Lake Constance vs Lucerne in May/June

Lake Constance vs Lucerne in May/June

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Patchouli
Patchouli
11 posts
new member
Jan 30, 2016 - 12:04 AM

Greetings from Toronto, Canada!

I am planning to travel to Switzerland from May 19 to June 3. I'm a bit torn between the time I should spend at Lake Constance and the Lucerne area.

My itinerary is to cycle around Lake Constance over 3 days, make my way down to the Bernese Oberland and spend 1.5 days (2 nights) in Vitznau before heading to Wengen for 4 nights. My final stop will be Zurich for 1.5 days.

It seems like 15 days in Switzerland just isn't enough! While I'm really keen to cycle around Lake Constance, I'm starting to think that maybe 1.5 days in the Lucerne area will be too short. I'm considering cutting down my time at Lake Constance and allocate an extra day for Vitznau to explore Lucerne / Mt. Rigi / Mt. Titlis / Mt. Pilatus. I also don't want to feel rushed heading to Lucerne from Bern.

My question is for those who have completed the cycling route around Lake Constance: was it worth it to do the full circle? Or do you think that it would be more worthwhile to spend an extra day in Vitznau instead?

Suggestions for the following questions would also be extremely helpful:

- Luggage transport: I will require luggage transfer from one place of sojourn to another along Lake Constance. Is there a company that I could reach out to about this? I've read that Bodensee-Radweg.com would be able to assist.

- Accommodations along Lake Constance: Apart from Airbnb and Hostelworld.com, is there another website that I could refer to for affordable accommodation? I'll be paying an arm and a leg in Wengen, so I wouldn't mind sleeping in straw if it would save me some money. Are there any specific places that you can recommend?

- Accommodations along the Aare Route: I was planning on using to Airbnb for help, but perhaps you could recommend a specific place.

- Mt. Pilatus / Mt. Titlis: Are either of them worth going? Or do they deserve equal merit? Mt. Rigi, on the other hand, is for sure on my itinerary.

- Lucerne: Would one day be sufficient to explore and get a feel of the city proper? Or should I skip it altogether? My understanding is that most people use the city as a base for day trips in the surrounding area such as Mt. Rigi.

- Suitcase: Would it be cumbersome to use a regular suitcase? I know that it's worthwhile to invest in a durable conversion suitcase, one that you can also carry like a backpack, but I'm extremely reluctant to fork out this money at the moment.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated! I'm super excited for this trip! I just hope that the weather will cooperate.

Annika
Annika
4415 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 30, 2016 - 9:26 AM

Welcome Patchouli, thanks for joining us!

I haven't done the Lake Constance route, but I can help you out with some of your other questions. You're, right, 15 days is hardly enough to cover all of Switzerland, but rest assured: you'll get to visit some of the most beautiful regions and you will certainly enjoy wonderful scenery. Now, let's look into some of your questions:

  • I'd like to invite your to post your questions on accommodation in our accommodation forum. If you include the places where you intend to stay, your budget and further criteria, we'll be happy to assist you in finding some good options;
  • it seems to make sense to use the luggage transport offered by Radweg Reisen, at the website you reffered to. They're specialized in carrying luggage for bikers on this Bodensee Radweg. I also recommend the Veloland website for further information about this tour and useful links;
  • do I understand correctly that you'll first travel to Bern from Lake Constance, then to Vitznau, then to Wengen? It will be easier to get to Vitznau and Wengen first, and just do a day trip to Bern from Wengen. But of course I don't know what your specific plans for Bern are;
  • yes, both Pilatus and Titlis are worth a visit (you can visit both pages and decide for yourself), but you'll have to make choices as you're dealing with a limited time frame. Rigi is beautiful indeed. If you want to add another mountain top to your itinerary, I'd personally prefer Pilatus as it requires much less traveling time from Lucerne than Titlis;
  • Lucerne itself is for sure worth a visit. It's a very pleasant town that has lots to offer. You'll be able to get a good impression in just one day. Please find tips at our Lucerne page;
  • you'll be fine carrying a regular suitcase, especially if you have one on wheels. Further information is at our luggage page.

I hope this helps you out!

Patchouli
Patchouli
11 posts
new member
Jan 31, 2016 - 5:44 PM

Hi Annika,

Thanks for your response! It's helpful forums like these that make vacations into life-changing ones! I've definitely benefitted immensely from MySwissAlps!

