Planning our holiday in Switzerland would never have been as easy without MySwissAlps.com. Slowpoke, Arno and Annika patiently answered my questions and the website provided answers to all my other doubts.
My husband and I were in Switzerland in March 2016. The costs mentioned below are in CHF / person and unless otherwise specified are at 50% discount using the Swiss Half fare card.
Day 1: Travelled from Paris to Meiringen via Lausanne. Bought the Swiss Half fare card at the Lausanne station before proceeding to Meiringen, changing trains in Bern, Spiez and Interlaken Ost (‘East’ in German).
The half fare card costs CHF 120 per person + CHF 32 for train from Lausanne to Meiringen. (at 50% discount) - CHF 152
Day 2: Overnight the weather changed and it was snowing all over the region. So instead of venturing far, we took the cable car from Meiringen to Planplatten (7,365 feet). In the intermediate cable car stop of Magisalp we hired sledges for as cheap as CHF 4 each and had a good time sledging though at times the visibility was as low as 100 metres.
Return Cable car trip - CHF 30
Day 3: The weather had cleared since the previous day but the forecast for the coming days looked even better so we decided to give it one more day before heading into the mountains and instead went to Montreux making a leisurely start at 9AM. We changed trains at Interlaken Ost, Spiez and Zweisimmen. The Zweisimmen to Montreux route was by the Golden Pass Express and the journey through the snowed out landscape from within the comfort of a heated train was very beautiful. (CHF 31)
Checked the live feed of the Rochers-de-Naye webcam at the exclusive Golden Pass line information cum ticket counter in Montreux station, as there was still some cloud cover at the top we followed the direction boards from the station and walked down a couple of flight of stairs to lake Geneva. Spent a while at the promenade taking photographs and eating a snack before taking bus 201 going towards Vevey and getting off at the Chillon Castle (pronounced ‘Shiyon’). Had read a good deal about this 12th century castle and we thoroughly enjoyed going around the castle. Took us a good 2 hours armed with an audio guide and the brochure of the castle to complete our visit. (Entrance fee to the castle is CHF 12.5 per person, no discount on the Half fare card + Audio guide another CHF 5 per person.)(Can’t recollect the bus fare we paid)
We took the bus back to Montreux Gare (‘station’ in French). The clouds on Rochers-de-Naye (6,699 feet) had completely cleared, so we bought tickets and took the cog wheel train up the mountain. It was very windy up there, something the visuals don’t show, so could spend very little time out in the open. Spent a while in the restaurant and took the last train back to Montreux. Especially loved the view of Lake Geneva and the now familiar Chillon Castle from the train journey. (CHF 34.20)
We took the fastest connection back to Meiringen, changing trains at Visp, Spiez and Interlaken Ost.(CHF 39.50)
Total transport cost for the day: CHF 104.70
Day 4: As forecast it was a glorious day, one last check of the feeds from webcams in the Jungfrau region and we skipped breakfast at the hotel and boarded a 6:14AM train from Meiringen and headed to Jungfraujoch (11,333 feet). We changed trains at Interlaken Ost, Lauterbrunnen and at Kleine Scheidegg to the railway line built in 1912 which passing through tunnels in Eiger and Monch took us to the ‘Top of Europe’(highest rail station in Europe, really), stopping at 2 places in between the 50 minute journey with a 5 minute halt at each stop to view and admire the scenery from big windows.
We spent some time at the viewing platform below the Sphinx observatory (11,782 feet) in -14 degree Celsius but with the amazing view spread out around us, Monch (13,475 feet) in almost touching distance and the Sun and Alpine Coughs keeping us company, spent 20 minutes comfortably, clicking loads of photos. Back home as I go through the photos, I realise just how impossible it is to capture the beauty of the landscape in its entirety.
