I just returned from a 9 day trip to the swiss alps. First of all I would like to thank Arno and Annika for this great website and for all the tips and inputs without which my trip would not have been successfully planned and executed. Also my special thanks to Slowpoke and others who have been contributing and answering to various questions. Here is my report.
08.26.2016 - Departed from Newark Airport from USA by UA Flight. My TSA global entry did help at EWR, my security clearance completed in less than 10 minutes, no more queues. It was a bumpy ride throughout with heavy turbulence.
08.27.2016 - Reached Zurich flughafen in the morning by 08:30 a.m. Went thru passport control (there was a bit line at the passport control that day), then went to baggage carousel and collected the baggage. (Thanks to Slowpoke, I did pick up some cash at the ATM right across the baggage carousel). Also I purchased Sunrise Wifi Card (2 GB)at the airport itself, it worked great throughout including in the mountains. Then proceeded to interlaken (there is no direct train, had to make few transfers as my hotel was close to interlaken west station). By the time I reached hotel it was 12:30 p.m, the hotel manager at hotel Bernerhof did allow early check in (though the check in time was 02:00 pm). All the staff at this hotel were very good and helpful. We took a shower and after couple of hours rest, in the evening strolled from interlaken west to interlaken east station, we could get to see the nice park on one side and all the restaurants and shops on the other side of the road. Then had dinner in one of these restaurants and returned back to the hotel and checked the weather for the next day which seem to be pretty good.
08.28.2016 - I checked the weather first thing in the morning and then decided to go for Jungfraujoch. Had breakfast in the hotel and left around 08:00 am for Jungfraujoch. We followed the route guidance exactly given in myswissalps.com, while going up option 1: Interlaken to Kleine Scheidegg via Lauterbrunnen and from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch. While return from Jungfrajoch to Kleine Scheidegg, from Kleine Scheidegg we proceeded to Grindelwald and stopped there. Walked around this little town, ate lunch at a fast food restaurant called Eiger (they got nice burgers and sandwitches with vegetarian options). Then took a bus and went to oberer gletscher (a 15 minute ride by Bus), nice Scenic mountain drive , the bus goes interior making some stops at several different small villages and finally stops at oberer gletscher (nice little waterfalls), stopped there for about an hour and returned back to Grindelwald and took a train to Lauterbrunnen and back to interlaken.
Tip: We did not buy the tickets upfront to Jungfraujoch till we reached to Wengen (as we wanted to check the weather till the last minute with swiss travel pass you can travel upto Wengen anyway especially it is an expensive trip to the top), then in the train itself we bought the tickets by paying cash (got 25% discount on Swiss Pass)
08.29.2016 – Took it easy and left hotel around 09:00 am and headed out to Schilthorn again via Lauterbrunnen and took a cable car to Murren. I did check the weather in the hotel, cloudy forecast, but still took a chance and after going to Murren , checked the weather in the t.v. Schilthorn still showing thick foggy and cloudy, then immediately made a spot decision to take a funicular train ride from Allmendhubel to a small summit , it was a 5 minute walk from Murren cable car station to the funicular train station. It was a nice walk into the village with lots of hotels and rented apartments…took nice pictures, then took the funicular train at Allmendhubel and reached the summit, since it was still cloudy, just took some pics and headed back by funicular and checked again at Murren Cable Car station the weather, still had no luck, so finally came back to interlaken Ost and immediately with a revised plan, took a boat ride on lake Brienz, it was really breathtaking views all round (I had two choices either Lake Thun or Lake Brienz, preferred Lake Brienz since this itself is about 2 hours ride compared to 4 hours on Lake Thun). Next to the boat dock, there was a train station for the Steam Train to Brienz–Rothorn , but we were told by the ticket counter person, the weather was bad, they cancelled the train for the rest of the evening. It was almost 04:00 p.m, then after exploring we took a bus and went to Ballenberg and saw Switzerland’s only open air craft museum, you get an inside forest feeling , it was well spreadout and takes at least half a day to see all exhibits, but we just walked from west to East and took a short cut by skipping some as the museum closes by 5:00 p.m, we got inside by 4:30 p.m and came out by 5:30 p.m and took a bus and headed back to Brienz. Took a train from Brienz and returned to Interlaken West. Ate dinner at Hotel Krebbs Restaurant (tried out Switzerland’s most popular Rosti (Vegetarian), it was close to my hotel, just a 5 minute walk.
08.30.2016 – Originally we planned Boat trip either on Lake Brienz or Thun since we already covered previous day itself, planned for Glacier Express. We got the seat reservation just the previous evening itself, we did not make seat reservation ahead of time as we want to be flexible on the glacier trip to squeeze in during cloudy days when we can’t make it to any mountains, but I misjudged, I should have done glacier previous day itself and done the schilthorn today when the weather is so nice. We took a train from interlaken west to Brig (had to do couple of transfers). From Brig we boarded Glacier Express and got down at Chur, it was almost a 4 hour plus ride in Glacier. It was worth it, fantastic breathtaking spectacular views..almost kept clicking my iphone camera and the regular camera..No wonder I ended up with 1200 plus pictures by the time I completed my trip. I am still editing my pics.
