Rough itinerary for May 12-24 trip to Switzerland

Rough itinerary for May 12-24 trip to Switzerland

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DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 1, 2016 - 4:10 AM

We are so excited to be coming to Switzerland (bringing our two children who are in their early 20's). I have spent endless hours studying the towns and things to do, but I am not sure if this is a realistic itinerary... since I understand that certain routes may not be available to be traveled in May.- ?? I hate to miss any highlights, but I prefer to not pack up and move too often and be able to relax and really enjoy the are as we do travel to at a little more relaxed pace, and take a day trip here or there to neighboring towns instead of packing up and moving.

  • May 12th -- arrive @ 2:40 pm -- stay in Zurich
  • 5-13, 14 stay in Lugano
  • -- 5-15 -- can we take train to Zermatt from Lugano? or if not, is there a direct train route to go on to Montreux?
  • If not an easy way to go from Lugano to Montreux, I had thought about Rhein Falls and that area instead? 5-16 and 17 stay in Montreux area
  • 5-18, 19, 20 stay in Berner Oberland -- I had thought about staying in Wengen, but then to have to travel back and forth to Wengen each day, I thought staying in Lauterbrunnen Valley might be better. ??
  • 5-21, 22, 23 stay in Lucerne
  • 5-24 Flight leaves from Zurich @ 9:30 am -- is it realistic to get early train from Lucerne to Zurich airport in time for check – in?

I have notes on so many things we want to do in each area, but I am ready to get all lodgings booked, and before I do, I need to make sure the dates and order make sense logistically...

I would love to eliminate any big mistakes. Please feel free to set me straight!

Thank you!!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 1, 2016 - 7:55 PM in reply to DanielleJ

Hi DanielleJ-

Welcome to the forum.

Several of your questions re quire answers that will take more time than i have now, but, in general, you have well thought out, workable itinerary.

More later.

Regarding your question about the 15th-

use the timetable and study the map that is available in the footnotes once you select a particular trip.

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable.

Also, this Swiss map can be useful:

map.search.ch/

Where are you coming from and returning to?

You could easily go to Lugano on your arrival day, unless jet lag will be an issue.

On your last day, you can certainly get from Luzern to Zürich Airport ( Flughafen) in the early AM.

Check the time table.

I prefer to be closer to the airport, and usually stay in downtown Zürich before flying out.

If you do go in the AM from Luzern, allow a bit of extra time if you travel after 7AM...morning rush hour can slow things down a bit.

If you are not returning to a Schengen country, you may need a bit more time for passport clearance. To the USA, more for security interviews, also.

....Slowpoke

Last modified on Mar 1, 2016 - 7:56 PM by Slowpoke
DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 1, 2016 - 9:14 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Thank you so much for the quick reply! We are coming from and returning to the US -- both in and out of Zurich airport. Our flight lands around 2:30 p.m. on the 12th. I would prefer to go to Lugano that day, but I'm thinking my family may kill me if I take them from the plane to a train ride that long since the flight is not super easy... I'm wondering if I should maybe not try Lugano this trip and do Rhein Falls and that area instead for one night. I will check out the timetables you sent. Thank you!! I will wait for your further info. :)

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 2, 2016 - 2:25 AM in reply to DanielleJ

Hi Danielle.

With a 2:30 PM arrivakl from the states, you'll not find easy to use the most common method of controlling jet-lag, which works well for red-eye flights or morning arrivals. That is, as soon as possible after arrival, get a long nap. Then , force your self to stay up until something resembling a normal bed time on the local clock....such as 9PM.

Include exercise in the waking hours, to help tire yourself out.

That procedure often help avoid the "wake up at 3AM and can't go back to sleep" syndrome, which in turn ruins your first several days.

Maybe go directly to Lugano?

With a 1430 arrival time,, you have a good chance of catching the 1547, arrive Lugano at 1850. he airport is very fast. On my periodic Delta flights, the luggae is opn the carousel before I reach it, or within 5 minutes after. The train staion is 5 minutes walk from the exit of the arrival hall and customs. The kluggae carts are free and go up and down the escalators while heavily loaded.

