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Itinerary for family trip to Switzerland in late July. Help!

Late getting started because we just found out that our youngest daughter will be studying abroad this summer. Trying to plan a 9 night/8 day (w/o flying days) trip to Switzerland for my husband, myself and our two daughters ages 21 and 23. My husband and I will already be in Europe and our youngest will be in Europe traveling with friends. Our oldest daughter will be coming from New York so we need to work around her schedule. My hope is that we can all meet somewhere to start our 8 days together. Its complicated!

Where should she fly into? Should we all meet there? She will get in late so it would be nice if we could all start our trip together the next day. Then we have 8 days together and then she needs to fly back to NY.

We've all traveled in Europe but never to Switzerland. I know that the end of July will be crowded everywhere but any ideas of things to do or places to stay that would be less crowded would be great. We are less interested in sightseeing and touristy attractions and more interested in the experience! The girls are excited about more of an adventure type trip so I'd like to think a little out of the box for at least part of it.

I was thinking maybe one or two places in the mountains and then one place that is more of a city? It sounds like people like Lucerne or Bern? Could our oldest daughter fly out from there?

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and ideas!

Posted by
12926 posts

Neither Bern nor Luzern has a commercial airport, but both cities are connected to the Zurich airport by direct trains that run hourly. It takes just over an hour in either case (1:03 from Luzern; 1:12 from Bern). So it is very easy to end your Swiss visit in either city and she can take the train right to the airport for her flight.

Luzern makes a good first or last stop in Switzerland---it is a charming city on a lake surrounded by mountains. You can take a cruise on the lake, or go hiking on Rigi if you run out of city sights.

So she could fly into (and out of ) Zurich; you meet her there and spend that night in Zurich. Next day head out on your loop into the mountains, and then to Luzern for the last stop. Or, she could fly into Geneva and out of Zurich. In that case you would work your way across from west (Lac Leman) to the Alps and then to Luzern.

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you. It sounds like our daughter can fly in and out of Zurich so we could meet her there and start our time together. We could spend the night there and take the train into the Alps from there the next day. And then we could end our 8 days in Luzern which sounds wonderful. Then our daughter could take the train to Zurich to fly back to JFK.

I've been reading that people are saying we don't need to spend any time in Interlaken. You mentioned our "loop" through the mountains. Thoughts on the places we should stay on that loop and how long in each place? I keep hearing about Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Wengen, Grindlewald might be touristy?

Posted by
12926 posts

By "loop" through the Alps I meant getting to the Berner Oberland via Bern and returning via Luzern. The villages of Wengen, Mürren, Lauterbrunnen, Gemmelwald, and Grindelwald are all in this area--- the first four in or above the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the fifth ( Grindelwald) the next Valley over. All are accessed by train from Interlaken Öst which is not in the mountains--- you can barely see them from there. That is why people advise against staying in Interlaken. The mountain villages are much better for scenery and ambiance. There is lots of discussion that can be had regarding which is best to stay in, and I am sure that will develop so I will not get into that.

What I will do is suggest a way to get a bit off the usual path while you do the loop. You have 9 nights and will spent the first in Zurich, and the last 2 ( recommended) in Luzern. That leaves 6 nights. I suggest you head first to Kandersteg, a lovely village 2 hours from Zurich, via Bern. You can stay in the village, or better yet take a gondola up to a beautiful lake above, and stay in the mountain inn there. We love this place and always include It in our Swiss trips.

Explore this website to get an idea of the scenery and possible activities there:

Two nights here give you a full day to explore. If you do not wish to spend it all at the Lake, you can rent bikes at the train station and ride into the next Valley over, the Gasterntal, on a traffic-free ( restricted to postbus and local farmers) road carved into a cliff.

You have four nights left before heading to Luzern. It is an hour by train from Kandersteg to Interlaken Öst, where you change trains to get to Lauterbrunnen and beyond to Wengen and Mürren. The hard part will be deciding which one most appeals to you.

