Itinerary questions over Christmas 2016

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Nov 1, 2016 - 6:19 AM

We are a family of four (kids aged 20 and 18) travelling from Australia. We have booked all our accommodation (AirBNB and motels) and using a mixture of rental cars and trains. Our work in progress itinerary is

20 Dec - travel from Paris by train to Bern. Christmas markets and old town. Pick up hire car

21 Dec - drive to Lucerne. Explore sites and old town

22 Dec - drive to interlaken - can we drive a circular route around the lake via Thun? once we arrive at Interlaken?

23 Dec - drop off car and catch train to Zermatt.

24, 25, 26 Dec - Zermatt

27 Dec - glacial express to Chur

28 Dec. pick up hire car at Chur and drive through Lichtenstein to Fussen, Germany for 3 nights, then onto Innsbruck, Salsburg, Vienna and back to Munich where we fly home on 8th January.

Do you envisage any road closures due to snow on this route at this time of year? Any detours or suggestions of must sees would be appreciated. We travel hard and push ourselves to see as much as possible - we will rest when we get home!!!! We will see snow anywhere (apart from Zermatt). Your advice would be appreciated.

Annika
Annika
4993 posts
expert &
moderator
Nov 1, 2016 - 3:10 PM

Hi Lisareed, thanks for joining us!

Great that you get to visit Switzerland during the holidays. I think you'll love it. As for your travel plans: to be honest I'd recommend to just use trains and forget about the rental car. Parking in towns can be expensive, unless the airBNB's and motels you've picked offer free parking space. The main roads will be accessible, including those around Lake Thun, but some pass roads won't be. You may have specific reasons to to opt for car traveling though. Please compare through myswissalps.com/carver sustrain. Mind to explore rail pass options, even if you'll be traveling (partly) by car: myswissalps.com/train/ ticketspasses/practica l/chooserailpass.

If weather is clear on December 22, I'd strongly recommend to do some sightseeing in the Jungfrau region rather than driving around Lake Thun. You'll find beautiful snow-capped mountains there.

I don't know if you've been making reservations yet. If not, please do so quickly. You seem to have arranged for your accommodation, but mind the Glacier Express: it may be fully booked at that time of the year.

Lisareed
Lisareed
4 posts
new member
Nov 2, 2016 - 5:37 AM in reply to Annika

Thanks Annika. Car hire already booked, and all accomodation has parking already reserved. We chose car travel as we thought it may give us a bit more flexibility in when we travel and what we see.

we were wondering wether to stay Zermatt or Grindalwald for 4 days over Christmas but chose Zermatt as we thought we might have a better chance of a white Christmas. If we are already at Zermatt, is a trip to the Jungfrau region going to be much different?

we have been trying to book glacier express seats through our travel agent, but seats for our time period have not been released yet. We were advised to try and book in a couple of weeks.

Arno
Arno
11570 posts
expert &
moderator
Nov 2, 2016 - 6:56 AM in reply to Lisareed

Hi Lisareed,

I think the Jungfrau region and Zermatt are very different, but you can best compare yourself and have a look at the page Annika referred to, and the Zermatt page. Both are wonderful!

You don't need a travel agent for seat reservations. You can book those yourself through various websites. See the Glacier Express page Tickets tab please, and especially the link under "More on other websites". Reservations are available for December.

Lisareed
Lisareed
4 posts
new member
Nov 9, 2016 - 4:23 AM in reply to Arno

Thanks so much. Have now booked our Glacier Express tickets. Very excited.

Can someone please tell me if you can drive a circular route around Lake Thun from Interlaken (through Thun, Oberhofen and Merligen?)

Your advice is appreciated

Arno
Arno
11570 posts
expert &
moderator
Nov 9, 2016 - 8:15 AM in reply to Lisareed

That route is certainly possible either by car or train + bus (one change in Thun). The road isn't difficult to drive but with curvy sections, so it's crucial to keep your eyes on the road.

Have fun!