Change time at Zürich Hauptbahnhof ( main station) is 10 minutes, which is fine, since you come in on track 5 and leave on track 7, and can use the mid track pedestrian underpass to go one platform over.

Arth Goldau seems like very short connection time, but the trains are on opposite sides of the same platform and the setup is designed to expedite that connection.

To be really safe, plan on the 1647. Only change in Zürich HB, not at Arth Goldau. Arrive Lugano at 1850. Lots of time at the airport for buying tickets, coffee, etc. Sleep on the train?

Don't go right to Lugano ?

On balance, however, i agree with your concerns, and would indeed stay in Zürich if you go on to Lugano the next day. A daytime ride over the Gotthard Pass route is a special event.

Zürich is my favorite city in Switzerland, but it is not so good for first time tourists. It takes some getting acquainted with. So, you could take a stroll around the old city on both sides of the river to fill the time before bedtime.

Instead, I think if I were aiming for your itinerary, I would go directly to Luzern upon arrival....trains every 30 minutes take about an hour, and the ones at xx47 require no change of train at Zürich. The ones at xx18 do require a change, which may be a little tight, because you have to get from track 32 to track 8. which is not quite such an easy connection if you do not know the station layout.

However, it is doable- here is the map:

www.sbb.ch/content/dam /infrastruktur/trafima ge/bahnhofplaene/plan-zuerich-hb-a4.pdf

Zoom it.

And, if you miss the connection, the next train to Luzern comes along in 30 mites +/-

Your ticket will be good for any time that day, or if you chose a Swiss Rail Pass, it covers any train.

If you took the 1647 from the airport, you'd be in Luzern at 1749 with no change of train. That gives you time to buy train tickets at the airport, or have a snack and a coffee.

I'd then spend a couple of days in Luzern, and take either the Wilhelm Tell Express ( boat plus train) or train only (faster) to Lugano.

www.myswissalps.com/wi lhelmtellexpress

Leaving Lugano, I'd get to Domodossola (not trivial...but could be very scenic depending on route) , then go through the Simplon Pass to Brig, thence to nearby Visp thence to Zermatt. [There are other ways to do that, also not simple]. From Zermatt, you could come back down to the Rhone Valley at Visp and at either Visp or Brig make the choice of gong to Montreux via Martigny, thence to the Berner Oberland via the Golden Pass route via Zweisimmen, or the alternate choice to go first to Spiez and Interlaken ( via Kandersteg...super scenic), thus to the Berner Oberland first. Both Interlaken and Montreux have good train service to Zürich by fast routes through Bern on your way home. You could stay in downtown Zürich and catch your plane with no trouble, or stay at the airport. On your way to Zürich you could stop for a couple of hours at Bern or go direct to Zürich.

If, as you suggest, you might not go to Zermatt, you could go from Lugano to Luzern to Bern to Montreux, or other possible fairly straightforward routes.routes.

Luggage lockers at Bern, or the left luggage office, if you want to explore for a few hours.

<<" 5-18, 19, 20 stay in Berner Oberland -- I had thought about staying in Wengen, but then to have to travel back and forth to Wengen each day, I thought staying in Lauterbrunnen Valley might be better. ??">>

Look at the map linked before, plus this one:

www.swissholidayco.com /Public/Assets/User/fi les/Map-of-Jungfrauregion1.jpg

Interlaken is the gateway to the region, but is not much of a tourist destination.. Good for rail connections, boat connections, accommodations. To get a feel for the area and have a real alpine experience, you should stay at Wengen. Lauterbrunnen, Mürren or Grindelwald. If you are not going to explore the area, and generally look around elsewhere...you are right. Stay in Interlaken.. but, then, why bother to go there at all. ;-)

You should note that Wengen is only about a 15 minute train ride from Lauterbrunnen.

