July 5 to 13 - Bernese Oberland and Zermatt

July 5 to 13 - Bernese Oberland and Zermatt

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Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 12, 2017 - 9:21 PM

We are a family of 3 adults, 3 children ages 11, 9 and 7 at time of travel. I have been to Geneva for work 10 years ago, but not the Alps. We enjoy hiking as a family and great food. I would like our family to see Bernese Oberland and Zermatt. Would you suggest after arrival directly going to Zermatt, then BO and Lucerne at the end of the trip? Arrival to Zurich would be 830 am and departing flight schedule out of Zurich is at 1015 am. Other option is to see Lucerne at start of journey (kids could relax), BO then Zermatt and fly out of Milan (also morning flight) and see part of northern Italy. Thank you in advance for your help.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4486 posts
expert
Nov 13, 2017 - 9:10 AM in reply to Monica45

Hi Monica 45 - There is excellent train service to Milano Centrale from Luzern or Zürich. The fast route uses the new "Gotthard Basis Tunnel."

The spectacular scenic route lets you see much of the Gotthard Pass, and goes via Göschenen,

If you go south from the BO, the simplest rout is viaBrig and the Simplon Pass. Once again, you have a choice of trains on the section from Spiez to Brig.

Either the new route through the faster "Lötschberg Basis Tunnel" via Visp, or the longer scenic old route via Kandersteg up and over most of the pass direct from Spiez to Brig. I like the scenic route in both cases, if I have time, because I find that scenery inside the tunnels to be lacking in interest.

This map will help you visualize the alternatives. Zoom in to see the train lines:

map.search.ch/?pos=688128,156672&z=2

Schedules? Check here. Please read the instruction page. Use entries in the "via" box to direct the route, otherwise, you get the default route, which is always the fastest one.

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

Slowpoke

Last modified on Nov 13, 2017 - 9:11 AM by Slowpoke
Lucas
Lucas
5543 posts
expert &
moderator
Nov 13, 2017 - 10:27 AM in reply to Monica45

Hi Monica,

Yes, the Lucerne option first may be a good idea. If everyone is up for it there are some great mountain trips nearby as well.

The timetable link from Slowpoke will help you plan out your trips and decide what works best for you. Northern Italy is certainly quite nice as an option.

For rail passes, have a look at the Swiss Travel Pass for each adult and then one Swiss Family Card (free) to cover the children. This will get you free transport to most areas in Switzerland (and discounts on the other areas - though the children are always free on the SFC).

For more information on areas and towns in Switzerland click here.

Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 13, 2017 - 12:03 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Thank you! I will study this and may be back with more questions. Appreciate your time.

Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 13, 2017 - 12:10 PM in reply to Lucas

Do you have any suggestions on how many days we should stay in Lucerne and Wengen? We arrive on a Thursday and leave the following Friday. With 3 children do you suggest other cities / must see areas or should i keep it simple? Should i include Zermatt? Thanks again.

Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 13, 2017 - 12:26 PM

Is Wengen the best place for us to stay? How long does it generally take to go to the sights in the area. One post suggested Lauterbrunnen as a base to see the area. Since i have never been I don't have a concept of the ease or difficulty of getting around.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4486 posts
expert
Nov 13, 2017 - 3:00 PM in reply to Monica45

Hi Monica -

<<"Is Wengen the best place for us to stay? How long does it generally take

to go to the sights in the area. One post suggested Lauterbrunnen as a

base to see the area. Since i have never been I don't have a concept of

the ease or difficulty of getting around.">>

Bernese Oberland -

To understand the lay of the land, use this map:

map.search.ch/?pos=638864,162512&z=16 &poi=bergbahn,halteste lle,parking,zug

In the menu, under "points of Interest" I have turned on some options under traffic. It shows the transport stations/stops.

Zoom in further, and you can see the transport ( cableways and trains), like so:

map.search.ch/?pos=638660,161452&z=64 &poi=bergbahn,halteste lle,parking,zug

Lauterbrunnen is a compromise. Better access to transport outside the valley, and in between the Mürren-Schilthorn locations and Wengen/Kleine Scheideg/Jungfraujoch locations. It is on the floor of the valley. So, the views are not a scenic as from the higher villages. My own belief is that Wengen is the best option, because you are only a short train ride from Lauterbrunnen ( about 20 minutes)and have have better views. Good access to the famous Männlichen to Kleien Scheidegg walk, as well, because the cable way ( die Luftseilbahn, abbreviated LSB in the timetables) up to Männlichen leaves from the center of the village.. A few pictures are attached. That particular one goes up to the station "Männlichen LWM." That is the Lauterbrunnen-Wengen-Männlichen route).

