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Where else comparable to Lauterbrunnen Valley?


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kchao1213
kchao1213
4 posts
new member
Sep 21, 2021 - 5:05 PM

Hi everyone,

Been a long time lurker but finally mustered up the courage to post! Thanks to everyone here for their invaluable advice and contributions.

We are a couple in our early 30s and have spent our last two trips to Switzerland based out of Wengen and hiking 10+ miles daily. We have followed the Cicerone Bernese Oberland guide religiously and hiked what feels like very decent coverage between Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, and Murren, though I'm sure there is a ton more to explore. Between the comfort of the lodging options in Wengen, convenience of public transport for hiking and supermarkets for home cooked meals, and sheer natural beauty of course - where else in Switzerland would be comparable and suit our preferences? We are not the type to typically repeat vacations but we find ourselves gravitating back to the area and planning for a return before our trip even ends! That being said, we are eager to explore other areas for extensive moderate/challenging hiking and incredible mountain views.

For some reference, we have briefly brainstormed the following options but are looking for your thoughts and other suggestions:

  1. Grindelwald Valley (understand this is nearby and we've done some hiking here)
  2. Appenzell (extensive and varied enough hiking in comparison?)
  3. Andermatt (best town for base?)
  4. Zermatt (too glitzy and not as quaint?)

Thanks all and let me know if I can provide any additional details to help guide the conversation!

Anna
Anna
1553 posts
top member &
moderator
Sep 21, 2021 - 6:31 PM in reply to kchao1213

Hi kchao1213,

Thank you for joining MySwissAlps and sharing your first post :)

All the places you listed are great for hiking. But it's hard not to fall in love with the Jungfrau region. Since you seem to enjoy Lauterbrunnen and the areas around it so much, it just makes perfect sense to explore Grindelwald too. There are numerous hiking options in Grindelwald such as the fairly easy hike from First to Bachalpsee and the challenging hike from First to Schynige Platte. You can also hike to Pfingstegg and explore the canyon at Gletscherschlucht. More hiking suggestions here: www.myswissalps.com/grindelwald/activities

In addition to the 4 you listed, the Engadine Valley in Graubünden might also be worth exploring.

Let us know if you need further input.

Happy trails and regards,

Anna

1960man
1960man
2788 posts
top member
Sep 22, 2021 - 11:52 PM in reply to kchao1213

As someone with 60 years experience of Switzerland, I strongly recommend you 'break free' from the Jungfrau.

Top picks:

Graubuenden; Jura mountains; Appenzell Alps

Graubuenden - loads of walking anywhere south and east of Chur - in fact the whole canton (see example below)

Jura Mountains - no-one ever mentions the Jura on this forum (a couple of years ago a few of us had a 'pro Jura' theme going on this forum!)

Appenzell is great, loads of meadowland walking (with very few tourists...) but some steep stuff too (eg Ebenalp - Aescher Inn - Wasserauen):

content.notesfromtheroad.ch/wp-content/uploads/lightroom/2017/2017-10-Ebenalp/_D3A4766.jpg

Walking in Graubuenden using the Rhaetische Bahn:

My wife and I specialise in this. The trick is to take a train from the nearest station to your accommodation, get off at a chosen station then roughly follow the route of the railway until you have had enough then work out the station at which to get back on the train

For example (see attached map), when we stay at Berguen we've sometimes taken the train to Preda and walked back (and /or on to Filisur), or we take the train to Spinas and walk to S-Chanf, or Spinas - Bever - Samedan - Pontresina. You can do similar walks along the whole of the RhB network including the famous Bernina railway

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kchao1213
kchao1213
4 posts
new member
Sep 23, 2021 - 5:35 PM

Sincerely appreciate both of your replies - this is exactly what we were looking for! We share the same sentiment to "break free" from the Jungfrau for now and explore new regions with similar activities, despite knowing that we'll undoubtedly make it back at some point. Since you both mentioned Graubünden, we did some additional research and it seems to check all the boxes. A few questions there:

  1. For a weeklong trip, would it be possible to split time between Upper and Lower Engadine, or should we focus on one area and make the most of it?
  2. What are some best towns to base ourselves with reasonable public transport, good lodging options (we would prefer rentals over hotels) and supermarkets, and accessibility to hiking trails? I see Bergün mentioned by 1960man and we've come across Pontresina/Celerina/Samedan for Upper Engadine and Scuol/Guarda for Lower Engadine.

