12 day Swiss itinerary from Zurich to Geneva

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7 posts
new member
Feb 27, 2018 - 9:45 AM

It would be the first time to Switzerland for us 4 matured ladies and we need some help to see if this order of travel would be efficient. We are planning to fly into Zurich early morning of 25 May and leaving from Geneva on 5 Jun. We are planning to buy a 15 days Swiss Travel Pass for our 12 days stay. Is this cost effective or should we be purchasing the Flex Swiss Pass or can you recommend the best rail pass?

Our draft plan is as follows :

Arrive Zurich (should we stay in Zurich or we take train to Lugano and stay for the night before moving to Lucerne. Stay 3 nights in Lucerne moving to Interlaken for another 3 nights, move into Zermatt for another 3 nights. Use Zermatt as base to travel to Bern before heading to Lusanne/Montreux and finally end up in Geneva where we fly out in the night.

We want to cover as much places as possible in each city as well as incorporate the Golden Pass Line, Glacier Express, Bernia Express, Gotthard Panorama Express. Appreciate if you could help to map out the 12 days so that we can cover as much as possible. warm regards Flurter

944 posts
top member
Feb 27, 2018 - 1:03 PM in reply to Flurter

Hi Flurter, and welcome to MySwissAlps,

I'm not sure if you can fit in all the scenic train trips. Why would you go from Zurich to Lugano? To board on one of the scenic train trips?

If I would do this trip, I probably would do something like this: from Zurich to Interlaken, but stay in Wengen or Grindelwald. From there you can do a day trip to Bern as well. Then continue to Lucerne. From Lucerne to Chur where you take the Glacier Express which brings you to Zermatt. From there you go to Montreux and do a day trip to the chocolate factory with the Golden Pass Line.

When you click on the blue underlined villages you will get to a page where we have listed activities you can do in these places.

Once you have selected your activities it will help you to decide which rail pass works best for you. You will need to check the prices of all your planned train, bus, gondola, boat tickets (you plan to take) and do the math to compare prices. We have a page here on how to choose the best rail pass that has a spreadsheet to help you.

Last modified on Mar 20, 2018 - 4:39 PM by Chantal
7 posts
new member
Mar 9, 2018 - 3:00 AM in reply to Chantal

Dear Chantal

Thank you so much for pointers. We have re-worked based your feedback . Kindly help to see if the itinerary below makes good sense. We will be purchasing 15 days STP since our trip entails much travelling on trains as well as we will be in Switzerland for 12 days from last week of May to early June. Need help to re-arrange order if necessary and suggest places that we should not miss. Also how do we incorporate the Bernia Express into this trip or if its at all possible?

Day 1

Arrive Zurich at 0630, tour Zurich Old Town, Lake Zurich

Train from Zurich – Bern

*Stay Bern (1 night)

Places to visit in Bern

Clock Tower

Old Historic Centre

Rose Garden

Zentrum Paul Khee

Day 2,3,4

Train from Bern – Wengen

*Stay Wengen (1 night, 2 nites in Lauterbrenun)

Places like to visit :

Lake Brienz, Lake Thun


Harder Kulum





Thrumbach Waterfall

Day 5,6

Train from Wengen –Lucerne via Interlaken OST

*Stay Lucene

Places to visit :

Chapel Bridge

Old Town

Lake Lucerne

Mt Titlus, Mt Rigi

Take bus to Iseltwald

Day 7,8,9

Lucerne – Chur – normal train?

Chur – Zermatt – Glacier Express?

Places to visit in Zermatt

Gornergrat Railway (see Matterhorn)


Rhone Valley

Gothard Panaroma Express (possible?)

Day 10

Zermatt to Montreux via Golden Pass Line

*Stay Montreux

Places to visit in Montreux :

Chillon Castle

Village of Gruyeres

Day 11

Train from Montreux to Geneva

*Stay Geneva

Places to visit in Geneva

Lake Geneva

Jet d’Eau

Day 12

Places to visit :

Vielle Ville

Jarden Anglais

Pacdela Grange

**Zurich Airport (5pm)

OR should we just stay at Montreux for Day 10 – 12? as we understand that train ride from Montreux to Geneva Airport is about over 1 hr only?

Much thanks

4607 posts
Mar 9, 2018 - 5:00 AM in reply to Flurter

Hello Flurter,

If you are arriving Zurich and departing Geneva and really want to do all those scenic trains then the most efficient order I can think of is:

1. Zurich to Zermatt

2. Zermatt to Chur (Glacier Express)

3. Chur to Lugano (Bernina Express)

4. Lugano to Lucerne (Gotthard Panorama Express)

5. Luzerne to Interlaken (Golden Pass)

6. Interlaken to Montreux (Golden Pass)

Stopping off for a night or two wherever you like along the way.