Grindelwald has it own set of places that are closer, such as First and the Bachalpsee, and has views up to the Jungfrau massif. Train access to the Jungfrau is similar to that from Wengen. It is the most commercial of the 4 main choices.

Here is a bit of light reading about the area, focused on Wengen:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/tips-about-wengen-and-the-jungfrau-region-by-kim

The timetable will help you understand the times involved in travel in the area:

Follow the links under the Bernese Oberland page to the Jungfrau region and find some good hikes.

www.myswissalps.com/be rneseoberland

www.myswissalps.com/ju ngfrauregion

Also, hiking in general:

www.myswissalps.com/hi king

www.alpenwild.com/stat icpage/trail-signs-in-the-swiss-alps/

My experience is that kids get bored looking at scenery from trains, but like to hike in the mountains or other places with good views as an accessory to the hike.Don't know how serious you are as hikers? Good topo maps are readily available at different scales. Switzerland has a lot of ups and downs, and if you like good maps, this one (which shows altltudes) is the best one online:

map.geo.admin.ch/?topic=ech&lang=en&bgLa yer=ch.swisstopo.pixel karte-farbe&layers=ch.bav.ha ltestellen-oev,ch.swisstopo.swiss tlm3d-wanderwege&layers_visi bility=false,true&E=26 37110.51&N=1162886.15& zoom=5

In the menu, I have turned on "Hiking Trails." You could also turn on transport stops.

Luzern -

Start here:

www.myswissalps.com/lu cerne

www.myswissalps.com/ce ntralswitzerland

Here is a hike that I like. Follow the link in this thread to the "Swiss Path" (der Weg der Schweiz):

www.myswissalps.com/.. ./the-swiss-path-and-southern-lake-lucerne

There is a lot to see and do around the lake. That region is the heart of the original Swiss Federation, and that history is accessible. My then eight-year old granddaughter was fascinated by how different people lived,so a visit too Bethlehem House in Schwyz was a high point of our trip a few years ago.

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/schwyz-and-the-ital-reding-house

www.swissinfo.ch/eng/e urope-s-oldest-wooden-house-still-going-strong/1288454

<<"Do you have any suggestions on how many days we should stay in Lucerne

and Wengen? We arrive on a Thursday and leave the following Friday. With

3 children do you suggest other cities / must see areas or should i

keep it simple? Should i include Zermatt?">>

Off hand, I'd say you could spend a couple of weeks in each area - Luzern or the Jungfrau region. ;-). Especially true since you enjoy hiking.

Zermatt is certainly a possibility. I'd be inclined to only have two bases, but you have time for 3, if you don't mind moving your base.

A day trip to Zermatt from the BO is reasonable. It is easiest from Interlaken, and goes through Visp ( see above in this thread for description of the route options) and the further into the valley and villages you start from, the more time it takes, especially since the mountain trains are slow. Faster from Interlaken. Interlaken is a good transport hub, but that is the only thing that recommends it to me. Larger, more commercial, of course.

Slowpoke

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Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 13, 2017 - 7:11 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Many thanks! Really great information. We love to hike but we usually keep it easy to moderate and the elevation may be more of a factor. I will study this and get back to you, but right now I am thinking we will Arrive in Zurich on July 5 and since it is early morning I am inclined to go straight to the mountains. Stay for 5-6 nights then go to Lucerne for 2 days and then go home. Do you have thoughts about this itinerary?

Is it wise to take an early train to the airport from Lucerne to Zurich airport on the day of departure? Flight leaves at 1015 am. Or should we stay in Zurich?

Again many thanks,

Malika

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4486 posts
expert
Nov 13, 2017 - 9:59 PM

Hi Malika -

I see that you have changed your name. ;-)

<<"Many thanks! Really great information. We love to hike but we usually keep it easy to moderate and the elevation may be more of a factor. ">>

Most people don't really notice any effect up to about 1500 meters. At higher altitudes, I pause to catch my breath a bit more often, especially on uphill stretches.