Here is a little bit of good information:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/tips-about-wengen-and-the-jungfrau-region-by-kim

In the high Alps, around the Jungfrau, May is low season.. Many hotels are closed, but plenty are still open. Not enough skiing customers or hiking customers for the rather large number of hotels, so some shut down for maintenance or vacation for the staff.. Closed hotels start to reopen at June 3, and most are back in service by June 15. May has poor to no skiing, and the high trails may be snowed in...or not. Low trails - on the valley floor, and Mürren to Grütschalp, will almost certainly be open. Cograil train runs all year. Great if you get a good day or part of a day....and you have given your self several days to have a chance to catch good weather. Many "ski" lifts are shut down in May....but, if there is a lot of snow left, they may open on weekends.

Lots of detail, but it may help you think about your itinerary in a different order. Postponing the Zermatt leg until you have been there for 4 or 5 days will get you more familiar with the travel process, and have you pretty much on the clock to aid your thinking processes..

Luzern has enough good stuff of every possible kind to consider spending more time there....but, then, what do you give up? My choice would be Lugano, but most people like Lugano better than I do. ;-)

Use the "Where to Go" section of the website to help you consider the various cities and regions:

www.myswissalps.com/wh eretogo

Oh yes- the Rhine Falls... If you've seen Niagara you'll consider the Rhine falls a non-event. Powerful, especially in the Spring, but not very high. If, however, you come from Kansas, and have not been to Niagara, you'll enjoy them. The high thin waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley appeal a lot more to me. Definitely just my personal opinions.

Slowpoke

DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 2, 2016 - 3:46 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Thank you so much!! You have helped me with several big decisions. I'm going to flip my itinerary and head to Luzern for the first leg instead of the last. I so appreciate all of your suggestions! I'm sure I will be back to bother you again, but for now, just a big thank you!!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 2, 2016 - 10:30 AM in reply to DanielleJ

<<"I'm going to flip my itinerary and head to Luzern for the first leg instead of the last. ">>

That is a good start. Once you get there and check in, you can walk along the lake shore to the Transport Museum ( Verkehrshaus) or take a bus or tram. Definitely, walk back. The walk back is a pleasant short stroll with nice views of the city. The lake shore views at the Verkehrshaus boat dock are nice. About 1 and 1/2 km to the old town or main station.

I've attached one view across the lake from the lake front near the old town.

I turned on the "Traffic icons" under Points of interest in this map:map.search.ch/?x=4550m&y=21562m&z=128 &poi=haltestelle,zug

You'll probably be too late for a boat connection to the museum....the 1812 is the last one at that time of year. You're on the Spring (Frühling ) boat schedule through May 27.

www.lakelucerne.ch/en/ timetable-fares/timetable/

and-

www.lakelucerne.ch/fil eadmin/lakelucerne/con tent/Dokumente_Downloa ds_PDF/01_Fahrplan-Preise/01_Fahrplan/Sai sonaler_Fahrplan/2016/ Fahrplan_Fruehling_201 6.pdf

On May 12, sunset is at 2052

www.timeanddate.com/su n/switzerland/lucerne?month=5&year=2016

You can walk in the old own, too. Of course there are many places toeat, but I like to eat here (or have a coffee or beer by the river ) fora good location, diverse menu and good quality: www.braui-luzern.ch/

A couple of days in and near Luzern will get you better connected with the way things work, and get you on the clock somewhat.

What part of the USA do you come from? More to the point, rather, what time zone? (I'm thinking about jet-lag.) A 1430 arrival seems a bit late for typical direct flights from the East Coast.

Slowpoke

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DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 2, 2016 - 10:59 PM in reply to Slowpoke

We live in Tennessee -- central time zone. Our flight out of Nashville doesn't leave until 6:50 pm. It was one of the shorter total flight times. Or maybe I made a mistake, but it's done now. I know when we flew to London a few years ago, we got in fairly early in the morning. Oh well. The plan will be to sleep on the flight and stay up until 11:00 or 12:00 that first night if possible. We will try to reset our clocks a week or so before we head that way by going to bed earlier than normal, and getting up normal than earlier.

