Me and my husband visited Switzerland in early October (1st-12th). This was our first European trip and we had carefully planned our trip from by reading trip reports, scanning through the various pages containing plenty of useful information and taking inputs from the forum here. I did not find any other website having such clear, precise and easy-to-read information. A big thank you to “My Swiss Alps”. Additionally, I would like to thank Lucas, Magicden , and Slowpoke. All your suggestions in my initial thread were spot on.
Along with the trip report I have included included some points of note which I hope will help other travellers. Below is the link where we had posted our initial itinerary. We followed it mostly, but had to be flexible and modified it depending on the weather and convenience.
Trip Report :
Day 1: Luzern - Our flight from India landed in Zurich in the evening. We had a long layover in Paris and had utilized the time to explore Paris a bit. The Swiss Travel Pass was valid from the next day. So we had booked a super saver ticket to Luzern and the train was after 3 hours. We had no cash with us. So we searched for an ATM in the airport and withdrew some cash. Tiredness was creeping in but still we explored the airport and took the train to Luzern. Reached Luzern around 10pm in the night. We went out of the station in search of our hotel, Ibis Budget Luzern City. We didn’t have internet, so I had stored the offline route to our hotel. It was about 15 minutes’ walk from the station.
Day 2 : Mount Titlis
Checked that the weather was perfect and we headed out for Titlis at around 8am. We took the tickets from Luzern station which cost around 104chf .It was a beautiful train journey towards Engelberg with views of lakes , ice-clad mountains and green pastures. Even more beautiful was the cable car ride to Titlis. We spent about three hours at the top, playing with snow, doing the cliff walk and visiting the Glacier cave. There is a Lindt chocolate shop in there and the prices were reasonable.
While coming down, we got down the cable car to see Trubsee Lake. The lake area was surrounded with snow. It was like straight out of a fairy tale. Though it was not in our initial plan to spend much time here, we ended up spending about two hours here. We felt it was one of the best sight of our entire trip.We roamed around Engelberg for a bit. On returning to Luzern, there was some daylight left. We strolled around the Old town area and saw the beautiful chapel bridge.
Day 3: Mount Rigi
Weather was clear and we went ahead with our plan to visit Rigi. Took the boat to Vitznau and then the cog wheel train to Rigi Kulm. We returned using the cable car from Rigi Kaltbad-First to Weggis.
Rigi Kaltbad-First has a few small shops and good spots for taking photos. Weggis is beautiful little town. The area around the boat dock is very scenic with great views of the lake and mountains. We spent some time walking around here. From Weggis, we first thought of going till Fluelen but instead took the boat back to Luzern and then the train to Bern. We had less time so just walked around the main street to the Bear Garden and came back to Luzern.
Day 4: Glacier Express route
We had not reserved seats in the Glacier express, so we planned to cover this route using the local trains. Our route was as follows: Luzern – Bern – Brig (Lostchberger route)- Chur(change of trains at Andermatt and Disentis) – Luzern(Change at Thalwil). On the previous day during our conversation with a local, we got to know that the weather today was going to be good. So we started early morning after breakfast. It was a daylong of train journey. It was good that we had to frequently change trains during the entire journey which kept us awake in spite of the tiredness. The Lostchberger route and the Oberalp pass were the highlight in the entire route.
Day 5: Golden Pass route
Our stay was at Montreux and we went there using the Golden pass route. We started from Luzern early morning. The clouds were sitting over the lakes outside Luzern which made for great views. The views around Interlaken like Lake Brienz and then the part near Montreux where the train comes out of a tunnel and moves in between the vineyards with a view of Lake Geneva in far below, were the best. During the journey we stopped in Spiez for some time. Just outside the train station there is a very good spot to take pictures.
We reached Montreux in the afternoon. We had plenty of time so we kept our bags in the hostel locker and moved quickly to visit the Lavaux vineyards. Our initial plan was to hike from Epesses till Saint Saphorin. Instead we ended up hiking from Cully to Rivaz. It was a beautiful hike and the vines had turned golden and were looking absolutely gorgeous. In between we realized, we had left our wallets along with our bags in the locker. But we had the STP with us so it wasn’t much of a problem. Another reason to get the Swiss travel pass.