7 posts
new member
Mar 9, 2018 - 7:33 AM in reply to rockoyster

Hi Rockoyster

Thanks so much for your prompt reply. I'm now more than confused. Does it mean to say that we would have to miss certain scenic trains if we stick to our detailed itinerary. What are the scenic trains that we will have to forego? Is it worth it ? Btw, is our itinerary workable if we still want to stick to it. If we were to forego some scenic train rides, would the normal trains allow us to view the scenery on those parts that we cannot take the scenic train.

Would really appreciate your feedback as we have booked most of our hotels.

thanks much

4607 posts
Mar 9, 2018 - 8:43 AM in reply to Flurter

Hello Flurter,

Don't panic. Your planned itinerary will be fine. It just doesn't include the Bernina Express or the Gotthard Panorama Express which you had in your original wishlist.

Wherever you go in Switzerland is pretty wonderful so if you miss a particular train ride this time just come back another time to experience it.

7 posts
new member
Mar 9, 2018 - 9:51 AM

Hi Rokoyster

Thanks a million for such quick response! Will talk to the others and get their feedback. Seriously, I wouldn't want to miss taking all the scenic trains but one just can't have all.

Anyhow, thanks awfully.

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0 posts
new member
Mar 10, 2018 - 2:19 AM in reply to Flurter

Hi Flurter,

Are you using any maps as part of your planning process? There’s Google Maps of course, and the map showing where the Swiss Travel Pass is valid also gives you a good idea of where places are in relation to each other, and what modes of transport link them. Attached to that map is another map clearly showing where the panoramic routes are.

www.myswissalps.com/sw isstravelpass/validity

Approximate travel times for the scenic routes (one way) are as follows:

  • Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz: 8 hours
  • Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano: 4.25 hours
  • Golden Pass line (full) from Luzern to Montreux: 5 hours
  • Golden Pass Line (part) from Luzern to Interlaken Ost: almost 2 hours
  • Golden Pass line (part) from Interlaken Ost to Montreux: 3 hours
  • Gotthard Panorama Express (boat and train) from Luzern to Lugano: 5.5 hours
  • Palm Express (PostBus) from Lugano to St Moritz: almost 4 hours
  • Voralpen-Express from Luzern to St. Gallen: 2.25 hours
  • RegioExpress Lötschberger (full) from Bern to Brig: 1.75 hours
  • RegioExpress Lötschberger (part) from Spiez to Brig: Just over 1 hour
  • Centovalli Railway from Locarno to Domodossola: 1.75 hours

If you want to calculate travel time for short sectors along these routes, you can use the Swiss Timetable:

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

>> Also how do we incorporate the Bernia Express into this trip or if its at all possible?

It’s called the Bernina Express. Please see the map of panoramic routes to see where the Bernina Express route is in relation to the places you will be staying at.

>> *Stay Wengen (1 night, 2 nites in Lauterbrenun)

It's Lauterbrunnen. Staying in either Wengen or Lauterbrunnen (not both) would avoid wasting time checking in and out. I would prefer Wengen for the views and village ambience.

>> Places like to visit :

  • Harder Kulum - Harder Kulm
  • Grinderwald - Grindelwald
  • Murren - Mürren or Muerren if you cannot type ü
  • Thrumbach Waterfall - Trümmelbach Falls

Care with spelling of place names will make your research easier ;-) And less likely to confuse us …

>> *Stay Lucene … Take bus to Iseltwald

This looks odd. Iseltwald is on the Brienzersee (Lake Brienz). That’s near Interlaken, not Luzern/Lucerne. What are you planning to do at Iseltwald?

>> Lucerne – Chur – normal train?


>> Chur – Zermatt – Glacier Express?

At this time of year, the Glacier Express departs Chur for Zermatt at 11:26, 12:26 and 14:16. Do those departure times suit your plans?

>> Places to visit in Zermatt … Rhone Valley … Gothard Panaroma Express (possible?)

Where exactly in the Rhone Valley do you plan to go?

The Gotthard Panorama Express runs between Lugano and Luzern. It’s not near Zermatt. Please take a look at the map of panoramic routes.

>> Zermatt to Montreux via Golden Pass Line

This is the long way round, taking you back almost to Interlaken before heading towards Montreux, but worth it for the scenery if you have enough time. See attached journey map.

>> should we just stay at Montreux for Day 10 – 12? as we understand that train ride from Montreux to Geneva Airport is about over 1 hr only?

I would. Direct trains from Montreux to Geneva Airport take between 1 hr 8 mins and 1 hr 34 mins, depending on which train you take. Make sure to plan all your trips using the Swiss Timetable (link above).


Last modified on Mar 10, 2018 - 2:20 AM by Removed user
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7 posts
new member
Mar 20, 2018 - 4:08 PM

Hi Rockoyster

I have msde some checking on your recommendation to do Gothard Express between Lugano anf Lucerne but am still at a loss. We do not intend to go all the way to Lugano but will stop at Tirano. How do we come back from Tirano to Lucerne incorporating the Gothard Express as recommended? Could you also help to include boat rides if any. Much thanks

4607 posts
Mar 20, 2018 - 7:48 PM in reply to Flurter

Hello Flurter,

I’m not sure what your itinerary looks like now but I think you are confusing two train trips.