I booked a hotel in Zurich for the night before we fly out. I know that will lessen our stress that morning!

So stay in Lucern for the first three nights,

then Lugano, two nights

then Montreux, three nights

then Wengen three nights

Zurich one night.

I know you said Lugano wasn't your favorite. I have considered skipping Lugano and staying in Montreux and Wengen each one night more... It's so hard to know when you haven't been somewhere how long you should ideally stay in each area.

I sincerely appreciate all of your help and suggestions!!!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 3, 2016 - 12:53 AM

Hi Danielle -

Might have a change of planes, If I calculate correctly. Sleep on the plane(s), for sure. Make an effort...as you know, they will do their best to keep you awake with movies, etc. Flight(s) seem to be long enough to allow for sleep time.

Looks like a very good plan.. You have enough time in each place to appreciate each one.

My concern about Lugano was not because it is not a nice place, but more because of travel scheduling,and doing a bit of triage. By eliminating Zermatt, you have solved that problem. Nice change. Personally, I'd still skip it, but I've been there and done that (as they say). However, it certainly is really quite a nice place to visit. Consider Morcote and , perhaps the Customs/border museum. And the nice walk to Gandria.

We also like Locarno. I'd visit one or the other, but not both.

We have a granddaughter in Nashville, who is working her way up in the professional music scene. Hard work.

At least, you know what a mountain is. ;-)

The next most important issue, in my opinion, is to get you from Lugano to Montreux.

More on that later.

Slowpoke

PS- Any specific interests, now that the itinerary is more or less under control?

Hiking? Museums? Trains?...

Last modified on Mar 3, 2016 - 1:26 AM by Slowpoke
DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 3, 2016 - 4:09 AM in reply to Slowpoke

I hope your granddaughter is loving Nashville! My husband and I are both Nashville natives, so we have a good 100 + years of combined experience here. Geez, that sounds like a lot. :) We both have clients in the music business as most everyone does.

I am planning on buying the Swiss Travel Pass soon. I had rented a car, but then decided my husband would stress way too much with trying to drive there. I have read that the Swiss Half Fare card may still be worth it too. ? I know that depends on what all we are doing. We will do quite a bit of hiking. I have researched and found some of the recommended hikes in each area. I think I remember reading that certain areas of Jungfrau may be closed in May. ??

Since we are going straight from Zurich to Lucern, I guess we won't be taking the Bernina Express. Is there a certain train route you highly recommend for the alpine views? I am assuming we will see gorgeous scenery on many of the rides, but any "don't miss" recommendations you have would be great!Do I need to buy regional passes in each area too? I wasn't clear on whether I needed those since the Swiss Travel Pass covers majority of our transportation and the museums.

Thanks for your continued guidance!!

DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 3, 2016 - 4:53 AM

P.S. I know you said if I removed one leg of the trip, you would personally skip Lugano. I am still considering going vs removing that leg. Do you think it would be best based on the length of time we are there to remove Lugano and add a night each to Lucerne and Wengen, or a night each to Montreux and Wengen?

Thank you!

Arno
Arno
7726 posts
expert &
moderator
Mar 3, 2016 - 6:13 AM in reply to DanielleJ

Hi Danielle,

I think you will enjoy the train system much more than driving. One of the advantages is that everyone gets to see the scenery, as opposed to the driver just focusing on the road. The below pages provide all details about the Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Half Fare Card, and how to choose. You don't need regional passes as well. I expect one of the mentioned passes will fit your plans just fine.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 3, 2016 - 10:40 AM in reply to DanielleJ

<<"Do you think it would be best based on the length of time we are there to remove Lugano and add a night each to Lucerne and Wengen, or a night each to Montreux and Wengen?">>

Tough call. Very much dependent on personal preferences. It might be good to consider this trip as an opportunity to see the three main language regions in a survey mode. I'll be surprised if you don't want to come back.

