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Switzerland itinerary help - 1 week Lauterbrunnen, 1 week ??

Switzerland itinerary help - 1 week Lauterbrunnen, 1 week ??

Old Jan 19th, 2014, 08:53 AM
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Switzerland itinerary help - 1 week Lauterbrunnen, 1 week ??

Hello,

We are very excited to have a trip to Switzerland planned for this summer, but we need some help planning our itinerary!

We've booked an apartment in Lauterbrunnen for a week in mid-July (my husband's favourite spot from a backpacking trip years ago), to share with his parents, who are coming from England to join us. We have one more week to spend on our own without the family (flights not booked yet, but that's the plan), so we'd like some advice about where to spend the other seven days. We were thinking of cutting the week in half and doing a few days before and a few days after the family time.

We don't want to move around too much - ideally, we'd like one base for each half of the week with possible day trips from there.

What we like to do:
We like hiking, outdoor scenery (can't go wrong in the whole country, I know!), good food, and sightseeing. Not too into shopping, but we do enjoy exploring cities as well as countryside. While in Lauterbrunnen, we'll be doing outdoorsy stuff around the area (Wengen, Jungfraujoch, etc.)

Current (very tentative) plan:
Fly into Zurich. Spend a few days there, maybe with a day trip to Lucerne (husband was in Lucerne, but not Zurich - I've never been to Switzerland at all). Week in Lauterbrunnen. Few days in Montreux after with a day trip to Gruyere (or stay in Gruyere with a day trip to Montreux?), fly out of Geneva.

1/2 week - ???
1 week - Lauterbrunnen
1/2 week - ???

Other stuff:
We've also heard a lot about Murren - it's very close to Lauterbrunnen, so I don't know if it would be worth doing as a second location for our last 1/2 week (FYI - my husband LOVES the mountain views, so similar isn't necessarily bad). Or Zermatt - I'd love to see the Matterhorn, but from my research it seems Zermatt has become just a Disney-esque tourist trap with the one big view.
The Montreux jazz fest is on when we first arrive, so if we went to Montreux first the city would be packed and extra-expensive (hotels are inflated at least 25% that week). We'd be only mildly interested in the festival stuff, so it's not worth the crowds and extra money for us.

Thoughts? Is our current plan a good one, or is there something we should change?

Thanks so much in advance!!
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:25 AM
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You can easily do a day trip to Mürren/Schilthorn, that's enough IMO. No need to spend another couple of days there.

Mid July is peak season for summer tourism in Switzerland, so I'd suggest you go somewhere not overly famous. I'm sure the Jungfrau region will be packed with tour buses and individual travellers. Ditto Montreux and Lake Geneva region in general, Lucerne and Zermatt (although the buses can only go as far as Täsch.)

My favourite region in Switzerland is the Engadine, both Upper and Lower - the mountain views are gorgeous, a bonus are the lakes (that you don't have up in the mountains around Lauterbrunnen and Wengen.) Also, it is Rumantsch culture there and much influenced by nearby Italy, so very different from the Bernese Oberland. You could base yourselves in Sils, a quaint village near St. Moritz between two lakes, hike there, do excursions to Italian speaking Bregaglia valley (Soglio!) and Poschiavo valley (Bernina train route), listen to concerts and do some sightseeing in general - medieval churches, museums, even do some shopping and sample excellent food.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:53 AM
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Hmm - that's an interesting option, Ingo. We have been to Italy twice (most recently Tuscany this November), and I do LOVE Italy, so that's certainly something to consider. Is it awkward/time consuming to get there, though? I imagine in that case we'd fly in and out of Zurich, so I could still see spending a couple of days in the city for our pre-Lauterbrunnen section, then perhaps the Engadine afterwards. Would four days or so be enough in the region? (Not enough to "do" it, of course, as there's always more to see, but would it be worth the travel time to get a sufficient taste of it?)

I do certainly like the idea of smaller destinations to avoid the tourist masses (as a tourist myself, I know this is hypocritical, but it's the OTHER tourists who are in the way!) This is part of why we wanted to avoid Montreux during the festival, but thought Gruyere AFTER the festival might be a little less crazy. I know the Chocolate Train brings tons of tourists into Gruyere to tour the cheese/chocolate facilities, though (which I was interested in too!), so does it still seem packed/super busy? If we were to stay in town, is it feasible to visit the cheese/chocolate factories before or after the train tour groups do?