There are many other things to do at Jungfraujoch – shopping for souvenirs and chocolates; wooden sculptures, paintings of alpine landscape and the ‘chocolate in the making’ to take photos with; various Swiss watch brands to ogle at, if not buy; photographs and instruments of the time when the station was built to admire; and memories of those who lost their lives in building the station to spare a thought to…
On our way down, we stopped at Kleine Scheidegg and lunched on vegetarian ‘Rostizza’ at a restaurant in the station before heading down to the charming town of Lauterbrunnen which rests in a deep valley surrounded by mighty vertical mountain walls. A 10 minute hike from the station brought us to the Staubbach Falls which descends from a height of over 800 feet, it was down to a trickle in winter, as if saving up energy to look spectacular in summer when the snow melts.
A round trip from Meiringen to Jungfraujoch - CHF 115
Total transport cost for the day: 115
Day 5: A check of the webcams and we decided to go to First. An 8 AM start after breakfast at the hotel and we headed to Grindelwald via Interlaken Ost.
Grindelwald seemed more like a city rather than a small mountain town. We took a bus from outside the station to the start of cable cars to First. First is especially popular with skiers.
On reaching First, we did the cliff walk on the metal bridge around rocky cliffs. Then we hired 2 sledges at CHF 15 each. There are 2 routes to choose from - one, where we had to hike uphill, dragging the sledge all the way to Faulhorn (8,795 feet) past the Bachalpsee lake (7,431 feet) and then sledge down all the way down to Grindelwald. The hike up the slopes alone would have taken at the very least 2.5 hours.
The other option, which we choose, was to hike up about 40% of the route short of Bachalpsee lake and start sledging from there down to the point where the slope joins the second stop of Bort (5,150 feet) on the Grindelwald-First cable car route.
Mind you, dragging a sledge uphill is like taking an unwilling dog for a walk. Took us a good 1.5 hours to get to this point from First. The first two slopes from the start of sledge route are the most challenging as the slopes are quite steep. Having tackled the first 2 slopes, the challenge further on are the open slopes on one side to stay away from, the path is quite wide but it sure pays to play it safe. After crossing these 2 milestones, the pine tree lined slopes get narrower but inclination so gradual that even riding the sledge we enjoyed the scenery. This was my favourite part of the route. Going downhill watch out for hikers. Check out for the sledge routes and options here: www.grindelwaldbus.ch/ en/sledging
The danger from snow bound activities is very real. There is a hospital right across the street from the cable car start point in Grindelwald, discreetly hidden behind a building on the road. Be careful, follow instructions and guidelines at all times and try not to bite off more than you can chew.
We did not go up to the Bachalpsee lake as the lake is frozen in winter, but have read great reviews of the beauty of the place in summer. Check the video of the lake in summer here: www.jungfrau.ch/en/tou rism/destinations/grin delwald-first/360-degree-panorama/
Cable car return trip from Grindelwald to First – CHF 29.
Return bus trip from Grindelwald train station to First cable car point – CHF 6
Return train journey from Meiringen to Grindelwald – CHF 23.80
Total transport cost for the day: CHF 58.80
Day 6: Having had quite an adventure the previous day we decided to spend the day leisurely and decided to take a boat across Lake Thun, get off at Thun and take a train to Bern and go around the old town area.
Being winter, there was just one boat leaving Interlaken around 12:30PM. We took bus 21 (don’t remember the fare paid) from outside the Interlaken Ost station and got off at Neuhaus, which is the boat boarding point in Interlaken. We had a lot of time on hand, we watched Gulls and a pair of Mute Swans and Eurasian Coots in water, clicked photos by the lake, sat by the lake and ate a chocolate croissant though we weren’t hungry and eventually ‘Schilthorn’ came along at her scheduled time. The closest the ‘ship’ was going to Thun was till Hilterfingen due to water level and we took a bus from there to Thun. The ship is more of a restaurant with 1st (upper deck) and 2nd classes also with an open deck. We passed by the lovely town of Spiez on the way.
At the Thun information centre, where we picked up a map of Thun, we got to know that the shops in the old town would all close by 5:30PM in both Thun and Bern and so we changed our plans and decided to walk around Thun instead of going to Bern.
