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Zurich-Interlaken-Zermatt-Lugano in May

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The Boc
The Boc
8 posts
new member
Nov 16, 2019 - 1:23 AM

Hello, We will be leaving a river cruise in Zurich on May 6 and wish to visit Switzerland for several days afterwards. How does this itinerary, using various panoramic trains, look?

1) Zurich to Interlaken via Golden Pass (stay in Lauterbrunnen or Wengen 3 nights)

2) Interlaken to Zermatt via new train (stay in Zermatt 2 nights)

3) Zermatt to St Moritz or Pontresina via Glacier Express (stay 1 night)

4) Pontresina to Tirano and bus to Lugano via Bernina Express (stay Lugano 4 nights)

5) Lugano via bus to Malpensa for flight home

I know the weather is not ideal in May. Should we reverse route and fly out of Zurich so Zermatt and Interlaken would be a little later? Is this too much for this amount of time? Should any stops be lengthened? What type of rail pass would be best? What is the best way to travel in the Ticino/Italian Lake area during the 4 day stop?

Thank you !!!!

P

1960man
1960man
2320 posts
top member
Nov 16, 2019 - 1:56 AM in reply to The Boc

There is nothing wrong with your plan - it should work well

A few points:

1) Zurich - Interlaken is not the true 'Golden Pass' (see my 'FAQ' below)

2) Not sure what you mean by 'the new train' for Interlaken - Zermatt.

There are two ways to do Interlaken - Zermatt

a) Interlaken - Spiez - fast Intercity train through Lötschberg Base tunnel - Visp - Zermatt

b) Interlaken - Spiez - slow RegioExpress Lötschberger train via Kandersteg and the old Lötschberg mountain line and tunnel (scenic route) - Brig - Visp - Zermatt

The Boc
The Boc
8 posts
new member
Nov 16, 2019 - 2:07 AM

Thanks 1960man,

I am not sure where your FAQs are? Is the Golden Express more towards Montreaux? I eliminated that portion, so I wouldn't spread ourselves too thin. By "new train" I mean option a that you mention; the faster train....again trying to optimize our time in Zermatt and not spreading ourselves to thin. How much longer does option b take?

Any comments on the other questions?

Thanks again!

P

rockoyster
rockoyster
7839 posts
expert
Nov 16, 2019 - 2:27 AM in reply to The Boc

Hello Pjbhansen and Welcome to MySwissAlps,

The Golden Pass route, as marketed, runs from Luzern to Montreux via a collection of trains. The actual MOB Golden Pass Panoramic and Belle Epoque trains operate between Zweisimmen and Montreux. Here's a link to the 1960man FAQ - www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/golden-pass-train-route-1

In early May you could find a few mountain excursions in the Jungfrau region are not operating. If you search this site for attractions you are interested in and look at the "Route" tab on the resulting page you should find the dates of operation. That might help you decide if you go clockwise or counter-clockwise.

The route via Kandersteg to Zermatt is quite scenic between Spiez and Brig and I would say is well worth the extra hour it adds to the journey.

There is also a train from Lugano to Malpensa. See www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/lugano-to-milan-malpensa-trains.

In Lugano you hotel should give you a Ticino Ticket which covers a lot of travel in the area.

By far the best way to check timetables, find fares* and buy tickets on-line if required is using the SBB Mobile app (bit.ly/2ICIUHi). In the unlikely event you don’t have a device capable of running the app then you can use the timetable on the SBB website (bit.ly/2HH1U7B). If you are not familiar with using the timetable it will pay to first read the instructions at www.myswissalps.com/ti metable.

* The SBB website shows half-fare prices by default, the mobile app allows you to nominate whether to show full or half-fares (by editing the passenger details in settings) and is also smart enough to offer you the Saver Day Pass (www.myswissalps.com/sa verdaypass) if that offers the best fare. The app also show a platform map (at least at the larger stations) to help you make connections.

