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14 days in late May. Looking for beautiful scenery, hiking, and photograph opportunities.

My wife and I are looking for some ideas for a trip to Europe in May. The only "must" is that we do Switzerland for 5-6 days. Otherwise we are COMPLETELY open to anyone's advice. We mostly want beautiful areas with good hiking, photography opportunities (I am a photographer), and not too much snow.

The tentative plans for our trip are below

  1. Fly into Munich. I love beer so going to check a few of the breweries out. Also using it as a base camp to do some hiking near Garmisch-Partenkirchen area.
  2. Spend a couple nights in Salzburg. Hike a few of the scenic areas there.
  3. Spend one night in Trento Italy. A quick hike somewhere to see the dolomite mountains.
  4. Spend one night in Florence to see the sights/eat some food
  5. Cinque Terre for 1 day. Hike the high trail from Volastra to Corniglia.
  6. Five nights in the Grindelwald area. Use that as a base camp to check out some hikes, visit Grueyere etc.
  7. Zurich for the night before flying back home to Pittsburgh

[Link to visual map of proposed trip][1]

My questions are:
- Will the weather be decent in these areas for hiking in late May?
- Is the itinerary too aggressive ?
- Should we do public transportation? I looked into a rental car, and it seems to be the cheaper option.

Thanks so much!

Posted by
2635 posts

I've not been to Italy so I can't comment there. For most people on this forum it would be too much, for me, I think it is too much or on the border. Hard for me to judge since I don't know the Italy piece and the transportation to and from Italy.

I wouldn't stay in Zurich. You can stay in Luzern which is a beautiful little town in the mountains on a lake and river and is an hour or so from Zurich airport.

Salzburg is a quick and inexpensive train ride from Munich. I think 2 nights would be enough though you certainly could find plenty to do for more days.

Switzerland is super easy with the trains and cars are not allowed in much of Berner Oberland. Do some research into the cities in BO. Grindelwald is a little big/touristy for some. Murren and Wengen are right in the mountains. Lauterbrunnen is in a lovely valley, surrounded by the mountains and waterfalls.

Posted by
65 posts

I'm doing ~50% of this in June. From my research, the public transportation between countries is good-to-excellent, and often the cost of renting a car in one country and returning it in another is cost prohibitive (something like a $500 surcharge that doesn't get listed on the websites until the very last click).

Posted by
1043 posts

In Switzerland's Berner Oberland area you can expect the low- to mid-elevation trails to be open in late May but the higher elevation ones and a few lifts will likely be closed. There will still be lots of great hiking options, though.

I would stay in nearby Wengen instead of Grindlewald. Wengen is less crowded and car-free. Grindlewald overflows with tourists, cars, and tour buses.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks everyone. I might eliminate going down into Florence/Cinque Terre after getting feedback from a few folks here and other forums.

So it might look more like this:

  1. (2 days) Fly into Munich. I love beer so going to check a few of the breweries out.
  2. (2 days) Salzburg. Hike a few of the scenic areas there.
  3. (1 day) Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Hiking in this area
  4. (1 day) Trento Italy. A quick hike somewhere to see the dolomite mountains.
  5. (2 day) Lugano. Mostly to break up the trip on the way to Grindelwald.
  6. (5 days) Grindelwald area. Use that as a base camp to check out some hikes, visit Gruyere etc.
  7. (1 day) Luzerne - then head to airport
Posted by
582 posts

I agree with FastEddie that Grindelwald is probably not where you want to be, particularly in May.
The higher elevation trails that will be closed due to snow are generally around Grindelwald, particularly around First and Schynige Platte.

However, if you get over towards Murren and Lauterbrunnen, there will be more trails open, so that's where I suggest you stay so you don't spend time just getting over to the open trails. Since you are a photographer, you might benefit by clicking on my name and following the link to our dozen favorite trails in the area (with pics and maps).

Posted by
1058 posts

It seems you have a lot of one night stays. Consider all the travel time, checking in and out of hotels, finding trains, etc.
To me, that is too much time spent getting somewhere, and not enjoying where I am.

Posted by
1655 posts

Way to aggressive! NEVER do a one night stay, unless it's the night before your departure. You will see close to nothing. I consider two nights for only areas you with very little to see. Minimum of three nights is best in my opinion. Two nights is a day and a half of seeing/hiking. You haven't considered the time in packing up, transportation, finding your hotel, getting settled and then transport to your sights/hiking, etc. By then the day will almost be gone, then you leave the next day. I think besides Grindelwald area with 5-6 nights and one night prior to your flight in Zurich, that leaves you with 7-8 nights. Choose two other areas, or maybe three at the most.

If you decide to rent a car, look at drop off fees renting in one country and dropping in another. Better to rent and drop in the same country. Maybe if you rent in Germany and can dip into Germany to return it and take a train back into Switzerland?

Posted by
5 posts

ITINERARY FEEDBACK NEEDED. Thanks everyone for feedback thus far on our Switzerland/Bavaria trip from May 24th-June 5th of 2019. We have a few pieces we are certain we are going to do, but narrowed it down to a few options for where to fill some gaps.

As a recap, things my wife and I are looking for from this trip revolve around nature (I am a photographer), mild weather (some snow might be okay) and some peace/quiet.:
- Beautiful landscapes
- Wildlife
- Wild Flowers
- Waterfalls
- Hiking
- Scenic Railroads

Munich, Salzburg, and Wengen are pretty much set in stone. But we can fill in 2-3 days at another destination. Right now our itinerary looks like this:

  • 2 nights in Munich (beer, culture etc)
  • 2 nights in Salzburg (via train from Munich) OPEN FOR SUGGESTIONS BELOW (2-3 nights)
  • 6 nights Wengen before flying out of either Geneva or Zurich

Here are our options. Would love your feedback!

