Hello seasoned travelers! I need help ASAP! I am planning a trip to Switzerland departing on July 18th! Our plan is to fly into Milan, spend one night, see the "Last Supper," then head straight to Bellagio for two nights. Our plan was to travel from Bellagio to Kandersteg and then on to Lake Oeschinensee for a night before beginning on the Via Alpina. Basically after assessing the 2-3 day hike to Gimmelwald, we have decided that it is too hard for us! We are traveling with our 2 teenage boys as well. We need to get from Bellagio to Gimmelwald quickly. Sugestions?? From there we plan to hike around, Obersteinberg, Murren, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Klein Scheidegg, Gringelwald, Faulhorn, Grosse Scheidegg, and up to Meiringen. We have around 9 nights in the Jungfrau area and are game for 3-4 hour hikes. Even a day or two of 5 hour hikes! What hikes do you recommend? I basically need an rough itinerary for this region. We plan to visit Lucerne for two nights to celebrate Swiss National Day, and then head to Zurich for our departure. Whew! I would truly value any feedback!
See www.trenitalia.it for train schedules from Milan to Varenna, then you take a boat across Lake Como to Bellagio.
Northbound, you can take a boat to Menaggio, from where you take local bus #C12 to Lugano (takes 1 hour, runs every 1-2 hours, see p. 308 in Rick's Italy book for locations).
From Lugano to Gimmelwald, you can get train schedules online, 6 hours with 4-5 connections. How to Look Up Train Schedules Online gives you the DB train schedule link and tips for using it all over Europe (but not Milan to Varenna).
This is the method I'd use on that route......
- From Bellagio take the short (~20M) Ferry ride across to Varenna. Walk up the hill to the rail station.
- Take the train from there to Milano Centrale. You can buy your train tickets either prior to the trip to Bellagio when you transit through Milano Centrale (using a Kiosk is the easiest method) OR at the small Tivano Tours travel agency just below the station in Varenna. DON'T forget to validate your tickets before boarding the train on the day of travel or you'll face hefty fines which will be collected on the spot! You'll probably want to use a departure from Varenna at 08:37, so it will mean an early start from Bellagio.
- Take the train from Milano Centrale to Interlaken Ost. As you're travelling from Bellagio, you probably don't want to be in Milan too early, so a departure from Milan at 11:25 is one of the easiest solutions, arriving Interlaken at 14:28 (one change at Spiez). There are numerous departures with varying travel times and number of changes. Check the bahn.de or sbb.ch websites for details. The Italian rail system may only be able to sell tickets are far as Spiez, but it's not a problem to go into the small station there and buy ongoing tickets to Gimmelwald. If that's the case, specify your final destination, and the tickets will include all modes of transport. Be sure to specify your end destination as "Gimmelwald (Schilthornbahn)".
- When you arrive at Interlaken Ost, you'll have to transfer to the small Berner Oberland train for the short (~20M) trip to Lauterbrunnen.
- When you arrive in Lauterbrunnen, walk across the street from the station and board the Post Bus (it's bright yellow, you can't miss it) for the short (~20M) trip to Stechelberg.
- When you arrive at the Cable Car station in Stechelberg, walk up the stairs and board the Cable Car for the short but spectacular ride to Gimmelwald (it's the first stop). Have your Camera at hand!
Using this Itinerary, you should arrive in Gimmelwald at 16:00. I'm sure there are many other ways to arrange this, so this is only one suggestion based on the route I'd use in the same situation.
I will mention a few of my favorite hikes in the area but first I want to urge you to keep the one night at Hotel Oeschinensee. It is a very special place where spend a night or two on each trip to Switzerland, no matter where else we are going. There is a great hike up to the SAC Fründenhütte perched above the lake with wonderful views. The hike up follows ledges and has sheer drops but there are cables for protection, and the hike itself is not as strenuous as the one up the other way to Blumlisalphütte on the alpine Pass route you were considering. Or if that sounds a bit daunting there is an easier hike up the viewpoint Heuberg. Or just take a stroll along the lake or rent a boat. Dinner is served early at the hotel so you have time after for a walk too.
A stop here would break up your trip to Gimmelwald in a good way. You can basically follow the route Ken described via Milan, but you would change at Brig for the train to Kandersteg. Take a ferry from Bellagio to Varenna in good time for the 10:37 train to Milano Centrale. Then catch the 12:25 to Brig and change there for the train to Kandersteg, one hour away. You will arrive at 15:12. Put what you need for the night in daypacks and stow your luggage in lockers in the train station (or take them with you up to the hotel if you prefer). Then walk through town to the gondola station and ride up to the lake. You'll have another 20 minute walk from the top station to the lake but a warm welcome at the lakeside hotel awaits you. The food in the restaurant has always been excellent. After dinner take a walk until dark and then join the other guests in the parlor. At bedtime you may be seranaded to sleep by cowbells. Or perhaps they will awaken you in the morning.