Based on your suggestions, I've decided to cut down my time at Lake Constance and focus on exploring the Lucerne area. I plan to explore the city proper instead of bypassing it on my way to Vitznau.

I guess I should clarify my (revised) itinerary to give a bit more of context:

1. Fly into Zurich

2. Rest in Kreuzlingen and enjoy Lake Constance

3. Cycle down (or is it up?) the Aare Route towards Bern over several days

4. Head to Lucerne, then Vitznau

5. Spend a few days in Vitznau

6. Spend a few days in Wengen

7. Stay in Zurich for 1.5 days before flying home.

I recognize that it would be somewhat easier to head to Lucerne from Lake Constance, but it was a matter of timing and elevation. Numerous posts on MySwissAlps and TripAdvisor indicated that May can produce extremely unpredictable weather . As I understood it, going to Wengen and Jungfraujoch would be a big gamble in May because of the elevation and some hotels may not be open until the last few days of May. The closer it is to June, the more cooperative the weather might be. For that reason, I decided to leave Wengen for the latter part of my trip, even though it's still no guarantee that I'll be so fortunate to experience sunshine and clear skies. I wouldn't mind spending an extra hour or two on the train travelling from Bern to Lucerne. I've read that the train route from Bern to Lucerne via Langnau would be a quaint experience!

Annika
Annika
4415 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 31, 2016 - 7:12 PM

Hi Patchouli,

Right, so you're cycling to Bern. I understand the way you've planned the order of your base towns now.

As for weather: yes, May is a gamble. But to be honest, any month is. I've been lucky enough to have had some great stays in April/May with wonderful, even summer-like weather. And there have been rainy July and August months. There's not much you can do about it, other than picking your base towns wisely and making some bad weather back-up plans.

If you're worried about weather and the side effects of low season, you may prefer other towns over Wengen and Vitznau. Both are fine and very scenic, but they're not located centrally and don't offer that many facilities. If you're looking for more (indoor) activities and if you want to be able to easily travel to other regions in case of bad weather, you may want to consider Interlaken or Wilderswil instead of Wengen, and Lucerne instead of Vitznau. But these are all personal choices.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 1, 2016 - 3:43 PM in reply to Patchouli

Hi Patchouli-

Glad to see that you've shifted your cycling phase more toward interior Switzerland. The route around the "Bode" (Bodensee, Lake Constance) is nice, easy riding, but not especially Swiss in character. That entire region on all sides of the lake tends to have similar (Schwabian or Swabian) culture. In fact, a nickname for the Bode is "The Swabian Ocean.") I stay periodically in Steckborn

www.frohsinn-steckborn.ch/

and enjoy the area. A visit to the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen is worth some of your time.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Zeppelin_Museum_Friedr ichshafen

As I look at your revised itinerary, I wonder a bit about Vitznau. Unless, of course, you are planning to stay at the Park Hotel. ;-)

I always stay up on the Rigi, at the Hotel Bergsonne in Rigi Kaltbad, easily accessible from Vitznau, but May is a bit early for them. I've just been checking with them about opening, and it will be some weekends in May, and pretty much full time in June. Gourmet restaurant and stunning wine cellar.

However, I think that if I were just passing through, I'd pick Brunnen. It's on the train lines, although there is frequent bus service along the lake shore between Brunnen, Vitznau, Weggis....terminating if I recall correctly at Küssnacht am Rigi train station. From either place, in addition to the Rigi, I'd consider a boat ride to Treib, funicular to Seelisberg, walk to Bauen, boat back to Brunnen or Vitznau.

map.search.ch/?x=25912m&y=12240m&z=32

I always go in May, and count on plenty of sunshine. Yes it can rain, as Annika notes.

On thing about weather and weather reports...there are a lot of microclimates, and the general forecasts cannot cover them all. So, even if a general region is reporting rain, it may be sunny in parts. The mountains affect not only altitude (important for seasons) but local weather due to wind patterns.

By May, the lower elevations are well into late Spring. Much of the concern about May is for high altitudes, where it has not yet become real Spring....often sort of cold and nasty but not much snow. No skiing and now hiking. A sunny day can be magnificent in Wengen, or at Kleine Scheidegg, and the cograil runs all year. The cable car from Wengen ( Wengiboden) to Männlichen (station LWM) may run sporadically/weekends in late May, and usually starts a regular schedule in early June. Depends on the snow amounts and trail openings. This year has not had much snow....who knows? If you are the type of cyclist that likes mountain passes at 2300 meters plus, they don't usually open until early to mid June due to snow. Sorry. ;-)

It is not clear to me from your post whether you will cycle for your whole trip ( trains usually can carry bikes, or you can rent at most railroad stations), or whether you will abandon your bike at some point.

