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3 days in Switzerland- centered around Verbier Music Festival

We, 2 adults an an adult child, are heading to see our other adult child in the festival. We are flying into either Geneva or Zurich, since they are almost equidistant, 3 hours vs. 2, and should be arriving on August 1. I am a pretty good planner for US trips, but this is our first European trip. Does renting a car make the most sense? Budget is tight, and Switzerland is expensive. Any thoughts on where to stay and what to see, besides the concert on 8/3? Also, not sure where we are heading after that. We have 10 days, and we are flying out of Venice on the 14th, so suggestions for the other 10 days are welcome. I have too many places I want to go, but don't want the whole trip to be about getting from 1 place to another!

Posted by
16723 posts

Its been almost 20 years since I was in Verbier last. I hear it has become the playground for the the rich and famous. Actually, it was always that way, but now the rich are a lot richer and the famous have gotten a lot more famous.

I don't think you will need a car. It is 2 3/4 hours from Geneva airport and 4 hours from Zurich airport with one more train change. Take a train to Martigny, then change to a train to Le Chable, then a gondola up to Verbier. The price is 57.20 CHF from Geneva airport and 119.20 CHF from Zurich airport. The gondola is extra.

To get to Italy, go back to Martigny, then a train to Milan. From Milan, you can get anywhere, its the Chicago of Italy.

Posted by
7 posts

I am guessing by the prices I have seen for lodging that it is the rich, if not the famous! I haven;t done a lot of checking, but I think, if the prices you gave are per person, a car might be cheaper, since there are 3 of us.. How is driving in that area in summer?

Posted by
16723 posts

Driving should should be fine except for that last bit from Le Chable up to Verbier with 13 hairpin turns straight up the mountain. You could save money by staying in Le Chable, but it is in a deep V shaped valley, so it does not get much sun. Verbier is perched in a sunny bowl on the side of a mountain. Location, location, location.

There are lot of chalet buildings in town, owned by tour companies which put groups of 10 to 20 people in during the ski season along with a "chalet girl", cook/house keeper. Perhaps you can look through airbnb or VRBO to find something like that you can share with others. Having a kitchen will keep costs down as restaurants are priced like the hotels. Make your own fondu or raclette, local specialities.

If you do rent a car, drop it in Switzerland and do Italy by train. It is very expensive to rent a car in Switzerland and drop it in Italy.
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/not-my-fault-renting-a-car-from-munich-to-rome

Posted by
7 posts

No worries about the one way rental. We would either take a train out, or fly. I am thinking we may rent a car, and then just take the cable car the last bit up the mountain. While I would love to stay in Verbier, the cost is a big a factor, so we may end up in a shaded valley. The cost in Le Chable is much less for better accommodations. I wasn't aware of the cable car that goes direct from on town to the other, so that makes it a viable option. Any other towns that would be convenient?

Posted by
16723 posts

You could stay all the way down in Martigny. The train takes 25 minute to go from Martigny to La Chable. Even the gondola takes 15 minutes up to Verbier. The train station and gondola station are integrated. That's the way they do it in Switzerland.

There are towns along the valley leading up to the Great St Bernard Pass. I'm not familiar with these, but there could be something decent there. Certainly quieter.

Posted by
366 posts

You can assess the cost of the trains at the Swiss Rail site.

I like the site - www.viamichelin.com - for driving costs.
It tells you the tolls on the route (in addition to other info).

We were in Switzerland 2 years ago and purchased a train pass because the people we were visiting (Swiss citizens) use rail 100%. My impression is that 1) it is very easy to use, 2) you can look out the windows and 3) it is expensive. Parking a car may be the hardest thing (finding the lot and paying the price and walking back to the city center).

Of course there are the travel sites like Travelocity. Costco (in the USA) has the best prices (if you're a member) and your spouse is included in the rental as a driver.
Two other sites:
https://www.autoeurope.com/ - I've used
https://www.europcar.com/ - a son has used

Posted by
7 posts

Is there any reason I would consider Marigny over Le Chable? Also, we are Costo members, so I will be sure to look there for a car.

Posted by
16723 posts

Looking at AirBnB, I am seeing several apartments in Verbier available Aug 1 to Aug 4 for $150 to $166 per night, and even one for $101 per night. All suitable for 3 adults, most have free parking.

Posted by
7 posts

How bad is the drive? Would we be better off staying in the valley and taking a cable car up? I live in Illinois, so you know we don't generally drive in the mountains. :)

Posted by
7 posts

That looks less peasant that the drive from Denver to Breckenridge, and we will have jet-lag. Even watching the video made me kind of sick! Maybe we will break the trip up, and stay elsewhere the first night. The valley, and the cable-car may also be in our future. Is there an optimal time to book lodging, car and cable-car?

Posted by
16723 posts

Since the cable car is a gondola with detachable cars that get launched at least every 10 seconds, I don't think advance booking is available or needed. It's a ski lift basically.

The switchback road is more like the road over the Berthoud Pass from Denver to Winter Park.

Optimal time to book lodging is now.

Posted by
3336 posts

I spent 5 weeks in that area a couple of years ago. Yes, you need a car. Public transportation into Verbier is only by bus so not convenient.
Have you looked into staying in La Tzoumaz? It's just over the hill from Verbier. If you have a rental car you can drive the paved road that goes up through the ski slopes up to La Croix de Coeur Restaurant (amazing views!! - stop for a while and watch the crazy pilots taking off and landing from the field at the back of the restaurant) and then down the other side. The roads are dirt on that side but well maintained. Just keep going down and you'll come to La Tzoumaz. It's MUCH cheaper than Verbier, has a couple of restaurants and a market. There are some Airbnbs there and a few hotels for the ski crowd. It's half empty in summer and is mainly used by hikers and families looking for a summer break.
Other great things in the area are..
The St. Bernard Pass
The small Roman theater in Martigny
Chateau Chillon on Lake Geneva
The town of Vevey on Lake Geneva
The two hills in Sion topped by a beautiful castle ruin and one of the oldest churches in Switzerland.
The valley between Martigny and Brig is dotted with castles in various states of ruin.
Taking the gondola up to the top of Mont Fort, the highest mountain in the area, is amazing! Highest bar in Europe at the top!
A little further up the valley is the Furka Pass...if you like to drive it's quite an experience.
Driving / hiking through the vineyards that line the valley from Martigny to Brig...the terraces date from Roman times and wrap all the way around to the shores of Lake Geneva.
This valley is also ringed by bises, man-made water troughs/trenches that have been dug over the last 1000 years to carry water from the high mountains to the orchards and vineyards below. You can hike along them and they are pretty interesting. Views and forest.
You are just missing the Alphorn festival in Nendaz. If you can arrive early, the festival runs this year from 7/26-28. Hundreds of alphorns up on several meadows at the top of a gondola. It's a fairly local event with farmers, traditional dancers, Swiss wrestling, food and crafts, and alphorn concerts with flag throwers.
If you're feeling adventuresome you can drive up to the Sanetsch glacier - the road is narrow, winding, and a bit rustic in places but the top of the pass, where the glacier is, is one of the most moon-like landscapes I've been to. The glacier has receded drastically and you can walk around the scree area where is most recently sat. There are really interesting rock formations between the parking area and the glacier. You can walk up towards the glacier and watch the water pouring off of it...a bit depressing but majestic at the same time.
You'll love the music festival in Verbier! You're right...it's an INCREDIBLY expensive town but fun to spend time in.
Have fun!