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Mock Itinerary for Switzerland

Hello all,

We've booked round trip flights to Switzerland departing early October, and returning the next weekend in October.

We'll be arriving in Zurich in the morning, currently we have zero reservations or anything other than plane tickets. We will most likely be buying the Swiss Travel Pass for 8 days but if someone has a better alternative that's great also.

1) Arrive in Zurich early in AM, take transportation to Lugano, and spend the night with a boat ride to Gandria for dinner.
2) Wake up it's now Monday Morning and take transportation to Luzern for the night.
3) Wake up on Tuesday and leave for Interlaken at which point we will either again stay 1 night here or proceed to the next town. We will most likely be staying in this general area for rest of the trip.
4) We will focus on Laterbrunnen, Murren, Gimmelwald each spending a night in the general area.
5) IF we are able to fit a day trip up to Zermatt that would be great, but not a priority.
6) Last day head back to Zurich spend the remainder of the night or day and fly out.

Main Question: Is Lugano worth the transportation time, and effort to get to just to experience the "Italian version of Switzerland"? Or is there something else we should focus on in the general area we would like to go to? We want to make sure we don't miss any "Gems" if possible as well as minimize the transportation efforts.

Also we do not and are most likely not planning on booking hotels in advanced, due to the flexibility of our schedule and the Swiss Travel Pass.

Posted by
1443 posts

If mountain scenery is a priority, then you should visit Lauterbrunnen for a few days. Check it out on GoogleMaps. I think it's the most spectacular area of Switzerland in that respect. I'd scratch Geneva. I'd rate it as a low priority for a first-time visitor unless you've got a specific reason to go (like a tour of CERN!).

Posted by
20296 posts

Ouch, I'm exhausted just reading this death march. You sure must like sitting on your duffs looking out of train and bus windows. I'd suggest cutting the travel in half and maybe taking a walk in those beautiful mountains. Snow probably will not come into play until mid October, but it could happen.

Start looking at places to stay. You might be in for some sticker shock.

Posted by
18 posts

@Sam, I agree this a lot of traveling which is why I am a bit hesitant on these plans. We may have to look into cutting down a lot of this traveling and focus more on setting up a home base etc. The issue really is, that we certainly want to do the GE, I personally would love to visit Lugano, but the focus of Switzerland tends to be on the western side. So the bulk of the first few days is just long traveling.

Thank you for the input. And yes Ideally I want to nail this down and get some form of hotel situation ironed out. How is Air BNB in Switzerland, it seems much more affordable.

Posted by
16496 posts

This is way too much travel and train time. Take a look at the Swiss rail map:

From Zurich, just head straight to the Engadine (St. Moritz area) for the Bernina Express and to visit the national park. No need to stop in Appenzell for brunch ( which is not a meal known in Switzerland). It is out of the way and there are few options to head south from St. Gallen, so you would have to backtrack.

Skip Lugano, which involves a bus link of several hours from Tirano to Lugano. The scenic part of the Bernina Express journey is between Pontresina and Tirano. You can easily do that as an out and back in less than a day.

Spend three nights here ( see my suggestion below for a village base) and you will have one day for the Bernina Express ride and another for the national park. You can ride a regular regional train on one or both legs of your Bernina Pass journey----the scenery is the same and youndo jot need reservations. The trains run frequently.

St. Moritz is the most expensive village in the area--think glitzy ski resort. If you want something more affordable, consider one of the villages nearby. We stayed in Samedan, a few miles from St. Moritz, at Laagers Garni, which consists of four nice rooms above a bakery. Needless to say,MThe included breakfast was excellent!

From St. Moritz, you should choose between the Glacier Express to Zermatt, or Luzern/Lauterbrunnen/Berner Oberland. You will get lots of opinions on this. I like them both, so I am not going to weigh in here.

Spend 2-3 nights in whichever you choose. Two if Montreux is a must for you; otherwise skip Montreux and head to Luzern for your last night before flying out. If your Sunday morning flight is 10:30 or later, you can easily make that from Luzern instead of spending the night in Zurich.

