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5 nights in western Switzerland

We are planning a trip from New York to Geneva in mid/late October and would like feedback about our possible itinerary. Thanks everyone.

Day 1: arrive Geneva via air early morning; check in early to hotel; explore Geneva in afternoon

Day 2: rent car and drive to Chamonix, France (1 hour away) and take cable car up to Aiguille du Midi and also train to Montenvers. Weather permitting. Full day. Return to Geneva hotel at night (don't want to pack up and move to another hotel).

Day 3: drive on the north side of Lake Geneva, sightseeing along the way including a stop at Lausanne; possible trip up to Gruyeres and Broc for cheese and chocolate (worth it??). Visit Chateaux de Chillon. Hotel that night in Montreux.

Day 4: drive to Interlaken and Grindelwald (worth it??) Return to Montreux to sleep. (Is it better to go to Murten and Bern instead since we already saw the mountains in Chamonix?)

Day 5: perhaps drive along the French side of Lake Geneva on the way back to Geneva stopping in towns along the way. (Sleep in Geneva).

Day 6: wake early to catch flight to Barcelona.

This seems to hit the big items the Rick recommends, through I welcome comments.

Posted by
12040 posts

"drive to Interlaken and Grindelwald (worth it??) Return to Montreux to sleep. (Is it better to go to Murten and Bern instead since we already saw the mountains in Chamonix?)"

If you're pinning all your hopes on one specific day in late October.... no, it isn't. By late October, the mountain weather usually changes over to the winter pattern of long periods of gray, overcast skies. Unless you have the advantage of a short-term weather forecast (like no more than 2-3 days out), you risk making the trek to the mountains and seeing nothing but fog. Budget yourself more time or don't bother.

Posted by
7205 posts

If you really want to see Switzerland you need to get out of Geneva.

Posted by
328 posts

I'd head straight to Lausanne and use that as my base for nights one and two and rent the car for the drive to Chamonix from there. You'll find a lot more charm. In fact, you could base your whole stay in Lausanne and not have to move hotels at all. It would only add a little bit to your driving times.

I think day 3 your is pretty jam-packed, although if you stayed in Lausanne that would be cut out of the day's itinerary and you'd have enough time. I think Gruyeres is worth visiting. It's small but pretty and charming. Stay for lunch and eat ... Gruyere Cheese, what else? If you like hiking or even just short walks and have time, check out the Moleson just south of Gruyeres.

On Day 4, I don't see any reason not to drive to Interlaken/Grindelwald but maybe keep your schedule flexible and only go on a sunny day instead of fixing it to day 4. If you've got time, take the cross-country route from Broc through Boltigen to Interlaken, instead of taking the main highway through Bern. It will take about the same length of time but the scenery is lovely and, I think would still be pretty on a rainy, grey day. You may want to do it on the way there as the road is twisty and may not be as easy or enjoyable when you are tired on your way back.

I'd consider budgeting a little time to walk in the Lavaux Vineyards, especially if one of your days is clear (although it would still be a good option on a grey day). They are a UNESCO site and very, very pretty to walk in with stunning views of the lakes and French Alps.

Instead of driving the French side of Lake Geneva on Day 5, I'd suggest you consider a drive up the lake past Montreux to Sion and take one of the mountain roads up into Les Diablerets Mountains. I found them to be different from the mountains you find in the Berner Oberland - more rugged. I really enjoyed our time exploring this part of Switzerland and found it such an interesting contrast to the Berner Oberland. If it is rainy and you don't want to go up into the mountains you can at least get a good view of the vineyards and visit the castle at Sion.

I caution you about planning your trip only around Rick Steves' highlights. His suggestions are an excellent basis for a trip but you can miss a lot if you don't expand your research outside his books/videos/etc. I find this especially true when you get outside the major cities.

Posted by
12 posts

Hi Chris, thanks very much for the excellent suggestions. Much appreciated!!!

Posted by
50 posts

Hello, I was interested in your post because we may want to add some time in western Switzerland to our visit to the Lauterbrunnen valley, the next valley over from Grindlewald. I don't know if you're still considering Grindlewald as part of your trip or not… This will be our 4th visit to the Lauterbrunnen valley area and we took the cable car down to Grindlewald on one of our trips. You asked whether Grindlewald was worth it or not. Unfortunately, we were disappointed with Grindlewald. The Lauterbrunnen area, including Murren and Wengen on the other hand are charming towns with spectacular views of the mountains. (It might be good to check the forecast as I've heard that they can begin to get some snow by then… at least in the higher elevations.) I hope you have a marvelous time!

Posted by
12 posts

2-4theworld - Thank you. This is great feedback. Much appreciated.

Posted by
3336 posts

I agree with the above poster...Geneva is good for a look-round the afternoon you arrive but beyond that it isn't a good base for what you want to do. You should stay in Lausanne, Vevey, or Montreux. My preference is always Vevey since it has a beautiful town core, lakefront promenade and isn't hilly like Lausanne or squashed between the freeway and lake like Montreux.
Driving to Chamonix from this end of the lake is much prettier IMHO - depending on where you stay it'll take about 75 minutes +/- to get there. Just take the highway going east towards Martigny and follow the signs from Martigny, south, over the mountains to Chamonix.
Interlaken/Grindlewald - meh.
Some may disagree with me but, if the conditions are right, you should consider replacing Interlaken and Grindlewald with Verbier. It's a very expensive ski town but if you have a car it's worth a trip I think but only because of the views. If it isn't snowing yet you can drive up the road to the top of the ski slopes - the view is utterly spectacular! You can see the French, Italian and Swiss Alps from there and there are walking paths from the parking lot at Croix de Couer restaurant, which will most likely be closed during the shoulder season. The lifts don't open until Oct. 31st unfortunately so unless you can drive up the slopes, don't bother.