Next day bid farewell to Oeschinensee and continue to Gimmelwald (Kandersteg to Spiez to Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen etc.). You will probably wish you had stayed longer.
Half-day hikes in the Jungfrau region:
First to Faulhorn is one of the best. Take the train to Grindelwald, or consider going at least one way via Wengen---Mannlichen--gondola down to Grindelwald. Walk through town to the First Gondola and ride to the top. the walk to Faulhorn passes the Bachalpsee and is very scenic.
Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg: start with the cablecar from Wengen up to Mannlichen. The walk from there to Kleine Scheidegg is level and easy, and a classic, with views of the Jungfrau in front of you. I suggest you ascent the little peak to the left (as you exit the cablecar station) before starting out toward Kleine Scheidegg. It is easy and offers wonderful views toward Schynige Platte. There is a nice restaurant with a deck and views toward Grindelwald on the left just before you get to Kleine Scheidegg. The restaurant right at KS is usually a zoo and best avoided. If you are not finished walking, you can walk down to Wengen on a nice broad path past farms and through forest at the end, about 1.5 hours. Then take the train down from Wengen.
Eiger North Face trail: another good one from the Kleine Scheidegg area. You have to take the train up to Eigergletscher to start (I think it is one stop). Or if you are going up to Jungfraujoch do this on your way down. The trail crosses under the famous North Face of the Eiger and ends at Alpiglen where you can have a bite to eat and/or catch the train down to Grindelwald or back up to KS if you want to go that way.
Grosse Scheidegg is not as interesting a hike as these two, in my opinion.
Rotstockhütte: this is one from Mürren. It may be a bit longer than you wish; I don't remember and didn't check. But it is a lovely hike to a nice hut below the Sefinenfurka, which is on the Alpine Pass route. You can finish at Gimmelwald and pass the waterfall if I recall correctly.
Schynige Platte is well worth a visit and you can hike the beautiful Panoramaweg for an hour or two, then turn around.
Now I'm out of space. . .
Lola: Thanks for posting all that! I'm going to Muerren for 4 nights in September, and your recommendations are much appreciated!
Harold, you are so fortunate to be going to Mürren! My husband has declared a moratorium on travel to Switzerland for us because of the miserable exchange rate. So now we go to the Dolomites for hiking instead.
I did not complete my list of favorite hikes in the area because I ran out of space, but will post further tomorrow. Right now I am nursing a very sore knee from a hike we did here at home yestrday, with 3500 feet of elevation gain and loss. It is the downhill that did it. That is why we enjoy hiking in Europe so much---we hike up, then ride a lift back down. Others with stronger knees do it in reverse---ride up, hike down.
Wow!! I am so thankful for your time, information, and your willingness to share it with our family! A BIG thank you!! Here is what I have so far... Milan(1), Bellagio(2), Lake Oeschinensee(1), Obersteinberg(1), Wengen(4), then we have 4 free nights(ideas?? We wish to hike to Meiringen), Lucerne(1), Zurich(1), then home to Texas. I also am unsure of which pass to purchase for my family, Swiss Pass, or a specific pass for the Jungfrau? We will be taking a train from Milan, so it would be nice if the Pass included this leg of our trip. Again, many, many thanks to you all!
What ages are your teenagers? If 16 or older, they will be considered an adult as far as ticket/pass pricing. If under 16, they will travel free after you get a Swiss Family Card and you have some sort of Swiss pass.
Don't bother with any kind of Italian pass. Your travel to Varenna (for ferry to Bellagio) is a cheap regional train, only 6.45 euro pp.
An interesting route, that is the fastest, but involves a lot of changes is ferry to Menaggio, bus to Lugano, train to Giubasco, train to Locarno, train to Domodossola (don't laugh, its called the FART, Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinesi, very scenic), train to Brig, train to Kandersteg. From Lugano it is 4 3/4 hour and done entirely by a Swiss ticket. The FART does require a supplementary reservation.