The information on hikes that I linked gives elevations. The Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg hike...one of the best, is easy and slightly downhill if you walk toward Kleien Scheidegg. That is, in my opinion, the only way to do it. Much better to walk toward the Eiger and feel it grow over you.

www.myswissalps.com/hi king/maennlichen-kleinescheidegg

<<"right now I am thinking we will Arrive in Zurich on July 5 and since it is early morning I am inclined to go straight to the mountains. Stay for 5-6 nights then go to Lucerne for 2 days and then go home. Do you have thoughts about this itinerary? ">> that is what I woukd do, although I might add one more day to Luzern. Depends on the weather, too. If you hit a really cloudy stretch of several days, Luzern has a perhaps bettr options. The Berner Oberland is heqvily dependent on clear weather.

<<""Is it wise to take an early train to the airport from Lucerne to Zurich airport on the day of departure? Flight leaves at 1015 am. Or should we stay in Zurich?">>

I expect that you want to be at the airport by 0815? If you catch the train from Luzern that does not require a change in Zürich main station, it is a one hour and 3 minute trip. From Zürich itself it is about a 10-20 minute trip, 5 or 6 trains per hour, some with no stops.

I routinely catch morning flights by taking the train from Luzern. Luzern is an easier station to navigate on foot, too.

Check the AM trains. If you take one that does require a change, and you miss the connection, there will be several long in the next few minutes from Zürich main station to the airport. The one at 0710 gets you to the airport at 0813. Usually, those trains start at Luzern; if so, you'll have no trouble getting a seat because you'll be the first ones on the train.

On the other hand, if you want to look a round Zürich a bit, a night there is a good way to do it. It is a nice town to wander in, and their are all kinds of good restaurants.

Stay downtown; don't stay at the airport(assuming that you pick a Zürich hotel with easy access on foot or by tram ( one every 8 minutes) .

You will be traveling during rush hour. Trains into Zürich will be pretty full, and there are sometimes 2 or 3 minute delays south of Zug. Allow10-15 minutes extra, and you 'll be more comfortable. Try to avoid trains with multiple changes.

There are very few air-conditioned hotels in the moderate price range in Luzern or Zürich. There is one at Central, just across the river from the main station in Zürich. The Hotel Central Plaza. I never stay there ( after one perfectly acceptable stay a few years ago) because of all the tour groups. It is not a very Swiss experience. But, it is air-conditioned.

Slowpoke.

Last modified on Nov 14, 2017 - 12:30 AM by Slowpoke
Mark
Mark
166 posts
active member
Nov 14, 2017 - 12:04 AM

Hi Monca45,

I too think Wengen a good choice. With children ages 7,9, and 11, I would suggest a visit to First. There are I believe bike and tricycle rentals at stations on the gondola routes to the top. You should check but I believe it would be appropriate for their ages. We saw several kids coming down the paved path and appeared to be having a great time. Also you might look at a day trip to Schynige Platte. An old style cog train ride to the top and beautiful fairly flat walk at top with views of Interlaken lakes, Jungfrau mountains, and Lauderbrunnen valley. The panoramic trail is fairly short and easy and can do as much or little as you want.

If you are there on the weekend, you might enjoy walking down Lauderbrunnen valley from Lauderbrunnen train station. It’s very flat and when we went on the weekend, we saw dozens of base jumpers jumping off the cliffs and landing all around us. I expect the kids would like it. Also lots of waterfalls along the walk. Again can go as far as you like and turn back.

All these places are readily accessible from Wengen. Mark

Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 14, 2017 - 4:08 AM

Thank you for your suggestions and help! I am reviewing the links and information. I think Wengen is finalized as our destination. Working on dates/logistics. Appreciate your time and kindness.

traveljet
traveljet
93 posts
active member
Nov 17, 2017 - 2:23 PM in reply to Monica45

Hi Monica,

On the "Forum - Trip Reports" of this website, you will find quite a bit of information by fellow travelers who shared about their experiences in Lucerne, BO & Zermatt during their holiday.

Go take a look as it will help you with your planning.

BO region is truly a lovely place. We enjoyed the Mannlichenbahn - Kleine Scheidegg Panoramic walk(stay in Wengen) very much.

