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1-month driving/train itinerary across Switzerland

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Marggy
Marggy
34 posts
active member
Oct 25, 2020 - 5:03 AM

Firstly I would like to thank everyone who has helped me with planning for our Switzerland trip. Originally we were planning to visit for about 3 weeks in late May/early June of this year but unfortunately had to cancel due to the COVID-19 situation.

We are still planning on taking this trip when Australia eventually opens its borders and we can start travelling again. We were hoping for next year but his now looks like it is highly unlikely but whenever, we are definitely still going to go!

I have played around a fair bit with the itinerary and would like some feedback before I shelf the planning until we know what year we can come. I want to have our itinerary finalised so I am ready to start booking as soon as Australia reopens its borders.

The itinerary has grown to be longer – it is now about a month.

Sorry in advance for the long post.

Some background:

We (my husband and I) are in our mid 60’s and getting older the longer we have to wait! We are reasonably fit but are not lovers of strenuous exercise, e.g. we like walking rather than hiking. We enjoy seeing the major tourist stuff as well as the out of the way places and meeting the locals. We like to take our time to see things but can usually pack a fair bit into a day.

We will be self-driving and doing the Glacier and Bernina Express. I have fully investigated the train versus driving options and have decided that the train is the option that best suits us. We will purchase the half fare card.

This will be part of a longer trip to Europe. We plan to leave Australia in April and will be in Switzerland mid May to mid June.

We will be driving from Strasbourg in France and our first stop in Switzerland will be Basel.

So our itinerary is as follows (I haven’t listed all the activities we are planning for each place because the post would have been just too long):

Basel – 2 nights

When we leave Basel, we will stop at St- Ursanne and La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Neuchatel – 2 nights

Sites/towns that we may visit after Neuchatel include, Creux du Van, Motiers and the Asphalt mines in Travers.

Lausanne – 4 nights. The plan is to spend one full day in Lausanne, on in Montreux (Rochers de Naye, Chillon, Queen experience) and one day in Geneva.

On the day we leave Lausanne we will visit Gruyeres – Chateau de Gruyeres and La Maison du Gruyere and Broc – Maison Callier Chocolate factory. If time we will also call in to Fribourg

Bern – 2 nights

On leaving Bern we will stop at Interlaken and cruise to Lake Thun and catch the train back to Interlaken.

Grindelwald – 3 nights. I am seriously considering changing this to Wengen and would appreciate any feedback on which is the better place to stay. We plan to go to Jungfraujoch on one day and Schilthorn on the other (weather permitting).

On the day we leave Grindelwald we plan to stop at Brienz, Kambly experience and the Affoltern im Emmental Dairy Show. I am a little concerned that we will not be able to fit all this into one day so am considering whether we should do an overnight stay in Brienz (even though I hate one nighters).

Lucerne – 4 nights – the rough plan is one day to go to Pilatus and Rigi, one day to Titlus and maybe Stransherhorn and one day to do a walking tour of Lucerne and visit the chocolate museum and just have a look around Lucerne.

After leaving Lucerne we plan to stop in Brunnen, Einsiedeln and Walensee.

Chur – 1 night. We will leave the car here catch the train to St Moritz.

St Moritz – 2 nights

Bernina Express to Lugano

Lugano – 3 nights

Catch the train to Zermatt (maybe the Centovalli Express although this is something I do need to research this a bit more)

Zermatt – 2 nights

Glacier Express to Chur

Chur – 1 night – pick up the car

After leaving Chur make stops at Sardona Tectonic Arena and Mainefeld – Heidiland. If time maybe also visit Liechenstein.

Appenzell – 2 nights

On leaving St Appenzell visit St Gallen, Stein am Rhein, Schaffhausen and Rheinfall.

Zurich – 2 nights

On the day we leave Zurich we will visit Hallwyl Castle before heading to the airport to fly home (unsure of exactly where we will fly out of but it will most probably be Frankfurt).

I started the planning based on the Grand Tour of Switzerland but it has changed a fair bit from this. I would really appreciate any input, in particular if there is a better order to do things in. Also, please let me know if there are any other highlights (and I know this varies from person to person) that should be added. Thanks in advance for your ideas.

Annika
Annika
6357 posts
expert &
moderator
Oct 25, 2020 - 9:40 AM in reply to Marggy

Hi Marggy! Good for you that you're still set on making this Switzerland trip, whenever it's possible. Fingers crossed that the circumstances allow you to do so next May/June. I think it's a wonderful time to visit Switzerland by the way. Nature is very pretty in spring, and you'll avoid the crowds that you may encounter in July/August (although next year of course tourist visits might still differ from the regular pattern).