We are continuing to consider Appenzell as well and will keep researching. Thank you!

Danielsan
Danielsan
206 posts
active member
Sep 24, 2021 - 5:30 AM in reply to kchao1213

Hi kchao1213,

I'm not sure what time of year your planning on going, but I assume its not winter based on your hiking. Just a few suggestions: along with the upper and lower Engadine Valley, maybe look into the Swiss National Park, and base yourself in Zernez for a couple days. There is an enormous amount of hiking to see/do in the park. Possibly stay in St Moritz, about 40 min away. There is an extraordinary amount of hiking in and around St. Moritz also.

I have been looking at hiking around the 'other side' of the Jungfrau, on either the Bettmeralp, or the Riederalp, based in Fiesch. Lots of hiking there, and you're looking down on the other part of the Aletsch glacier. A different angle from the Jungfraujoch. It may be possible to hike down to the glacier itself, though I haven't looked that closely into it. (One can see the Matterhorn from there if the weather is clear). And speaking of the Matterhorn, I would definitely recommend spending some time in Zermatt. You can find a chalet, a rental, or just a room. If you haven't been already, go. You will not be disappointed. I promise!! So very much to see and do there. The scenery is worth every minute of your stay. There are several hikes to be done. One of which is the hike to the Hornli Hutte. It puts you right at the foot of the Matterhorn without actually climbing it. Based on your 10+ mile hikes, this sounds like it might be right up your alley. It can be reached from the Schwarzee station on the Matterhorn Express which is located at the south end of the village. Also, the Lucerne region has a lot to offer. Between Mt. Titlis, Mt Pilatus, Stanserhorn, and Rigi, as well as the lake itself, a lot to see and explore. Again, not sure when, and for how long you're planning to go, but these are just some more suggestions on top of the others. I stayed in Wengen in 2018 and loved it. 3 nights were just not enough, as you well must know. Hope this gives you some idea's and help. Have fun planning your next journey.

Danielsan

Anna
Anna
1553 posts
top member &
moderator
Sep 24, 2021 - 6:28 AM in reply to kchao1213

Hi kchao1213,

With careful planning, it is certainly possible to explore both the Upper and Lower Engadine during a week-long trip. Most of the hiking trails are reachable by public transportation, however the Lower Engadine is much less accessible than the Upper region. The trick, as 1960man mentioned in his post, is to stay along the railway line so you have quick access to the trains. St Moritz is the largest town in the Engadine but if you prefer smaller towns and villages as your base, there are various options nearby such as Pontresina and Samedan. In the Lower Engadine, Scuol is a good option. Each of these towns have a train station. Bergün, just north of St Moritz, would be a good base to explore the Albula Valley and the Albula Pass.

The following links may be useful if you're looking for rentals in the Engadine:

Hope this gives you some ideas for your trip.

Regards,

Anna

1960man
1960man
2788 posts
top member
Sep 25, 2021 - 12:09 AM in reply to kchao1213

Don't forget Switzerland is a small country and Graubunden is one small part of that! For a week stay there is no need to split between two locations. There is plenty of rental accomodation right across the canton in small and large places As long as you have some sort of 'rover' ticket covering the Rhaetische Bahn (RhB) network you can reach most of Graubuenden in short journey times. Most of the hikes I was referring to were undertaken from a single base (we have had rentals in Filisur , Berguen, Grusch, near Arosa, Sumvigt, Madulain etc. We have done day hikes in the Engadin even when we were staying outside Canton Graubuenden. Thanks to the Vereina Tunnel (Klosters - lower Engadin) opened in 1999 and continuous modernisation of the RhB lines, journey times are short. It is only 1 hour from Klosters (north of the mountains) to Scoul Tarasp (lower Engadin)

1960man
1960man
2788 posts
top member
Sep 25, 2021 - 12:16 AM in reply to kchao1213

Here is a picture on our walk near and in Guarda in February 2020 (just before the world closed...). We were based at a hotel in Kueblis north of Klosters so 'nowhere near' the Engadin to the uninitiated but in fact easy to do a day's hiking. We actually mixed hiking with a nice coffee or two with the main walk Lavin - Ardez.

The third picture shows a Scuol - Klosters - Landquart route train at Ardez (we caught the next one back to Kueblis)

Last modified on Sep 25, 2021 - 12:22 AM by 1960man
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Annika
Annika
6619 posts
expert &
moderator
Sep 26, 2021 - 8:29 AM in reply to 1960man

Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures 1960man :-). The areas around Scuol/Guarda and Klosters are stunning for sure, just as so many other parts of Graubünden are!