Almost any well known destination in Switzerland can consume more than 2-3 days effectively , especially if you want to do some hiking. The area around Luzern would be better for that than the higher trails near the Jungfrau in May, because of snow and mud on the higher trails, and limited cableway service. There are some nice walks at lower altitudes accessible from Wengen, though, and (if it is still true that this year has a light snow pack as was true earlier this winter) you might get to something higher in late May, at the end of your trip. Certainly, the cog-rail train (which runs all year) can get you up to some very scenic places and offers plenty of nice views along the route.

www.jungfrau.ch/en/tou rism/destinations/klei ne-scheidegg/hiking-trails/

Here is one not close to the Jungfrau, but which has a very high probability of dry sunny weather:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/bls-sudrampe-trail

Montreux itself is too steep for hikes right there, except for the pleasant walk along the lakefront, but there are good possibilities in the vineyards of the Cote Lavaux, at low altitude, and up above Montreux . Any rail fans in your family?

www.blonay-chamby.ch/index-en.php

Don't know how you would fit it in, but there are a whole lot of nice hikes in the Emmental in May, a bit off the normal tourist routes. Accessible from Luzern or Montreux. Might better for another trip.

Here are some examples:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/langnau-in-may/page/2

That said, having seen your interests, I'd say go to Lugano and take a scenic high mountain rail route of some sort on the way to Montreux. Since you will go to Lugano via the spectacular Gotthard Pass, and have freed up some time, you could look at traveling part of the slower route of the Glacier Express or something else, then head up the Rhone Valley via Martigny

I'd need to spend some time with a map or timetable to look at routes and timing. May not be able to do that until the weekend.

That sort of routing is definitely demanding to drive a car on, and rail is the best way to do it.

If you plan to hike, this may be helpful:

www.wanderland.ch/en/w anderland.html

More later.

Remember that May is Spring at lower altitudes, but is the tail end of Winter at high altitudes in Switzerland. Summer hiking season in the Jungfrau region unofficially begins around June 15th although those tourist services that were closed for a break in April/May begin to open up around June 3 this year.

Montreux and the the Lavaux get good sunshine, hence, the vineyards.

This panorama image was taken in mid April 2014, in a time of extremely unusual warm early spring , near Sumiswald, at about 700 meters. The trees are flowering.

Slowpoke

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DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 3, 2016 - 3:24 PM in reply to Slowpoke

I can't thank you enough for all of the feedback and information! I can't imagine having done this without you! We are all so excited!!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 3, 2016 - 4:08 PM in reply to DanielleJ

Glad it helps.

Just remebr that my opinions might not match your preferences. But, you can figure that out as you plan your return trip while you are there. ;-)

And, I am sure that you could plan it yourself....the resources are all there online and in this web site. You did a lot of good work before you posted.

My experience, personally, and from advising others, is that the difference between Spring in the USA (excluding the Rockies, of course) and in Switzerland is how slowly it arrives at high altitudes in Switzerland. We used to always go in June ( now we try for September) and usually got one or two surprises because we were there before the weather had warmed up or cableways had started to run at the higher altitudes.

I'll try to gibve you some concrete suggestions for getting from Lugano to Miontreux.

I'm thinking about the line through the Centovalli from Locarno, but alternately, picking up the narrow gauge network at Göschenen via Andermatt to Brig and onwards. I'd like to find a way to work in the BLS Südrampe line, but those ideas don't necessarily work from a logistics point of view.

Slowpoke

DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 3, 2016 - 7:06 PM

Okay, thanks so much!! Yes, I have notes on plenty to do that we are interested in for each location. What will really help when you have time (and no rush at all at this point) is your advice on which will be the most direct routes from location to location but that will offer the best scenery. I know those two don't go hand in hand, so a balance between the two. We wouldn't really be interested in a 7 hour train ride like the Glacier Express since we have our two 20 year olds with us, but would be willing to add a little time to a train trip if the scenery "paid off". Thanks again for all of your help!!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 3, 2016 - 7:54 PM in reply to DanielleJ

Here is one idea for the 17th of May, with two versions. The longer version includes 3 very scenic rides, the faster version has one very scenic and others which are not bad but not in the same league, plus a very short very scenic stretch above the vineyards and Lake Geneva approaching Lausanne..

