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August/September 2022 trip to Switzerland & Dolomites

I have planned this trip to Switzerland and the Italian dolomites and would love some help with Switzerland's train (mass transit) in getting to these locations (any help on what is the best way or prettiest way would be appreciated). I am looking to make my travel less stressful. I booked a 15 day Swiss rail pass starting August 21.

I plan to Fly into Zurich, spend 2 nights in Lucerne travel to Murren 3 nights, on to Thun 2 nights, then travel to Montreux 2 nights from there travel to Zermatt for 1 night. Take the Glacier express from Zermatt to Chur spend 1 night. Take the Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano and on a buss to Lugano. Spend 2 nights in Lugano before going to Lake Como and renting a car.

Please can you tell me if this is to ambitious of a schedule for someone who has never been there before? I was thinking of skipping Thun and staying more time in Murren but I didn't know if I could get to Montreux from Murren in one day. Any help would be appreciated. Thank You for your help.

We are planning to spend 13 days in Switzerland and 11 days in the Dolomites (2 Corvara, 5 Cortina D’Ampezzo and 2 in Conegliano) before leaving out of Venice.

Thank you all for the great comments.

After reading them all, we updated our itinerary to 2 nights in Lucerne, 4 nights in Murren, 2 nights in Zermatt taking the glacier express to St Moritz/ Upper Engadine area for 3 nights before jumping on the Bernina express to Tirano. Then onto Lake Como for 3 nights Corvara for 3 nights and Cortina D’Ampezzo for 5 nights (Dolomites), then 2 nights in Conegliano before leaving out of Venice.

Posted by
10122 posts

What do you like to do other than move on to new locations and take trains? Are you a hiker? Do you want to explore? Mountain weather can be fickle so when you only spend a couple of nights somewhere you may not even see the mountains you came to see. This is particularly true in Zermatt as that elusive Matterhorn tends to put her head in the clouds.

Pending your reply, you could base in Lauterbrunnen for 5 nights and easily access Muerren as well as Thun. We took a train over to Thun once and did a lovely Castle Walk through the town and along the lake. It is certainly a pretty pace but we like the Lauterbrunnen Valley more so a day trip was sufficient.

You can get from Montreux to Muerren in one day, no problem. It takes a bit over 3 hours and involves six trains and/or lifts. If you stay in Lauterbrunnen you can cut that down to four trains.

Posted by
10122 posts

Forgot to ask: where in the Dolomites are you planning to go and for how long?

Posted by
21313 posts

It can take as little as 95 minutes to travel from Murren to Thun, so you might consider spending all those nights in Murren. I'd think you'd be more likely to need a full day for walking/hiking around Murren than for the town of Thun and its lake, so I'd be more comfortable commuting to Thun than doing the reverse. Since mountain weather is very changeable and not very predictable, having a bunch of days in one place is handy; it greatly increases the likelihood of having some nice days for outdoor activities.

According to the SBB website it takes between 3 and 4 hours to travel from Murren to Montreux. There are a lot of transfers involved, so you'll need to pay attention to where you are, but it's obviously easily doable.

I wouldn't want to hop around as fast as you are contemplating, but Switzerland is very expensive, so there's a lot to be said for striving to be an efficient traveler.

Posted by
28129 posts

The reason for the number of changes is because of the geography - those Alps you came so far to see just keep getting in the way!

Mürren starts off with a little narrow gauge clifftop train winding along the edge, over as far as Grütschalp where it ends and everybody gets on the cable car (gondola) to go down the hill. So down the hill to Lauterbrunnen (so if you stay in Lauterbrunnen - not saying you should, I prefer up the hill, but your choice - you can skip the first 2 steps) and across the street to the Lauterbrunnen train station.

Then Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken Ost station by narrow gauge train.

At Interlaken Ost you board a standard gauge train (that means that the rails are 4ft 8 and a half inches apart - like on most trains in the world which are not in the mountains; narrow gauge is normally one metre (around 39 inches) apart so it can go around the steep mountain bends).

Most trains going west from Interlaken Ost go to or through Bern. The first major station after Interlaken is Spiez which is a junction with trains going in several directions. I don't know if it still exists after covid came but a very small number of trains used to go straight through towards Montreux, and if you are on that one of course you'll stay on. They were painted and described as Golden Pass trains. Most aren't though, so you need to get off at Spiez and get a train towards Montreux which will only go as far as Zweisimmen - where you guessed it you are heading into the mountains again - and you get off your standard gauge train and cross the platform to the waiting for you narrow gauge train which will take you all the rest of the way to Montreux including an extremely scenic drop down a steep incline into Montreux.

Or, for a bit of variety and to save around 90 minutes, but at the expense of most of the scenery, instead of changing to a train to Zweisimmen at Spiez you could change to a southbound train to Visp. Very fast because most of that leg is in a deep tunnel. Change at Visp for a train to Montreux which is again very fast because it follows the fairly unscenic Rhone river valley right there.

So you just cannot get there in a straight line with all those pesky mountains in the way...

Posted by
7996 posts

You have Dolomites in your title. Where do you want to go there? You didn’t mention them. We loved staying in Ortisei.

Posted by
13215 posts

I suggest you skip the 2 nights in Thun; add one to Muerren and one to Zermatt. That will reduce your hotel changes by one and give you more time in 2 beautiful places.

There is no need to break up the journey between Muerren and Montreux with an overnight, as the journey is short. Only 3h 18 min if you go via Visp and along Lac Leman; or 4 h 43 min if you go via the Golden Pass route through the mountains. Both routes are “scenic” but the Golden Pass is a named route. They have the same number of changes (5). And 3 of those (Grutschalp, Lauterbrunnen, and INterlaken Ost) will be necessary pretty much anywhere you go from Muerren outside the Lauterbrunnen Valley. These transfers are not difficult—-you just follow the others from one transport (cablecar or train) to the next.

Posted by
28129 posts

I'm not lobbying for one route over the other, I've done both at various times for various reasons, but one fun and interesting benefit of the Golden Pass route is the obvious crossing of the Röstigraben. That is so-called (Rösti - those lovely potato concoctions found only in the German areas - border) by folks on both sides of the language border as you cross from the German speaking area to the French speaking area. Most folks around the language border are bilingual and switch back and forth seamlessly.

I enjoyed one morning being on the "schoolbus" train and hearing all the German (Swiss German) from the kids and then a mixture, perhaps starting a sentence in French and finishing it in German as they all chatted as school kids do, and then all French. In a reasonably short distance. Fun.

Posted by
4180 posts

Hi,

The trip is a little bit fast-paced to me; I would skip Thun (add 1 night to Zermatt and 1 to Mürren).
I would also skip Lugano (it is pretty, but so is lake Como at 2/3 of the daily cost), and spend time in Pontresina or Samedan instead of Chur (3 nights).
You can then head to Varenna for lake Como, and take the train from there to Verona via Milan (you do NOT want a car around lake Como). Then, rent the car in Verona (many major offices at the station).