Based on your personal itinerary you should read “How to choose the best travel pass” (www.myswissalps.com/tr ain/ticketspasses/prac tical/chooserailpass), download the handy spreadsheet calculator and do the math. The spreadsheet also includes links to the “Where it's valid" page for all available passes. Be sure to check those pages for each pass you are considering. Study the map AND read all the text on those pages to fully understand what is covered by the respective pass.

The Swiss Travel Pass and the Swiss Half-fare card are the two most obvious candidates.

Yo will need seat reservations for the Glacier Express and for the Bernina Express train and bus.

Anna
Anna
322 posts
top member &
moderator
Nov 16, 2019 - 10:44 AM in reply to The Boc

Hi The Boc,

I agree with rockoyster. Based on your travel plans, you should consider getting the Swiss Travel Pass or the Swiss Half Fare card. For details please use links below.

In addition to what has been suggested, feel free to use these links to plan your travel.

Best regards,

Anna

Last modified on Nov 16, 2019 - 4:28 PM by Anna
Slowpoke
Slowpoke
6924 posts
expert
Nov 16, 2019 - 10:57 AM in reply to The Boc

HiP-

<<"I know the weather is not ideal in May.">>

In May, much of the Jungfrau region has limited service of tourist facilities. It is not that the weather is not ideal, it is that the snow for skiing has gone, and the higher hiking trails are not yet safely free of snow and are not open. It is the tail-end of Winter up there. No skiers, no hikers, which means no customers, so many but not all hotels and restaurants shut down. As Rockoyster notes, some cable ways are not running. They take a break for maintenance. There are still things to do and see in May. Spring arrives at the typical higher altitudes in early to mid-June, and well known trails are usually open by about June 15th. Altitude is everything.

However, at low altitudes, such as near Luzern, and at Interlaken itself, or nearby Thun,, Spring is definitely happening in early May and the weather can be very nice.

Not too many tourist anywhere in May....or even the first couple of weeks of June.

Slowpoke

The Boc
The Boc
8 posts
new member
Nov 16, 2019 - 2:47 PM

Thank you all...I have been trying to educate myself, but not much study of rail passes or accommodations yet. Trying to pin down an itinerary and still have more questions:

1) I visited the Berner Oberland, briefly, many years ago (in the summer) and loved it. We are not interested in hiking at the high altitudes; perhaps easy, lower walks. Did Schilthorn last time, so would like to do the Jungfraujoch this time. Have not seen Thun, Brienz, etc so could do this time, especially if weather is bad. Is it a mistake to stay in Wengen or Lauterbrunnen this time of year?

2) Similarly, is the Zermatt stop a mistake? Would like to see the village and do Gromergrat, if possible.

3) An acquaintance, who lived in Switzerland in the past, suggested we spend the bulk of time in the Ticino/Italian Lakes area due to the time of year. I have visited Italy often, so was trying to explore more of Switzerland, however, I don't want to set us up for disappointment with May disadvantages. Thoughts?

4) Do the 8 day train passes require 8 days of travel without interruption?

I apologize for all the questions, but thorough planning upfront will make a more successful trip. I appreciate your expertise!

TheBoc

Anna
Anna
322 posts
top member &
moderator
Nov 16, 2019 - 3:25 PM in reply to The Boc

Hi The Boc,

Any time is a good time to visit in my opinion. You just have to be flexible with your plans :) The hiking trails on the mountains may not be open but there are lots of trails you can do in the mid to lower levels, in the valleys, along the lakes etc. You can still go up the mountains, some services may be restricted but not all. It could rain any day, any time of the year anyway but if you are flexible, it shouldn't be a problem. The Jungfraujoch is operational all year, so you should definitely give that a go. If you're worried about the weather, I suggest you wait until the day to buy your tickets and make sure to check the mountain webcam and weather forecast before you go. Same thing in Zermatt, if you plan to go up the Gornergrat.

