Driving the Alps

Driving the Alps

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weesewood
weesewood
8 posts
new member
Aug 26, 2014 - 5:42 PM

I have a 4 day trip planned for Switzerland at the end of September and would appreciate a reality check in terms of time. Alltravel by car. And apologies in advance for spellings!

Day 1 -- Flying into Geneva, driving that night to Montreaux. Day 2 -- Wake to couplehours at Chateau Chillon, then to Schilthorn, parking in Lauterbrunnen, taking cable and train, staying in Gimmelwald. Day 3 -- Descend next dayto Stechelberg and bus back to LBrunnen. Become road warrior driving a bunch of Alps passes, across Susten, Furka, Nufesen, St. Gothard, downand up 13 to San Bernardino, south on Splugen and east to stay overnight in St. Moritz. Day 4 -- Drive to Zurnez, then south across Ofen,Umbrail, back west to Stelvio, through Tirano and stay that night in Lugano....

I know a lot depends on how much time I'll want to pull offalong the way, and the weather, but are my drive times especially on Day 3 and 4 somewhat realistic?

Thanks! Doug

Arno
Arno
7317 posts
expert &
moderator
Aug 27, 2014 - 5:42 AM

Hi Doug,

Thanks for creating a new topic! Day 1 and 2 are fine. I would not do that many passes on day 3. Are you familiar with driving in the mountains? If not, tips are here. A more or less direct route is Grimsel Pass - Nufenen Pass - San Bernadino Pass - Julier Pass. I would estimate that's 5 to 6 hours of driving without breaks. And you do need breaks as the driver can't watch the scenery and the road at the same time, as that's the biggest risks on such routes. The roads are fine and distances relatively short, but one has to pay attention all the time.

Day 4 is long too, at least 5 hours of driving without breaks I guess, but with less passes. Quite doable if you've had a good night's rest :-)

Do pay attention to the weather forecast and road construction works. If passes are in the clouds it becomes really difficult to drive and the views are gone.

By the way, the easiest way to Gimmelwald by car is parking in Stechelberg at the cable car valley station and taking the cable car up from there. You can also do it like you've planned, it's just that you have to carry along your luggage for a longer time.

I hope this was useful!

weesewood
weesewood
8 posts
new member
Aug 27, 2014 - 5:55 AM in reply to Arno

Absolutely helpful. Had a suspicion I was packing a lot in. Do you have a favorite Alps mountain drive/pass? Also, do you know, or is there a source, where I could tell what's the optimum direction -- from a scenery and driving pleasure -- to approach each pass? For example, I understand Furka is best approached from the east (driving toward the west). And San Bernardino from the south, etc.Thanks again...

Arno
Arno
7317 posts
expert &
moderator
Aug 27, 2014 - 9:08 AM

I'm glad to hear that! Well, I like the Grimsel Pass, Albula, Nufenen, and there are nice lower ones as well, like the Jaun Pass. But with limited time I would suggest not to pay attention to best directions and favorite passes of other people; just take the ones that are logical to get to your destination and don't add too many detours to already long trips. The routes as you have planned them now are wonderful and if you take your time driving and take breaks, that's the best way to enjoy the scenery. Better than more detours and more hours in the car focusing on the road.

If for example, you would stay a few days in one place, like Andermatt, you could do round trips and choose the optimum direction, if there is one.

It would be great if you could post a trip report about how you liked your trip. You can even win a hotel voucher with it. See here for details.

weesewood
weesewood
8 posts
new member
Aug 30, 2014 - 8:31 AM in reply to Arno

Thank you for giving me pause. I believe I'm going to scale back from the dozen or so passes I originally outlined, skip trying to get east to St. Moritz and Stelvio, and use the time saved to get earlier to Lugano, which I understand is great. And I will need to take the mtn route that makes most sense. But, so that I know, can you tell me which direction is the most scenic to drive UP the following passes: Susten, Furka, Oberalp, Nufensen, Grimsel, San Bernandino and Splugen. Or which source I'd use to find out such information.