I will definitely look into the Engadine, but does anyone have recommendations of less-busy places/towns to stay in NEAR some of the more famous places? And would this make it more necessary to have a car, or can we still rely on public transit?
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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Small as it is, Switzerland has a great deal for the visitor to see and do. So much so that even after dozens of visits annd perhaps a total of a year or so spent in the country I still have places I'd like to visit and haven't.

The Bernese Oberland and staying in any of the villages there is probably what most people would say is the number one place to visit. So you've got that part covered.

The question is as you have asked, where should number 2 and perhaps number 3 be. That's hard to answer. I too really like the Engadine and Sils Maria. I also really like Ascona to the south. It is hard to imagine palm trees in Switzerland and sitting at a sidewalk restaurant table overlooking a lake on a car free promenade.
https://www.google.ca/search?q=Ascon...w=1280&bih=687

It's a wholly different Switzerland from what most imagine.

For a hotel there, I can suggest the Hotel Tamaro. A balcony room overlooking the lake preferably.
http://www.hoteltamaroascona.com/en/gallery
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 10:18 AM
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I was just in Lauterbrunnen in October 2012. I liked it as a base, as it is in the valley and Murren and Wengen are on either side. I would not add additional time to stay in Wengen or Murren. You can take a train to Wengen and cable car to Murren, and both are very short trips. A week is ample time for Lauterbrunnen/Murren/Wengen and surrounding hikes. I went up to Murren and Wengen three different times each. Hiking from Murren to Gimmelwald offers great mountain views. I loved the wanderweg in Wengen, just strolling through the most picturesque neighborhoods with pine houses dotted on rolling hills, impeccable home landscapes with every rake and flower pot set up as if for a photo shoot, mountains in the background. It was heavenly.

From Lauterbrunnen you can also take the train to Grindelwald, where I took the gondola to First and hiked to Lake Bachalspee and back to First. There are other more challenging trails from the Lake Bachalspee area but it was icy when was I there and I did not have the best hiking shoes.

I also took cable car from Wengen to Mannlichen. From Mannlichen it is a nice hike along mountain ridge to Kleine Scheidegg (with more rugged mountain views). From KS I took the Alpine trail and eventually a train to Grindelwald. The Eiger trail is another option.

I did not do Jungfrau, as I prefer the views from lower mountains.

The trip was a beautiful mix of landscapes. I brought walking poles with me and am so thankful I did. Made certain hikes much easier (especially after spraining my knee on the first day).
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 12:15 PM
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Don't wast your time at Zurich, unless you are interested in some Zurich museums. Zurich is certainly not an ugly place, but most other Swiss towns are much nicer.

After a week at Lauterbrunnen, a few days at Muerren would just be more of the same.
The closest (from Lauterbrunnen) but nevertheless very different mountain places are
Zermatt
Saas Grund/Saas Fee
Riederalp - Aletsch Glacier

Zermatt is all but Disneyland like, the other places are popular with Swiss families and day trippers from Berne.

If you like small authentic villages with only 1 hotel or so and only Swiss tourists, you may check
Val d'Herens (Evolene, Arolla, La Sage)
Val d'Anniviers (Grimentz, St-Luc)
Loetschental (Kippel, Ried-Blatten, Fafleralp).

All above mentioned places are less than 3 hrs by train and bus from Lauterbrunnen and not more than 4 hrs from ZRH airport.

The Engiadina Valley is beautiful too, but more than 6hrs away from Lauterbrunnen (1 full day) and still 4 hs from ZRH airport.

Locarno, at the shore of Lake Maggiore, but close to the mountains, is 3 hrs from ZRH and 4 hrs from Lauterbrunnen (scenic train rides through the Alps).

You may have a look at
http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/home.html
http://www.swisstravelsystem.ch/en/
http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/en
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 01:06 PM
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Of course there are places off the beaten path even in the Bernese Oberland, but I thought you'd like to see a different part of Switzerland.

