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4 1/2 Day Roadtrip

Hi All,

My husband and I will be in Switzerland for four and a half days in August. I am very excited for the trip, and hoping to hit as many of the "must- sees" as possible. We are in our early 30s and don't mind a little hustle on vacation, but obviously want enough time to appreciate what we are seeing too. Does the following sound like a reasonable (albeit busy) road trip? What would you change, if anything? Anything you highly recommend/ think we should steer clear of in the locales listed. Appreciate the advice.

Laura

Day 1: Arrive Zurich, pick up rental car, Rhine falls & Lucerne
Day 2: Interlaken/Lauerbrauten
Day 3: Zermatt
Day 4: Montreaux/Gruyeres/Bern
Day 5: Return to Zurich airport, fly home

Posted by
715 posts

Ok, let's go item by item:

  1. Arrive Zurich--excellent.

  2. rental car--hmmm, not what I'd recommend, especially since in 2 of your places a car will be of no use. Zermatt doesn't allow cars, so they have to be parked in another city. Lauterbrunnen has some parking but there's hardly anywhere to drive to because of the mountain terrain. Cable cars and cogwheel trains predominate. Finding parking (like in Lucerne) is a pain, but the train system in Switz. is first-rate and will get you anywhere you want to go, with minimal stress.

    1. Rhine Falls--somewhat interesting, but in the wrong direction and will use up a precious half day. Not where I'd go given the few days available.
    2. Lucerne is great. Worth a day and maybe an overnight.
    3. Interlaken Ost--if you take the train (recommended) you'll change trains here to get the train to Lauterbrunnen. There's nothing worth your time here (except maybe the huge Coop store across from the train station).
    4. Lauterbrunnen--you could EASILY spend all your time here. I typically try for 10 days, just in this region alone! If you like mountains, waterfalls, hikes with cow bells ringing, quaint mountain villages, and sweeping vistas, stay here (or in nearby Murren, Wengen, or Grindelwald). I'll send a link to your private mail here (click on your name in upper right of this page to read it) that shows with pics and maps a dozen great hikes in the area.
    5. Zermatt -- great town with no cars, but only a 50% chance (in my experience) of even SEEING the Matterhorn due to clouds. Takes a long time to get there, so I would not waste a day going there just to be disappointed.
    6. Montreux--interesting town and castle and interesting train ride over there. Nevertheless, time to get there is debatable.
    7. Bern--some interesting things there, but it pales compared to the Swiss Alps.

In summary, I see 4 overnights in your schedule. My advice is to spend 3 nights in the Lauterbrunnen region, and maybe one other in either Lucerne or Montreux. Or, (and it pains me to take away a day in the alps) 1 Lucerne, 2 Lauterbrunnen, 1 Montreux.
In any case, skip Rhine, Zermatt, Bern, or you'll be spending all your time traveling and almost none exploring.

Posted by
3 posts

Shoe,

Thank you so much for your detailed feedback! I have been very on the fence about whether or not to go to Zermatt, so your feedback is much appreciated!! I thought the rental car would cut down on travel time and make it easier to stay in different places every night without worrying about the hassle of luggage. Have you ever driven in Switzerland? The trains seem expensive and more stressful to be on a set schedule. I got your email, thank you! If you could only spend 1 or 2 days in Lauerbrauten, what would you do with it?

Appreciate it so much!

Laura

Posted by
4249 posts

I don't think a car is necessary or even desirable except in perhaps the Gruyeres area. By far, my favorite places in Switzerland were Berner Oberland and I would stay in Lauterbrunnen Valley, and Luzern. The trains tend to run at least every hour. Bern was nice as was the chateau in montreaux, but BY FAR, I enjoyed Lauterbrunnen area and Luzern. Additionally, the enjoyment of areas like Berner Oberland and Zermatt is weather dependent. If you are only there one day, you may end up not seeing anything due to overcast skies.

Posted by
7205 posts

Rental car is of very little benefit in Switzerland because A) Excellent Public Transport goes everywhere you as a tourist could POSSIBLY want to go B) the most beautiful places in Switzerland are not accessible by car - hence the reason for the excellent public transport.

You've got too many destinations. You could EASILY spend ALL of your time visiting Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen sits in the middle of some unbelievably stunning alpine scenery. You could actually EASILY spend all of your time in Lauterbrunne/Wengen/Murren which are all easily connected by train/funiculars/gondolas.

Posted by
715 posts

Laura,
Yes, I have driven in Switzerland, twice, but the other dozen or so times I have taken trains, which I much prefer. Frankly, I think having a car WASTES time, trying to go thru center of the city traffic and trying to find parking. If you just get a general point to point ticket in Switz, you can take any train you want that day, so I don't see it as a set schedule. Also, I can relax/read a book on a train which I can't do while driving.

If I only had 2 days in Lauterbrunnen, here's what I would do:

Day 1: get started early. Is the weather clear? If so, immediately get a train up to Wengen, buy some breakfast/snacks at the Coop up the hill from the train station there, then head to the cable car station that connects Wengen to Mannlichen. At Mannlichen, pet some cows, then take the 2 hr trail heading toward the mountains. Best views in the world, in my opinion. Then take the train down from Kleine Scheidegg to Wengen to Lauterbrunnen.

Day 2 (or whichever is the cloudier day): take the cable car (station across road from train station) up to Grutschalp. Skip the train up there, but instead take the trail that roughly follows the tracks toward Murren. About 2 hours later, explore Murren, maybe take the funicular up to Allmendhubel, find the cable car station that goes down to Gimmelwald and Stechelberg, walk from Stechelberg to Trummelbach Falls, see them, and walk the valley back to Lauterbrunnen.

Will all the above cost some money? Yes, but absolutely worth it on a good day. You will NOT regret it.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you so much, everyone!! Definitely re-considering the car and Zermatt to allow more time for hiking as you suggest.

Has anyone been to Mt. Pilatus as part of their Lucerne time? Worth it? How long did it take all in?

Posted by
7205 posts

You've only got 4 nights. Yes, plenty of people have visited Pilatus from Lucerne. Do you plan on seeing Lucerne? Because if you immediately trek off to Pilatus you won't be seeing Lucerne other than to walk to the train station. Just spend your time in the Lauterbrunnen Valley and have the most beautiful places in Switzerland at your doorstep.