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First timers to the Alps

My husband and I would like to take a 8-10 day trip with 2-3 home base camps where we can do day trip hiking. Areas that appeal to us are Chamonix and Zermatt. We would be happy to go to quieter beautiful places too. I would love to take a spectacular train ride too. We are in our late 50s and active, but we have never hiked as much as is required to do village to village Bernese Oberland or Tour Du Mont Blanc. That was our plan but we've determined we need something a bit easier. We have hiked in the Rockies for 3-5 hour stretches at a time a couple times a year. We like off the beaten path, authentic feeling and high quality food and lodging. If you have some time, I would love to hear your insight.

Posted by
197 posts

Chamonix and Zermatt are both great bases for day hiking, but for me the Berner Oberland offers the best combination of hikes and transportation infrastructure. From a base in Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald or Murren you can access lifts to more scenic trails in a wide range of difficulty than in any other place in the Alps. That’s why the area is so popular, although many of the visitors don’t seem to venture very far from the train and lift stations. I’ve never found the trails to be crowded once I started walking. Another advantage of a base here is the ability to day trip by train to other towns, for those days when you just don’t want to hike. And of course you can always join the crowds at Schilthorn or Jungfraujoch.

There are a few trails out of Zermatt with spectacular views of the Matterhorn, and the town of Zermatt itself has more to offer than those mentioned above. But I didn’t find as much variety as in the trails of the B. O. That is, fewer trails overall, and at a higher level of difficulty. Still, there’s certainly enough there to occupy a few days, and it’s probably got the upper hand in the “high quality food and lodging” category.

Another excellent base which provides lots of access to a wide variety of trails is Ortisei, in the Dolomites. From the centre of town, you can take a lift to any of three very different areas, including the iconic Seceda ridge and the Alpe di Siusi.

Posted by
53 posts

The Bernese Oberland consists of more areas besides the beautiful Grindlewald and Lauterbrunnen valleys. That was my first trip with Chamonix and Zermatt up next.

For variety of hiking options, look at Meiringen and Brienz as a central location for a base camp. It may work for the whole trip with train rides to the different valleys being well under an hour. You will be close to less busy Rosenlaui, Mägisalp - Bidmi and Sörenberg. A test for Tour Du Mont Blanc may be Schynige Platte to First hike.

Others have provided links to Swiss hiking resources.

Posted by
4560 posts

What we did in the BO out of Murren sounds similar to your CO hikes. Even for longer hikes, there are places to take breaks. And if you walk one way, there is often transport to get you back. I am sure the other areas would be great too, but I don't want you to think you can't do BO hikes because you absolutely can--lots of variety. Lodging can be all over the place, so you might want to scope that out first. I left it late due to the nature of my trip but was able to snag a deal on a chalet that was way out of my price range in high season. It was a complete splurge to mark a special occasion, but having the mountains in your face at all times of day can be well worth the expense!.
I was fortunate to visit the area on late October, though--in summer I would look to get off the beaten path, and maybe you can find that place here.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all very much. I am very excited to learn more about this area and others near by. I really appreciate your insight. I think that we are looking at staying in Lauterbrunnen area for 4 nights and then Chamonix or Zermatt. Do you have suggestions for a reasonable but lovely guest house in Lauterbrunnen that is convenient to the public transportation. When I was little, my family travelled in Germany and stayed in the Romantik Inns. I really appreciated that they were owner operated and felt personal and small. I also liked that they provided a home cooked meal. I did find the hotels on the internet but they don't appear to be in the exact area I am interested in. Please let me know if you have any insight or suggestions. Thank you.