I think Lauterbrunnen is a good base for your trip. But Thun and Brienz would certainly offer a different but fantastic view of the lakes.

The 8-day Swiss Travel Pass is a consecutive pass. There is a different version called the Swiss Travel Pass Flex, which is non-consecutive. For more info on Swiss Travel Pass Flex: www.myswissalps.com/sw isstravelpassflex

Regards,

Anna

The Boc
The Boc
8 posts
new member
Nov 16, 2019 - 5:03 PM

Do you see any weather/open trail/service advantage in Zermatt or Oberland by reversing the trip and traveling:

Zurich to Lugano via train, then Bernina Express, Glacier Express, Zermatt to Oberland and Oberland to Zurich for flight out.

Or Zurich to Chur and Bernina Express, Glacier Express, Zermatt to Oberland and Oberland to Zurich for flight home???

There seem to be two long train/bus days from Zermatt to St Moritz and from St Moritz to Lugano. Is there any place to stay near St Moritz which would shorten the St Moritz to Lugano portion?

Thanks again and again!

Last modified on Nov 16, 2019 - 5:10 PM by The Boc
Anna
Anna
322 posts
top member &
moderator
Nov 16, 2019 - 7:16 PM in reply to The Boc

Hi The Boc,

I think either route works well.

For accommodation in St Moritz, please use this link: www.myswissalps.com/st moritz/hotels

Regards,

Anna

The Boc
The Boc
8 posts
new member
Nov 16, 2019 - 7:30 PM

Thanks, Anna...

Do you think the options with departure out of Zurich (with Oberland a little later in May) are better than my initial itinerary with departure out of Milan (Oberland earlier in May)?

Maybe more things open?

TheBoc

Anna
Anna
322 posts
top member &
moderator
Nov 16, 2019 - 7:35 PM in reply to The Boc

Yes, I think doing the trip in reverse is a good idea.

Regards,

Anna

rockoyster
rockoyster
7839 posts
expert
Nov 16, 2019 - 7:56 PM in reply to The Boc

I like “Zurich to Lugano via train, then Bernina Express, Glacier Express, Zermatt to Oberland and Oberland to Zurich for flight out”.

But I would take the Bernina Express through to Chur and take the Glacier Express from there to Zermatt. Try to get the seats at the front of the bus, right next to the front door, for a “fun” ride through the narrow streets of the villages along the shores of Lake Lugano and Lake Como.

From Zurich to Lugano look at going via Göschenen to pick up the scenic Gotthard Panorama Express train route. In fact starting 2020 you can join the actual GPEX train departing Arth-Goldhau at 13:44. GPEX train previously started at Flüelen.

The Boc
The Boc
8 posts
new member
Nov 16, 2019 - 8:19 PM

Rockoyster,

In the Chur scenario, would we have very long train rides 2 days in a row?

Thanks,

TheBoc

rockoyster
rockoyster
7839 posts
expert
Nov 16, 2019 - 8:28 PM in reply to The Boc

Yes, but there is no escape from that if you want to do the Bernina and Glacier back to back. Going to Chur means you do the full Bernina route and going from Chur makes the Glacier a bit more tolerable. The Bernina from Tirano to Chur doesn’t pass through St Moritz. I’ve not been there. Pontresina is the closest stop.

At least with the Bernina you get a decent break at Tirano and the chance to stretch your legs and grab a pizza (take Euros).

There is so much to see on the Bernina it seems to go really quickly. The only dull bit is once the bus leaves Lake Como and heads across to Tirano on motorways. Probably less dull in the front seats.

Last modified on Nov 16, 2019 - 8:30 PM by rockoyster
The Boc
The Boc
8 posts
new member
Nov 16, 2019 - 8:50 PM

Rockoyster,

Would you spend the night in Chur, then? It may be possible to spend 2 nights between the Bernina and Glacier, but I would have to take the night from somewhere else. Thoughts?

