Switzerland in May

Dec 6th, 2010, 05:43 PM
  #1  
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Switzerland in May

We (2 of us) are looking into touring Switzerland for 10 days mid-May (fly in from Canada around May 12th) and are looking for feedback on the best way to do it. We don't particularily want to stay in a different city each night (notice that suggested bus tours or train tours stay in different cities each night -- apart from a couple of stops that are for 2 nights); and therefore, it seems that we need to pick which regions we wish to travel to and where it is best to establish a base.

We plan to travel light .. 1 small suitcase and back pack each ... buy a phone card when we arrive and take our notebook with us for web access. We will buy either a Swiss Saver Pass or Eurail .. need to first finalize our itinerary and then check out costs.

We are flying into Zurich ... after Switzerland, we are heading to Amsterdam then London by train ... flying back to Canada from London.

Subject to feedback (and maybe finding a hotel!), we are looking at:
1. Zurich/Luzern area for 3 nights ... Golden Round Trip?
2. Interlaken area for 3 nights (stay in Lauterbrunnen, Murren or Wengen)
3. Lausanne area for 3 nights (Geneva, Castle of Chillon, the Lavaux vineyards cruise .. stay in Montreux or Vevey).

In choosing these areas, we are missing out on Zermatt, Lugano, the Glacier Express, St. Moritz as well as other spots that are included on bus/train tours.

Should we be rethinking our plans to include Zermatt and the Glazier Express or ..? Spend less time somewhere else?
Enroh is offline  
Dec 6th, 2010, 06:43 PM
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I think should amend to include Zermatt ... take the Glacier Express from Andermatt ... stay for 2 nights at the Best Western (Hotel Butterfly) .... and spend 1 less day both at Interlaken and Lausanne?
Enroh is offline  
Dec 6th, 2010, 08:48 PM
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Hi Enroh,

No, I don't think you need to include ALL that stuff, Zermatt, the Glacier Express, Interlaken, and Lausanne. Something has to give (remember that every time you move, you can lose around half a day with just boring chores of packing and dealing with hotels).

The best part of the Glacier Express is its highest point, between Disentis and Andermatt; the rest of the trip is nice, but no nicer than any other trip through the Alps. And I don't think you need to hit both Jungfrau area and Zermatt; I think seeing one Swiss Alpine region, but seeing it in some depth, would be much more satisfying.

I think you should make that hard choice: either the full Glacier Express with some days at either end, or Interlaken and Lake Geneva. Here are two sample itineraries:

Luzern two nights, St. Moritz area three or four nights, Glacier Express to Zermatt, Zermatt three or four nights, Zürich one night before trip to Amsterdam.

Luzern two nights, Jungfrau area four nights, Golden Pass to Montreux, Montreux for three nights, Zürich one night before trip to Amsterdam.

I'll also add that May isn't the best time to see the mountains; some residents call that the Mud Month.

Good luck as you plan!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Dec 7th, 2010, 01:13 PM
  #4  
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Hi s,

I agree that we need to make a decision on something similar to your sample itineraries ... travel to a different hotel each day takes time and you have to deal with traveling with the luggage. It sounds as if it's not the best time to see Switzerland? What is your preference between Jungfrau area vs St Moritz/Glacier Express .. given that it will be mid May?

Also any preference between Jungfraujoch (CHF95/pp w/Swiss Pass) and Schilthorn/Piz Gloria (CHF52/pp w/Pass) or both are 'must sees'?

Thanks for you input,
R
Enroh is offline  
Dec 7th, 2010, 01:25 PM
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Swiss trains are fantastic as are postal buses and lake boats and city trams and buses and all are covered by the Swiss Pass and the pass also garners 50% discounts of cable cars (except 25% Jungfrau from Wengen or Grindelwald; pass covers in full up to those Alpine villages).

With the itinerary previsioned a Swiss Pass IMO is a no-brainer - can just hop on any train anytime - a consecutive day pass if the time limit comports to your actual time in Switzerland is the best deal per day - otherwise look at a flexipass and on the 100% covered days you can ride practically any train, lake boat, postal bus, city transports and on the days in between the 100% covered days you then get 50% off everything that moves in Switzerland until the final 100% day is exhausted (except again Jungfrau from Wengen and Grindelwald 25%). On specialty tourist trains the pass is valid but a reservation/supplement fee must be paid.

Anyway for loads and loads of great ideas on Swiss trains (and postal buses, lake boats, etc) I always spotlight these Wunderbar sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com. And Swiss Passes are often cheaper if bought before arrival if the past several years are any indicator - but check as on occasion the reverse has been true!
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 08:50 AM
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What is your preference between Jungfrau area vs St Moritz/Glacier Express .. given that it will be mid May?