The southern route past the Emmental via Langnau is indeed very nice.

If you have time, get off at Trubschachen, bus or walk to Trub, look around, and come back to the train.

I have a few photos to illustrate my comments.

Have to do some other things right now, but I'll post a few later.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Feb 1, 2016 - 4:40 PM by Slowpoke
Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 3, 2016 - 1:26 AM in reply to Slowpoke

<<"However, I think that if I were just passing through, I'd pick Brunnen. It's on the train lines, although there is frequent bus service along the lake shore between Brunnen, Vitznau, Weggis....terminating if I recall correctly at Küssnacht am Rigi train station. From either place, in addition to the Rigi, I'd consider a boat ride to Treib, funicular to Seelisberg, walk to Bauen, boat back to Brunnen or Vitznau.">>

Amplifying my last post, here is a page from a photobook that I prepared after a trip in 2009.

It shows the views from across Lake Lucerne, taken near Seelisberg, toward Brunnen.

The text is self explanatory.

In this image, Vitznau is to the left, around the shoulder of the mountain .

Also, some other photos relevant to that walk, that part of Lake Lucerne and Vitznau are attached. Some are old...sorry about the technical quality. ;-(

Slowpoke

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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 3, 2016 - 2:05 AM in reply to Patchouli

<<"Lucerne: Would one day be sufficient to explore and get a feel of the city proper? Or should I skip it altogether? My understanding is that most people use the city as a base for day trips in the surrounding areasuch as Mt. Rigi.">>

The surroundings are worth journeys, but the city itself is worth a day, at least. More if you want to see some world class art museums.

Any interest in the Transport Museum?

www.verkehrshaus.ch/en

Slowpoke

Arno
Arno
7700 posts
expert &
moderator
Feb 3, 2016 - 7:22 AM in reply to Slowpoke

I find Seelisberg one of the most special places in Switzerland. Your picture shows why; the views are just amazing.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 3, 2016 - 9:13 AM in reply to Patchouli

<<" As I understood it, going to Wengen and Jungfraujoch would be a biggamble in May because of the elevation and some hotels may not be openuntil the last few days of May. The closer it is to June, the morecooperative the weather might be. For that reason, I decided toleave Wengen for the latter part of my trip, even though it's still noguarantee that I'll be so fortunate to experience sunshine and clearskies. ">>

All true.

I am considering staying in Wengen at about that time, and one of the nicer and more expensive hotels ( Hotel Schönegg) opens on June 3rd

But, there will definitely be hotels that are open, either in Wengen, or Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen or Mürren. And, at the end of May, I am sure thatthere are not hordes of tourists filling all of the rooms. If I were considering that time and place, I'd ask about accommodations describing your price/style preference in the forum section about Accomodations,

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/accommodation

then check with the hotels that Arno and Annika can suggest.

Arno and Annika know the region very well, and surely can help with that aspect.

Interlaken Ost is indeed much more "connected" with the main rail lines, as Annika notes. It does not have a lot of tourist attractons, but gives access to many ays to fill a few days in the Area.

The most important aspect of the weather issue is not the rain, per se, unless you are on your bike, but rather that in the Alps, clouds can obscure the views that you came to see from high altitudes. Paying to see the inside of a cloud is not a good use of money.

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

The timetable shows that the trip to IO from Wengen takes 51 minutes, of which 21 minutes is the trip from Lauterbrunnen out of the valley to IO. Grindelwald to IO takes 35 minutes.

IO to Bern is 53-54 minutes by frequent trains. Brienz is nearby, and a visit to Jobin or other wood carvers is a nice distraction.

For more perspective on the weather -

We were there for 2 or 3 weeks in June one year and had ain and clouds almost every day....except the day that we left. ;-)

On the other hand, even though I usually go in May, in 2014 schedule conflicts forced my trip to April.

In the middle of April, which normally has wetter weather more frequently than May, there was a stretch of about 10 days with dry, warm, sunny weather. On one day that was rainy was rainy, I got on the train, went 30 miles, and had sunshine.