We are trying to work out flights. If we leave the itinerary in the original direction, I am assuming we can still do the Bernina and Glacier as you recommend, right?

I am so glad I found this site. All of you are wonderful, and there seems to be so much to learn re travel in Switzerland.

Thank you!

rockoyster
rockoyster
7839 posts
expert
Nov 16, 2019 - 9:34 PM in reply to The Boc

Hi The Boc,

I too was very pleased to find this great resource in 2017 planning our first trip to Switzerland. I kinda got hooked. 🤓

Personally I would just overnight at Chur rather than “stealing” a night from so where else.

We did the Glacier Express and the Bernina back to back. See trio reports at bit.ly/2GEdluh and bit.ly/2GEUfob. We also travelled on the Gotthard Panorama Express (bit.ly/2GEUfob).

You can do them in either direction but I would say Zurich - Lugano - Chur - Zermatt might be more efficient if you are arriving/departing Zurich and dropping Milan. Although looking back at your original post I notice you are leaving a “river cruise” which I presume ends at Basel. You could always go direct from Basel to the Bernese Oberland then continue to Zermatt. With Switzerland there are always too many options and too many things to do in too little time. 😎

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
6924 posts
expert
Nov 16, 2019 - 11:16 PM in reply to The Boc

Hi P-

You've had a lot comments about which way to do the trip, at least partially in response to your question:

<<"Do you see any weather/open trail/service advantage in Zermatt or Oberland by reversing the trip and traveling:

Zurich to Lugano via train, then Bernina Express, Glacier Express, Zermatt to Oberland and Oberland to Zurich for flight out.">>

<<"Do you think the options with departure out of Zurich (with Oberland a little later in May) are better than my initial itinerary with departure out of Milan (Oberland earlier in May)?

Maybe more things open?">>

The answers you have been getting deal with the convenience and nature of the travel...long days, scenic routes, etc. but not specifically with trails, and facilities that are open. You can use the timetable and a map to work on the travel details:

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

The correct answer to your question about "more things open" is that there is no advantage from the point of view of the Jungfrau Region, to going later in your days in May, since you will be there in the first and second week. Until you get to somewhere around the last week, if anything, it will probably be about equally as bad in the Jungfrau region any of those days until you get into June. At the very end of May, the cableways that were temporarily shut down start up again, and you can get up to, for example, Männlichen, but the good trails aren't open until about June 15th.

You have advice from Swiss friends . It is good general advice. Most Swiss could not conceive of a reason to visit the Jungfrau Region in early May. Zermatt, maybe. There might still be skiing Zermatt...higher altitude.

For the the Jungfrau Region, you should try to make your plans to do certain specific things...such as go up to Jungfraujoch ( possible), or walk the valley between Lauterbrunnen and Stechelberg (likely possible.) Maybe the Trummelbach Falls will be open by then.......etc., etc.. There are places to stay, and, at worst, you could stay in Interlaken. Then you can test against transport schedules, and determine feasibility. Planning in general terms is not reasonable. Get specific. Especially since you have been there before, general advice saying that you can have a good time is not helpful. You will already have had your first experience being awed by the region. You'll want to do more than just be impressed. If you focus on details, then, you can set up a visit that makes sense, or decide to skip it..

But, if we talk about the Berner Oberland, the answer is different. The BO is much larger than and is not synonymous with the Jungfrau Region. There are lower altitude places in the Berner Oberland. Both lakes, towns and villages along them, for example.

www.myswissalps.com/be rneseoberland

This walk, in the Valais is nice at that time of year, and although only on the southern fringes of the BO, is easy to reach from Thun, for example:

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

A visit to the BO in general terms is within reason, and it might make a very very slight difference in weather if you go a few days later in May than you planned on you r first itinerary. But, not much. At that time of year, you could get good days or bad days and it's not possible to predict very far in advance. There won't be much predictable progression in the weather from the first week to the second week.

It will definitely be Spring...early Spring.