I don't think they really have time for the Centovalli Railway ("FART") trip. The whole point of going to Oeschinensee is to have some time to spend there. If they took the Centovalli route, they would need to depart Bellagio very early on the ferry to Menaggio, then take the one-hour bus ride from there to Lugano. Then they would have several more waits and changes before finally getting on the train to Kandersteg. They need to be at the gondola station (a 10 or 15-minute walk from the train) before it closes (last run is down at 6 pm, so last run up is earlier). Or they would face a 3 km hike with 1600 feet of elevation gain to get to the lake (been there, done that, my family still hasn't forgiven me). The Varenna---Milano---Brig---Kandersteg route is simple and straightforward. A Swiss Pass of any kind will cover the journey from Domodossola on into Switzerland. But they will get a great price from Milano to Brig with a Smart Fare ticket from Trenitalia.
With 4 days left after Wengen, you could have a nice walk to Meiringen spread over two days, with an overnight at Chalet-Hotel Schwartzwaldalp. This too is on the Alpine Pass route. Instead of walking the road from Grindelwald up to Grosse Scheidegg, I suggest you ride the First gondola and hike over to Grosse Scheidegg from there. You will have a gorgeous mountain view in front of you instead of pavement.
Other hikes in the area (I ran out of room before):
Kilchbalm is a really nice and fairly easy walk from Gimmelwald. It is a glacial cirque and a dead-end, so you turn around and come back the way you came. But it is usually pretty uncrowded (we saw no one when we did it on a rainy day).
Oberhornsee is on my wish list---haven't made it yet but I would love to if we ever get back to that area.
The whole Panoramaweg, from Schynige Platte to First gondola (with or without a detour to Faulhorn) is a very scenic and rewarding hike if you are up to the distance. I think it is about 14 miles---took us most of the day. It is fairly level, not a lot of elevation change, but some of the terrain is rocky and rugged. There is a rustic hut along the way for a lunch stop if you like.
The hike from Mürren through the Blumental ("flower valley") to the top of Allmendhubel and back down the other trail (I forget its name but it comes in above Wiinteregg) is really nice for a meadow/flower walk. You may run into lots of people, as they like to take the funicular up and walk down. We did it in a morning and were back in Mürren for lunch.
Rick mentions riding the Schilthornbhan up and walking back from Birg (or even from the top) but we prefer uphill hiking so have never done that. Nor have we had good enough weather to commit to the ascent of the Schilthorn---I would insist on clear skies and good visibility for that.
No matter how you cut it, it is at least 7 hours from Bellagio to Kandersteg, 8 1/2 to Wengen/Gimmelwald. It's a travel day, unless you can charter a helicopter.
Wow! You guys are amazing!!! I'm sad to say, there will be no helicopters for us! My boys would however be thrilled by that! I think we are actually going to just get a driver from our hotel in Bellagio, it is my understanding that is the fastest way. As you stated, the whole point of going to the lake is to be able to enjoy!! Our next big travel issue is getting to
- gimmelwald ASAP so we can then hike to Obersteinberg. I have reservations at the hotel( no electricity), this sounds like an adventure! We plan to depart the hotel and hike/ train (I have no idea) to Wengen where we will stay put for 4 nights. Thank you all again and I am completely open to your advise and suggestions- You guys are the best travel agents ever!!! With much gratitude, Kristi
Also, thank you, thank you for all your hiking suggestions and routes! This info really helps narrow our search! There are just so many beautiful hikes, and I'm not great with logistics so I feel a bit overwhelmed with how to put it all together! With that being said, THANK you, your detailed information. It is more helpful than I can possibly express! Kristi
Actually it is less than 6 hours from Bellagio to Kandersteg if you pick the right connections. Depart Bellagio on the 9:25 ferry, arrive Varenna at 9:40, in plenty of time to catch the 10:37 train to Milan. You arrive in Kandersteg at 15:12 as I described above. If you want to arrive an hour earlier you could take the 8:37 train from Varenna to Milan! but overall travel!time is longer! more like the 7 hours that Tim described.
Are you thinking of using the car service from Bellagio to Milan? Surely not all the way to Kandersteg! If you want to go to the Milan train station, consult the train timetables for the train time to Brig, where you change for the train to Kandersteg. You can use the Swiss train site, www.rail.ch, which is very user-friendly.
You can certainly hike from the inn at Obersteinberg to Wengen if you want. Although I haven't done it the whole way, we have walked from Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen to catch the train to Wengen. There is a trail near the train tracks. But a more interesting route would leave the valley floor sooner and ascend steeply above Trummelbach Falls to a place known as Stalden, and from there to Wengen. According to trail descriptions it should be about 3 hours from Stechelberg to Wengen; you would have to add the hiking time from Obersteinberg to Stechelberg.
I am envious of your stay at Obersteinberg. Those mountain inns are a real treat, and I have always wanted to visit that one!