I was able to get up on a ridge over Sumiswald at 700 meters elevation, in the Emmental not too far from Langnau, on approximately April 17th and take a series of pictures toward Trachselwald, Schloss Trachselwald, and the Alps, which I merged into the attached panorama in Photoshop.

The trees have flowers, but their leaves have not yet appeared. The fields are just beginning to green up. Snow on the fields was completely gone, but the Alps still had plenty of snow. In May, walking on the "Wanderwege" through the Emmental or riding the well marked bike trails can give wonderful views, especially if the farmers crop rotations have created a lot of fields of bright yellow "Rap" ( rapeseed in English).

The train from Luzen to Bern via Langnau that you mentioned passes through Trubschachen...about one stop from Langnau.

In Trubschachen, about 100 meters from the train station,there is a very old inn, dating back at least to the 1400's. I have attached a picture of the facade of the Gasthof Bären. The architecture is characteristic of the region. Also characteristic are family farms with multiple buildings, I have attached a picture of one on the road from Trubschachen to Mettlenalp, not far from Fankhaus.

On the ridge above, you can walk a road from Trubschachen along the crest, and look down on Trub, not far from Trubschachen.

Great hiking and cycling country....although a bit hilly. ;-)

Slowpoke

Last modified on Feb 3, 2016 - 9:18 AM by Slowpoke
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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 3, 2016 - 9:52 AM in reply to Arno

Hi Arno -

<<"I find Seelisberg one of the most special places in Switzerland. ">>

Thanks.

So do I.

Here are two more images, also pages taken from the photobook I prepared showing our visit in 2009. We stayed at Morschach, at the Swiss Holiday Park

One is a contour map of Lake Lucerne.

Compression of the image to fit forum size limits made some of the text a bit hard to read. So I added green highlights at Vitznau, Brunnen, and Seelisberg.

Reference to another map can clarify the text, but I find that particular contour map to be very good for understanding the geography of the region.

map.search.ch/?x=18936m&y=13872m&z=8

The other photos are taken from the trail beyond Seelisberg, walking toward Bauen. Some views up and down the lake.

That trail is part Die Weg der Schweiz - the Swiss Trail - which goes around the whole southern branch of the lake (der Urnersee.)

www.wanderland.ch/en/r outes/route-099.html

www.weg-der-schweiz.ch/en/

By the way, I duplicated one image in my earlier post on this area. If it is convenient for you, you may remove one of the two copies of the Treib-Seelisberg Bahn photo

Slowpoke.

Last modified on Feb 3, 2016 - 9:56 AM by Slowpoke
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Patchouli
Patchouli
11 posts
new member
Feb 4, 2016 - 4:28 AM

Slowpoke, Annika and Arno,

I can't thank you enough for the time you've put into extensively detailing the secrets of Switzerland! This is all really good information. I just need time to digest everything; there are so many places in Switzerland that I haven't heard of until now!

Weather is a bit of a concern for me, but I've decided to take the chance anyway and visit in May. Opinions are evenly split, so I’ll just erron the side of optimism. The decision is based on various factors, but mainly I just don't want to pay more during high season to deal with hordes of tourists. I contemplated going in October but my job makes it somewhat difficult for me to leave during that month.I need to go to Switzerland this year!:-)

With Switzerland's efficient train system, I can easily leave Wengen for a day trip elsewhere if the weather becomes too unfavourable.

I won't be cycling the whole trip. I'll make use of the SBB's luggage transfer service and have a bike with me from Lake Constance up until I leave Bern. I don't think that I'll be able to look after both my luggage and bike when I board the train to Lucerne. I'll probably do more hiking from that point forward.

For sure in Lucerne I'll check out the transportation museum. I've read reviews that it's worth visiting.

Anything good along the Aare route? Or shall I post that question in a new thread?

Thanks once again! I’ll be back on the forums at a later time as my departure approaches.

Arno
Arno
7700 posts
expert &
moderator
Feb 4, 2016 - 6:36 AM in reply to Patchouli

You're most welcome! Yes, there's a lot to see and do. A full year would't be enough, so just enough what you can fit in. And come back if you can! You'll be covering the relatively flat part of the Aare route. I haven't done it myself but I expect the part around Lake Biel to be particularly nice. In any case you'll have an interesting trip as you get to see the flat/hilly side of Switzerland as well as the mountains.

