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Geneva to Zurich 7-8 days May - active/adventure itinerary

Hi,
In May 2019, we will be arriving in Geneva (Sat pm) and leaving from Zurich (a week later on Sun pm). Group of 8 (young adults/adults) looking for suggestions on an itinerary. We prefer hiking/adventure to cities but want to experience some of the history. All travel will be by train/public transportation (again suggestions appreciated). Thank you in advance for your suggestions!

Posted by
8889 posts

8 nights, a good time. My plan:

1) From Geneva airport, go straight to the Jungfrau Area for 5-6 nights. About 3½ hours by train (unless your arrival is so late you have to overnight in Geneva). Choose one of Lauterbrunnen, Mürren, Wengen or Grindelwald to stay in.
Info and hotels here: https://jungfrauregion.swiss/en/summer/
Do a google "images" search for each of these places to see what they are like.

2) Take a train to Luzern, 2-3 nights. Small city with nice old town. On a lake with lots of boat trip opportunities. Plus THREE local mountains you can take trains or cable cars to the top: Pliatus, Rigi and Titlis.
Tourist info here: http://www.luzern.com/en/index.cfm

Finally, it is only 75 minutes by train direct from Luzern to Zürich airport.

Look up train times on the SBB website ( https://www.sbb.ch/en/ ). Use a date ~1 month from now, as next years times are not yet published, but will be mostly the same. All rail routes in Switzerland have at least 1 train every hour.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for the reply. A colleague suggested stopping in Bern to see the "Old City". Will we see the same type/age of architecture in Lucerne? We may spend the night in Geneva just so we are not going from a long flight to a 3.5 hour train ride. We would have a couple hours late in the day upon arrival Saturday to see some of Geneva. Any suggestions? Also, should we plan on any time (1/2 day?) in Zurich? Lastly, should we try to get to Zermatt? Thank you again

Posted by
8889 posts

Anne, I would not plan any time in Zürich, other cities are better.
And you say you want "hiking/adventure". The Jungfrau region has that in abundance. There is a dense network of hiking paths all over these mountains. The paths are signposted with yellow signs. The signs do not show Km, instead they show hours and minutes, with the times adjusted to allow for going downhill faster.
Click here for photo of sign. It is at a location called Biglenalp, 1738 metres above sea level, and it is 1 h 45 to Wengen, and Wengernalp rail station is 45 minutes in the other direction. In the background is a glacier. All typical for the area.

Bern is worth a few hours. You can easily do this as a day trip from the Jungfrau area. You could reserve it for a cloudy or wet day, and go whichever day has the worst weather forecast.

Zermatt is also an option. It is too far for a day trip. If you want to do this, I would do it in the order Geneva - Zermatt - Jungfrau Area - Luzern - Zürich airport. You would have to take nights from the other locations to give you 2 nights in Zermatt.
Click here for a rail map of Switzerland, so you can see all these places and how they fit together.

I would describe Geneva as a mundane and expensive city. It does have a lake and views of mountains, but thet is normal for Switzerland. Worth a few hours if you arrive in the afternoon and don't want to move on the same day.

Posted by
4 posts

Great advise. I think we will skip Zermatt as if the weather is bad we have lost a day or two that could be better spent elsewhere. Your original itinerary looks like a go. Still undecided about the first night whether we head straight out or spend it in Geneva. A morning/day trip to Bern is probably in the cards as we cannot hike for 5 days straight. What do you suggest for rail passes? I am thinking the Swiss Travel Pass as it provides so much flexibility and we don't have to think twice about hoping on a train to go exploring other areas/hikes. Any hints on deals? The ages of the travelers are 4 under 26, 1-26yo, 1-27yo and two over 30....ok over 50. Thank you again. Much appreciated.

Posted by
7205 posts

Like Chris said- don’t waste your time in Geneva. My daughter and son-in-law live there and they are 100% the only reason I visit Geneva. Jungfrau area is stunning and full of hiking possibilities. It’s also full of other activities besides hiking. I would not hesitate to recommend you to spend your entire time in one of the villages Chris recommended. Maybe spend your last night or 2 in Lucerne which is also beautiful..that’s where my daughter and new Swiss son-in-law were married.

Posted by
8889 posts

Anyone above 16 is an adult, as far as transport fares are concerned.
There are 3 options.

1) Pay full fare for each trip

2) Buy a Half Price Card (CHF 120) and pay half fares for every trip. Details here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests/swiss-halffare-card.html

3) Buy a Swiss Pass, and pay nothing else, EXCEPT for mountain railways. Details here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests/swiss-travel-pass.html
The map I posted last time ( https://www.sbb.ch/content/dam/sbb/de/infotexte/uebersichtskarte-sts.pdf ) is actualy the coverage map for Swiss passes and half price cards. You can seee the Swiss Pass covers you up to the palces I suggested (Mürren, Wengen, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen. Frther up the mountains you get a discount.

Since you will be doing a lot of travelling with active adults, I would guess the Swiss Pass is a good idea. Boats (Luzern) and city transport (Geneva, Bern etc.) are all covered. Or possible the Half Price Card option. You have to do the arithmetic yourself (boring).

Posted by
226 posts

I know it’s impossible to predict the weather/snow cover this far out, but what is tho probability of being able to hike in the Jungfrau region in May?

Posted by
8889 posts

Kathy, very high (as long as you don't go too high) - bad pun.
Mid-May is when they re-open the high passes across the Alps, so some roads may still be closed. Hiking will be possible, exactly how high up you can go varies from year to year.

Edit: You may be interested in this. It is a news report about the work needed each spring to open the Gotthard pass, which is the main historical north-south route over the Swiss Alps. The report is dated 29th April 2015. Even if you can't understand what they are saying, the pictures are informative.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=743PUQmuhhw

Posted by
4211 posts

I think Chris's plan is a good one. I would not spend any time in Zurich because Lucerne and Berner Oberland are too wonderful to take a day from. I thought Geneva was expensive and not nearly as picturesque as Lucerne and BO. The only reason to stay in Geneva, as far as I'm concerned, is for a visit to CERN, which is probably only interesting to physics types. I actually liked Bern a lot. We did it as a day trip from Lucerne. If the weather for BO is forecast to be dismal, Bern would be a good plan for the day. Certainly if I had to rank Swiss cities, Bern is not up there with Lucerne and BO, but there is a lot to see and do there. The medieval town is very different from other Swiss towns and has an interesting clock tower and wonderful, whimsical water fountains. If you are interested in Einstein, there is a wonderful Einstein museum within the history museum. His house is available to tour as well, it was closed when we were there. Also, there is a large Paul Klee museum in Bern.