Note that the weather could be unsettled in October, or not. We had one glorious day and one cloudy/drizzly day when we were in the Engadine at the very end of September last year. But this area is reputed to have some of the best Autumn weather in Switzerland, so it makes a good choice for your trip.

Posted by
20296 posts

Age range? Physical shape for medium hiking?
Sounds like you are arriving Monday Sept 25.
You mention the Swiss National Park. This might have a double room opening on Monday and Tuesday. Its is about a 4 hour hike from Zernez station.
Don't know the price, I guess you have to reserve to find out. You can opt for half-board so dinner and breakfast is included.
Even late in the year, openings are sparse, so reserve now if interested.

Posted by
16496 posts

Great suggestion, Sam! I am going to take a look at that for our next trip---we have a few extra days at the beginning, and I have been wondering where to go.

Posted by
20296 posts

Actually I see the price list now, in German. 79 CHF pp for a shared room includes dinner and light breakfast. Funny that "high season" also includes Sept 23 to Oct 15 close. Must be a "leaf peeping" thing.

Posted by
18 posts

Sam, Lola,

This is all wonderful advice. Later I'll be making some adjustments to the above most likely axing a lot of the unneeded transportation routes (Appenzell, Lugano, St.Mortiz etc) . The must see areas really are Zermatt --> GE Experience, National Park if possible, and then head west to Lucerne, Bern, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen area. Montreux was mainly a stop for potentially the Chocolate Train, but I see skipping that to head out west.

As for hiking we can definitely do that although gear wise will be packing probably light. Something like 1-1.5k elevation gain nothing to technical maybe 4-5 miles would be fine but the elevation in this area would take some time to acclimate.

Posted by
20296 posts

The elevation is not that high, by Rocky Mountain standards. Zernez station at the start is about 5000 feet (same as Denver, CO), and the high point on the trail is about 7200 feet. Estimate is 3 1/2 hours for a hiker in reasonable shape.
There is a luggage storage office in Zernez station so you can leave a lot of stuff there and only hike with a change of underwear, warm clothes, basic toilet kit (no showers at the hut), snacks and water for the hike.

From Zernez it is about a 40-50 minute train ride to St Moritz, start of the GEX.

From Zermatt you can get trains to Luzern, then direct to Zurich airport on the morning of your departure.

3 stops in a one-week trip to Switzerland is a sensible itinerary with plenty of scenic train rides and scenery all around in that week.

Posted by
219 posts

If you have time, after your southern Switzerland part of your visit (I don't know how late in September you're flying out), I suggest you skip Interlaken, except to change trains, and skip the city of Bern with your limited time. If you have time, focus on staying and hiking in the Lauterbrunnen area, which, in my opinion, is more beautiful than Zermatt. There are plenty of gorgeous easy hikes there with cable cars taking the effort out of elevation increases.

You're right to skip the out-of-the-way Montreux. No need to tour a chocolate factory; you can get delicious chocolate, often homemade, in practically every village at their bakeries and chocolate shops. From Lauterbrunnen, you can head back to the Zürich airport via Interlaken Ost and Luzern on the very scenic "Golden Pass" route.

Now that I've simplified your trip, I'll complicate it a bit.
Ebenalp, a cable car ride up a cliff, near Appenzell in northeastern Switzerland, is an amazing little hike, with a restaurant perched on the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley far below and the rolling hills. It's full of bright green pastures that seem to glow in the light!
Lugano, in southeastern Switzerland, is a favorite of mine; especially the boat ride to Gandria on the Lugano Lake cliff overlooking mountains jutting out of the water, and also the view from San Salvatore Mountain (a funicular ride up) in Paradiso, next to Lugano.

Posted by
18 posts


We've gone ahead and incorporated the Lugano trip for a night and hopefully a boat ride to Gandria as well :). We would love to do Appenzell and the Ebenalp cable car hike / restaurant experience but may not have enough time. I've gone ahead and updated my itinerary do you see any gaps where we could do something like this?