While returning from Rivaz, we got down at Vevey. The sun was about to set and after some initial confusion we quickly went to the lake side promenade near the Alimentarium. We saw the Big Fork protruding out of the lake. The sunset there was beautiful. We spent some time relaxing in the revolving chairs set up in the stones on the lake admiring the views before returning to our hostel in Montreux.
Day 6: Chateau de Chillon , Mannlichen – Kleine Schedegg hike
After having breakfast, we walked along the promenade for about half an hour to reach the Chateau de Chillon. The walk to the castle is a beautiful one with various intermediary spots to take pictures. We didn’t go inside the castle as we planned to move to Wengen and visit one of our planned spots in the Bernese Oberland region.
While going from Lauterbrunnen towards Wengen, you will get a breathtaking view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley on the right side. We reached Wengen and checked in our hotel which was near the station. Just a 5 minute walk from our hotel was the Mannlichen cable car station. Quickly checked the weather and it was clear. We asked in the ticket office whether we will be able to complete the hike to Kleine Schedegg and be able to catch the last train back to Wengen. On getting a go ahead, we made the immediate plan to go to Mannlichen and booked the tickets. The Mannlichen-Kleine Schedegg hike was a thrilling one for us. For most of the hike we were all alone in the mountains with no one anywhere nearby. In between the weather changed. There were clouds and it started raining. Luckily we had our rain coats with us. And then out of nowhere there were two rainbows formed just beside us. It was the first time we saw an actual rainbow and it was so near to us. It was surreal. We reached Kleine Schedegg and after taking some pictures took the last train down to Wengen.
Day 7: Gornergrat
This was the first cloudy day we experienced in Switzerland. As we checked the webcams, the mountain area near the Bernese Oberland was surrounded with clouds. We checked the webcam of Gornergrat and it was somewhat clear. We had doubts that by the time we reach it might be cloudy there, still we went ahead and started towards Zermatt by changing connections in Spiez and Visp.
In Zermatt , we checked the webcam again before booking the tickets for Gornergrat. It was a bit cloudy but we decided to move up anyways as we could partially see the Matterhorn among the clouds. When we reached the top, most of the peaks were clearly visible but not the Matterhorn. We spend about an hour clicking photos and then returned. While returning we got down at Rotenboden and hiked to see the Rifflesee lake. We had to get back to Wengen on the same day. So we thought of skipping the trek to Rifflealp. But somehow after going past the lake , we took a different route and ended up walking for almost 40 minutes to the Riffleberg station. During the entire time, we were all alone and at times from far it felt as if we were about to reach the end of a cliff and there was no road ahead. But as we moved along the mountain, the trail was always there. From Riffleberg we took the next train down to Zermatt. We could not spend any time in Zermatt as evening was approaching and we had to get back to Wengen. So we caught the immediate next train towards Wengen.
Day 8: Schilthorn and Trummelbach Falls
To our luck, the weather was clear in the Bernese Oberland and decided to visit Schilthorn. We had our breakfast and started towards the station. On reaching the Wengen station, in our hurry we didn’t realize that the train towards Lauterbrunnen had not arrived. Instead the train going towards Kleine Scheidegg was about to leave and we got into that. As the train started to move we realized our mistake and got down at the next stop that is Allmend (which is a on request stop). Thankfully the ticket officer didn’t charge us as the route was not free with STP.
We changed three cable cars and reached Schilthorn. The weather was absolutely clear and we had a great time at the top. We spent around two hours at the top visiting the various view points and having some snacks at Plz Gloria. Then we did the thrill walk at Birg. We got down the cable car at Murren. Spent some time strolling around the village and then went down by walk to Gimmelwald. The walk to Gimmelwald took about 30 minutes and this was again a very scenic walk and I would absolutely recommend it to everyone.
