air by then, and from what I can tell, it has a left-luggage office. And that means that if the trains are on time and the weather is decent, I might even be able to walk around unencumbered for 20 minutes or so and still have plenty of time to check and reclaim my suitcase and find my way to the right place for my train to Mustair.

Thanks for letting me know which stop to take for the Hotel Rosatsch, sharing what you know of the hotel, and mentioning the hotel’s minibus/van option – I will definitely check into that, in Pontresina and elsewhere!

➢ Ingo and
➢ PalenQ

You each provide compelling arguments against the Bernina Express and for the regional trains along the same lines. I am convinced! I will take the regional trains! (And I really appreciate the patience with which you have walked me through my options.) Once I get to Tirano, I will take the next regional train to Samedan.

➢ PalenQ

With your help, I now have a plan for transportation in the area around Lake Geneva:
• Train from Geneva to Lausanne;
• Before leaving Lausanne, use the train and/or trolley for a short visit to the wine terraces, including (if time permits) walking through the terraces a bit;
• Boat from Lausanne to Vevey/Montreux;
• Walk to the Chateau de Chillon and return by boat (or vice versa, if the weather is not auspicious for walking there).
Sounds wonderful!

I will plan to seek a seat to the west side while riding the regional trains along the Bernina Pass rails.

And I will savor the freedom my Swiss Pass gives me to travel by train or boat or whatever whenever – quite a luxury!

One last thing – thanks so much for the bounces! They can sometimes widen the net quite a bit.

➢ HappyTrvlr

Thanks so much for the Pontresina recommendations! I will definitely check these places out. Were there any dishes at the Hotel Kronenhof’s Stube that you particularly enjoyed?

➢ catcrazyaf

I’m glad to hear your enthusiastic praise for Lausanne - thanks for sharing it! Are there any restaurants there that you would urge me to consider? I do feel very fortunate - as you say, I really can't go wrong with a trip to Switzerland!

P.S. I didn’t mean to be the cause of envy and hope that green is one of your better colors. ;-)
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Old Jan 10th, 2013, 09:50 PM
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Bring LOTS of money as it is ridiculously expensive!The airline that I work for flies there and although the crews love Switzerland the trips go very junior as we find that we go through money like crazy.Things like a brat and beer in Zurich cost around $18 USD?
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Old Jan 11th, 2013, 06:51 AM
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Yes bring everything you can in from outside Switzerland to avoid sticker shock on things like shampoo, aspirins, toiletires, etc.
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Old Jan 11th, 2013, 08:56 AM
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Before leaving Lausanne, use the train and/or trolley for a short visit to the wine terraces, including (if time permits) walking through the terraces a bit;>

There are similar wine terraces above Montreux and I have walked up and down thru them - a train also goes up to a station on top of the cliff and you can walk down - this is part of the Golden Pass train route that you may want to take if going east towards the Interlaken/Bern areas - one of Switzerland's legendary specialty scenic trains.
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