At that time of year, I like explore from Luzern. There are good hikes around the lake:

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

The lake boats have some kind of decent schedule, although not yet a full schedule. Luzern is quite as full of tourists.

www.myswissalps.com/ce ntralswitzerland

Slowpoke

The Boc
The Boc
8 posts
new member
Nov 17, 2019 - 12:13 AM

Slowpoke,

Thank you for clarifying things further for me. My husband and I have been to the Jungfrau area before, but we will be traveling with a couple who have not visited. We did the Schilthorn last time, but would do the Jungfrau with them. We have walked the Lauterbrunnen Valley and visited Trummelbach Falls, but would do it again with them. On the "bad" days, we could do the boat on Lake Thun, if available, visit Interlaken, Thun, Brienz, Bern, etc. Can you tell me which other easy hikes in the Jungfrau would be open....or how I can find out?

The other couple has tentative flights set which go out of Milan, and it sounds like we are ok to go with the initial itinerary. We may never get to this area again, so hate to miss an opportunity to visit BO/Jungfrau and Zermatt areas. At the same time, I want to make the best use of our time and avoid big disappointments due to the season...A dilemma!

With appreciation,

P

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
6924 posts
expert
Nov 17, 2019 - 11:30 AM in reply to The Boc

Hi P-

It helps to know that you know the region but have some novices in your group; it brings a different perspective:

<<"My husband and I have been to the Jungfrau area before, but we will be

traveling with a couple who have not visited. We did the Schilthorn last

time, but would do the Jungfrau with them. We have walked the

Lauterbrunnen Valley and visited Trummelbach Falls, but would do it

again with them.">>

There is no question that you should go there no matter what trails and cableways are or are not open, in my opinion. First time visitors will be awed ...provided the weather is not cloudy and they can see the Alps clearly. Looking at the inside of clouds from the Jungfraujoch is an expensive way to do that.

And, as you note, there a variety of contingencies possible, which you understand well.

Just keep an eye on the web cams

en.swisswebcams.ch/suc he/ort/jungfraujoch-8469019/

and ask at the train station or tourist info office wherever you choose to stay. The weather comes in layers. The attached image shows a case where the valleys were full of clouds and fog, but it was clear at Männlichen.

<<"Can you tell me which other easy hikes in the Jungfrau would be open.......">>

I can not. It is impossible to predict conditions that far in advance. There can be a late snow storm, for example. Trails that are groomed for Winter walking are not maintained late than approximately late March.

The walk from Grütschalp to Mürren may be open:

www.myswissalps.com/hi king/gruetschalp-muerren

It gets a bit more sun than the floor of the valley.

Walks around the lakes will almost surely be open.

<<"or how I can find out? ">>

Just keep an eye on the web cams

en.swisswebcams.ch/suc he/ort/jungfraujoch-8469019/

and ask at the train station or tourist info office wherever you choose to stay.

The local tourist info offices are very knowledgeable about trail conditions. Staff at train stations can almost always help, too.

www.interlaken.ch/en/p oi/interlaken-tourist-information-office

www.interlaken.ch/en/i nfo-service/tourist-offices-in-the-region

This list of hikes gives altitudes:

www.myswissalps.com/hi king

and includes popular hikes in the BO region.

I'd look for trails below 1500 meters for a start. Preferably below 1000 meters.

If you want you really work hard at it, this detailed topographic map gives altitudes and shows all the marked trails ( die Wanderwege) and the next link explains the color coding - yellow, red blue:

map.geo.admin.ch/?topic=swisstopo&lang=e n&bgLayer=ch.swisstopo .pixelkarte-farbe&catalogNodes=139 2,1538,1396,1430,1436& layers=ch.swisstopo.sw isstlm3d-wanderwege&E=2635239.8 2&N=1158557.54&zoom=4

www.schweizmobil.ch/en /wanderland/more-wl/hiking-trail-network-and-signalization.html

Slowpoke

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