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3 nights and 4 days in Switzerland.

Arriving in Geneva early Friday, August 29, with my mom. We'd like to sightsee in Switzerland for the 4 days/ 3 nights prior to the start of a work commitment in Geneva on Sept. 2. Therefore we want to travel by train away from Geneva for those 4 days. We 're considering training to Interlaken and staying in a Rick Steve's suggested hotel for the 3 nights. We would probably follow most of Rick Steve's advise for visiting Berner Oberland area while based in Interlaken. However.....we're open to other options for this short time away from Geneva. Lucerne looks very cool. Mom will tour the Geneva region when I return there for work. Thank you for your input and suggestions.

Posted by
11292 posts

Rick's advice (seconded by everyone on this forum as well) is NOT to stay in Interlaken which is merely near the Alps, but rather to stay in the Alps, either in the valley (Lauterbrunnen) or in the mountains (Gimmelwald, Muerren, Wengen).

I was pleasantly surprised that staying in Muerren does not carry a surcharge; by e-mailing hotels directly and saying I found out about them in Rick' Steves Switzerland, I got better rates and room availability than I found on the hotel's own websites.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you and we agree with that plan. The only concern as mentioned in Rick's guidebook is the weather in the mountains. Just thought by staying in Interlaken we would have flexibility to take a train for a day trip elsewhere if weather becomes a concern. Thank you for your help.

Posted by
139 posts

I guess I'm the exception here - but then again I'm not really a 'standard' Rick visitor - I'm sort of a cross between an Ugly American and a Rick visitor. By that I mean my wife and I travel with a larger footprint (a 26" suitcase each plus a carry-on) than I think is common among Rick fans and my wife is not able to carry/drag a suitcase no matter what the size.

We visited Switzerland this past May and stayed in Interlaken for 3 days as a part of a larger road trip from Bavaria to Interlaken (Unterseen actually) to Salzburg. From our B&B in Unterseen it was a 20 minute drive to the Stechelberg cable car station (maybe 15 to the Lauterbrunnen train station) and I did not find that onerous.

Mürren was absolutely fantastic, and the views were beautiful beyond description, but frankly we will never stay at one of the hotels there because everything has to go up the cable car - including you and your luggage (Gimmelwald also).

One other caveat - Mürren and Gimmelwald are smaller than Interlaken the hotels and the shops/restaurants are fewer - to some this is a plus, to others this is a negative. We enjoyed the variety of restaurants and shops within easy walking distance of our B&B in Unterseen/Interlaken.

Now - If you are OK with the cable car and prefer a more natural Swiss location - Mürren or Gimmelwald is just the place.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you kindly for the great input and very helpful travel advise. I've encountered difficulties with booking a room at this late in the game. I've found a small family run hotel recommended by Rick Steves in Interlaken for the 3 nights that we require. It's the Hotel Lotschberg. So far no luck up in the mountains, therefore my decision might be made for me regarding the location of our stay.

We will not have a car. We plan to catch a train from the Geneva airport and travel to Interlaken. My next question is whether to buy a Swiss Pass, Swiss Flexi-Pass or a Half Price Card? I've read that getting into the mountains is very costly and that these passes/card help with a price reduction. Not clear on the differences between the passes vs. the card. I thought a Flexi-Pass would be good for my mom so she can get around when we return to Geneva. I have to work there for a few days, so mom is on her own. She's a great traveller and very resourceful. Any suggestions and advise regarding which train pass or card would be best for us?

Also, we're still open to visiting a different region other than Berner Oberland if anyone has some suggestions. Thank you kindly your help.

Posted by
12040 posts

''One other caveat - Mürren and Gimmelwald are smaller than Interlaken the hotels and the shops/restaurants are fewer - to some this is a plus, to others this is a negative."

To elaborate on Bruce's point... I'm not sure about the summer tourist months (I haven't visited Mürren in this period), but during the height of the winter ski season, my wife and I had difficulty finding an open table in Mürren for lunch. We ended having to take the funicular up to one of the restaurants on the slopes. We did not have this same problem in Grindelwald (not the same as Gimmelwald), which is much larger and hosts more restaurants. I imagine that Interlaken would offer even more choices. Even in Grindelwald, though, dinner tables were a little tight. It's not hard to assume that because Mürren is sort of "hermitically sealed" that you may not get a seat at your restaurant of choice without reservations.

Posted by
16883 posts

You have to take what you can get, but I'd still prefer to stay in Lauterburnnen (in the valley but closer to the mountains), or any of the higher towns. Try using a hotel search engine, or send similar emails to a bunch of Rick's hotel listings concurrently to see who answers with availability for your dates.

Posted by
270 posts

I want to add this Google Maps 'trick'.

I zoom in, WAAAY in, and look at the end of the cable car runs for restaurants (a LOT of restaurants have rooms), Gasthauses, ZimmerFreis, and Berghotels. You have to zoom way in and then scroll around the area looking for these little, barely advertised abodes but they are there. Then I take the name of the place, google it, and go to their homepage (and read what others have said about them) and contact them directly.

This has really helped me find places to stay when the tourist mainstays were booked.

Did I say you have to zoom way in? Once you see your first one, and realize how far you have to zoom in, you will be able to find more pretty easily.

Good luck--and stay in the mountains if you can. Love 'em.