The Gotthard Panorama (www.myswissalps.com/go tthardpanoramaexpress) runs between Lucerne and Lugano but goes nowhere near Tirano. You can take the GPE including boat ride to Lugano and fast train back to Lucerne in a long day.

The Bernina Express (www.myswissalps.com/be rninaexpress) runs between Chur And Lugano via Tirano.

You can take boat trips on lakes Lucerne, Brienz, Thun or Geneva.

10385 posts
expert &
Mar 21, 2018 - 6:53 AM in reply to rockoyster

and Lake Zurich! :) If they stick around Zurich....haha

4607 posts
Mar 21, 2018 - 10:20 AM in reply to Lucas

I had assumed they meant scenic boat trips. 😇

10385 posts
expert &
Mar 21, 2018 - 12:56 PM in reply to rockoyster

Awwww snap! haha. Its scenic here....... :)

7 posts
new member
Apr 11, 2018 - 9:02 AM in reply to Lucas

Hi Advisers

We have taken your inputs and came up with the schedule below. Would greatly appreciate if you could advise if its in right order and where we should be staying as we are about to confirm our hotels. Thanks again.

We are opting to buy the 15 day STP or should we do otherwise? We intend to cover as much as possible.

25/5 Arrive Zurich 0700, go directly to Lucene from Zurich Airport

25/5 Arrive Lucene, Stay 25/5, 26/5

27/5 Lucene – Lugano via Gothard Express, stay Lugano

Lucene – Fluelen (by boat)

Fluelen – Goshenen (by train)

Arrive Lugano at about 5pm

Pls recommend hotel to stay in Lugano as we need to catch the train from Lugana to Tirano early the next day.

28/5 Lugano – Tirano, 10am – 1pm )

Tirano – Chur, 2.45pm – 6.20pm, Stay Chur ) via Bernina Express

29/5 Chur – Zermatt, 0800 – 3pm via Glacier Express, Stay Zermatt 29/5,30/5

31/5 Zermatt – Interlaken via normal train, stay Interlaken 31/5,1/6/2/6/3/6

- Day trips to Lucerne, Bern, Zurich (doable?)

4/6 Interlaken – Montreux via Golden Pass, stay Montreux 4/6

Interlaken OST – Spiez ,0908 -0932

Spiez – Zwisimmen, 0936 – 1019

Zwisimmen – Montreux, 1025 – 1213

5/6 Montreux - Geneva (normal train) in morning

Tour till evening, take normal train to Geneva Airport to Home

10385 posts
expert &
Apr 11, 2018 - 2:07 PM in reply to Flurter

Hi Flurter,

The Swiss Travel Pass is probably the best option for you yes. To know for sure you'll need to do the math and comapre prices with the rail pass. Chantal's link at the end of her first reply to you has all the details you need to choose the best rail pass your your itinerary.

We have hotel accommodations for most towns, but not any in Lugano. You can try checking hotelscombined to see what you can find. Another member may have a recommendation for you too.

The itinerary looks good here. As to whether the day trips to Lucerne, Bern and Zurich are doable is up to you - they aren't too close to Interlaken though (2-3 hours one-way). Depending on what you want to see/do you may want to focus your time on the Jungfrau region though? I wouldn't bother with visiting Zurich but perhaps make time for Lucerne and/or Bern if you want to see some nice Swiss cities.

Last modified on Apr 11, 2018 - 2:08 PM by Lucas
7 posts
new member
Apr 25, 2018 - 5:11 AM


After some checking we realised that we need to pay quite a tidy sum o top of the 15 days STP for scenic rides. We are lookong at around another CHF200 to 300 more. Also seat reservations are quite high eg chf45 for glacier express fron Happy Rail? Not sur e I got it right though. Am wondering if our schedule above is a bit too much in terms of taking so ma ny scenic rides. Would we be seeing almost same scenery? Should we forego any? Which ride hss same scenery if we take normal trains. Thank you.

4607 posts
Apr 25, 2018 - 5:30 AM in reply to Flurter

You can avoid reservation charges by taking all the scenic routes using regular trains. The only leg you would need a reservation is the bus Lugano to Tirano.

You will see the same scenery though the windows won't be as large. And the regular trains don't have the commentary provided on the tourist express trains. But they have the advantage you can break the journey along the way and catch the next train.

What percentage of your overall Swiss travel budget does CHF200-300 represent? Not much I would guess. Your plan looks good (especially if you like trains) - go with it.

Last modified on Apr 25, 2018 - 5:31 AM by rockoyster
10385 posts
expert &
Apr 25, 2018 - 9:04 AM in reply to Flurter

Is the 200-300 more you need to pay based on the extra reservation fees? When you say "Also seat reservations are quite high..." it makes me think it is 2 different topics.

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