I think you created an impressive itinerary, in which you obviously put a lot of effort. Well done! It allows you to explore many Swiss regions and it includes both common tourist highlights as well as beautiful lesser-known destinations. If you feel fine with packing and unpacking every few days, you shouldn't change much. If you'd rather have a somewhat more relaxed stay, increasing your chances of exploring a few regions more thoroughly (with more flexibility and better chances of good weather for the mountain top visits), you may want to cut down the number of base towns. Your planned overnight stays in both Bern and Grindelwald are an example. You may want to skip Bern, just base yourself in the Jungfrau region for some more nights, and make a day trip to Bern if you feel like it (perfectly doable by train from the Jungfrau region). And you could skip the 2nd time spending a night in Chur, heading for Appenzell right away and having an extra night there. But these are very personal choices. If you're happy with the way this schedule looks, then by all means go for it!

A few of your days are rather full I think. Some examples:

  • the Lake Thun cruise when leaving Bern. You could make a similar cruise while based in the Jungfrau region;
  • your plans for the transfer day from Grindelwald to Lucerne are a bit too much I'd say. I'd rather opt to visit the Kambly factory and the show dairy on a day trip while based in Lucerne;
  • likewise, your transfer day from Lucerne to Chur is pretty full. If you make short stops on each destination it will be doable though.

Again, it all comes down to your preferences. Having a more relaxed schedule inevitably means you can't visit every destination on your wish list. Tough choices, right :-)?

Some last thoughts:

I hope this helps you to make some final decisions!

Last modified on Oct 26, 2020 - 9:06 AM by Annika
Maloja Snake
Maloja Snake
74 posts
active member
Oct 25, 2020 - 9:17 PM in reply to Marggy

Hi Marggy,

I am one of the few people on this forum that has experienced and advocated for self-drive. As I have elaborated before, that result was completely accidental. My first trip, of three total in the last two years, I hadn't done my research, and didn't realize that the vast majority of tourists to Switzerland travel by train (for obvious good reasons); but I didn't know that, and rented a car. I FELL IN LOVE with driving in the Swiss Alps (less so in the cities than small Alpine Villages; I got lost in Lucerne looking for Wagner's estate). But because of this experience, I planned my next two trips via self-drive. It is so flexible, and plannable on the fly. And with portable WIFI, it is so easy to make same-day reservations based on where you are located, and which region you are heading towards. Feel free to ask me any questions about travelling on the road. And by the way, don't even consider flying into any other airport than Zurich; because Switzerland is a really small country, and unless you can get a direct flight into any other city than Zurich, it's not worth the effort.

Best of Luck,

Will

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
7551 posts
expert
Oct 25, 2020 - 11:33 PM in reply to Marggy

Hi Marggy -

I got partway along your nicely planned itinerary, ran out time, and chose to give a couple of comments on these notes:

<<" Grindelwald – 3 nights. I am seriously considering changing this to Wengen and would appreciate any feedback on which is the better place to stay. We plan to go to Jungfraujoch on one day and Schilthorn on the other (weather permitting).

On the day we leave Grindelwald we plan to stop at Brienz, Kambly experience and the Affoltern im Emmental Dairy Show. I am a little concerned that we will not be able to fit all this into one day so am considering whether we should do an overnight stay in Brienz (even though I hate one nighters).:>>

I think you'll have time without staying in Brienz, but it is a very nice location, beside the lake, if you choose to stopover for the night.

I find Grindelwald to be too commercial for my tastes, and too spread out. No car, of course. You'd surely enjoy the spectacular easy walk from Männlicen to Kleine Scheideggg.

www.myswissalps.com/hiking/maennlichen-kleinescheidegg

Try to find time to ride the local trains...more relaxing than driving. You can look at the scenery.

Slowpoke

Anna
Anna
989 posts
top member &
moderator
Oct 26, 2020 - 8:50 AM in reply to Annika

Hi Marggy,

Thank you for sharing your itinerary. You have definitely put a lot effort and thoughts into it and I think it looks great and doable. Nothing much to add here but just wanted to say that between Grindelwald and Wengen, since you will be driving, it's probably more practical to stay in Grindelwald. Wengen is a no-car mountain village so you'll have to park your car in the valley and take the train up.

