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Suggestions for 1 week in Switzerland, Geneva to Zurich?

Suggestions for 1 week in Switzerland, Geneva to Zurich?

Old Jan 25th, 2018, 07:51 PM
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Suggestions for 1 week in Switzerland, Geneva to Zurich?

My daughter is doing a 3 week backpacking trip in the Swiss Alps this summer (lucky girl!). My wife and I want in on the fun, so we are thinking of flying there with her and spending a week in Switzerland ourselves.

We need to drop her off in the Geneva airport on Sunday morning, June 24 to meet up with her tour. From there, we will strike out on our own. My thought is that we would fly home out of Zurich the following Saturday, though we could also return from Geneva.

During our week in Switzerland we'd like to spend most of our time exploring the alpine areas of the country rather than the cities. I enjoy landscape photography so I am all about the scenery. We enjoy hiking, but shorter day hikes, nothing too hardcore, and my wife prefers to relax after a hike in a 4-star hotel, though we also enjoy charming inns or B&Bs as long as they provide creature comforts.

I know the Interlaken and Berner Oberland areas are supposed to be beautiful, and that visits to Chamonix/Mont Blanc and Zermatt are also popular, but I really don't know the difference between all of them or have a good sense of what's really accessible. We'd like to see a few different areas but don't want to spend all our time shuttling around from place to place and miss the sights.

Folks on this board seem to be very knowledgeable. Any suggestions for an itinerary for us?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Jan 26th, 2018, 09:22 AM
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I would split time between Alpine Switzerland and Lake Geneva area.

Montreux makes a great base.

Then take Golden Pass scenic train Montreux to Interlaken - then head for dem hills and a cute mountain village like Wengen, very popular with past posterers - and from which trains and gondolas let you reach the highest Alpine areas - the Jungfrau Region IMO has the best infrastructure for tourists and the best all around Alpine vistas.

So Monreux 2-3 days
Jungfrau 3-4 days.

And a Swiss Travel Pass could be a good deal as it covers not only trains but lake boats, buses, city transports and gives 50% discounts off trains to most mountain tops. Travel to Wengen fully covered. www.sbb.ch for lots of info and also BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com have great info too.

Montreux - visit Castle Chillon and maybe take Chocolate Train to Brock Callier Nestle facdtory tour, etc.
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Old Jan 26th, 2018, 10:18 AM
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I only know Lausanne/Vevey/Montreux area but they are GORGEOUS and only an hour or so outside Geneva on the train, right on Lac Leman. Stunning scenery although certainly not "alpine".
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Old Jan 26th, 2018, 01:24 PM
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Thanks, that's two votes for Montreux, so naturally, in speaking with some folks locally today I was told that Montreux is fantastic in the winter but we should skip it in the summer and stop by Chamonix and Zermatt before heading to Interlaken. Perhaps that advice is because of our interest in seeing the alpine sights.

We definitely plan to spend a couple days in Interlaken. It seems like the trip from Interlaken up to the Jungfraujoch takes pretty much the whole day. Is that worth doing or is it better to skip Jungfraujoch and explore other areas/towns in the Berner Oberland. Is staying in Interlaken proper as opposed to one of the small towns a mistake?
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Old Jan 26th, 2018, 01:33 PM
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Well Chamonix and Zermatt and Jungfrau are all awesome Alpine areas but it could be overload and too rushed in just a week. better to cut down to two - and split time.

Interlaken could be a nice base but it has no rave views of Alps up close - better to stay in the hills with views from balcony of glcier-girdled peaks.

Chamonix to Zermatt is a very scenic rail route - Chamonix to Martigny being awesomely scenic - easily done in a day and Swiss Travel Pass valid from Chamonix to Martigny in full.
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Old Jan 26th, 2018, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bendivertx View Post
... our interest in seeing the alpine sights. ... We definitely plan to spend a couple days in Interlaken. It seems like the trip from Interlaken up to the Jungfraujoch takes pretty much the whole day. Is that worth doing or is it better to skip Jungfraujoch and explore other areas/towns in the Berner Oberland. Is staying in Interlaken proper as opposed to one of the small towns a mistake?
I must admit that I found it easy to skip the Jungraujoch, but that's just me. And I'm glad I didn't stay in Interlaken itself -- I wanted to be in the Bernese Oberland, so I spent one night in Wengen (and would have enjoyed more, but that was all I could manage on my budget at the time) and 3 nights in Lauterbrünnen, which suited me very well. YMMV.

If your time permits, you might also consider a stop in Lucerne with it's easy access to Alpine sites.