Happy planning!

Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 19, 2017 - 3:56 AM

Thank you very much for your help!

I am still trying to figure out the best itinerary so I can book the hotels. We will arrive in Zurich on July 6. At this time I am planning two mountain bases for our trip. Departing Zurich on July 13. Should we go to Zermatt first then Wengen? Or Wengen first and then Zermatt? 3 nights in each area or 4 nights in Wengen and 2 in Zermatt? Your suggestions are appreciated!!

traveljet
traveljet
93 posts
active member
Nov 19, 2017 - 4:52 AM in reply to Monica45

Hi Monica,

i can only only speak from personal experience in Wengen & BO. Having been there twice, there is so much to cover in that area alone. There is so much to see and experience, it will be a shame to rush and go off to Zermatt.

My personal recommendation is to just spend yout time based in Wengen or BO area. Having a week there gives you more time to soak in the beauty of the place.

You should also give some leeway in case of bad weather. Having time to soak it in at thecafes along the way.

Tha Panoramic walk from Mannlichenbahn to Kleine Scheidegg. The lovely cable car ride from Mannlichenbahn to Grindelwald. The experience at Grindelwald First. The Lauterrbrunnen valley walk. The visit to Murren & Allmendhubal. The downhill walk from Murren to Gimmelwald.

The visit to the Birg Thrill walk (to get there, take the cable car from Murren)is truly amazing.

The train ride from Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg or vice versa.

if you can afford a 2nd trip, then visit Zermatt.

But again, that's my personal opinion based on my stay in Wengen & Murren and sights in that area.

Last modified on Nov 19, 2017 - 5:04 AM by traveljet
Lucas
Lucas
5543 posts
expert &
moderator
Nov 19, 2017 - 9:04 AM in reply to Monica45

I'd lean to 4 days in Wengen and 2 in Zermatt. There is a lot to do in both towns but certainly more options in the Jungfrau region/wengen. Both towns are quite different so they will appeal to different people (Wengen is smaller and "quainter" and Zermatt is a high-end ski town).

The Matterhorn is impressive though and if you have no plans to return to Switzerland I would try and see it! I'd be tempted to go straight to Zermatt first and then Wengen then Zurich.

Mark
Mark
166 posts
active member
Nov 19, 2017 - 2:48 PM

Hi Monica,

I agree with Lucas but Travrljet makes a good point also. We went to Wengen for 5 days then Zermatt for 4 this past September and had been to both 3 years ago. Zermatt has the Matterhorn easily visible from town. You would enjoy the cog train from Zermatt to Gornergrat summit too. The town of Zermatt is much larger than Wengen and very commercial with lots of tourist shops, restaurants , etc. This is of course appealing to some but I didn't much care to spend any time shopping. But overall the views of the Matterhorn and Gornergrat make a visit to Zermatt worth while.

On the other hand Traveljet makes some good points on the best use of your limited time. You do not say where you are traveling from but if it is very far from Switzerland you will likely be quite tired the first day after a plane ride, customs, transfer to Wengen or Zermatt, and hotel checkin. I expect with children and jet lag the first day will be a blur. When you leave Wengen to go to Zermatt (or vise versa), you will spend most of a day checking out of a hotel, transfer to train, 3 hour train trip, transfer to another hotel and another checkin. All with 3 children in tow.

There is certainly enough to see in just the Bernese Oberland area to keep you occupied.Don't forget to check out the trottibikes at Bort. Or the mountain carts at Scheckfeld. Also a Zip line from First. Ahh how I wish I was a kid again ! I'd do all three. When in Wengen I'd check out First/Bachalpsee, Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, Jungfraujoch, Lauterbrunnen valley, Schynige Platte, Murren/Schilthorn, boat ride on Brienzersee, Grindelwald/ Grosse Scheidegg. Well you get the point, there is a lot to see and do around Wengen. Hope you have a great trip Mark

Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 19, 2017 - 4:36 PM in reply to Mark

Thank you all for your time and suggestions, very good points and insights.

traveljet
traveljet
93 posts
active member
Nov 20, 2017 - 1:33 AM in reply to Monica45

By the way Monica, which country are you flying in from?

Monica45
Monica45
13 posts
new member
Nov 20, 2017 - 3:34 AM

We live in the USA so it is quite far.