Even 20 year olds will appreciate the very scenic routes, I think. 8 year olds not so much. But, the 20 year olds can be patient wit their patients once in a while. It is actually the norm in switzerland. ;-)

Naturally, consider the density of Swiss rail routes, there are sub-variations available.

If you take the longer versions, you win the "Hero of the Swiss Railways" award for a long day and multiple train changes. Unfortunately, so many people do those kinds of things nowadays that they no longer even award a certificate for valor. Oh well.

If you are using the timetable to track and change this suggestion, please note that I did the work in stages, in order to force the timetable to go through the desired routes, as opposed to the fastest routes.

In the latter parts, the critical "via" is Kandersteg ( between Brig and Spiez, other wise you go through the new boring "basis" tunnel), and, Zweisimmen, (between Spiez and Montreux), other wise you get a faster route through Bern, or route back through the new basis tunnel to Visp and on to Montreux along the Rhone Valley..)

Keep in mind the faster route through Bern. When you finally go from Montreux to Interlaken, you might consider using that option, going back that way, because you will have already seen the "Golden Pass" route section from Montreux to Spiez.) Or do the fast one on your way to Montreux and the slow one ( via Golden Pass) from Montreux to Interlaken.)

Here is a schedule:

Lugano 0910 -> Locarno FART 1017. Yes, the name of that train line is FART.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Regional_Bus_and_Rail_ Company_of_Canton_Tici no

Locarno FART (1049) via Centovalli and Domodossola ( Italy) to Brig at 1316.

Brig 1327 to Montreux 1447 ( along the Rhonetal via Martigny.)

or Brig 1336 to Montreux via the Lötschberger Express to Spiez at 1444 (through Kandersteg) and then on to Montreux ( leave at 1536, arrive at 1823 via Golden Pass route. Brig to Spiez by that route is unusually scenic. You may get some glimpses of the rail trail that I mentioned before ( BLS Südrampe Trail). Sit on the left

If you skip the Golden Pass via Zweisimmen after Spiez, and go through Bern , you will leave Spiez at 1454, change at Bern and Lausanne, and arrive at Montreux at 1709.

The few brief moments as you approach Lausanne above the Cote Lavaux after the tunnel at Puidoux are stunning. Sit on the left.

Study that one with a map.

Next idea will go on part of the Glacier Express route.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Mar 3, 2016 - 8:03 PM by Slowpoke
DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 3, 2016 - 8:03 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Okay, thank you! So, the "short ride" is basically an eight hour day from 9:10 am to 5:09?

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 3, 2016 - 8:55 PM in reply to DanielleJ

<<"Okay, thank you! So, the "short ride" is basically an eight hour day from 9:10 am to 5:09? ">>

Right.

Although, there is also the shortest but less scenic route arriving at Montreux at 1447. 6 hour day.

And you can probably shorten it further by avoiding scenic routes. I did not test that.

You are beginning to see why Lugano adds a lot of traveling, unless you go back and forth via the fastest routes. The trade off is scenery.

Slowpoke

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Mar 4, 2016 - 12:34 AM in reply to DanielleJ

I looked for the fastest route(s)

About 5 hrs 20 to 5 hrs 25 minutes.

The simplest is Lugano-Luzern-Lausanne-Montreux. 5 hours 25 minutes, 2 changes.

Slowpoke

DanielleJ
DanielleJ
21 posts
new member
Mar 4, 2016 - 2:36 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Okay, thank you. Don't hate me, but If you only knew my husband... I am possibly not going to squeeze in Lugano on this trip. I may have to come in September with a girlfriend, and then do that portion. I will think through it, but I have to try to keep our most difficult traveler's complaints to a minimum...

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