If you don't already have it, I strongly recommend the Michelin Green guide for Switzerland. And if you haven't already seen it, you might find some useful information in my trip report:
My delightful sampling of Switzerland’s gems, with many thanks

Hope that helps!
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 12:32 PM
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Interlaken is a nice town off the beaten track but yes you miss out being eyeball to eyeball with soaring peaks like you would be from Wengen or Grindelwald. Jungfraujoch - an experience of lifetime for sure but usually mobbed trains and zillions of tourists up top - yet you can venture out like walking to the tip of a glacier, etc. And views are of course marvellous.

To me the Schilthorn excurion from Murren is also great and not nearly so mobbed.
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 05:48 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. Here's what we are currently considering as an itinerary. This is what our travel agent has put together based on my initial feedback, but nothing is set and I can still tweak it:

Day 1 - arrive in Geneva late afternoon
Day 2 - drop off our daughter, day trip to Chamonix and back
Day 3 - morning train from Geneva to Zermatt, arriving by noon
Day 4 - late afternoon train from Zermatt to Interlaken
Day 5 - trains from Interlaken to the Jungfraujoch and back, with brief stops in Laterbrunnen and Grindelwald
Day 6 - afternoon train from Interlaken to Lucerne
Day 7 - gondolas to Mt. Pilatus, boat ride on Lake Lucerne
Day 8 - early train to Zurich for flight home

We don't expect to ever get back to Switzerland (too many other places in the world we'd like to see), so I like that this itinerary gets us to many of the highlights of the country. I am concerned that there is not enough time in any one place to truly explore in any depth, but I'd hate to miss the main sights. I will definitely look into staying up in Wengen or Lauterbrunnen or one of the other towns up on the Bernese Oberland. I'd welcome any other feedback on this itinerary. Does it seem like a good "highlights" trip, or would you eliminate one or more stops in favor of more time in others (and if so, which ones).

Many thanks for the help!
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 06:38 PM
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There's no particular reason to stop in either Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald unless you are staying there.

The problem with this plan, as I see it, is that you are counting on good weather -- and good weather is not guaranteed, particularly for mountain peaks! I doubt that I'm alone in suggesting that you choose a couple of places to stay for a few nights, so you have some options for bad weather. I doubt that I'm alone in thinking that if Jungfraujoch is a priority, then you should plan on a few nights in the Bernese Oberland (or even Interlaken) so you can visit it when / if the weather permits, but can still have lots of options if views from Jungfraujoch are blocked. Similarly, there are things you can see in and around Lucerne if the weather is not auspicious for a visit to Mt. Pilatus. Your plan gives you no backups....

Good luck!
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 07:32 PM
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That's a good point about the weather - I hadn't considered that it may be cloudy up in the mountains some days. We will be traveling in June - is the weather still unpredictable that month? How often does it rain there in the summer?

The stops in Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald are mostly to change trains. I am looking into staying in Lauterbrunnen instead of Interlaken since that is where the waterfalls are. Or would it be better to stay in Wenger or another town?

Which location would you recommend skipping and where would you recommend extending our time?
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 07:55 PM
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My understanding is that the views from the top can be obscured at ANY time of year. I trust that experts will weigh in.

For climate date, check wunderground.com or timeanddate.com -- or a good guidebook.

I commented on Wengen vs. Lauterbrunnen upthread. Basically, the views from Wengen are breathtaking, but can be pricey. I was happy with Lauterbrunnen. BUT you can't see the waterfalls from all lodging in Lauterbrunnen, and they, too, vary with the season, being very full in the spring melt off and beginning to thin (as I understand it) sometime during June or July in a typical year. (Again, I hope that experts speak up.) If you go to the Bernese Oberland with a back-up plan of leaving the area entirely if Jungfraujoch is not in the clear, note that Lauterbrunnen is a bit more convenient, as you have to go through it to reach Wengen -- so staying in Wengen would mean adding a half hour or so each time you go in or out of the area.

Only you can decide which places to visit and which to skip. I skipped Chamonix and Zermatt, in part because there was more that i wanted to see and do in/around the Bernese Oberland and Lucerne, but then, I also skipped the Jungfraujoch (choosing Schilthorn instead).

Hope that helps!
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 08:51 AM
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Agree with kja's takes - Lauterbrunnen is in a large gorge - few really frontal views of Jungfrau Massif. Wengen has no cars and adds to its charm and solitude and along with Murren and Grindelwald IMO the finest views overall.
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Old Jan 30th, 2018, 08:55 AM
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Weather in Swiss Alps always changeable and always chance of wet weather even in summer - in past rains have set in at times for days - keep itinerary flexible. Dp day trips to nearby cities in foul weather or things like boat trips, etc.
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Old Jan 30th, 2018, 10:04 AM
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Appreciate all the good insight and suggestions. I am leaning towards nixing Zermatt since we would only be there one night, it's a lottery as to whether the Matterhorn would be clear, and it doesn't sound like there's much to do there if isn't. That will save us a couple days that we can spend elsewhere.

