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14 days in Switzerland-need help w itinerary

We are finally planning our first big retirement trip and so excited to be going to Switzerland for 2 weeks in early September 2023. We love the outdoors and easy to moderate difficulty hiking. Photography (especially Landscapes and Astro photography) is my wife’s passion. We want the main focus of our time to be in the Berner Oberland Region, especially the Lauterbrunnen Valley area. We also want to see the Matterhorn as we both have childhood memories of it from elementary school. Our other bucket list item is to ride the Glacier Express.

To get a non-stop flight from Atlanta we are flying into Paris and taking a high-speed rail into Geneva Switzerland. I want to visit Geneva and see the Reformation sites. Here is an itinerary we are considering and we would welcome your advice.

Day 1: Paris to Geneva
Day 2: Geneva
Days 3-7: Train to Murren. Stay in Murren (Hotel Edelweiss) and enjoy the Lauterbrunnen Valley – the waterfalls, the hikes, Wengen, the Jungfrau and the Schilthorn. (If we have a rainy day we could take the train to Bern for the day.)
Days 8-9: Travel to Zermatt and the Matterhorn
Day 10: Board the Glacier Express to ?????. Not sure here about how long and what is a good destination-we are open to the whole 8 hours to St. Moritz.
Days 11-13: Remaining Days are unclear. Should we go to Appenzell for at least a day visit? I am wanting to consider Lucerne also.
Day 14: High speed rail from Zurich to Paris.

I've read all the posts in this forum from the past year and read the Rick Steve's guid book as well. Please give us your best advice!

Posted by
4535 posts

Lucerne is pretty great. There are no bad choices, but I would consider adding a day to Geneva (even if you can see all you want to see in one day, the region has the lovely vineyards around Lausanne, Chateau de Chillon is fab) and I would also add a day to Murren.
Jungfrau will basically be a whole day. Schilthorn can be as quick as you wish. At least one full day for hiking, preferably two, and I'd have liked to spend a whole day in Lauterbrunnen seeing the waterfalls but lacked the time. Depends on your energy level and what you would do on arrival and departure days of course (such as stopping en route at any of your desired places).

Posted by
173 posts

I agree, add another day to Murren. We were there a few years ago and were going to stay 5 nights. It was so glorious and the hiking incredible that we just kept canceling our other locations and ended up staying 9 nights! We stayed at the Hotel Bellevue and absolutely loved it. Had a balcony and beautiful views of the Eiger, etc.
We were not that impressed with Lucerne and it was the most expensive city I have ever been to and that is saying something since I live in Napa Valley, CA- lol. I would add another day to Geneva area as well, especially because you will be recovering from your flight.
Have a great trip, that is my favorite part of the world!

Posted by
11432 posts

It really helps me to look at an itinerary i terms of nights spent in a location. Then I can better assess my full versus partial days to do stuff. Let me lay out what I think you have in nights.

Geneva - 2 nights, one full day (your Day 2)

Muerren - 4 nights, three full days (Days 4-5-6) partial day on arrival Day 3

Zermatt - 2 nights, one full day (your Day 9) and a partial on arrival Day 7

Glacier Express on Day 10 to somewhere. Where to sleep?

You have 4 nights left, the nights of Days 10-11-12-13

I would add a night each to Muerren and Zermatt. This is what you think of when you think of Switzerland, not Zurich nor Geneva. Mountain peaks, gondolas, trains, and great outdoors activity. The Matterhorn can be elusive so an extra night makes it more likely to get clear skies.

If you add those two nights to Muerren and Zermatt, you would have 2 nights left after the Glacier Express. You could go as far as Chur or the more charming Pontresina, then connect to Zurich or Lucerne the next day and and spend a night there before your train.

We just spent a day-and-a-half in Geneva. It was plenty of time, IMO. I would not add more time there instead of in the mountains.

Posted by
133 posts

agree - add 1-2 nights to Murren. there is a lot to do there - lauterbrunnen, jungfrau, gimmelwald, etc

Posted by
270 posts

We have flown non-stop from Atlanta to Stuttgart. This would put you closer to Switzerland and might save some time, rather than traveling to and from Paris.

Posted by
497 posts

Agree with everyone, add on to Murren and Zermatt. I have done the train between Zurich and Paris lots of times. If you have time, do an overnight there at least before you return. Or more. We try to do 3 nights in Paris at the end of a Switzerland trip. Alternatively you could try to fly in and out of Geneva itself. If you have time don’t stay in Geneva, take a train over to Montreux, still on the lake and MUCH better than Geneva. I would be surprised if you couldn’t get a flight to Geneva, Atlanta and Geneva both business hubs.