The picturesque setting of river Aare flowing out of Lake Thun through the town; the stone paved old town with the lovely ambiance created by the stalls selling cloths, food, semi precious stones, hand bags and more; the castle built in 1190 AD; the rebuilt church (‘Stadkirche’, ‘City Church’ in German) next door with its origins going back to 10th century AD where we enjoyed a music concert in the evening sure made us forget the UNESCO heritage site of Bern old town. The views from the castle and the church-the highest point of Thun-are beautiful. We also passed by the statue of Fulehung, the fool who was a court jester who had mocked the Thun and Bernese soldiers as lazy in the Burgundian Wars in 1476 AD. In September every year, the town celebrates a folk festival where the person wearing the fool’s mask is teased from the castle all the way to the town hall.
We took a train from Thun after the concert at around 10PM.
Meiringen to Interlaken Ost – CHF 6.40
Boat from Interlaken Ost to Thun – CHF 8 (approximate amount. I don’t recollect the exact amount)
Train from Thun to Meiringen with a change in Interlaken Ost – CHF 13.50
Total transport cost for the day: CHF27.90
Day 7: One last goodbye to Sherlock Holmes (the statue, of course), an honorary citizen of Meiringen, in front of the Sherlock Holmes’ museum, (It was here that Holmes and Dr. Watson stayed before Holmes’ fatal encounter with Prof. Moriarty at the nearby Reichenbach Falls) and we moved from Meiringen to Lucerne (‘Luzern’ in German).
The train journey from Meiringen to Lucerne is very pretty. In winter, when we made the journey, the train ascended to a white carpeted Brunig pass (3,307 feet) and underwent change of scenery as it descended altitude and passed through pretty little green carpeted villages, interspersed by pretty lakes of Lungern and Sarnen and the short river Sarner. I especially loved the village of Giswil.
Reuss river which drains lake Lucerne flows through the city of Lucerne and a 669 feet long 12th century covered wooden bridge (Chapel Bridge) across this river with a fortification tower is the most popular monument in the city or perhaps it’s the dying lion carved into a stone wall in 1820 to commemorate the massacre of 760 Swiss guards in Paris in 1792 during the French Revolution. I can’t put it better than Mark Twain who described it as, “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” The agony on the face of the lion is so real, the dagger on the lion’s back twisted my heart.
In our wanderings around the city we came across the Church of St Leodegar, a beautiful church with 2 pointed towers with origins from 735 AD. There is a lovely water fountain in front of the church, memorial plaques and graves around the church in a tranquil setting.
There are many museums (including the Swiss transport museum and Alpinium Museum, opposite to the Lion monument, with 3D mountains which must have been a wonderful visual treat, a 100 years back, when it was created-I liked the old photographs of climbers and the climbing gear used back then) and a vibrant cultural scene if you can make time for it from the mountains surrounding the city – Titlis, Pilatus and Rigi.
Anytime of the day is a wonderful time to sit by lake Lucerne or by the chapel bridge, sipping a cup of hot chocolate and watch Mute Swans, Mallards, Eurasian Coots, Tufted Ducks and a couple of different types of Gulls go about their life. On the tree lined walkway by the lake, we also sat and listened to a concert by a Blackbird. A short walk after dinner at 10PM and we saw all the birds had settled down for the night except the Coots who were nowhere near settling down.
Meiringen to Lucerne – CHF 11.70
Alpinium Museum – CHF 6 (no discount on the half fare card)
Total transport cost for the day: CHF11.70
Day 8: My heart was set on Mt Rigi but it was a cloudy day and Rigi (5,899 feet) was in clouds, so we took a train from Lucerne to Engelberg instead and then a short (free) bus ride to the cable cars that took us up to Mt Titlis (10,623 feet). I particularly enjoyed the journey through the sparsely inhabited green countryside surrounded by high rise forested mountain slopes.