To me the Jungfrau (a k a Berner Oberland) region is the essence of the idyllic Alpine Switzerland etched in our minds' eyes and should be the focal point for anyone who has not been to Switzerland or not the Jungfrau Region - there are so so many varied things to do here - lake boats on the lakes the bookend Interlaken, with delights to visit on each lake - Brienz and Thun - and great hiking for all levels of difficulty - from the famous Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg 'ridge walk' - a don't miss that even baby strollers can navigate - even if you do not do the Jungfrau or Schilthorn (a k a Piz Gloria after this name was conjured up for the James Bond film filmed in part here and has now become an official name it seems) - but you have glaciers you can walk to - Trummelbach Falls - a torrent inside the cliffs - Ballenberg's really famous open-air museum and even Interlaken, to me an often underrated city with Lucerne type covered wooden bridges (though few tourists take time to ferret them out) - the William Tell Playhouse and on and on.

a great base with so so many great short excursions.

and IMO May is great - flowers starting to bloom - the small farm's meadows are ready to cut - cows are out, etc. Yes relatively few tourists in the area as this time is in between the hot winter season and popular summer hiking season. A plus to me as popular trails such as the Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg ridge one will not be so mobbed, etc. and you can secure loding in your budget with a buyer's market.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 09:47 AM
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Not sure why you are specifying the "Lausanne area" but staying outside Lausanne...if you want Vevy or Montreux don't even bother with Lausanne (which has much to offer IMO but you cannot do everything).

The Butterfly in Zermatt is a great hotel and I ASSUME you MIGHT do Zermatt in order to view the Matterhorn peak (any other reasons?)

Geographically, you'll be doing the Golden Pass route if you take the train down to Montreux from Interlaken after you finish your Bernese Oberland portion so no need to do a round trip from Luzern.

You do not mention anything about hotel budget constraints so there is everything from some of those "grand epoch" places (and a few wannabes) in places like Lausanne and Vevey all the way to www.rooms.ch for more budget choices.

May is a great time to go...not real crowded yet.

Enjoy
Dukey1 is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 10:30 AM
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We spent a few days there in late May 2007. On reaching Lauterbrunnen the hire car started flashing Verglas (I think) which we eventually realised meant ice in French. The hotel in Stechelberg was full but we found a wonderful hostel nearby & warm welcome from the English speaking couple there. The previous night they had been full as the snow & ice had kept people there. The night we went they were expecting a couple who never turned up so a room was ready for us. "Last week it was wonderful, we were sunbathing" they told us. Outside Trummelbach branches were breaking due to the unseasonably cold weather after growth had started. We enjoyed it but didn't use all the cable cars we would have done, as wouldn't see much in the cloud.
I think if 2 buy a Swiss pass you get 10% discount, at least you did in 2007
Ricardo_215 is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 12:03 PM
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You are right ... as of now, our reason for going to Zermatt is to take the Glacier Express (by starting in Andermatt, we will be missing the best part of the Glacier Express -- its highest point between Disentis and Andermatt) and to see the Matterhorn peak.

Others recommended the Butterfly as a good pace to stay ... in looking at Trip Advisor, there appears to be many other options for around the same (even less) cost. Our hotel requirements are safe, clean, non-smoking, quiet rooms .. hopefully with free wi-fi. For the Swiss part of this trip we hope to average out at around $200/night .. hopefully that is doable, if not, we'll spend what is required. No "grand epoch" places for us!

We are planning to leave Switzerland by train to Brussels, stay there for 2 nights, head to Amsterdam for 2 nights and then train/boat/train it to London, 2 or 3 nights there and then head home. Before working on hotels for that portion (cannot book the train until 90 days out), we want to make sure that we have taken sufficient time to see Switzerland.

To include Zermatt, our new Itinerary looks like this (9 nights):
1. Zurich/Luzern area for 3 nights ... see the sights of Zurich and Luzern, boat to Rapperswil, Mt. Pilatus or Mt Rigi
2. Luzern - Andermatt - Zermatt, stay for 1 night ... Matterhorn
3. Zermatt - Montreux, stay in Montreux or Vevey for 2 or 3 nights ... Lake Geneva, Castle of Chillon, the Lavaux vineyards cruise
4. Interlaken area for 3 nights (stay in Lauterbrunnen, Murren or Wengen).. visit the small towns, Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg 'ridge walk', waterfalls, Jungfrau or Schilthorn
5. Afternoon train back to Zurich for 1 night ... get ready for Brussels

