Switzerland itinerary for 12 days in summer

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Mar 4, 2017 - 11:30 PM

We are two brothers in our mid-20s who are planning a trip to Switzerland this summer and would welcome any advice and comments on our itinerary. We have ideas, as outlined below, but are completely flexible with our plans. Our only constraint is that we arrive at Zurich International Airport mid-day on July 24 and leave from Geneva International Airport late morning on August 4 – a total of 12 days. Thanks much for your assistance.

We are outdoors people and are in excellent shape. We are particularly interested in moderate-level (and sometimes above moderate-level) hikes in the Swiss Alps and other regions (we are used to carrying lunch and drinks in a small backpack and hiking all day). We don’t camp out or stay in huts or do multi-day hikes. We stay in reasonably priced hotels, take showers at the end of our hikes, and take regular grown-up type luggage. We tend to like smaller towns more than large cities, but we sometimes like to walk around the historic sections of cities. We are less interested in indoor sites and museums, although we plan to go to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. We have heard that it is best to use the Swiss rail system, although we are able to drive, if that is preferable.

Our general plan is to have approximately 4 base locations in the following general areas:

  • Lucerne
  • Bernese Oberland
  • Zermatt
  • Geneva

If it makes sense to visit other areas -- like Ticino or Jura or the Eastern portion of Switzerland or anywhere else in the country – or to spend more or less time in any of the regions that we are planning to visit, we can certainly adjust our itinerary.

Our preliminary itinerary is as follows:

Monday, July 24 – arrive in Zurich. Go directly to Lucerne area. Stay in Lucerne area the nights of July 24, 25, and 26 (3 nights).

(Still uncertain as to where specifically to stay overnite in Lucerne area, which is dependent on our tentative itinerary below. Does it make the most sense to stay in the downtown area near the rail station, which would make it most convenient to travel over the next few days?)

While in Lucerne area, spend a little time walking around Lucerne on the afternoon/evening of July 24. Then on July 25 and July 26, hike Mt. Rigi, Mt. Pilatus, and/or Mt. Titlis. Any one of these is an all-day hike. Which of those hikes is most worthwhile and most accessible from Lucerne? Are we better off just going on one of them and then spending time in other places – such as the William Tell Trail or one of the hikes in or around Engelberg or the boat ride on Lake Lucerne?

Thursday, July 27 – leave Lucerne area, heading to Bernese Oberland. Stay in Bernese Oberland the evenings of July 27, 28, 29, and 30 (4 nights).

(Still uncertain as to where specifically to stay overnite in Bernese Oberland area – Based on the itinerary below, and in order to be as efficient as possible in getting to the hiking locations, does it make sense to stay in Wengen or Grindelwald or possibly Murren?)

While in Bernese Oberland, go on hikes:

  • Take Jungfrau Railway from Kleine Schiedegg to Jungfraujoch (3-5 hour hike) – is this the same thing as the Eiger Trail and the Eiger North face?
  • Faulhorn (Faulhornweg ???) – from Schynigge Platte to First (6-8 hour hike)
  • Lauterbrunen Glacial Valley (Unesco site) (3 hour hike)
  • The descending trails from Mannlichen – i.e., the Lauberhorn ski run

Monday, July 31 – leave Bernese Oberland, heading to Zermatt. Stay in Zermatt July 31, August 1, 2 (3 nights).

While in Zermatt, go on hikes:

  • Take Gornegatt Bahn Cog Railway – Riffelsee to Sunnega hike (3-5 hours)
  • Hohenweg Hohbalmen hike from the center of Zermatt (5-7 hours)
  • Hornlihutte – more difficult ascending hike at the base of the Matterhorn (5 hours)
  • (Possibly) 5 Lakes Trail around Zermatt (2-3 hours)

Thursday, August 3 – leave Zermatt in the morning, head to Lausanne and visit the Olympic Museum the entire afternoon. Then head to Geneva for an overnite stay on August 3 (1 night).

Friday, August 4 – head to Geneva International Airport in the AM for flight departure to US

Including the first and last days (which are airport days), we have a total of 12 days in Switzerland. Should we rent a car or use the Swiss Travel Pass? If we choose the Swiss Travel Pass, which is the best option, since it does not look like we will be using it every day?

Thanks much for your advice.

10496 posts
top member
Mar 5, 2017 - 5:22 PM in reply to smoothscalp

Hi Smoothscalp and welcome to MySwissAlps!

I think you have put together a nice itinerary for your 12 days. I will make a few comments here and there - I haven't done the hikes you are talking about so I can't make any comments as to whether they are worth it or not.

  1. All towns are fairly small in Switzerland, so you won't get a big city feel anywhere (maybe a little in Zurich). Luzern (local German spelling) is quite small and as long as you get a hotel in the city limits you won't be far from the train station (its just a matter if you want a 5 minute walk or 15 minute bus ride). Take a look at our Luzern hotel page for some of our recommendations -they all indicate their distance to the town center and train station.
  2. Mt. Rigi, Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Titlis are all easily accessible from Luzern - take a look at our information pages to see which interest you more.
  3. You could do the Gotthard Panorama Express train from Luzern (with boat cruise) to Bellinzona and return in one day as well. This was previously known as the Wilhelm Tell Express.
  4. For stays in the Bernese Oberland any of the towns you mention can work (Wengen, Murren as well as Lauterbrunnen) as they are quite close to each other. Grindelwald is close by as well and the region more specifically here is known as the Jungfrau Region.

I would definitely look at buying a Swiss Travel Pass for your stay. Even if you aren't taking a long train on one of your days it often covers most or all of cable cars, gondolas etc during your trip as well as many town's local public transit. Take a look at where the STP is valid here. You can also, if you wish buy the Swiss Travel Pass Flex and you can choose the days you want to use it within a one month period.

I hope this helps your planning! Let us know if you have more questions.


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