The cable car, the rotating cable car for the last leg of the ascent and the ice flyer ride at the top all came free with the <a href="/tellpass">Tell pass. As we ascended, we literally left the clouds behind and rose above into clear weather from where the clouds looked part of the topography. The cliff walk at the top is on the highest elevation suspension bridge on the continent. There is also a glacier cave and lots of activities for kids and adults. I would especially have loved to go boating on the mountain lake of Trubsee, but the lake freezes up in winter.
Back to Lucerne by 4PM, we took a boat on Lake Lucerne from the quay (‘Bahnhofquai’) just across the train station. For getting back to Lucerne the connection at that hour was to get off at Beckenried and take the last boat of the day back to Lucerne, which would arrive 6 minutes from our getting off. We were a little apprehensive of the possibility of not reaching in time to be able to get on the returning boat, we had also enquired about the alternate way of getting back to Lucerne but all that apprehension and enquiries were unfounded and unnecessary. The Swiss transport system is very efficient and works like a well oiled and maintained machine. Six minutes was a lot of time, we could have gone to the restaurant across the road, picked up a sandwich and reached back as the boat to Lucerne docked. Not that we did it.
We basically did the route that we would have done had we gone to Mt Rigi. We sailed touching the towns of Weggis and Vitznau. We got a beautiful view of these towns, interceded by lovely landscape of closer, greener mountains and the distant snow covered peaks beyond, party shrouded in clouds. The night lit sight of Lucerne was especially lovely. The boat ride was also free with the Tell pass.
Return Engleberg to Titlis cable car ride – CHF 89 (full fare rate) and the ice flyer ride costs CHF 12 (there is no reduction with the half fare card on this)
Return boat trip from Lucerne to Beckenried – CHF 51 (full fare rate)
A 2 day tell pass costs CHF 100 per person.
Thanks to MySwissAlps.com, we were aware of the winter offer of hotels giving <a href="/tellpasswinter" >Tell card free and so were able to ask for a voucher at the hotel and collect the pass at the information centre in the railway station. I don’t think we would have got the voucher at the hotel if we had not asked for it.
Day 9: We took in the sights of a farmers' market by the Chapel bridge as we walked to the station and took a train to Zurich to fly back home.
Lucerne to Zurich Flughafen (airport) – CHF14.50
Purchase of train tickets: We downloaded the SBB Mobile Application, filled in details of passengers and credit card. From then on, it was a very simple process of buying tickets every day. This App is also very handy to check train schedules. The App can be downloaded from: www.sbb.ch/en/travelca rds-and-tickets/e-tickets/mobileticket.h tml
Short time for platform change? Even 5 minutes is quite enough time to comfortably change platforms at a station to catch connecting trains as long as you are not encumbered by too much luggage.
Carrying luggage in trains: If you have a lot of luggage, get into the compartment with the bicycle symbol on it. Doors to these compartments invariably have a ‘bridge’ to the platform which makes dragging suitcases very easy. There is also lot of space to store the luggage in these compartments, away from the regular pathways.
When in doubt? Almost all the train stations (except the small, unmanned ones, I presume) have an Information centre. Maps of the area, brochures for things to do in the area, places to see etc can be picked up here and also you could ask for help and guidance here. Follow the boards with symbol ‘i’ to reach an information centre.
Webcam check: A good weather is essential to get a good view from any mountain. Before heading to any mountain, check the webcam on this site the night before and first thing in the morning - en.swisswebcams.ch/
Winter clothing on the mountains: We wore a base layer(thermal) of ‘The North Face’(A poly material, to take away moisture and keep dry), a mid layer of acrylic and an outer jacket consisting of 3 layers of Shell, lining and filling all made of Polyester(water and wind proof). The gloves we used were of polyester with an acrylic lining inside. We covered our head and ears with an acrylic cap and used the hood of the jacket over that. For the mountain top activities we used a poly socks which had a percentage of rubber in it, which kept our feet quite dry. We wore Quechua Forclaz 500 shoes with heel support and had no problems with either walking on snow or keeping feet dry while sledging.
Calculating train fare from Interlaken Ost: To calculate cost of train fare from Interlaken Ost instead of Meiringen, subtract CHF 12.8 per day (half fare cost).