Lisareed
Lisareed
4 posts
new member
Nov 10, 2016 - 5:47 AM

Thanks Arno. Might try to do this trip from Interlaken

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5254 posts
expert
Nov 10, 2016 - 9:50 AM in reply to Lisareed

G'day Lisa-

This map could be useful.

map.search.ch/?pos=626336,171648&z=16

In the menus, under Points of Interest/Traffic, you can turn on or off the icons showing all the transport stops, including mountain railways, lake boats, etc.

The drive around the Thunersee (Lake Thun) as mentioned by Annika and by Arno would be very nice, although the driver would have to spend more time looking at the road than the scenery. The train and bus is a good option. Frequent service allows you to get on an off at, for example, Thun or Spiez and catch a later connection.

I have attached a screen grab from the timetable for a few hours in December 22nd. It shows trains twice perhour taking 34 minutes from Thun to Interlaken Ost (IO) and a bus once per hour via Oberhofen and Merligen. By clicking on the "+" to the left of an individual journey, you can learn about intermediate stops and a map can be selected from the footnotes.

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

if you have not used it, you will find it quite helpful for planning your rail trips, bus trips, etc.

That said, Annika's recommendation -

<<"If weather is clear on December 22, I'd strongly recommend to do some sightseeing in the Jungfrau region rather than driving around Lake Thun. You'll find beautiful snow-capped mountains there.">>

comes from an expert who knows the region intimately.

It is a good suggestion. Please check the link that she provided.

A trip to Männlichen via cograil from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, followed by the large-cabin cableway up to Männlichen for lunch would provide spectacular views from a high altitude perspective of a region with that is much larger than Zermatt. it is famous for good reason.

I have attached a few pictures taken in warmer weather, to give some sense of the vistas.

You could leave your car at Interlaken Ost or Wilderswil to provide a base for a circular round trip returning via cable way from Männlichen to Grindelwald. Or, you could ride the cograil all the way up to Kleine Scheidegg and down to Grindelwald. At Kleine Scheidegg, you could choose the very expensive branch train line up to Jungfraujoch, but it is not necessary to do that to experience the scope of the region.There are other options as well.

There is a large car park/ garage at Lauterbrunnen. It has a a lot of capacity, but i don't know how full iti is on December 22nd. It makes a circular route a bit more awkward, but could be effective for a trip up to Männlichen and back via Wengen.

Drive (or train) from Bern to Luzern:

The scenic drive through the Emmental via Langnau im Rmmental and Schüpfheim is very nice. it is not fast. The Emmental is a characteristically Swiss farming region with rolling hills and raoil and roads through the valleys.

It is also good on the train. The timetable defaults to the fast route via Olten or Zofingen, which covers a longer distance faster because of new stretches of fast track. Trains which avoid Olten are faster.

Trains via Langnau offer good views of the Emmental.

Here is the website for parking in Luzern:

There is a parking cost calculator.

P1 by the Hauptbahnhof (main station) is often full.

As you drive into the city or near the Bahnhof, there will be signs showing which parking areas are full, or how many spaces remain free.

I find driving in cities such a Luzern and Zürich to be difficult, even though I routinely drive in New York City, and in the USA's driving equivalent- Boston. The streets are at best only partly on a grid, and one-way traffic is common. Turns come up quickly, and the road signs take a moment to register, since you have to deal with the German names.

An option to consider if you do not wish to drive into Luzern is to park at an outlying rail station, and take the train into the city. It would take some time out of your day, of course.

For example, trains from Malters to Luzern run twice per hour and take about 12 minutes.

On the line from the northwest, there are three trains per hour from Sempach Station ( distant from Semach town) which take 20 minutes.

I don't know what the parking patterns are at these stations in the days leading up to Christmas. in non-holiday times, i'd expect to find parking there.

here are good reasons to do that part of the trip by train. One argument against it is the need to haul luggage on and off the trains. Lockers are available at most stations. larger ones have "left luggage' offices.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Nov 10, 2016 - 9:59 AM by Slowpoke
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