Posted by
692 posts

Yes, forget Interlaken, except maybe to shop for food at the big COOP store across from the train station.

Grindelwald is quite touristy, the others mentioned are much less so. You can't go wrong staying in Wengen, Murren, or Lauterbrunnen. What to do there?--take the trails which follow the 3 great ridges.
The first goes from Grutschalp to Murren. In your case, you want to hike Toward the mountains, so you should take the train to Grutschalp and hike back. From Murren, you can go down to Gimmelwald or you
can hike uphill on a diagonal from the Murren cablecar station, and eventually end up at the restaurant at
Spielbodalp. There you can get a drink and sit at a picnic table and watch the
cows. You can also get to Spielbodenalp via the Sprutz Falls route. About a third of the way up the trail branches near a hut. Take the upper one, you go to Spielbodenalp. The lower one goes fairly level into the woods and eventually to Sprutz Falls, which you cross under, climb up the trail on the opposite side, and end up in Spielbodenalp. You can see that trail and others here:

The second goes from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. The walk itself is
about 2 hours, and we save this for the sunniest day, because of the panoramic
views. (Leave in the morning--most afternoons the peaks cloud up!) Take the
train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, then a 5 min walk to the cable car
station, where you take the cable car up to Mannlichen. Once up, you can look
left at a 30 min up and back trail to a lookout point. If you look right
there is the main tra?il that leads toward the Jungfrau mounta?in, which takes
1.5 hrs and you end up in Kleine Scheidegg, where you can catch a train down
to Wengen and finally Lauterbrunnen. Great panoramic views all along the
route. This trail is so easy you could do it in a wheelchair.
It takes about 20 min train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, another 20 min cable car to Mannlichen, 1 and 1/2 hr hike to Kleine Scheidegg, 40 min train down to Lauterbrunnen.
The 3rd classic trail is from First to Bachalpsee. Take the Lauterbrunnen
train down to Zweilutschinen. Get off to switch to the train going up to
Grindelwald. Once in Grindelwald, walk about 20 min further into town to get
to the cablecar station, where you take it all the way up to First. From there
walk to Bachalpsee. There are trail signs, and it is about 45 min each
way. On a sunny day, you can get great pictures of the mountains reflected in
Bachalpsee, which is a small lake. Just Google image "Bachalpsee" and you'll
see what I mean.
If you want to turn this hike into a 6 hr hike (and this will be more strenuous than the rest), start at Wilderswil, take the train up to Schynige Platte, and walk toward the Jungfrau mountains. There's a refreshment hut half way, then finally get to Bachalpsee, then 45 min more to First. Start early or you'll miss the 5:30 or so last cable car down from First to Grindelwald.
Finally, if you get a foggy or misty day, you can walk from Lauterbrunnen to Trummelbach Falls, which is about an hour each way (or take the PostBus). Google image it to see why Trummelbach Falls are worth seeing, and the nice thing is you can actually see them just fine on a dreary and foggy day.

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you thank you for your suggestions! These are exactly the kinds of things we want to do on this trip especially with our 20 something girls. The hikes sound perfect for us.

One question What would you think about doing it the way your suggesting by spending one night in Zurich, heading to the mountain villages but ending the trip by taking the train to Lake Como for a few nights (Varenna?) and having our daughter fly out of Milan? My oldest daughter is only with us for a week and it might be nice to end the trip in Italy

Posted by
25 posts

Looks like it's a very long train ride to Lake Como. I LOVE everything about the trip starting in Zurich and then heading to the adventure part of the trip staying and hiking in the mountains of Switzerland. But after that it would be fun (because I do have two daughters) to go somewhere a little cosmopolitan? Lucerne looks beautiful but what about the Ticino southern section of Switzerland? maybe Lugano?

Posted by
444 posts

I agree with shoe, but I would start with a hike on the North Face Trail above Murren down to Murren. It has amazing views of Jungfrau. I would stay in either Murren or Wengen up in the mountains. I have stayed in both and preferred Wengen. Grindelwald is too touristy.