A work associate of mine is from Europe and goes to Gstaad every year, which is near Montreux. She raved about the Golden Pass Railroad. I am leaning towards PalenQ's original suggested itinerary Golden Pass to Montreux, a couple days in Montreux area, then 3-4 days in Lauterbrunnen or Murre. We would spend a day or maybe two at the end in Lucerne before flying back out of Zurich.

I need to research how the Swiss Pass works. I like the idea of remaining flexible but don't I need to reserve our trains in advance to ensure we get seats, or is there always availability? Do they let you make changes to reservations on short notice? How does that work?
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Old Jan 30th, 2018, 11:31 AM
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Most report that finding seats on unreserved basis is rarely a problem. You can reserve in Switzerland at any station for any trip for a few extra francs - for your plans a Swiss Travel Pass seems great. You would want to reserve Golden Pass for sure to get place in observation cars but others I would just wing it and then if a probolem reserve. Very very few Swiss reserve and folks get off at each stop.
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Old Jan 30th, 2018, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bendivertx View Post
That's a good point about the weather - I hadn't considered that it may be cloudy up in the mountains some days. We will be traveling in June - is the weather still unpredictable that month? How often does it rain there in the summer?

The stops in Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald are mostly to change trains. I am looking into staying in Lauterbrunnen instead of Interlaken since that is where the waterfalls are. Or would it be better to stay in Wenger or another town?

Which location would you recommend skipping and where would you recommend extending our time?
As far as June travel to Jungfraujoch goes, we spent a week in the middle of June, 2016, in Wengen and really only had 2 days out of 7 that were suitable for the trip to Jungfraujoch. The day that we went looked a little dicey at times as far as cloud ceiling, but we eventually got a high enough ceiling to make the trip worthwhile, as evidenced by the photos.



That's the view from the plateau looking back towards the Sphinx.


This is the view of the Aletsch glacier


And that's what it looked like to the north. All in all, it turned out OK, but when we were up at the Sphinx, I was worried that the trip might be a bust, and that's a lot of money to spend to look at clouds. So, if the Jungfraujoch is a priority, you need to spend as much time as possible in the area to increase your odds of a good weather day. But, there are lot of other things to see and do in the Berner Oberland if the weather is too cloudy for a Jungfraujoch excursion.
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Old Jan 30th, 2018, 01:14 PM
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Great info twk and advice - first good day go for it and weather predictions of ubiquitous with cameras even from Jungfraujoch.

A pity that many of the folks - especially group tours - venture little out of the main buildings/ice grottos area and trek to the glacier, etc,. There is an early morning special train at a discount and you can take any train back. But it leaves really early.

Swiss Travel Passes only give 25% off above Wengen and Grindelwald (covered in full to those) but that final stretch from Kl Scheidegg to top is really really expensive.

If no pass get a Half-Fare Card that you can use for half-off everything that moves in Switzerland and nearly pays for itself on this excursion alone.
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Old Jan 30th, 2018, 07:35 PM
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I will admit that I’m not a great fan of Mürren – personally, I’d opt for a room in Wengen with a view if affordable. JMO, and seriously, no bad choices -- just difficult ones!
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Old Jan 30th, 2018, 09:12 PM
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This is all so helpful, and thanks for the pics twk! I think we will try to stay 3 nights in the BO, though that still only gives us 2 days on which to try to get to Jungfraujoch:
Sun - Geneva/maybe day trip to Chamonix
Mon - 9 am train to Montreux, arrive 10 am, day and night in Montreal
Tues - Morning in Montreux, 1:44 pm Golden Pass train to Interlaken, then up to hotel in Lauterbrunnen, Murren or Wengen (haven't decided yet)
Weds - Thurs - explore the Berner Oberland
Fri - morning train from Interlaken to Lucern, afternoon/night in Lucern
Sat - Day in Lucern, afternoon train to Zurich for redeye flight home

Does this seem like the right amount of time in each location (and the right locations)?
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Old Jan 30th, 2018, 09:40 PM
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I would want more time in Montreux and Lucerne, and I would even consider skipping one to make time for the other, but of course it depends on what YOU want to see and experience. Did you check my trip report, linked in above? It might give you a sense of why I say that. And please note that although I spent only one night in Lucerne on my 2013 trip, its because I had visited Lucerne before, when I had time to see much more of the area.
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