Regards,

Anna

Marggy
Marggy
34 posts
active member
Oct 28, 2020 - 4:34 AM in reply to Anna

Thank you all so much for your suggestions. I have been planning our self-drive holidays for years and have never found such a valuable resource as this. I am considering all the suggestions and still have to decide definitely on a few things. In regards to the Centovalli route (thanks very much for the link Annika) it appears that we would not need to book in advance. However, I am unsure how we make sure we take this route. I cannot seem to work out from the timetable how to chose this route. I know I am probably missing something pretty basic but if someone could help me I would very much appreciate it. Thanks

Ildiko
Ildiko
1046 posts
top member &
moderator
Oct 28, 2020 - 2:16 PM in reply to Marggy

Hi Marggy,

the train station names are "Domodossola (I)" and "Locarno FART", use these. The route that is labeled with PE in the timetable, that is the Centovalli route (it takes a bit less than 2 hours): www.myswissalps.com/centovalli/gettingthere.

I hope this will help you to find it.

Stay healthy,

Ildiko

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
7551 posts
expert
Oct 28, 2020 - 4:37 PM in reply to Marggy

Hi Marggy -

Please sure that you are using the full SBB timetable, here:

www.sbb.ch/en/

There are some useful tips here:

www.myswissalps.com/timetable

Slowpoke

Marggy
Marggy
34 posts
active member
Oct 29, 2020 - 9:31 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Thanks so much for your help. I have found the route on the SBB timetable. This may be a stupid question but how to I get to Domodossola station from Lugano and from Zermatt to Locarno station? Thanks again for your help.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
7551 posts
expert
Oct 29, 2020 - 4:35 PM in reply to Marggy

Hi Marggy -

There are no stupid questions.

The SBB timetable will give you those answers if you are using public transport of any kind.

Please use the link that I gave above.

If I did not understand your question, please ask again.

Slowpoke

Ildiko
Ildiko
1046 posts
top member &
moderator
Oct 29, 2020 - 8:08 PM in reply to Marggy

No worries, there is no stupid question at all. :)

You can use the timetable also to find international trains, so simply just search for Lugano - Domodossola. The fastest train route takes around 3 hours and you need to change at least once. Make sure to check this one too: www.myswissalps.com/traintickets/italy.

But aren't you going from Lugano to Zermatt? If yes, then it is simpler you do not need to get to Domodossola from Lugano and from Zermatt to Locarno. You just need to change a few times, so you can travel like this:

  1. From Lugano you can get to Locarno in 1 hour by train
  2. Take the Centovalli from Locarno FART to Domodossola (I)
  3. From Domodossola (I) catch a train to Brig (via the Simplontunnel)
  4. From Brig you can get to Zermatt

Is it this one what you were looking for?

Ildiko

Marggy
Marggy
34 posts
active member
Oct 31, 2020 - 2:11 AM in reply to Ildiko

Thank you so much. With all this great help, I have finally worked it out (I think). So if I'm right we will need to change trains 3 times and be on the trains for about 5 hrs as follows:

Lugano to Locarno about 1hr

Locarno to Domodossola about 2hrs

Domodossola to Zermatt (change trains once) about 2hrs

If this is not right could someone please let me know.

Thanks again for your help.

Anna
Anna
989 posts
top member &
moderator
Oct 31, 2020 - 6:44 AM in reply to Marggy

HI Marggy,

Yeah that sounds about right .

Hope your planning is going well. Feel free to post again when you have questions.

Regards,

Anna

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
7551 posts
expert
Oct 31, 2020 - 9:19 AM in reply to Marggy

Hi Maeggy -

A really great trip! Wish I were doing it.

However, Swiss trains don't run on "about" time. ;-).

Just joking, but you'll be pleased at the punctuality.

And, yes, you can make those tight connection times.

Slowpoke

Asguin
Asguin
4 posts
new member
Nov 4, 2020 - 3:35 AM in reply to Marggy

Hi, Marggi. I think you have done a good job in your itinerary.

1.I feel that you can reduce your Bern stay to one day. But it is your choice.

2. Brienz is a beautiful village and you should stay one night there, probably in Weisses Kreuz Hotel, which is lake front hotel and select a lake facing room. You can visit Ballenberg from here.

3. You have not included three places, Lauterbrunnen, Murren and Schynge Platte. They are beautiful. We liked Alpina Hotel in Murren and the views from hill facing room of Alpina are marvelous. You can visit Schilthorn from Murren. We liked the journey from Lauterbrunnen to Murren via lift and narrow gauge train. The lift is just in front of Lauterbrunnen station.