With a half day or so in Lugano, is there a hotel with a view or rooftop terrace you'd recommend? I checked online at the Eden, but it was a bit pricey. Or any other must-see? We'd have a car still, until catching the train from Lugano to Florence on Sunday morning, Sept. 28. Do we need to buy train tix in advance, or safe enough to assume there'll be room?

Thanks again...

Arno
Arno
7317 posts
expert &
moderator
Aug 31, 2014 - 11:04 AM

Hi weesewood,

To be honest, I don't have a preference in pass directions. I do like driving up a bit better than down, but that's not really relevant as one has to come down at some point ;-) I know of one pass that just goes down from a higher valley to a lower valley and that's the Maloja Pass. Which is en route the shortest way from St. Moritz to Lugano. If you take that route, be sure to have short stops in authentic Italian like villages such as Vicosoprano. A bit further on you could drive up to Soglio and back down. That's only 15 minutes of extra driving.

Things not to miss while in Lugano are the Monte Brè and the town center (including a walk along the Via Nassa if you like shopping). Hotel Walter Au Lac has lake view rooms and a terrace with a pool overlooking the lake and the Monte Brè. Alternatively you can look into the Continental Parkhotel, which is a bit higher up on the hill and close to the rail station (easy for your departure) and next to a park. I think there should be rooms with a good view there as well, but I'm not sure about the details. Both hotels should be cheaper than the Eden, which is a 5 star hotel. The other two I suggested are closer to the town center of Lugano. From the Eden it's a 20 minute walk along the lake to reach the town center.

Most trains crossing the border require seat reservations, which can best be purchased as soon as your travel date and time are fixed. Details can be found here and here.

Last modified on Jun 28, 2016 - 6:00 PM by Arno
weesewood
weesewood
8 posts
new member
Sep 17, 2014 - 10:04 PM in reply to Arno

Just checking back as our September travel dates approach. Took your advice (thank you again) and booked the Continental Park Hotel in Lugano. Which is my secondary "destination" -- the Alps being my primary destination. Now that I've cut down my route quite a bit -- dropping St. Moritz, Stelvio and all points in between until another time -- I'm wondering if the following is do-able, weather providing (pardon my spelling) --

Friday: Coming from an overnight in Murren, I hope to drive through Interlaken and hit the Susten turnoff about 11 am. Drive east on Susten, south to Andermatt, west up the Furka, "down" Grimsel for a peek, turnaround and head south to Nufenen pass to St. Gothard old road, north and east over Oberalp then turn south toward Lukmanier pass. Arrive in Bellinzona for dinner, and stay?

Saturday: "See" (drive by) the 3 castles in Bellinzona, head north across San Bernardino Pass, turn south onto Splugen (old pass?), west at Chiavenna, and onto Lugano.... by late afternoon.

Sounds a bit dizzying, but.... could be fantastic. What do you think?

Thanks, Doug

Arno
Arno
7317 posts
expert &
moderator
Sep 18, 2014 - 6:14 AM

Hi Doug,

Saturday should not be a problem. Friday is a lot of passes, but the advantage of this plan is that you can decide to short cut on the spot if it's too much (e.g. skip the last 3 passes). Time wise it depends on how much time you'd like to spend along the way to take breaks and take in the views. Watching while driving is not safe, so I recommend to take those breaks so that you can really enjoy the scenery. Perhaps do a short walk somewhere. I would personally depart 1 to 2 hours earlier to have enough time.

Enjoy the drives!

Last modified on Sep 18, 2014 - 6:15 AM by Arno
weesewood
weesewood
8 posts
new member
Sep 18, 2014 - 7:16 AM in reply to Arno
Of course, weather will dictate our routes, but you're right regarding Friday's optional shortcut if time runs short. Thanks again for your helpful comments. I'll do my best to report back!

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