We went to Lauterbrunnen using the cable car from Gimmelwald and immediately took the bus and got down near Trummelbach falls. The force with which the water falls in between the rocks was amazing. While returning towards Wengen, there was still some daylight left. So we instantly made plan to give a quick visit to Grindelwald. We got down the train at Zweilutschinen and took the train to Grindelwald. It was a short but beautiful train ride. Grindelwald seemed like a bigger town than Wengen and Lauterbrunnen and had many shops and restaurants than Wengen. Walked around the town for a bit and then returned to Wengen
Day 9: Boat Trips & Shopping
By this time we had covered all our planned sight-seeing spot. We had another day of stay in Wengen . So we decided to do the boating trips near Interlaken and a bit of souvenir shopping. First did the boat trip from Interlaken – on Lake Brienz which was about 1hr and 10mins. Then took the train to Thun and did a short boat trip in Lake Thun. The full boat trip till Interlaken West would have taken about 2 hours. Instead we got down at Oberhofen castle and visited the castle. Then we took the bus to Thun and roamed around the city for some shopping.
Our first visit to Bern of the 2nd day was for a very short time and we really liked the vibe in the city which was very different compared to the other towns we had seen in Switzerland. Also it was a great place for some shopping. So we took the next train to Bern and spent the rest of the day there, shopping and walking around the beautiful old town.
Day 10 : First – Bachalpsee lake hike
This was our last day in Bernese Oberland region and we were very confused on what to do. As per our planning the only place that was left was First and the hike to Bachalpsee lake. But we were unsure (actually too tired for another hike) whether to go there or roam around the villages. Finally we decided to cover all that we had planned and took the tickets to First. And I must say, it was the best cable car ride, we had taken in Switzerland. It was roughly about 30-40 minutes. It was a very windy day. The cable cars were frequently stopping in between every 5-10 minutes (though I am not sure if it was due to the wind or some other reason). And when the cable cars were stopping we could see the other cable cars swinging slowly which was an amazing sight. In fact the views all-around (of surrounding mountains, cows grazing in the meadows below) were beautiful.
On reaching the top , we started our hike to Bachalpsee lake. We were very tired and the initial part of the hike was somewhat uphill and was a bit difficult for us. But the rest of the trail was even . All our tiredness disappeared seeing the lake which was absolutely beautiful and stunning. The winds were very strong near the lake and at times it felt like it would blow us away. Returning to First from the lake was much easier and felt quicker. We were too tired for any other activities and went down to Grindelwald and then to Wengen.
Day 11 – Rhine Falls and Chapel Bridge again!
The previous day we realized that after spending 5 days in Wengen, we had still not spend time exploring the village. We mostly reached Wengen late after our day trips and everything was closed by that time. So after having breakfast, we immediately went out to stroll around Wengen for a while. Then we checked out of our hotel and took the train towards Zurich via Bern (the quicker route). But unluckily there was some construction going on in Bern and the train didn’t stop there. We had to get down in Olten and take another train to Zurich which took another hour or so.
We stored our luggage and went to see the Rhine Falls. We spend hardly half an hour there and quickly returned to Zurich and walked around the station for a bit. It was around 5pm and we were too tired to walk. We checked the timetable, a train was about to leave towards Luzern. Even though we had our return flight early morning of the next day, we felt like seeing the Chapel Bridge one more time and immediately took the train to spend some time in Luzern. Again it turned out to be a very good decision. On reaching Luzern, there was some carnival going on near the Luzern station. There were lots of people and lot many food and gaming stalls. We spend some time there enjoying and walked to the Chapel Bridge. We reached Zurich around 11pm and flew back to India early next morning with unforgettable memories.
Points of note:
Decision to visit just Switzerland – Visiting Switzerland was a dream of ours. Initially when we started planning for the trip, almost everyone who heard told us to include some other nearby countries along with Switzerland in our 12 days of stay. At one point after hearing everyone, we slightly considered that as well. But thankfully in the end we ignored everything and stuck to our initial decision to visit just Switzerland. And I would recommend the same to everyone to stick to one destination for smaller trips. There is just so much to see, explore and admire in Switzerland.
Weather - We were blessed with a nearly perfect weather for about 8 days in our 10 days of travel. The couple of days when the weather was not that good didn’t spoil any of our plans.
Experience - We experienced something new and varied each day. We covered most of the places we planned to see in about 8 days. The rest couple of days, we spent roaming around towns we hadn’t planned and doing some souvenir shopping. Each of our 10 days was adventurous and enjoyable.
SIM card - We bought a prepaid Sunrise SIM card, which turned out to be good value for money. The charges were about 2.5chf per day.