Lungworm
Lungworm
9 posts
new member
Sep 26, 2021 - 7:14 PM

I wholeheartedly recommend Graubünden for hiking as well, and for variety I would try a glacier hike.

bergsteiger-pontresina.ch/sommer/?fwp_suchen=gletscher

I'll also suggest another area - the Rhone valley in western Valais. Check out the trails that run along the bisses. Stunning mountain scenery.

www.nytimes.com/2019/09/25/travel/switzerland-alps-hiking-bisses.html

Lastlook
Lastlook
16 posts
new member
Sep 27, 2021 - 7:02 PM in reply to kchao1213

I really like all of the great suggestions above, but if you like comfort and convenience along with iconic scenery, I think you'd really enjoy Zermatt. There's much more to Zermatt than the bahnhofstrasse, where all the shops and day trippers wander along. Many people only visit for a day and walk the in-town area and never venture beyond except perhaps for a quick trip up to Gornergrat. There are many mountain hotels above town that you can hike to and you can do a circuit of them if you like. Just be sure to make reservations in advance. Or you can base yourself in town and easily do day hikes. I personally love the hike up to the Hohbalmen, and the hike to the Hornlihutte is interesting since it brings you right onto the shoulder of the Matterhorn without any technical climbing. I have fond memories of hiking down from Riffelberg in the early morning and also from Grunsee - so peaceful and with the Matterhorn in full view. I've stayed at a number of the mountain hotels and they are all interesting and unique. If you've never been to Zermatt, you really should not miss it.

The Swiss National Park is another interesting area to hike but there are fewer conveniences there and might be more rustic than what you have in mind. I've hiked from Zernez to the Chamanna Cluozza for a night and then continued beyond for a second day of hiking and exited the SNP near a bus stop where you can take the bus back to Zernez. There are many more hikes in the SNP, but this is more akin to wilderness hiking.

You can't go wrong with any of the suggestions in the replies here. Happy planning!

Danielsan
Danielsan
206 posts
active member
Sep 28, 2021 - 4:55 AM

Hi lastlook,

Have you ever stayed at either the Riffelberg, ( Riffelhaus) or the Riffelalp hotels high above Zermatt? Im looking at spending a night at the Riffelalp when I next go to Zermatt. Am wondering if either is worth it, which of the two may be better.

Danielsan

Lastlook
Lastlook
16 posts
new member
Sep 28, 2021 - 2:19 PM in reply to Danielsan

Hi Danielsan,

I stayed at Riffelberg way back in 2001, on my first experiment with an independent hiking trip in Switzerland (I had been to Zermatt a few times before that including one ski trip, but had a strong desire to go back there to hike.) I liked the Riffelberg then and think I would like it even more now since it has been renovated and improved, and as you noted, is now named "Riffelhaus". I would recommend it.

I've never stayed at the more upscale Riffelalp, since the expense can be a budget-buster. I've always been curious about it however, and did find a YouTube that a couple posted of a short stay there which gives you a good idea of what it would be like. Might be fun for a splurge?

I have stayed in the Gornergrat Kulm (tower suite) after it went under a major renovation. That was 2009, so also a while ago, but I can recommend that as well. I'll post a couple of photos.

Other "berghaus" type hotels where I've stayed in Zermatt:

Grunsee, Schwarzsee, Trift (aka Hotel du Trift), Silvana. Trift is the most rustic, but I've stayed there several times when hiking that area.

In the village of Zermatt, I've stayed a number of hotels through the years. I usually look for 3-4 stars. I have enjoyed Hotel Julen and the Allalin. Next year I am repeating a stay at La Couronne. Some of my hotel decisions are based on the budget of those I'm traveling with.

I hope this reply is helpful.

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kchao1213
kchao1213
4 posts
new member
Sep 28, 2021 - 2:39 PM

Thanks to everyone for their helpful feedback! I sincerely appreciate all the suggestions and personal anecdotes. It is inspiring to hear about your experiences as veteran travelers of Switzerland.

After looking further into Appenzell, Upper Engadine, and Zermatt for a summer trip, it seems that we're now leaning towards Zermatt. I'm somewhat ashamed to say that as much as we value natural surroundings, accommodations are also quite important to us as we're avid cooks and truly enjoy feeling at "home" after a long day of hiking. Zermatt seems to strike a nice balance between having modern and comfortable chalets just slightly outside of the busy town yet still accessible to hikes, stores, and transportation, with the benefit of being car-free.