Posted by
4 posts

We never thought about Stuttgart as a destination. Thanks for that advice! Ya'll are convincing us to spend more time in the BO Region. I'm hoping someone can advise us on the Glacier Express....

Posted by
519 posts

Here are some thoughts on photo locations for your wife:

A popular location for astrophotography in the Berner Oberland is Gurnigel.

Here is some work from a local photographer. You can see his shots from Gurnigel and other locations in and around Thun; this can give her an idea of what she might be able to see. https://www.wlswissphotography.ch/en

For landscape shots Wengen is great because it looks down the valley. Mürren and Gimmelwald provide wonderful mountain close-ups. Hike up the Northface Trail to add some interesting foreground to the mountain photos.

You mentioned Appenzell - the landscape is different here and lots of fun to shoot. September is Alpabzug time; Appenzell has some of the most beautiful photo opportunities to capture the brightly clad farmers with their cows (and sometimes children and goats as well), all in a pastoral landscape setting. Sign-up for the TO mailing list to be notified of times and locations if that is of interest.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks, myswisslife, for your photography tips. My wife is all excited now! I did have a question though. I implied from your post that Wengen looks down on the Valley but maybe Murren doesn't? Am I reading that correctly? My wife wants to photograph the valley at night from a vantage point above it. She wants to be sure we are at a hotel where where can easily pop out at night (nearby--not too far from the hotel) and get some shots. Would the Hotel Edelweiss in Murren offer us this flexibility or should we be in Wengen for the overnight stay?

Posted by
519 posts

Hi sczebra, I tried to put a few shots here https://photos.app.goo.gl/Q52veNHzcre635D79

The first one (with the waterfall) is taken from Wengen. This would probably be a good location to get the lights of Lauterbrunnen at night.

The second one (the vertical shot) is actually taken from the balcony of the Hotel Edelweiss last week. They were closed so I ventured onto the patio to look at the view. 😄 Not the best shot but it gives you an idea. This is looking toward Stechelberg (not Lauterbrunnen) and likely would have minimal lights at night as it is a small place. I can't quite picture if you can see Lauterbrunnen from another location in Mürren...haven't really tried to do it.

I thought the Hotel Edelweiss looked very nice and it is in an awesome location to enjoy the mountains, that's for sure!

Last image is the beginning of the Northface trail (also on the Mürren side). Perhaps here you can tell just how narrow the valley is and how close the mountains are when you are here.

Not sure if I am being clear or not. I will be happy to chat with her, just send me a DM if interested.

~ Maureen

Edited to correct the photo link

Posted by
272 posts

Since one of your goals is to see the Matterhorn, I would concur with Laurel and encourage you to add another day in Zermatt. That increases your chances of having a good view of the Matterhorn, especially while hiking. There are a number of trail routes in the area that combine with the cable cars and funiculars, etc. so you can ride up near the top for good views (if it’s clear), then hike back down or hike to another station, then ride back to Zermatt. One day, I enjoyed riding up to Gornergrat, then back to the Rotenboden station and hiking from there to the Riffelsee Lake, then down.

Another day, I hiked in the Blauherd/Sunnegga area. I spent 3 days/nights there (part of the first day taken up by the train ride) and didn’t feel like that was too much. There was a mountain biking race that weekend, which meant some of the trails were closed, and there was a cloudy morning, so having extra time let me adjust my schedule to still see some of the highlights I wanted.

Also, if you’re travelling to Zermatt on a Saturday, the train may be very crowded; that was the most crowded trip I had during my 3 weeks there.

For Murren, the idea of traveling to Bern by train on a rainy day is a good option. Here is an older post about rainy/cloudy day options.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/switzerland/rainy-day-cloudy-day-things-to-do-in-jungfrau-region

All the best,

Raymond

Posted by
8582 posts

sczebra, the convenience of the non-stop flight is wasted if you're (1) not spending anytime in Paris; and (2) having to waste a day returning to Paris. Add the costs of those two rail trips to the cost of your flight, and know it's also costing two whole days. Is it too late to change that? At least a multi-city route so you dont have to go back to Paris.

Sure the Glacier Express route is worth it. The St Moritz area (the Engadine) is well worth your time, perhaps staying in Pontresina as more scenic and less expensive than St Moritz. But there's no wrong answer as far as the choices you have.

Posted by
44 posts

Add me to the extra time in BO crew. We prefer staying in Wengen, but it’s all amazing. We went to Zermatt for 3 days/2 nights on our last trip and saw the Matterhorn for all of 30 seconds the entire time we were there. Just be prepared that your two days there could be completely impacted by weather.