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7 days backpacking in Switzerland - edited

Hi folks, I've got a week to spend in Switzerland this Summer, before heading west to Burgundy, where I'll be spending another week at the Community of Taize before heading back to the UK. I'll probably take a return ticket on the UK-Taize coach that runs every weekend. I've been thinking perhaps Zermatt and/or parts of the Bernese Oberland, but would welcome alternate ideas/destinations.

I have been to Switzerland twice, albeit breifly, having stayed at the wonderful Backpackers Villa Sohnenhof in Interlaken. last time, taking in lots on a walk from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, Eigergletscher and Allmend station one day, and Engelberg/Mount Titlis, Lauterbrunnen on other days. Also been to Scheinigge Platte and Luzern on a previous visit. Excuse the backstory! I'd quite like to visit Muerren and Gimmelwald, maybe the Schilthorn too this time if I'm in the area. Has to be said, Switzerland is my absolute favourite country, at least for the breathtaking scenery.

The other thing that needs some thought is the type of railpass - I've always used Interrail before, but there are bonuses to the Swiss flexi pass, such as included trains to Muerren and Zermatt, whilst Interrail doesn't cover those things, although naturally a Swiss pass is no good for journeys to/from France.

One last thing: I have mentioned being a backpacker, I'm perfectly happy in hostels, but since I travel alone, I don't usually go in for dining in restaurants much, and tend to live on street food, self catering and picnics when I travel, which is always a consideration when picking a place to stay.
Thanks!

Posted by
7209 posts

Don't waste your next Swiss trip by staying in Interlaken. Stay up in the alps where you step foot outside and "you're there". Gimmelwald has a hostel, but Gimmelwald is sparse on grocery supplies. There's a grocery in Lauterbrunnen and also a grocery in Murren just across the street from the Chalet Fontana which is where I would recommend you to look for a room. There are shared bathrooms which are always kept clean and Denise can provide you with all the recommendations you could possibly want. You can buy your picnic supplies at the Coop just across the street. The Swiss Half Fare Card will cut your Swiss Travel Costs in half.

Posted by
16894 posts

It sounds like you may only need one train ride in France, such as from Basel or Neuchatel to Chalon-sur-Saone, which you could book at www.voyages-sncf.com in order to get advance-purchase discounts (like you have in the UK). Even if you took a train home instead of bus, we still prefer the wider Swiss coverage of a Swiss Travel Pass or Half Fare Card versus a multi-country pass. I certainly would prioritize trying to visit Muerren, Gimmelwald, and the Schilthorn.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks both for the replies. First off, the rail passes - If I take the Taize coach there and back, I'd need 2 trips, maybe a return would be possible. I've done that journey twice before - last year coming from Germany via Zurich/Basel/Dijon etc, and in 2010 via Geneva/Lyon/Macon. I visit Taize regularly! I think if I go with one of the Swiss passes, I'd travel directly to Geneva/Basel/Zurich with Eurolines coach on the way in - the two train fares would probably make the return UK to Taize ticket not worth the saving.

So the half fare card gets me as far as Muerren, even having benefits on high mountain routes, and runs for a month, so no picking and choosing travel days. I hadn't considered that - sounds a good option, will have to do some calculating when I know more.

As to accommodation, I do like Interlaken, and the hostel was fab, but I agree, this time I'll stay in the mountains. Chalet Fontana looks charming, and I'll keep it in mind. I do prefer hostels though to B&Bs, I like the easy communal spirit and conversations, and I'm happy bedding down in a dorm. I gather there is a hostel there too - will have a look tomorrow.

Lastly, do you think I should stay put in one place? I've always fancied Zermatt, and the swiss travel passes makes it accessible. But are 7 days enough for 2 destinations? I traveled around a bit last year in Germany, with 2 nights in each location, seemed OK, though I used night trains to get about!

Will do more research tomorrow - past my bedtime!

Posted by
7209 posts

No hostels in Murren that I'm aware of...

Posted by
32244 posts

mike,

If you prefer to stay in Hostels, then I'd highly recommend the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald. In addition to the usual Hostel activities, they also sell groceries and there's a Bar. The evenings are often quite "lively". There's also the Valley Hostel in Lauterbrunnen.