4. Since you are going to Switzerland in April/may, you should be able to witness alpine flowers in Schynge Platte. There is a train from Wilderswil to Schynge Platte.

5. 3 night stay in Interlaken may allow you to visit all four places as above and Wengen.

6. You can visit my you tube travel site as given below: there are two videos on Switzerland.

www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLG_yL4Ly_coOVTdpBqgQf3L-kgTIaP2N-

Thank you.

1960man
1960man
2748 posts
top member
Nov 11, 2020 - 3:41 PM in reply to Marggy

A few comments.

Some of your different stayover places are close to each other (never forget how small Switzerland is...remember one can visit many parts of Switzerland in one day from right across the other side of the country if one puts ones mind to it!). For example, Lausanne to Neuchatel is only a 50 minute drive. On many occasions In that past I have visited the Neuchatel area in as little as half a day from Geneva

Neuchatel – 2 nights; Sites/towns that we may visit after Neuchatel include, Creux du Van, Motiers and the Asphalt mines in Travers.

all these places are a short distance from Neuchatel, so you wouldn't need to visit them 'after' Neuchatel

Bern – 2 nights

On leaving Bern we will stop at Interlaken and cruise to Lake Thun and catch the train back to Interlaken.

Grindelwald – 3 nights. I am seriously considering changing this to Wengen and would appreciate any feedback on which is the better place to stay. We plan to go to Jungfraujoch on one day and Schilthorn on the other (weather permitting).On the day we leave Grindelwald we plan to stop at Brienz, Kambly experience and the Affoltern im Emmental Dairy Show. I am a little concerned that we will not be able to fit all this into one day so am considering whether we should do an overnight stay in Brienz (even though I hate one nighters).

All the above is questionable as to it's 'efficiency/logic'. Bern is 45 minutes drive from Interlaken, Grindelwald is 45 minutes drive from Brienz, Emmental is 1 hour 20 from Interlaken, etc etc (you can do your own check using mapping / driving directions apps). If you are in a car it is better to stay centrally in Interlaken and trip around from there.

Lucerne – 4 nights – the rough plan is one day to go to Pilatus and Rigi, one day to Titlis and maybe Stanserhorn and one day to do a walking tour of Lucerne and visit the chocolate museum and just have a look around Lucerne.

After leaving Lucerne we plan to stop in Brunnen, Einsiedeln and Walensee.

You can visit Brunnen as part of a lake steamer jaunt, avoid parking in Brunnen

Catch the train to Zermatt (maybe the Centovalli Express although this is something I do need to research this a bit more)

Lugano - Zermatt is as follows:

Lugano - Locarno (FFS (Italian speaking initials of Swiss Federal Railways) local train

Locarno - Domodossola (Centovalli railway aka FART/SSIF - joint Swiss/Italian cross border railway

Domodossola - Brig (SBB local or intercity train)

Brig - Zermatt (MGB railway)

After leaving Chur make stops at Sardona Tectonic Arena and Mainefeld – Heidiland. If time maybe also visit Liechenstein.

Be warned there are some that question the 'accuracy' of the touristic version of 'Heidiland' , and also be warned road traffic in Leichstenstein can be chaotic

Mark
Mark
576 posts
top member
Nov 12, 2020 - 3:43 AM in reply to 1960man

Hi Marggy

If you want to visit Schynige Platte (well worth it) you will need to plan it for the end of May or later as usually the train service to SP usually starts about May 30.

mark

Mageo
Mageo
61 posts
active member
Nov 13, 2020 - 9:37 AM

Hi Marggy,

We, also from Aus, had planned another trip to Switzerland this year. As we are seniors, not sure if we'll be able to make it again because of border closures and our age. Still hoping!

On the first two visits, we hired a car, then discovered the Swiss public transport system! We love the punctuality, reliability, comfort, and stress free travel of the system and the ability to travel to all parts of the country, either by bus, train, cable car or boat. This made planning a lot of fun.

We did enjoy Grindelwald as a base for nine days in 2017, and were able to visit many places from there e.g. Bern, Thun, Brienz, Murren, Wengen, Männlichen to Kleine Scheideggg, Schynige Platte, Postbus Passes trip, Grindelwald to Meiringen by Postbus. Also had other bases in different parts of the country - we thoroughly enjoyed all of them. So many places to visit! This year, we had planned to visit some of our favorite places again, as well as some new ones.

Hopefully you will soon be able to do your trip - happy planning!

Mageo

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