After we got down at Chur, as there was n’t much to do there (I believe if you have time, you can go out and see the old town of Chur), but we took the next train available from Chur and returned to Interlaken via Bern. Did not stop at Bern and reached back my hotel at interlaken by 5:30 p.m. The hotel front desk guy was surprised and did not believe that we did Glacier and came back until I showed him my seat reservation ticket, I did mention to him thanks to myswissalps.com and he never knew that it could be done this way. We went to Migros at interlaken west that evening (which closes at 7pm fortunately), had a first look of this grocery chain store and they have a separate restaurant, picked up some food at the Migros restaurant and returned back to hotel and took it easy and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
08.31.2016 – Checked out from the hotel by 10:00 am and went to Lucerne from interlaken west to Ost and then took the golden pass route train and reached Lucerne by 01:00 p.m. Took some nice pics in the Lucerne station and used google maps to find out Hotel Ameron and walked to the hotel with 2 suitcases (it was an easy walk, infact from the station, took the escalator down and underground you can cross to the other side of the road and hotel right there, it was overall a 5 minute walk from the station, reached to the hotel. We were told the room was not ready, waited 30 minutes, still not ready, at Ameron the check in time was 3:00 p.m , so instead of wasting any more time, we handed over our luggage to the hotel and headed out to see the Transport Museum for rest of the afternoon. The boating dock, Lucerne Train Station and Bus Stations are all next to each other, we went to the information center at Lucerne, we were told to take the next available boat which is in 5 minutes to get there. It was a 15 minute ride to the next stop by boat, we got down and a 10 minute walk got us into the transport museum. With Swiss Travel Pass we had to pay around 15 swiss francs (if I remember correctly) per person after the discount. It was amazing, they had some 100 year old locomotives on display apart from several model replicas of different generation trains. This transport museum has cable cars, even a swiss flight , very big, it takes almost 5 hours if you need to see everything leisurely. The museum closes at 5 pm again, so we headed out after 5:00 p.m from the museum and walked back to the boating dock, there was a boat about to leave, we took the boat and realized it was going another direction, we asked to get down at Weggis (two stops later), so another 45 minutes to get to Weggis, though we wanted to get back to hotel to check in, it was an unexpected unwilling bonus boat ride we got on Lake Lucerne, after waiting for about 30 minutes, we got another boat from Weggis back to Lucerne and finally checked into the hotel by 7:30 p.m.
09.01.2016 – Next morning we checked the weather and planned for Mt. Pilatus. Took a train from Lucerne to Alpnachstad (as we already had enough of boat rides) and from there took a cogwheel train to the peak of Mount Pilatus. The highlight has been this cogwheel train ride which is so straight and steep, the ride itself is so spectacular going steep and steep to the top (the train makes couple of stops for crossings). The weather was not so great again at the top, it was a bit foggy all of a sudden (the mountains have their own weather and change fast). We could see partially the mountains and some parts it was dense fog. Spent couple of hours overall at the top and then in the return took the cable car and gondola down to Kriens, from Kriens took a bus to reach back to Lucerne (this is called golden round trip). It was a 30 minute bus ride back to Lucerne Train Station. It was close to 3:30 p.m by the time we reached Lucerne. Since we had some time left went to the information center enquired about making it to Mt. Rigi. We were convinced we could make it to Rigi, so we took the next available boat to Vitznau. Changed to cogwheel train to Rigi Kulm. Reached Rigi Kulm at 5:45 p.m (the cogwheel train makes several stops enroute for the locals at different villages), enjoyed again the scenic route to the top. The restaurant closes by 6:00 p.m. We took some quick pics at the top and debating whether to take the last train at 7:00 p.m or 6:00 p.m, finally took the 6:00 p.m train itself (that mean overall we only spent 15 mts at the top) as we wanted to have some buffer though we had the option of taking 7:00 p.m train also (I believe the last cable car connection from Rigi Kaltbad was 7:25 p.m), but anyway since we took the 6:00 p.m train itself, we changed to cable car from Rigi Kaltbad to Weggis. Here at Weggis there is a clear 15 to 20 minute walk depending upon how fast you can walk to reach to the boating dock. As soon as we reached the boating dock, next minute we had the connecting boat back to Lucerne. After reaching Lucerne, we picked food in one of the fast food restaurants at Lucerne Station (downstairs they have bunch of restaurants), the pasta was freshly made and also the Pannini Sandwitch grilled (Tomato and Mozarella) and headed back to hotel and slep early by 10:00 p.m.