Spending only four nights in the Engadine is almost a waste, considering the quite long trip from Bernese Oberland to the Engadine - it's across the country to the far southeast. You would get an impression, a general overview of the Engadine, but it is not enough time for excursions to the Italian speaking valleys Bregaglia and Poschiavo. Not to mention the UNESCO world heritage site Benedictine monastery Müstair.

I guess you're not the only one who thinks the crowds will be gone after the Montreux Festival. It's for sure quieter then, but that doesn't mean much ...
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 01:25 PM
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Zermatt is, IMO, simply another ski village. View the Matterhorn IF the peak is not shrouded in clouds ans that's about it.

Montreux...do you absolutely have to stay IN Montreux? There are other towns close by where the rates might be cheaper. You could also consider, while nearby, visiting the Chillon Castle, the train ride up to Rochers de Naye for the spectacular views, etc.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 08:07 PM
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I adored the Engadine, but I have to agree with Ingo about four days not being nearly enough. We spent five nights in the Upper Engadine and five in the Lower Engadine and then took the long train trip to Lauterbrunnen (over eight hours and 4/5 train changes).

We barely scratched the surface of the Engadine and are already talking about going back.

Have you considred Kandersteg? Closer to Lauterbrunnen and plenty of nice hikes, etc. Might be worth a look.
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 09:41 PM
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Hi caralin,

I'm another one who loves the Engadin but also finds it a bit remote for a quick visit. Worthwhile though. It's so great to be away from the tour-bus hordes -- the "tourists" in the Engadin tend to be serious hikers from other parts of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. In fact, many towns don't even have souvenir shops.

But if you do decide to go to Gruyeres instead, that would be a good choice. However, you should know that it truly is tourist-central in the summertime. It's a tiny little place, one street, and it is wall-to-wall with tourists. If you stayed there overnight, though, you could be out during the day walking or visiting nearby towns, then come back in the evening after the hordes are gone.

Other options would be to stay in Chateau d'Oex, Rougemont, or even in Gstaad. All of these places are a few train stops from each other, and all of them are about 20 minutes from Gruyeres or Broc-Fabrique. Chateau d'Oex and Rougemont are pretty much overlooked by English-speaking visitors, and each one is pretty and represents the architecture and history of the region.

Montreux is elbow-elbow tourists in the summertime, even after the Jazz Fest. I personally prefer to visit in the late Fall when the leaves are changing and the crowds are thinner. Vevey is a good option to get away from the crowds, and Vevey and Montreux use the same town-bus system.

More information for both Rougemont and Chateau d'Oex at:

www.chateau-doex.ch

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 10:18 PM
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I would skip Zurich and spend two or three days in/around Lucerne. My son and I will be thru-hiking from Engelberg to Leukerbad at the same time. We may pass you along the trail!
Enjoy!
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Old Jan 19th, 2014, 10:22 PM
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You’ve already gotten feedback from the experts, so all I can offer is some personal observations.

I adored the Engadine! I barely scratched its surface with only 1 night in Mustair, 2 nights in Guarda and 3 nights in Pontresina, but OMG, it is beautiful and unlike any other place I have ever seen, including the Bernese Oberland. I am truly glad that I visited this wonderful and unique part of Switzerland. You might even consider trimming your time in the Bernese Oberland to make more time for the Engadine. FWIW, I found the Michelin Green Guide especially helpful in planning my time in this part of Switzerland.

In contrast, I admit that I was not overly impressed with Gruyeres. It was pleasant and atmospheric, but very touristy and IMO not “spectacular” in the way that so much of Switzerland is.

Zurich can be a great destination for those who enjoy museums or stained glass or intriguing medieval market fountains or a lovely boat ride along the river and/or lake… To be honest, I find the suggestion that it can be dismissed out-of-hand rather disturbing, as it is a city with much to offer.
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 06:26 AM
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Like I said, hard to answer. As you can see, people have a lot of favourite places in Switzerland. You will just have to bite the bullet and make a decision. Keep in mind, there can always be a next time.