In a roundabout way, time to start studying the best hikes in Zermatt though we'll still leave the other areas as possible options. Thanks again for your responses and I look forward to continuing the discussion!

Anna
Anna
1553 posts
top member &
moderator
Sep 28, 2021 - 6:18 PM in reply to kchao1213

Hi kchao1213,

I hope you'll have a wonderful time in Zermatt.

Have a look at this link for some activity and hike suggestions in Zermatt and surrounding areas: www.myswissalps.com/zermatt/activities

Regards,

Anna

Lastlook
Lastlook
16 posts
new member
Sep 28, 2021 - 6:42 PM in reply to kchao1213

I think Zermatt is a great choice to follow up your trip to the Bernese Oberland. If you decide on a self-catering apartment or chalet, Coop and Migros are convenient places to shop. Hope you indulge in some of the area restaurants too. I always plan a hike to Zum See for lunch. Wishing you a wonderful trip!

Danielsan
Danielsan
206 posts
active member
Sep 29, 2021 - 5:25 AM in reply to Lastlook

Hi Lastlook,

Yes and thank you. Sounds like you've done quite a bit of hiking around Zermatt. I was basically wondering which of the two hotels would be better to stay at for hiking. (Riffelberg/Riffelalp).

As far as 3 or 4 star hotels, I stayed at (a 3 star) Hotel Welschen. When looking for hotels, it said "balcony, with Matterhorn view", not " with mountain" view. I stopped looking, and booked it right there. And sure enough, I enjoyed a view of the Matterhorn from my balcony. A charming hotel with amenities and a charming staff. Beautiful and homey feeling about it. Thank you again

Danielsan

Danielsan
Danielsan
206 posts
active member
Sep 29, 2021 - 5:45 AM in reply to kchao1213

Hi kchao1213,

Yes, as I mentioned in earlier post, you won't regret spending time in Zermatt. So many people on these pages have said they may want to "visit for the day", or "do a day trip" to Zermatt, and I really believe that is such a disservice to the village and the whole experience of seeing the Matterhorn. Especially since it is the iconic image of Switzerland. (Strictly my humble opinion.) It's not as glitzy as say, St. Moritz, but it can be what you make of it. Once you're high above, sightseeing or hiking, it really doesn't matter what's going on down in the village. As I also said earlier, find yourself a chalet. Hike, do your cooking, and enjoy. Nothing to be ashamed about there. Hit the town for some night life, or stay in. Your choice. Enjoy. Hope you have a great time.

Danielsan

Ildiko
Ildiko
1309 posts
top member &
moderator
Sep 29, 2021 - 6:34 AM in reply to Danielsan

Hi Danielsan, I am so with you. Zermatt worths much more than a day trip! It has so many things to see. I've been there like 2x3 days and I still would like to go back as I have still many hiking routes I haven't done yet. :)

Take care,

Ildiko

More about Zermatt: www.myswissalps.com/zermatt

Lastlook
Lastlook
16 posts
new member
Sep 29, 2021 - 11:55 AM in reply to Danielsan

Hi Danielsan,

Oops - I thought I was responding to the OP in my reply. Either hotel would be convenient to hiking but I think being based closer to town gives you more flexibility with accessing the different areas around/above Zermatt. I also like hiking from one hotel to the next. For instance, when I stayed at Riffelberg on that first hiking trip in Zermatt, I hiked up to Gornergrat and enjoyed the summit, stayed for lunch al fresco, and then hiked down to Grunsee. I can't recall if I took the Gornergrat train part way down or not but remember enjoying the hike in a more forested area after being in the wide open rock/scree paths. Before dinner, I took a walk to Grunsee (the lake itself) and it was so peaceful and quiet. The next morning, I hiked back down to Zermatt, and then up to Hotel du Trift for the night, then up and onto the Hohbalmen, for the all day hike back down to Zermatt. (Walking down memory lane, here!) I am with you - having a balcony with that Matterhorn view can't be beat and is what I am always looking for when I book a hotel in Zermatt. Fun to try different hotels but I am repeating the Couronne next year for that view looking straight up the Vispa (glacier river) to the Matterhorn. For me, ending a day of hiking with that view and some local wine and cheese is perfection.

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