As the focus of your visit appears to be the Mürren side of the valley, the Mountain Hostel would be a good choice. In order to reach Mürren, you can either use the Cable Car or just walk up the paved path (takes about 30 minutes as I recall). The trip to the Schilthorn is a bit pricey, but there are discounts for the early morning trip and the Half Fare Card will save some money.

Posted by
95 posts

So I see... No Hostels in Murren. OK, so the Mountain Hostel - thanks for your input and recommendation Ken. The things that put me off that place are firstly that many (not all) of the beds are side to side, ie, you'll be sleeping right next to someone else. I'm perfectly happy in dorms, but I don't fancy that! You say it's lively, and I've heard that it has a youth vibe going on - I'm 39 and I'm always a little wary of anywhere that puts itself over as a "young" place, although I have seen a video showing people of all ages enjoying themselves, while from another source, the hostel was full of 20somethings. Also I hear you pay a franc for 3 minutes of shower!! That's new to me. I think I'd rather stay in the Chalet Fontana, despite the lack of intermingling with other guests!

The valley hostel looks good, but I can see the point made by Tim on stepping outside and 'Being there'! Lauterbrunnen is indeed lovely though, and it's an option. Also handier for the other side of the Bernese Oberland - I'm impressed that the half price card gives 50% off the Jungfraujoch, which I've wanted to do for a while now.

As for the Schilthorn, I'm toying with the idea of hiking there and taking the cable car back, though whether a single is much cheaper than a return, I've not checked. I'd like the challenge, perhaps the best walk I've taken was the one from Mannlichen up to Eigergletscher and over to Allmend. Quite fancy hiring a bike as shown in Rick's Best of the Alps show.

I've got a rough schedule I'm thinking about and welcome comment:
Day 1 (Sunday) - UK to Switzerland via coach
Day 2 - arrive, train to Interlaken, connection to Lauterbrunnen/Murren. Check out surroundings.
Day 3 - Hike to Schilthorn or other hike
Day 4 - Bike ride/Jungfraujoch
Day 5 (Thursday) - Train to Zermatt (maybe Glacier express, maybe not!) Explore Zermatt.
Day 6 - Train to Gornergrat/Kleine Matterhorn. Hike back.
Day 7 - Either another hike and stay the night, or head west in preparation for journey to Taize next day (if necessary)
Day 8 (Sunday) - Train/bus to Taize

Anyone been to Zermatt?

Thanks, Mike

Posted by
32244 posts

mike,

The point you mentioned about Lauterbrunnen is the reason I've been staying there lately rather than one of the other towns. It's the transportation hub for the area so much more convenient for travel to both sides of the valley. While the scenery may not be as spectacular as staying in Mürren, I'm usually only in my home base location in the evenings when scenery isn't as much of a concern.

According to the photos, the beds in the male dorm at the Mountain Hostel appear to be end-to-end. I suppose you could always request a specific bunk, and if they're not full you should be able to accommodate your request. As far as the "youth vibe", I've seen people from all ages at Hostels. I'm 60+ so not exactly "young".

As you're planning to tour both sides of the valley, the Valley Hostel might be the best choice. For a "lively ambience" if staying in Lauterbrunnen, you might try the Horner Pub (they also have a hotel across the street). The evenings tend to be rather festive, and it's always interesting to chat with the numerous Base Jumpers as that's where they hang out.

Posted by
95 posts

Ken, I think you must have missed this photo on their website, they are like double beds, albeit with separate mattress and duvet! Then again, the female dorm looks worse - a row of 5 bed places top and bottom bunk, all crammed in like sardines! Like a reviewer says - no personal space! You have a good point that I could request a lone bunk, but all the other minuses I've heard about rule it out for me. So I've got to decide between a Lauterbrunnen Hostel or a Mürren B&B. Still early days yet, but good to have the choices mapped out, thanks to both of you for your help there, also for the Horner pub tip!

Posted by
32244 posts

mike,

When I offered the suggestion that you could perhaps choose a "desirable" bed, I had THIS picture of the male dorms in mind. Of course if these bunks aren't available, you would have to take whatever they have at the time.

As you prefer the "hostel experience" and also plan on touring both sides of the valley, the Valley Hostel would seem to be the best choice.

Good luck with your decision!