Neckervd (a native Swiss) did mention one of my other favourite places. The Riederalp/Bettmeralp is great for hiking and not overly busy with tourists. Take a look at some of the videos here: http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ca/bettmeralp.html

'So many choices, so little time'. Hmmm, it seems to me that when I was younger, I had a saying like that but it applied to something else.
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 07:23 AM
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Wow, thanks so much for all the great advice!

After reading the suggestions of the whole group, I'm quite inclined to skip Montreux and look closer at your other suggestions. It was an idea, but I wasn't set on it - I thought I'd wait to hear from people who'd been there, so I was ready to alter our plans based on your tips!

I think we can confidently cross Zermatt off the list, too, and I'm also thinking that way about Gruyeres (especially if we don't do Montreux) - as much as I like the idea of cheese, so does every other tourist, apparently, and I'm quite sure they'll have cheese elsewhere in Switzerland!

Our rental in Lauterbrunnen is Sat - Sat. How about this as a schedule?
Thurs - Arrive in Zurich
Fri - Zurich
Sat - depart Zurich for Lauterbrunnen. Spend the week hiking the area.
Next Sat - depart Lauterbrunnen around lunchtime. Head for the Engadine (or one of those small towns with one hotel and only Swiss tourists!). Perhaps spend the rest of the day and night in Lucerne?
Sun - Engadine?
Mon - Engadine?
Tues - Engadine?
Wed - Engadine?
Thurs - return to Zurich, depart for home.

Does it make sense to DRIVE to the Engadine? I did look at the number of train transfers required, but to drive only takes about 4 hours. We live in Canada, so driving long distances is no big deal for us - 4 hours is an easy hop! Plus, then we could take perhaps a night in Lucerne on the way by, since it's on the way (at least according to the directions on google), and it would break up the driving a bit further. Google says it's about an hour from Lauterbrunnen to Lucerne, so it would give us most of the afternoon and evening there (enough for a boat ride and to see the covered bridge?).

I know we'd only scratch the surface, but I long ago had to adopt the mantra of "next time", or I would try to cram far too much into every holiday! So even if we don't see all of the Engadine, we'd be able to put the things we missed on our "next time" list, and plan for a return visit one day (assuming we'll fall in love with it as you all have)! Our goal is really just to enjoy the days we do have, even if we don't see all of what's available. On that note, we'd probably just pick one of the towns mentioned (whether in the Engadine or elsewhere) and stay all our nights in the one spot, with perhaps day trips to other locations nearby.

If necessary, we COULD stretch our holiday a wee bit by adding a day or two at the end, providing we were able to find a bit cheaper accommodation... My husband doesn't have to be back at work until Monday (and I teach so I'll be off until the fall - woohoo!), so it's really just budget in an expensive country that's limiting us to exactly two weeks. We'll have to see, though, so for now let's keep the plan at two weeks!
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 09:13 AM
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If you have vertigo issues be VERY careful of going up to Schilthorn/Piz Gloria.

Thin
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 09:14 AM
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Your itinerary sounds good to me. But the drive is not only four hours - it's closer to five hours IMO, and only if you drive the motorways via Lucerne, Chur. Of course you can break up the trip in Lucerne, but if you really want to see Lucerne, then head there right from the airport and spend the first day(s) there instead of Zürich.

If you want a real scenic drive, take a full day and drive via Meiringen, Susten pass to Andermatt (or via Grimsel pass and Furka pass to Andermatt - even longer) - Oberalp pass - Reichenau - Thusis - Tiefencastel - Albula pass to the Engadine. Long, but VERY scenic with lots of passes and fantastic views along the way. I did it twice, btw.

With five full days in the Engadine you should spend three of them right in the Engadine, the other two go on excursions - Soglio/Bregaglia and Bernina train/Poschiavo.
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 09:27 AM
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Hi caralin,

I'm glad you've decided to explore the Engadin! I'm sure you'll have a great trip.

I'd just recommend you keep to your plan to use the trains. Using the trains always adds a wonderful level of "European adventure" to your European adventure instead of being isolated inside your private bubble.

Also, of course, using the trains is more green, **yaaay**. Here in Garmisch, we are experiencing some real and bad effects of Global Climate Change -- so little snow that a ski race has been cancelled already this year, and the Zugspitze no longer has summertime snow. In fact, in 30 years, scientists say that Bavaria won't have any glaciers left. It seems a shame not to help preserve the beauty that you came over to see!

