Thank you so much for your reply. That helps me out a lot! I think I am going to plan our trip with just Switzerland in mind and if we decide to detour to another country later we can figure it out once we are there.">>
Hi Brit 37
The country is quite diverse. There are enough different regions and geographies to easily fill a many day itinerary.
Four official languages - German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Plus extensive use of English, especially in the larger cities. Large lakes. Lake Geneva and Lake Constance (The Bodensee) are among the largest lakes in Europe. High mountains - 4000 meters....rolling hills and farmland, with lots of good inns.
Since rail transport is fast and efficient, and the country is not large, you can see a lot of the diversity.
I have seen in this forum that the recommendations for first time visitors are Lucerne and the Bernese Oberland ( Interlaken and the Lauterbrunnen Valley) . That makes sense to me.
Lucerne (or, Luzern, since the canton is German speaking) is 1 hour and 1 minute by train from Basel every hour at xx:04.
Lucerne is a charming city, with nearby mountains, and a scenic lake surrounded by good trails and smalll towns. There are multiple choices for lake boat rides. The transportation network is so dense that there are many options for "circular routes for day trips.
One example is -
Rail to Arth-Goldau, cog-rail up to Rigi Kulm ( the top), a scenic 1 hour or so walk to Rigi Kaltbad, cograil down to Vitznau. lake boat back to Luzern. Or, from Rigi Kaltbad you can take the Luftseilbahn ( Gondola car cable car) down to Weggis, walk down hill about 15 -20 minutes to the lake boat dock ( or a bus back to the train at, for example, Rotkreuz thence to Luzern.) Etc .Etc. Etc.
The British practically colonized the Bernese Oberland ( Wengen, Mürren, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken) in the 19th century, and for good reason. Stunning alpine scenery, accessible today by rail and various "ski" lifts.
Although June is early summer in the lower altitudes, the mountain pass roads do not open for traffic until well into early June. Some of the nicest trails at - for example - 2200 meters are unlikely to be free of snow sufficiently to use until June 15. I'll be in Wengen then, and have my fingers crossed that we will be able to walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. The gondola lift from Wengen, at 1600 meters, only starts up the trip up to Männlichen on May 30.
For contrast, the lowland area around the Bodensee has a shared culture in Swizerland, Austria and Germany. Lake shore villages , or villages by the Rhine near the main lake, are small, have good restaurants, and are on a flat bicycle route that encircles the whole lake. A lake boat across to Friedrichshafen Germany, takes you to the Zeppelin Museum. From Romanshorn 52 minutes every hour. Food on the boat, if you wish.
Geneva is right on the French border, on a beautiful lake, and the city is more "international" in character than other Swiss cities. Sort of French in feeling, but , in contrast to France, there is , as the joke goes, "a bank on every corner."
How will you arrive and go home? Train or plane?
I recall that Easy Jet or Ryanair has service to Geneva? Zürich is the main airport, with excellent, frequent train connections....about 1 hour to Lucerne, and with some sophisticated night life.
The main cities are not cheap in tourist season....although, when I have
traveled in the UK, I've found the prices to be comparable, especially
Something which is a bit harder to do, but not impossible on a first trip - one can stay near the main cities on the rail lines, and find lower prices. It may not be worth it on your first try. Adds complexity and takes a bit of extra time that you may not want to waste. However, after 30 years of traveling to Switzerland, the only time we stay in a city (Zürich) is when we come in from the US or go home, and Lucerne, for the ambience.
In the Berner Oberland, we often stay in Brienz, rather than Interlaken, for example. Brienz is interesting in its own right, too. Otherwise, we stay in Wengen.
myswissalps.com/forum/ topic/permalink/ cf7HCKDW9mqS6v8AAFcRTQ
Have fun with your planning. I find the SBB website, and the links from this forum to be very useful.
For an overwhelming amount of information, you can also look at:
A few photos are attached.
Unfortunately, both hotels named in two of the photos are no longer open, but similar views are available nearby. (Hotel Eiger is now apartments...oops, flats, and Hotel Schiff is temporarily ( I hope) closed.)
Oops, I misspelled "Schiff" in the image title. ;-(