09.02.2016 – Next morning we thought of visiting Mt. Titlis also (though this was not included originally since we already covered Rigi previous day). I am glad we did Mt Titlis. I put Mt Titlis at par with Jungfrajoch. Major surprise Mt Titlis not only spectacular glacier at the top, but you get the most of cable car ride (you have the gondola for about 35 minutes straight and the 360 revolving cable car as well. At the top the view was spectacular with no clouds luckily, after spending couple of hours at the top (did not try the Ice flyer) though I wanted to since the weather was so good. We took the train to Engelberg from Lucerne and from there the cable cars and gondola to the top and return route also pretty much same. We returned Lucerne by 3:00 p.m. Decided to take a late lunch at Tibits Restaurant in the Lucerne Train station, entire upstairs has this restaurant with great ambience (this is one of their most popular all vegetarian restaurants). This is like a buffette, it works different you pay by the plate (it goes by 100gm 6.50), so we paid around 30 francs together me and my wife. They got a wide range of items to choose, all look farm fresh with plenty of choices. Then went back to Hotel and slept for an hour or so. Evening (since we have longer days, thanks to the extended summer like weather) took a stroll into Lucerne old town (through Chappel Bridge). Visited Lion Monument.
09.03.2016 – Time to checkout, reached to Zurich Airport and checked into Radisson Blue Hotel right in the airport itself, they allowed early check in by 01:00 p.m. Then had lunch and headed out to Bahnhofstrasse most popular downtown shopping street. It was a 10 minute train ride from Zurich Airport Station to Zurich HB (main station). First we took a short boat ride (about an hour and half) and then walked Bahnhofstrasse shopping area, all high end luxury stores lots of watches on display, great fun to walk (just about 15 to 20 minutes walk one end to the other end). Finally returned back to Hotel.
09.04.2016 – We were told being Sunday most of the shopping is closed in Zurich, though we had a late flight around 05:20 p.m, we did not go out and checked out hotel by 01:00 p.m, spent rest of the time at the swiss lounge in concourse E (definitely one of the best lounges I have seen) and took the return flight by swiss airlines and reached back safely. Return flight was very smooth and great inflight service by the crew.
Summary : It was a great trip overall. No words can describe, exceeded our expectations. Every place is beautiful and breathtaking. We fell in love with the alps, lakes, trains, cable cars and the scenic mountain cogwheel/funicular trains. Food is fresh, water is clean and sweet (second most cleanest water in the world), vegetables, fruits, bread, yogurt everything so fresh and tasty. Loved Swiss Coffee and Yogurt. We have almost travelled in about 15 to 20 different trains, definitely one of the best transport systems in the world. Most impressive being the trains, buses and boats all at same place and everything on time and you can literraly set your clock with their amazing punctuality. Easy transfers even with luggage with excellent connections almost no time wasted. What I missed , if I had time I would have loved to visit Geneva, stayed in one of the mountain villages, Berne and some other museums and scenic train rides. Love to comeback definitely and might visit again.
Tips : SBB App was extremely handy, we could do everything ourselves without asking help, their SBB APP is as great as their transport system. It gives point to point connections, one of the best apps I used. Be flexible and nothing to panic, almost you can plan by the day. Please remove the phobia Switzerland very very expensive, it is like any other major metro in the world, their prices are consistent across the board even at the mountain tops, the restaurants does n’t charge more, fairly uniform. Plenty of Pastas, Sandwitches and different kind of food options to cater to everyone’s budget. Swiss Travel Pass is a must for trips of more than 4 nights or more, no more debating half fare card vs Swiss Travel Pass. With Swiss Travel Pass, you have unlimited local buses, trains and boats, even if you miss, you are ok. With Half fare, you have to pay everyday and every single ride (though the discounts are more or less common to both half fare and Swiss Travel Pass). Plenty of food options even for vegetarians. Everything available at Migros and Scoop stores which are all over including train stations and small towns. Prepaid mobile wifi simcards is a must (I used sunrise wifi card bought at the airport, worked great). Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere with very few exceptions (always carry some swiss currency as well, I took the cash from the airport ATM). Last but not least as everyone says, check the weather especially when you plan on visiting the mountains, try to be flexible and don’t panic even if you loose one day because of bad weather, you don’t loose much as there are plenty of other options to make up during bad weather. Almost all information and everything available at myswissalps.com. Whenever I picked up some brochures and read, it was already covered in detail. Myswissalps.com has been a great consolidation of all the places and several hundred maps and brochures, like an encyclopaedia by itself, so much out there. Plus you have the ever reliable and dependent and prompt responses from Arno, Annika and other chief contributors like slowpoke etc. I would love to see myswissalps.com to grow and to become the one stop place not only for Swiss but plus. Would love to hear from Arno and Annika your comments on my trip report.
I know the trip report came a bit lengthy but it has some very useful information, thought would be helpful for the future travelers. Please ignore any typos in any swiss names and spell checks.
Anyone has any questions, feel free to post here. Additionally, I would try to chip in and contribute and participate and answer readers questions in different sections of forum wherever and whenever I could. Thanks and cheers.