It seems that we will have a lot to see and do in Switzerland for the 9/10 days ... may be better off to extend our stay in Switzerland??
Enroh is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 12:05 PM
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May in Switzerland is lovely, its wildflowers season and you can find some lovely walks in different parts of Switzerland (lower altitudes..even med altitudes will be snow covered). My suggestion is that you choose
- one Alpine area (I love the Jungfrau region), alternatively Zermatt
- one big city and surrounds(Zurich as you are landing there is the obvious choice). If you are visiting Lac Léman area, why go to Luzern? Instead rent a car for the day and take a day trip to Rheinfalls, Stein Am Rhein (truly and absolutely beautiful!) & Schauffhausen.
- one lakeside area (I second the riviera, I live close to the Lavaux area and find it always beautiful and heaps to see), alternatives - Neuchâtel, Lake Constance region, Lake Luzern and surrounds.
Suja is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 02:10 PM
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I guess the only problems with May in Suisse is that if hiking at higher altitudes like around Murren trails may - may but not nearly likely IMO - be icy and some lifts are closed for a spell in May - the in-between season for repairs. But otherwise this IMO is a fantastic time to come, for the reasons Suja aptly points out!
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 03:02 PM
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"Amsterdam for 2 nights and then train/boat/train it to London" Yes you can use the overnight or day ferry or alternatively do it all by train. http://www.seat61.com/Netherlands.htm (but I suspect you've already done your homework on this)
Ricardo_215 is offline  
Dec 8th, 2010, 03:13 PM
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We have done the Eurostar from London-Paris ... thought it would be a nice change to take the ferry.
Enroh is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 11:01 AM
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Decided to book our flight by using points ... cannot have an open jaw + a stopover (looking to stop in Toronto on our way home) ... so ... now we need to change our plans to fly in/out of Zurich or not stop off in Toronto.

Is 16 days too many to stay in Switzerland? or should we break it up by going to a neighbouring country for a few days?
Enroh is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 12:35 PM
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Is 16 days too many to stay in Switzerland? or should we break it up by going to a neighbouring country for a few days?

Well without commenting on whether 16 days is too much or not Switzerland is so so tiny that it is easy to include a visit to one of its neighbors - Austria, Germany, Italy and France (oh well Liechtenstein as well!)

Northern Italy is just a few hours by train from Zurich, Lucerne or the Interlaken/Jungfrau region. And here you have the ballyhooed Lake District with Lake Como and Lake Maggiore easily reached by train and each with lots of places along their idyllic shores to spend a few lovely days. Stresa is one nice lake resort town that is smack on a main rail line from Switzerland, as is Como.

so even though you could spend 16 rhapsodous days in Switzerland itself (it has German, French and Italy and even Romanisch sections that are much different from each other) it is easy to include a taste of Italy or another country.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 12:35 PM
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Is 16 days too many to stay in Switzerland? or should we break it up by going to a neighbouring country for a few days?

Well without commenting on whether 16 days is too much or not Switzerland is so so tiny that it is easy to include a visit to one of its neighbors - Austria, Germany, Italy and France (oh well Liechtenstein as well!)

Northern Italy is just a few hours by train from Zurich, Lucerne or the Interlaken/Jungfrau region. And here you have the ballyhooed Lake District with Lake Como and Lake Maggiore easily reached by train and each with lots of places along their idyllic shores to spend a few lovely days. Stresa is one nice lake resort town that is smack on a main rail line from Switzerland, as is Como.

so even though you could spend 16 rhapsodous days in Switzerland itself (it has German, French and Italy and even Romanisch sections that are much different from each other) it is easy to include a taste of Italy or another country.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 10th, 2010, 10:55 AM
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We are looking at going to Munich for 3 days ... we were in and out of there 2 years ago ... to see what we missed last time. Back to 11/12 days in Switzerland ... hopefully now I can find good/half decent hotels at a reasonable price and finalize the itinerary!

What are your experiences in booking hotels ... do deals come up nearer your stay when other people cancel their reservations? .. or commit as early as you can as rooms continue to get more expensive?
Enroh is offline  
Dec 10th, 2010, 09:09 PM
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I would have to take a break to Germany for financial reasons! Sixteen days of spending LOTS of Francs would shorten my next trip.
scatcat is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 12:32 PM
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scatcat - reminds me of what a German once told me when I was saying how much more things cost generally in Germany than back home - he said 'in Germany you have to change money every day but in Switzerland you have to change every hour!

Even Germans may have sticker shock when crossing the border into Switzerland!
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 14th, 2010, 01:01 PM
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Enroh _ I have found that cities like Interlaken have across te board much more affordable hotels than cities like Lucerne, Zurich, Geneva, etc. Interlaken itself teems with budget and IME perfectly adequate hotels for a fraction of the price a similar hotel would cost in other cities. so if budget is really important consider basing in Interlaken, which of course is a great base due to its excellent rail and boat links.
PalenQ is offline  

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