Posted by
38 posts

I recently stayed at the warm and inviting Pension Gimmelwald, as recommended. While I was there a woman and her daughter came in to check just the daughter in, while the parents stayed at a B & B. They were using booking.com. When the staff saw that the family was split, and why, they let them know that they had rooms available and the parents were able to move to the pension. It seemed that all rooms are not always available on booking.com and it might be better to contact hotels directly. That's how I got our room, but very early on. So, make sure you try calling directly if you can. I also got the discount for having the R.S. Guide and paying cash. Very nice.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks to everyone for their great advice! I have emailed several places in Lauterbrunnen, Murren and Gimmelwald. I hope to hear some good news soon. Maybe we will get lucky and not have to stay in Interlaken.

We're considering buying a Swiss Flexi Pass for this 9 day trip to Switzerland. I think the pass will help discount some of the costs on the different modes of transportation in the mountains. However, I am a little overwhelmed with trying to figure it all out. Is this the best pass to use for this area, or is there another option I need to consider?

Also, can anyone enlighten me on the best way to plan our 4 days using the varying types of mountain trains, cable cars, etc? Please keep in mind that if we can't get a room in the Alps we will start our days from Interlaken. Thank you!

Also which peak would you all recommended.....the Schilthorn or the Jungfraujoch if we can only visit one? And is an advanced reservation required for these trips? Concerned about weather.

Thank you all for your help!😊
Monica

Posted by
57 posts

For me, it's really hard to choose between the Jungfraujoch and the Schithorn, as they offer quite different experiences. The Jungfraujoch involves taking a fairly lengthy train ride inside the mountains (the train will stop twice inside of the mountain—make sure you get out to peer out the windows carved out of the mountain). There are several activities to do once at the Jungfraujoch, but be aware—if it's cloudy you're likely to see nothing at all as far as views. That's why it's best to go up earlier in the day if possible; I always go on the first train up. It's really important to take note of this because the ticket is very expensive. You don't want to pay a lot of money for a view of a cloud. If it is clear, you'll have great views of the Aletsch Glacier below and the Mönch and Jungfrau above you. I'd say the atmosphere at the Jungfraujoch is a bot more touristy than at the Schilthorn.

While there aren't as many activities at the Schilthorn, the journey up via cable car is spectacular. The views are amazing; the whole Jungfrau massif spreads out before you. The journey is cheaper than the Jungfraujoch journey and can probably be done in less time as well.

Both journeys are great fun and well worth the time. But make sure you go up when the sun is out! I'll also recommend a journey with the Brienz Rothorn Bahn, which originates in the village of Brienz. The views of Lake Brienz and the Bernese Oberland are exceptional, and the steam train ride up the mountain is very fun.

Posted by
23 posts

Good news! I emailed hotels/pensions in Gimmelwald as so many of you suggested, and was able to book a room for our travel dates in late August and early September. Thanks to so many! I was also able to get advice from Byron at Budget Europe Travel Service regarding the use of a Swiss Pass. He was a wealth of information, and he agreed with so many on this forum that we try to stay in the mountains. Thanks to all!!!

We're considering paragliding in the Lauterburren area. Has anyone done that? Any suggestions or advise on doing such a thing would be appreciated. Any recommendations for a good outfitter?

Thank you all!
Monica

Posted by
162 posts

Tell me more about the advice you received about the Swiss Flexi Pass. I'll be spending a week in Switzerland, flying into Zurich and out of Basel.
Thanks!

Posted by
23 posts

As recommended on many other forums I called Byron at (BETS), Budget Europe Travel Service. http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com He's a wealth of information. He walked me through calculating our time frame and travel goals and then made made recommendations as to which pass to was a good fit for our needs. He has lived in Europe and in my opinion a train travel expert! We bought the Swiss Pass, second class. There is a sale on that expires August 14, and today, August 12, there is also a slight fare decrease per Byron. He held my purchase till today so we could take full advantage of the best pricing. Also, since our 2 tickets combined were more than $399 we have no shipping charges for the ticket. Buying a Swiss pass state side, is purchased in US dollars. This saves the exchange rate, and credit card transaction fees when purchasing the Swiss Pass in Switzerland.

Posted by
191 posts

I know this comes up constantly in this forum but if you are going to spend all your time in the Berner Oberland, wouldn't a point-to-point ticket Geneva-Interlaken and then a Berner Oberland Regional Pass (currently 230CHF for 4 days) make more sense moneywise than a Swiss Pass if you are going to be traveling a lot through the area? You can use it on most of the trains and cable cars with no additional supplement (including the lake boats, say to Brienz) and the big sites like the Schilthorn and Jungfrauloch are 50% off. What say you, Chris?

Posted by
143 posts

We stayed in Interlaken in 2004. We stayed in Muerren in 2014. No contest!!! Stay in Muerren. No traffic. Astonishing scenery. Easy or challenging hikes. Great train and gondola rides. Simply amazing.

http://www.pbase.com/abundancetrek

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks to everyone on this forum. We are staying in Gimmelwald, We could not find an affordable room for our dates in Murren, however we are pleased with getting into Gimmelwald. Weather permitting, we're going to paraglide thanks to this forum's recommendation. Also thanks to the last post for sharing your amazing photos! Your photography lends to the excitement of a hike.