SBB app - As already mentioned many times in the forum, the SBB App works wonderfully well. It is a must have if you are on a tight schedule and want to save time. It gave us the flexibility that is so often needed for a trip ours and helped us on so many occasions when we instantly made plans to visit some place. Even during journeys it displays the live location of the train as it is moving. Although information is also displayed in the TV screens inside the train, this was a feature which we liked very much and constantly used. During our last day of travel to Zurich, our train routes were diverted due to some construction in Bern. There also this was of great help.
Google Maps - Though not needed much when hiking (as all the trials we covered were well marked), still it helped. Mostly to quickly find hotels, bus stops, ATMs, grocery stores and so on.
Transportation – I have nothing to say that is not already mentioned. The SBB transport system works amazingly well with each of buses, trains, boats and cable cars exactly on time. In rare occasions, if there is a delay or a cancellation, adequate information and alternate arrangements are provided.
Accommodation – We had no problem with any of our accommodation. We stayed at Ibis Budget Luzern City, Montreux Youth Hostel and Aparthotel Residence Bernerhof (Wengen). The rooms were having basic amenities everywhere. In Wengen, the room had an excellent view of the mountains. If you are travelling primarily in train and have lots to cover on a particular day, I would recommend choosing hotels which are near to the station or within a 15-30 minutes walking distance.
Rail Pass - We had lots of travelling involved and had done the calculation. Our initial plan was to take a 15 day STP (Swiss Travel Pass) for the 11 days trip. But later took the 8 day STP (with 2 free days promotion) on seeing the promotion was available. The STP is very convenient. If you have lots of train and cable car travels this is a no-brainer to have. The STP combined with the SBB app saved us a lot of time during our journey. We were frequently able to change trains avoiding taking tickets each time or getting train information.
Groceries - Coop and Migros were available at or near most railway stations. We felt Coop was slightly better as they had a wider variety of products to choose from . We even found a couple of Aldi stores where the prices were good.
Cash/Credit cards- Ticket counters , grocery stores accept most of the credit cards. We had a prepaid travel card which worked everywhere and saved us from bad exchange rates. But it is advisable to keep hold of some cash as smaller shops don’t accept cards for smaller amounts.
Zurich airport - On the days of our arrival and departure , we spent a considerable amount of time in and around the airport. On the day of arrival we reached in the evening and our departure was early in the morning. You can easily pass your time in the airport. There is a transit hotel, two observation decks where you can see flights taking off and landing and lots of shops. Free Wifi is available for 2 hours. To connect to the wifi , you need to register your mobile number and the password will be sent as a message. If your mobile network is not available, you can get the password by scanning your boarding pass in the internet kiosks. Lockers are available to store your luggages .
Food and Dining – It is expensive to dining in restaurants and hotel. We took some ready-to-eat and packed foods along with us which saved us some money. In Wengen , our apartment had a kitchen and we took groceries from Coop and made our own meals. We tried pizza in Da Sina Pizzeria in Wengen and it was awesome.
Best Places/Experiences we had – Switzerland is beautiful throughout and every day we saw something memorable. If I had to choose, the following were the absolute best highlights :
- Trubsee lake (surrounded with snow covered mountains)
- Rainbow during the Mannlichen – Kleine Schedegg hike (even the hike was thrilling as we were alone during most of the hike) ,
- Murren to Gimmelwald hike
- Evening near Chapel Bridge listening to the street musicians
- Seeing the Matterhorn finally come out of the clouds during our unplanned hike to Riffleberg,
- Mount Titlis experience
- Evening in Vevey watching the sunset near the Alimentarium and the Lavaux vineyards.
- Of the villages in Bernese Oberland, we would recommend Wengen (which was absolutely beautiful) or Grindelwald (which had more shop and a different feel to the others).
Thrill Walks – In spite of having some skepticism as I am somewhat afraid of heights, ended up completing all the thrill walks we encountered (Titlis cliff walk , Tissot cliff walk at First and Thrill Walk at Birg) . Each one is an experience not to be missed.
People – The people were very helping and we had some good conversations with the locals during our train journeys. On one instance, a local offered us to change sides in the train, so that we not miss out on better views.
We had the experience of a lifetime and hope that we will be able to visit Switzerland again soon. Attached are some pictures from our trip.
Thank you !