The Museum of Transport is really good: myswissalps.com/ museumoftransport.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 4, 2016 - 1:22 PM in reply to Arno

Hi Arno-

<<"I expect the part around Lake Biel to be particularly nice.">>

Not zure he'll get any further than Bern.

If I misunderstood, I can add some detail about Ligerz and other nice towns, mostly along the western shore of the Bielersee.. As you know, I stay in Ligerz regularly.

Slowpoke

Arno
Arno
7700 posts
expert &
moderator
Feb 5, 2016 - 8:25 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Hi Slowpoke,

I think the route is making a curve via Biel before Bern. Of course there are short cuts.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 5, 2016 - 2:13 PM in reply to Patchouli

Hi Patchouli -

<<"I don't think that I'll be able to look after both my luggage and bike when I board the train to Lucerne. I'll probably do more hiking from that point forward.">>

Check this web site for biking and hiking.

www.wanderland.ch/en/h iking-in-switzerland.html

and note the tabs at the top for various modes of transportation.

The hiking trails ( which are the ones I look at) give altitude contours. Quite useful for a person like myself, who is a slowpoke going up hills.

(by the way, if you believe the times on the ubiquitous Wanderweg route markers, you'd better be Swiss or else have rather flat terrain. I am convinced that the Swiss walk just as fast up hill or downhill as on the level.)

Slowpoke

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 5, 2016 - 2:43 PM in reply to Arno

Hi Arno -

<<"I think the route is making a curve via Biel before Bern. Of course there are short cuts.">>

I looked it up.

In that region the Aare route from Solothurn passes through Büren an der Aare before going to Biel/Bienne and thence partway along the northeastern shore of the Bielersee, through Aarberg and on to Bern.

Generally rather flat land. I've drive through it a few times on my way to Sugiez or Erlach.

All three above named towns/cities have an attractive and interesting old town. The one in Aarberg is limited pretty much to a row of buildings along the main road near the wooden covered bridge.

The one in Büren is also small, but is very attractive. I got a Christmas tree ornament from the glass-blowers shop there early last December..

The old town in Biel/Bienne is a bit larger, and off the main roads, closer to the mountains. We enjoyed walking around it for an hour or so, plus a meal at an outdoor table of a restaurant overlooking the main square.

Unfortunately, the route does not pass along the eastern side of the lake, through such picturesque wine-towns as Twann/Duoanne and Schafis.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Feb 5, 2016 - 2:53 PM by Slowpoke
Arno
Arno
7700 posts
expert &
moderator
Feb 5, 2016 - 3:50 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Those are good tips for Patchouli to make some local detours if interested.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 6, 2016 - 12:30 AM in reply to Slowpoke

<<"Unfortunately, the route does not pass along the eastern side of the lake, through such picturesque wine-towns as Twann/Duoanne and Schafis.">>

Ooops- my error.

Does not pass along the western side of the lake.

Slowpoke

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2643 posts
expert
Feb 6, 2016 - 1:02 AM in reply to Patchouli

Hi Patchouli-

<<"3. Cycle down (or is it up?) the Aare Route towards Bern over several days ">>

The Aare route ends (or starts) north of Zürich at or near Koblenz or Waldshut

. How do you plan to get there from Kreuzlingen?

Slowpoke

Patchouli
Patchouli
11 posts
new member
Feb 6, 2016 - 8:12 PM

Hi Slowpoke,

I'm planning to cycle to the Aare Route from Kreuzlingen, by first following the Lake Constance bike path towards Stein am Rhein, and then to Schaffhausen. I drew inspiration from this image: www.velociped.de/en/al l-bike-tours/europe/switzerla nd/aare-cycle-path.html (click on the map image on the left hand side).

Tentatively, I plan to break down my cycling in the following stages, taking into account the very real possibility of jet lag during the first few days.

Day 1: Fly into Zurich (ETA: 2:45 pm) and take train to Kreuzlingen

Day 2: Rest in Kreuzlingen and enjoy Lake Constance (i.e. day to recover from jet lag).

Day 3: Cycle along Lake Constance to Schaffhausen via Stein am Rhein

Day 4: Schaffhausen --> Aarau

Day 5: Aarau --> Biel/Bienne

Day 6: Biel/Bienne --> Bern

I think I may need to revise the plan of action at a later time.

Last modified on Feb 6, 2016 - 8:59 PM by Patchouli

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