  1. Lugano:. From Munich we will fly to Milan. We would take a train up to Lugano. See some of the castles in the area, hike a bit and relax. One of the main reasons we are considering this is because of the Bernese Oberland Railway, and mild weather in the area. We would take that up to Wengen afterwards.

  2. Montreux: From Munich would fly into Geneva, train to Montreux. Read about how the wildflowers are in full bloom in this area. Might take day trip to Gruyere to sample some chocolate/cheese and see the castle. From here take the train to Wengen.

  3. Dolomites: We realize this will add a lot of travel, but we really consider the train rides as part of the sight seeing. But we are having a hard time seeing the true travel time, or understanding what the weather might be like. We would pick a home base (maybe near Bolzano?) and explore for a couple days. Then from Bolzano train to Wengen.

  4. Garmisch-Partenkirchen: From Salzburg we would take a train to this area. Maybe see Ettal Abbey, hike, relax etc. From here we would train to Wengen. The train from GP to Wengen, is it pretty scenic?

I know this is long, so thanks for looking/reading!

Posted by
1401 posts

Whenever an itinerary includes the "1 night stand" listing, it's probably not going to be as fun as you think. Packing and unpacking, traveling, this is all lost time.

I just went to a great photographer's talk. I live in SD. He showed dozens of pictures, all within 3-4 hours of my home. The point of getting great photographs is to find a great spot and explore it. Going from one to another is not going to be fulfilling. Replace Steps 3-5 with one Italian location. Or go to Slovenia, which is close to Salzburg. Also drop the Cinque Terre. That's a long distance from the rest.

WHOOPS! Didn't see the revised itinerary, which looks much more sensible.

One idea is to drop Salzburg for the area near Salzburg. We stayed 50 KM S of the city some years ago in a farm chalet. There were many hiking opportunities. There was Burg Hohenwerfen, a castle with a falconry. There was the Eisreisenwelt, a series of ice caves. There was the Lichtensteiner Klem, a beautiful gorge with a hiking path. There were small local restaurants. I really enjoyed it. We had planned to go into the city, but my children were having too much fun playing with the chickens. What 23 YO kid doesn't love chickens? So we stayed in the countryside.

Posted by
987 posts

Do keep in mind that May-June is a moist time of the year in the Alps, and drizzle and fogged over/out mountain peaks are pretty common. The longer stint in Wegen is good because it gives you a fighting chance for good photo weather then as long as you stay flexible.

Posted by
5904 posts

You need to set up your itinerary counting nights rather than days. For example, when you arrive in Munich, does two days mean two nights (= 1.5 days) or three nights (=2.5 days)? Leaving Munich in the morning and arriving in Salzburg for two nights gives you 1.5 days, whereas three nights gives you 2.5 days. If you set up your itinerary that way, it will be clear how much time you’ll have in each place.

That time of year, I’d spend more time in the Val Gardena in the Dolomites but go fewer places overall, not more. The Dolomites have fewer rain, fog and cloud days than the BO, so if you run into foggy days there, at least you have the Dolomites.

Posted by
393 posts

I've already commented on Salzburg and G-P in your other thread, so I'll focus on Munich here.

  1. You like beer. Munich is good for that. But there's no way you can do it all, so be a little selective. The Hofbrau Haus and the Lowenbrau are probably the most famous places for Americans. It's kind of nice to say you've been there, but they are overpriced and the foods, not so good. Near both of those is the Schneider Brewhouse (just past Marienplatz and across from McDonalds). This is much more a locals place and priced accordingly. I like Pauliner and Hacker-Pschorr, but I think you'll find taking a walk thru the English Gardens to the Beer Garden (about half ways up) is a better idea, especially if the sun is shining. Spaten is right across from the Opera. A cheap souvenir is a collection of beer coasters (deckels) from all the beer halls.

  2. Looking at the last itinerary you had, it looks like you're going to spend Sunday in Munich. That's great! Sundays are the best time to take pictures, because the center of town is mostly closed down and deserted until noon. Grab some coffee and pastry at the San Francisco Coffee shop (Odeonsplatz) and get your picture taking done without a crowd in front of you. Get lunch at the Victualmarkt.

Have fun.

Posted by
2635 posts

@KGC, I usually pop into Hofbrauhaus just as you say, to say I've been there. I've eaten at both Augustiner Halls. The one on the Marienplatz, twice. How would you rate that one? I've liked it.

Posted by
393 posts

Jules - The Augustiner right by the Hofbrauhaus is also pretty touristy. There are two by the Frauenkirche; one by the dome (am Dom) and the other about a block away. I prefer these, and really like the last one as it's basically across the street from the hunting and fishing museum.

if you're a bit of a foodie go north of the University Library and try the Kaisergarten. Or just look around as there's a lot of ethnic places up there that cater to students.

Posted by
39 posts

I would heartily recommend Montreux for the 2-3 nights you are still looking at. It's a beautiful spot and has your best shot at great weather (and, as you say, wildflowers) since it has quite a warm climate. It's also nice to get a taste of both French- and German-speaking Switzerland between Montreux and Wengen.

Since you're looking for hiking/walking opportunities, you should definitely check out the Lavaux wine terraces. There's a beautiful route that winds through them with views of the Alps across Lac Leman:

And, since you love scenic train rides, the Golden Pass route is just spectacular.

Happy planning!