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Based in Chamonix, day trips to Switzerland

We are an older couple ( I have bad knees ) and we are planning a trip to see some of the Alps in December. We are planning to base in Chamonix, where we have found a very good price at a hotel there. We are probably looking at only nine days and wish to visit Interlaken, Zermatt, etc. Do we want a French\ Swiss rail pass or simply a Swiss one or Swiss half-fare ?

( We are flying in and out of Geneva, so it is possible we might save Interlochen for the end of the trip and stay over there).

Thanks for any help, Ken

Posted by
10116 posts

Chamonix by train to Switzerland is not day-trippable in my opinion. From Chamonix to Geneva is a train trip of 2.75-3.5 hours each way. It is 4 hours to Zermatt, again each way.

If you want to see Switzerland, stay in Switzerland. Arrive Geneva and if your flight arrives early enough, i.e., before noon, go immediately to Zermatt. Stay 2 or 3 nights in Zermatt, then move to Lauterbrunnen (not Interlaken) for 3 or 4 nights. Finally wrap up in Geneva for a night before your flight.

You can research train times at

Posted by
7205 posts

You've found found a very good price for a hotel in France so that you can sit in a train HOURS every day to see Switzerland? Ah, Houston, I think we have a problem here. There are very attractively priced hotels IN Switzerland if your goal is to see Switzerland.

Posted by
3485 posts

I agree with the other posts - day trips from Chamonix to The Bernese Oberland or Zermatt are not practical , BUT - a personal anecdote - My wife and I only began to see Europe at a somewhat advanced age . Our second trip was our first to France and one of our sojourns was in Chamonix ( a sort of insurance that enabled us to see the Alps , if we never made it to Switzerland ) Fortunately we are still at it , eight years later ) but Chamonix turned out to be exquisite and we have returned several times . It's first rate with a beautiful Alpine ambience , second to none . We have been to the Oberland , which is stunning , the views in Chamonix aren't any less so . Stay in Chamonix - go up to the Aiguille du Midi , The Mer de Glace , visit St Gervais , and all that is in and around Chamonix , you won't want for anything .

Posted by
7205 posts

"you won't want for anything..." except perhaps a wonderful plate of rosti!

Posted by
360 posts

I don't know how locked you are into your trip already, but we were just in Chamonix and Switzerland in September, and the best you could do would be a long day trip to Geneva or to Montreaux by car. However, I have to respectfully disagree with the other poster in that we thought the Berner Oberland (staying in Murren) was far more majestic than Chamonix (and we also took the Hellbronner lift over to Mont Blanc), though we did enjoy our stay in Chamonix quite a bit (if you have to pick between the two). If you're already committed to Chamonix, a co-worker of mine that used to live there highly recommended a day trip over to Annecy and I've had others say how much they liked it. We wound up using our time to go through the tunnel and over to Aosta, Italy instead, since we'd just been to France the year before.

Posted by
70 posts

Ken, I agree with Laurel that Chamonix to Switzerland is not day trippable. I can't comment on Zermatt, but would highly recommend seeing the Lauterbrunnen Valley & staying in Murren. My husband & I, also an older couple ( -68 & 70 at the time)were there in Sept 2015. We stayed in Chamonix for 2 nights & then took the train to Murren. I believe it took us about 5 1/2 hours with many changes. I feel as Becky does - the Berner Oberland is far more majestic than Chamonix. Staying in Murren you are right up amongst the peaks and it is truly spectacular. We stayed at the Hotel Bellevue and paid 150CHF. If you are committed to your Hotel in Chamonix then follow Steven's advice - go up the Aiguille du Midi (spectacular) and see The Mer de Glace.
I was just so taken with Switzerland that I hope you do get to travel there someday, maybe at a time of the year that there wouldn't be so much snow, so that getting around might ba a bit easier. Can anybody comment on getting around either area at that time of the year? Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
31513 posts

I have to agree the others. If you want to see the Alps, it would be best to stay somewhere in Switzerland, regardless of a good deal on hotels. Chamonix is not as readily accessible to other locations via public transit, so you'd be spending a lot of time each day looking through a train window.

In December I suspect Chamonix will be snowy and packed with skiers, which will probably also be true in the Berner Oberland.

I also wouldn't recommend staying in Interlaken, as the best views of the Alps are found in places like Mürren. If you'd like to change the focus of your visit to Switzerland, I'm sure the group here will be able to help with a good Itinerary.

Posted by
13211 posts

Anything you save by staying at a hotel in Chamonix will be totally washed out by train fares traveling back and forth to Swiss locations.

If you decide to stay in Chamonix anyway, a Swiss Pass will cover the route into and within Switzerland. Look at the map of validity for various Swiss Passes:

Note that the Swiss Half-Fare card is not effective on the line between Chamonix and the border.