What are your thoughts about taking the July 13 Friday 5:12 am train from Wengen arriving to Zurich airport at 8:16 am and then trying to take a 1015 am flight on Delta back to the US? I had thought that i needed to go to Zurich the night before departure, but this seems much better in many ways, yet risky. Some of the connections are tight. We don't plan to have any checked bags.

Again thanks for your help, I don't think I would be planning this trip without this forum! BTW my kids are comfortable to going to Hawaii which is 13 hour journey for us. We like to hike in the islands, but I am excited to show them something new. We have not been to Europe since 2014.

traveljet
traveljet
93 posts
active member
Nov 20, 2017 - 4:24 AM in reply to Monica45

Hi Monica,

As a rule of thumb for myself and family, we always choose to stay near the airport the night before departure. I have learnt a good lesson from train disruptions at the last minute which caused a panic - something we can really do without during the day of departure. Even in Switzerland with its clockwork precision, things can go wrong.

On our last trip, we were supposed to go straight to Zurich airport but there was a power glitch and the train had to stop at a station in-between and everyone had to get off. We were temporarily clueless and lost and the signboards making the announcements at the station we had to alight, were not in English. We didn't even know what station we alighted at as the situation caught us unawares and we found ourselves at the platforms foyer. Nothing to help us figure out what was going on.

This train was supposed to go directly to Zurich airport station but stopped halfway due to some power glitch at the airport station and so there were no more trains going to the Zurich airport station.

We were staying at the hotel near the airport (15mins ride) the night before departure and was taking the hotel shuttle which also leaves from the airport to the hotel). Had we been on the train trying to get to the airport on the day of departure, we would have definitely missed the flight. So after a bit of a merry-go-round we found out what station we were forced to alight at.After some walking, we located an information counter with a long Q and were given directions how to take the tram to our hotel. As it entailed crossing the main road in the open, thankfully it wasn't raining.

So personally, I definitely don't recommend getting to the airport on the day of departure especially not all the way from Wengen. There are too many transfers and variables. The long flight isn't a problem as we are just in the plane but when the train journey is a long one with transfer at various stations, it can be a hassle when you are worried about catching your flight. To me it's not worth the worry especially if there should be some unforeseen emergency at the train stations or trains like what we experienced.

We stayed at Hotel Allegra in Zurich which has a shuttle to the airport on the morning of departure. You can also catch their shuttle from the airport to the hotel if staying the night before. This hotel is listed on this website I think - if not just go directly to their website to take a look.

On another trip in another country, although the train to the airport was only a 1hour ride and a direct train, the signboard which is above the platform was far away and the crowds started to build up, so we couldn't see clearly. Plus the fact that the signboard was in another language and it takes awhile for the English one to appear.

We boarded the train that was actually 8 mins earlier than our scheduled train only to find out it was the wrong train, we were a little disorientated with the several trains using the same platform. After a panic, we got off at the next station and heaved a sigh of relief that there was another train was going to the airport in 5mins. Also the platform was just across us and there were no stairs to climb in order to find the right platform.

After this incident, it was another reminder never to take the risk. We rather stay one night at an airport hotel or at one which has a shuttle which will take us to the airport in around 15mins.

Coupled with a lack of English signs at times (even in Switzerland) - this is a hassle we have learnt not to repeat. So if you ask me for my opinion, I wouldn't recommend taking the risk. But others may differ.

Regarding my recommendation to soak in the atmosphere in the BO since you only have a week, using the Jungfrau Travel Pass really saves a lot of hassle and money and you can go anywhere to your heart's content. Except there is a surcharge if going all the way up to the Jungraujoch. For the places around Wengen, Murren, Grindelwald First, Kleine Scheidegg, Mannlichen its just hop on and off anytime.

This website is truly a wealth of information if you know where to click. My photos of the 1st trip can be seen if you click on my profile and scroll to the trip reports. We just returned from our 2nd trip 2 months ago and visited the BO again, doing the things we didn't get to do on our 1st trip. This time round we stayed at Wengen and Murren (first trip was only Wengen) and loved every minute of it. I haven't found time to add a trip report yet.

There are many helpful fellow travellers on this site and if we do our homework as well as using Tripadvisor for reviews on hotels, we can really get a lot of useful information. So hope you get all the info you are looking for.

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