Since Switzerland has one of the best train systems in the world, it seems a shame not to use it! You can just send your luggage separately on the train using the Fast Baggage service so that your transfer is easier.

s
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 09:36 AM
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but from my research it seems Zermatt has become just a Disney-esque tourist trap with the one big view.>

Well that is also true of parts of the Jungfrau Region like the famous Jungfraujoch train and the up top area - always mobbed with tourists - including many Asians - you'd think you're on a train in China at times (nothing wrong with that!)

But like the Jungfrau Region Zermatt has many places that are not mobbed by tourists - but if you see the Jungfrau Region, which IMO has much much more varied things to do than the more smaller Zermatt area then yes the Engadine would be a nice difference - different language and life style, etc.

If taking trains a lot and most do look into the Swiss Pass or Half-Fare Card or Swiss Card or Swiss Transfer ticket as one of these will often save folks money over solo tickets. And you are traveling around a large distance just getting from Lauterbrunnen to St Moritz - for great info on Swiss trains I always spotlight these IMO fantastic sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.seat61.com and www.ricksteves.com.

If in St Moritz do not miss taking a day out on the Bernina Pass Railway, to me the most scenic railway in Switzerland and Europe and I think I've taken them all!

Spend the whole day - get off at Alp Grum or Bernina Ospiz - stations near the summit and walk around the placid Alpine lake to the tip of the glacier that feeds it - have a drink on the sun terrace (belvedere) at either hotel-restaurant by either station and get intoxicated on the views, etc.
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 09:36 AM
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Lauterbrunnen - Engiadina can be made in 5 hrs (without any stop) if you are used to drive on mountain roads (steep gradients, almost hairpin bends, etc.).
The itinerary which allows this journey time (via Lucerne) is not boring at all, but by far not the most scenic one.

A more attractive one would go via Ballenberg Ecomuseum - Aar Gorge - Gelmerbahn station (departure point of the cablecar with the steepest gradient of the world, to Lake Gelmersee) - Grimsel Hospiz (big mountain lake with a glacier at it's Western end) - Grimsel Pass (stunning panorama to the 2 Aar glaciers and the Alps along the Swiss-italian border) - Furka Pass (ice cave in the Rhone glacier) - Andermatt - Gotthard Pass (National Museum) - Giornico (3 small but beautiful romanic churches) - Bellinzona (small medieval town with 3 castles) - Lugano (churches with stunning frescoes, cablecars to viewpoints) - along Lake Lugano and Lake Como with all their scenic villages, palms and botanical gardens - Chiavenna - Maloja Pass - Engiadina ....
But you would need 3 days in order to enjoy all that!
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Old Jan 20th, 2014, 09:37 AM
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but from my research it seems Zermatt has become just a Disney-esque tourist trap with the one big view.>

Well that is also true of parts of the Jungfrau Region like the famous Jungfraujoch train and the up top area - always mobbed with tourists - including many Asians - you'd think you're on a train in China at times (nothing wrong with that!)

But like the Jungfrau Region Zermatt has many places that are not mobbed by tourists - but if you see the Jungfrau Region, which IMO has much much more varied things to do than the more smaller Zermatt area then yes the Engadine would be a nice difference - different language and life style, etc.

If taking trains a lot and most do look into the Swiss Pass or Half-Fare Card or Swiss Card or Swiss Transfer ticket as one of these will often save folks money over solo tickets. And you are traveling around a large distance just getting from Lauterbrunnen to St Moritz - for great info on Swiss trains I always spotlight these IMO fantastic sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.seat61.com and www.ricksteves.com.

If in St Moritz do not miss taking a day out on the Bernina Pass Railway, to me the most scenic railway in Switzerland and Europe and I think I've taken them all!

Spend the whole day - get off at Alp Grum or Bernina Ospiz - stations near the summit and walk around the placid Alpine lake to the tip of the glacier that feeds it - have a drink on the sun terrace (belvedere) at either hotel-restaurant by either station and get intoxicated on the views, etc.
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